It’s happening faster than you think.
In 404 BC, Sparta beat Athens. The Peloponnesian Wars had been tortuously long, having endured 27 years, all the way back to 431 BC. It was also vicious, and confirmed the observation that the longer wars fight on, the crueler they become. Lysander, a Spartan Admiral, was conscious of that fact. He and his sailors had committed many of the atrocities themselves. He also knew that Athens had more manpower at sea than it had on land, in fact, twice as much as Sparta — so he focused his attacks at sea.
After a battle at Hellespont, Lysander used his wiles to capture the Athenian fleet. Then, in a masterly maneuver, he sailed to Athens and closed off the Port of Piraeus. This stopped the rest of the meager Athenian fleet from rushing in to save Athens. The war was over.
But was it?
When I had this lesson, some years ago, my history professor had a different take. He determined that the war, so sharply won, was impermanent. How so? He explained that the Spartans were benevolent to the Athenians and so, they left in place thirty Athenians, loyal to Sparta, to rule. They also left the liberal, fun-loving, Athenian, drama-infused culture in place, and many Spartans moved in, determined to keep control of this rebellious population. And at first, it appeared to work.
Spartans were tough, hardy warriors. They were removed from their homes as boys to train as soldiers. Not all of those little boys survived. But the ones who did grew up hardened, wiry, and strong. Athens, on the other hand, did not take little boys from their mothers.
Athens had warriors, yes, but it focused on culture, not war. Play writers were revered, not stone-cold killers. Singers, painters, and poets formed the background of the city. They slept (or tried to) on soft mattresses. They danced. And so, they invited the Spartan warriors to join in. And they did.
The Spartan warriors got soft. They were Spartans no more.
Within four years, Athens kicked the “Thirty Tyrants” out of the city. They regained their democracy.
So, in the long term, the professor said, who actually won?
For decades, or as long as I can remember, America was considered the victor in the war against evil; Democracy vs. Nazism. Our fathers and grandfathers whipped their collective Nazi asses in World War II.
Now, Nazis walk our streets, bragging about how many Antifa they can beat up.
Our fathers and grandfathers were the Antifa.
We were friends (kind of) with the Russians then; after all, we had a common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
In addition, again I remember, because this really was not that long ago, much of the world followed us. We, for the most part, were the culture that other countries (with some pushback) emulated. They watched our TV shows. They sang our songs.
Even more importantly, many of them were our allies.
We determined the deficiencies of other civilizations.
“They’re cruel to their prisoners! Their executions are inhumane!” We shouted. “They were sexually discriminatory in the Middle East! Their women couldn’t even drive! We have to monitor their voting processes! They have a Wall! (Berlin)”
And so on. The Red Cross (led by Americans of course) walked around with clipboards, determined to show care where it was lacking. And we did care.
But things have changed. We no longer hold the upper hand in intellectual and cultural superiority.
Our executions are inhumane.
And we need voting supervision.
I’ll go back even further. As a child in post-war Germany, many Americans walked the streets of Europe and the rest of the world with confidence. How do I know? I basked in that regard, even as a child. My father served in the USAF. We lived in Germany and traveled to France, Belgium, and smaller towns throughout the continent over a period of four years in the 1970s. In the 1980s, we lived in the Philippines.
“Are you an American?” Adult foreigners would stop me in the streets. Not to molest me, but to welcome me to their country. It was…inspiring. It made me want to prove that their respect was warranted.
I strove to be worthy of so much esteem.
A few years ago, I read an article with much dismay. If you go to Europe, it said, wear a Canadian cap. Pretend that you’re from Toronto. Cheer the Maple Leafs! It was supposed to be funny. WTF?
So I was not too surprised that millions voted for a campaign with the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Even though some pretended not to care, we did want the regard of the world again. Or did we?
While we did not fight the Russians explicitly, we did have a cold war. I looked up the definition.
Cold War: a state of political hostility between countries characterized by threats, propaganda, and other measures short of open warfare.
That is what we had with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). But it dissolved. It’s a fraction of the size it was…because, well because…they lost the cold war. Right?
Ok, this is a bit simplistic. Anyway, it became Russia and some other countries…in particular, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan.
Suffice it to say that they did their thing and we did ours, right? We won. But…
Since Trump became the President of the United States, there seems to be an abundance (were there ever this many?) of Russians interacting in the highest levels…of our government. His connections have Russian ties. And these are influencing our policies, starting with the 2016 Republican platform.
That’s not MAGA; that’s MRGA, as in “Make Russia Great Again.”
Russia also contributed mightily to the National Rifle Association (NRA), which also has deep roots in the current American government.
They sent spies (you don’t think “gun enthusiast” Maria Butina was the only one, do you?) to try to influence American policy. She sure was pretty. And she looked so fun! You don’t agree that she’s a spy?
She’s in an American prison and Russia pulled its financing from the NRA. Now it’s in freefall.
Our president doesn’t like Mexico, Germany or Great Britain, who have been our allies throughout much of our history.
Even worse, our policies seem to be attuned to the priorities of Russia, and not necessarily those of the United States. The Turkey announcement this week concerning American pullout (leaving the Kurds, our allies in the war against ISIS, defenseless) is designed to make Russian and Turkish despots’ happy — and not American patriots.
Whose side are we on anyway?
We are being seduced by our baser natures, wallowing in the love of tyrants…the question that arises is: Does this man like murdering his people?
In the America of today, that man is our friend.
And the man or woman who helped us? They are being set up, as I write, to be killed. How did this happen?
When did America the Beautiful become America the Dictator’s Bro?
Are we Sparta? Or Athens?
It is time to regain our democracy.