Editor’s note: this is a three-part post, running one per week.
I watched one of my favorite movies recently: Sgt. York. I always loved this movie, even better than that paean to George M. Cohan in the Hollywood classic, Yankee Doodle Dandy. Why did I love these two classic pieces of propaganda? Because they made me feel proud. And pride goeth before a fall. And naturally, I fell for it. Because I was an idiot.
What were these two classics about? Defending the Empire, of course. Oh no, they didn’t put it so baldly, but that was the underlying message. The message that unless we stopped those vicious Huns, who were busy bayonetting babies, the world would not be safe. Safe for Democracy! And whether it was Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, George Bush Jr or Barack Obama, or any Idiot Emperor in between, what the Hell was the difference? The message was always the same. New packaging, sure, but the product never changed. Save the world. How? Die for the Emperor. Pick any century, the theme never changed.
Yes, I fell for Caesar. Hail Caesar! And just what does ‘hail’ mean? It means ‘live long, live forever!‘. Isn’t that what Caesar promises us if we should die for him? But have you noticed, nobody says ‘hail, trooper’? No, they only say ‘Hail Caesar’. Why is that? Because, in the Empire, only Caesar has a soul. At least, an immortal soul. The rest of us are simply animals. There is no Pantheon for fallen troopers. And yet we still line up to serve Caesar. Why is that?
I contend that it is because we have been sold a line. A line we have proudly bought. And the line goes like this: The Republic is sacred! Because, after all, in a republic, we are all equal. Isn’t that the line? Isn’t that the mantra of today? Well, I’ve got news for you; that line’s been sold for over 2,000 years. And it never loses market share. Go figure.
Now some will object, and say we are a democracy. Both Old York and New. And that’s a laugh too. Again, I ask, where is my pass to the Pantheon? After years of doubt, I began to suspect that I was simply slated to be a busboy in the big Country Club in the Sky. And finally, I began to think the forbidden thought. The thought that even Caesar was toast, in the end. And that all of this human carnage was nothing but the strivings of competing pride.
And that’s when I decided to look farther afield. Farther than the visible horizon. Beyond the earthly domain. Because I wanted to know if there was anything besides Caesar that was worth dying for. Because, if you’ve noticed, we all are going to die. At least, that seems to be the trend. Anybody got any evidence to the contrary? No, I want more than just one example. He’s the exception that proves the rule. I wanted to know about my sorry skin. And that of my kin.
Anyway, once I began to doubt the divinity of Caesar, I began to ask myself if anyone was divine. So I studied all the ancient (and even new) stories of The One who would save my soul. I wasn’t sure if I had such a thing, but at some point, you’ve got to make some assumptions. What did I have to lose? Once I began this work, I began to see that nearly every one of those who would claim to save me always made it either impossible to achieve, or else the promised land of that particular flavor of belief didn’t really get me past the status of busboy. Or less.
But eventually, with the help of Pascal’s Wager, I came to see the futility of making small bets. Wanna live big (forever)? Then you gotta bet big. And take the long odds. Which is what I have done, as you should know by now. Because here’s how I figure it: almost every offer of the afterlife is either unattractive (Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc.) or unbelievable (again, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc). There’s only one which offers me what I don’t deserve—and which I actually want. You already know which one, right? The one where I get to keep my distinct individuality, but also get to be part of the Big Family? Exactly.
And so, like Paschal, I have come to see that if I have the chance to make a finite wager (my earthly life) for an infinite payout (an eternal and enjoyable life), I’d be a fool not to bet. Especially if my bet was relatively free for the making. I’ve already received a free chip, my life. I didn’t pay for it. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t deserve it. But yet I’ve got it. What will I do with it? One thing was sure in my mind: not betting on something was a sure loser. No bets, no winners.
The question, of course, is how do I use this opportunity? How do I make this bet? And the choices always seem to boil down to this: do I serve Caesar, or do I serve God? And here is where I had to make my break with Caesar. The purpose of this missive is to lament those whom I have had to leave behind as they think that the answer is to serve both. Cover all bases, right? Yes, yes, I know. Give unto to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. But let me ask a simple question. If those two personages are different people, then isn’t one of them subordinate to the other? They can’t be equal, by definition. Which one is on top, my friend?
If Caesar is ultimately subordinate to God, then what is it that belongs to Caesar that doesn’t ultimately belong to God? So, if man is composed of a mortal body and an immortal soul, which one belongs to Caesar? And which one lasts forever? At least, in the first iteration? After all, we get resurrected, right? All but the poor atheists believe that. And if they’re right, what have they won?
But if I make the right bet, I’m rewarded with a new (glorified) body, right? But there’s no mention of a new soul, for anybody, if I remember correctly. So then, as I see it, the most Caesar can claim is your present body. But not your renewed body. And never your soul. Not now, not later. In fact, Caesar would privately be okay with this arrangement. All he really wants is my mortal body, in the here and now. Which wouldn’t be so bad if all he wanted was me. But no, he’s always a greedy fellow. He wants every body. That’s why he’s called the Emperor.
In pursuit of this goal of total earthly dominion, he always reverts to the basic strategy: subdue those you can, kill those you can’t. The smartest Emperors always figure out the most efficient tactic to achieve the goal of world-wide hegemony: Divide and conquer. Divide the people, so that they fight each other instead of fighting Caesar. Think Sunni vs. Shiite. Think Democrat vs. Republican. Think Catholic vs. Protestant. Think of any division in life. It almost always benefits Caesar. And he will always promote this division. Because it’s cheaper than any other tactical alternative. After all, money counts. To Caesar, at least. Show me the coin of tribute.
Ultimately there always comes the time when this tactic falls short, and Caesar has to fight some battles directly. Or, at least, his minions must fight them. It’s usually against the Barbarians. Me and my cousins. So, when the tactic of division fails, Caesar must revert to subtraction. He has to take someone out directly, instead of getting some erstwhile enemy of his enemy to do it for him. Caesar has to have his own men under arms. The more the better. As long as he can pay them, of course. Many an Emperor has learned this funding lesson the hard way.
Now this raises the question; how do you recruit these fools who will willingly die for you, the Emperor? What in the world can make men accept such a bargain? A bargain that says I will pay you as long as you are alive? But not a moment longer. Now that’s not what I’m looking for. No, I want an eternal payroll, guaranteed. Sure, I realize I will die. But if the Emperor can’t guarantee me a place in the Pantheon, what good is he to me? What happens to me? Am I simply an eternal welfare case? Who is going to look after me? Forever?
So, again, tell me, how do you get people to sign up to die for the Empire? Simple, my friend. Sell them the lie. The Big Lie. The lie that says their sacrifice will make the world safe for…fill in the blank. Tell them that this is necessary to protect their family, their home, their nation. And truth be told, once the fighting starts, this may well be true. Ask any Russian in WWII if he was fighting for Communism. Hell no, he was fighting to keep the Germans out. Now ask Joe Steel if he was fighting for Russia or Communism? Again, the answer is he was fighting for himself. Now ask the German soldier (or Dolph) if he was fighting for Nazi ideology. Nope, he were fighting to redress the wrongs foisted on his country by the Treaty of Versailles after WWI. But the war between these two behemoths was supposedly the war between National Socialism versus International Socialism. Yet nobody was really fighting for either ideology. What gives?
Well, we have to go back to my premise ‘once the fighting starts…’. Yes, once it starts, everybody is fighting to save their own skin. Never mind the ‘reason’ the war started. Once the cart starts moving, look out. So again, how do you start the cart moving? The answer is almost always the same: pride. Each side takes a deep draught of it and starts throwing their weight around. Pretty soon, somebody feels that they’ve been backed into a corner. Or that their opponent is backed into a corner. And then the only way out is to fight.
Now that being said, I think it’s time to examine The Lie that we are sold that starts the process of getting us into that damned corner. Let’s look at that concept of ‘The Republic’ that we are all so willing to die for. Because if we can determine that The Republic is dead, then maybe we’ll think twice before we willingly die for a dead idea. An idea that cannot defend us, let alone save us. So, let’s look at this sacred Constitution we are always exhorted to defend. And by extension, this Democracy we are always trying to forcibly extend to the rest of the world.
Now I understand that the current argument is over whether this Constitution is a ‘living’ document, or whether it must be construed in its originalist sense. But that avoids the real question, which is this: what if it is neither? What if the Constitution is dead, under either interpretation? Dead? Yes, dead. The Dead Letter. As in DOA. Or at least, dead for over 200 years. And, in fact, it received its first grievous wound just 15 years after its birth in 1789. Hmmm? Whatever do I mean? It’s quite simple. The first knife wound was in 1804. Then next came in 1861. The final thrust of the blade was in 1913. The same year The Republic was laid to rest, and the leadership of the Empire of Democracy was transferred from Old York to New York. And the Anglo-American schism was healed. To the detriment of all.
I know, you don’t understand. But you’re not at all stupid. Why then can you not understand this? Why? Because you want to believe it isn’t true. You want to believe in America. You can see in your mind that ‘shining city upon the hill‘. You want to be proud of our ‘heritage’. You want to believe we are truly free. But we are not. And we haven’t been for a long time. A very long time. And the reason we don’t realize this is because we have confused equality with freedom. As I’ve said before, slaves are equal, but only citizens are free. You can’t be both.