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Thursday, August 11, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

We Are The Romans

"A millennium ago, there existed a powerful empire, born from the ideals of liberty, scholarship and a free society, which grew to become one of the most awesome superpowers the world had ever seen.

"Its culture spread and assimilated others and drastic developments were made in technology, literature, arts and the democratic system. Its leaders were extremely charismatic and powerful; its military a force to be reckoned with.

"But after hundreds of years of global domination, it was conquered by a small group of violently savage barbarians from distant lands. Now boys and girls, what am I talking about?"

A hand goes up.

"The United States of America," replies a junior high school student in the year 3050.

All empires fall. I was reminded of this fact while I stood breathlessly watching the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11. It took me several agonizing hours to find out whether or not I was an orphan, since both my parents work in nearby buildings and frequently meet with clients in the towers. Fortunately, my parents called to inform me they were safe and sound. Others I know were not so lucky.

UB professor Stefan Fleischer wasn't kidding around when he called our class "The September Eleventh Generation."

"Your lives are forever changed, whether you like it or not," he said.

Many others before us have learned this the hard way (not that there's an easy way). The former Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the late, great Roman Empire all took their hits to the ground. Whether the United States calls itself an empire or not, the fact remains (for better or worse) it holds a political, financial and cultural stranglehold over the rest of world.

We bring McDonalds to the Australian Outback, build enormous structures over wide ranges of forests where the Native Americans used to reside, employ children in the Third World to manufacture our products for slave wages and have teenagers from small Far-Eastern towns listening to Linkin Park. Someone tell me how this is any different from the Romans building temples, statues of emperors and amphitheatres to the distant and virgin terrain of Gaul and Germania? We have the World Wrestling Federation, which can be viewed as watered-down version of gladiator fighting, we have fraternities and sororities which resemble the cults of Bacchus.

So here comes Osama bin Laden and his troll-like minions calling us heathens and pagans. These men, who are lower than the cilia on a dirty paramecium, say we and our culture must be annihilated if the world is to become virtuous and free of all sin.

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But I (who was patriotic before patriotism suddenly became cool) won't let my liberal heart bleed all over the page. If I may contradict myself we are not the orgiastic pagans the Romans were and George W. Bush is hardly Caligula. Although we may be a far cry from righteous and the democratic system we have in place is often times an ambiguous and bureaucratic nightmare, it's still very young and slowly but steadily developing. I believe we can survive and live up the ideals our founding fathers fought for 225 years ago.

However, as quickly as we can rise we can collapse in on ourselves. The only way our nation will be able to survive, let alone continue to grow and prosper, is if we never lose sight of our fragility.



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