A Long Train Of Abuses And Usurpations

Bread And Circuses update: A monarch who is above the law?

Check.

This, of course, is on top of the news that a student has been investigated by the Department of Homeland Security for requesting a copy of Mao’s “Little Red Book”. On top of the news that torturing people and detaining them without trial are becoming a part of the landscape, that America has secret laws, and citizens can be forced to show your papers at any time.

At the height of its empire, the story goes, a Roman citizen could travel the entire known world without fear; the only thing he needed to protect himself was his birthright, the words “Civis Romanus sum”. “I am a Roman citizen.” The Empire’s retaliation to the harm of a single citizen was so certain, and so monstrously disproportionate, that those three words were enough.

I used to know some Americans who thought like that. Civis Americanus Sum, they would say, in the belief that their government’s overarching military supremacy gave them the right to walk the earth unfettered. I haven’t talked to them in years, but I wonder what they think now; the rest of the world hasn’t felt that deference in a long time, if they ever did, but I wonder what it must be like now, following the news and realizing that the phrase “I am an American Citizen” doesn’t even mean anything to your own government anymore.

3 Comments

  1. Tyla
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Two similar reports of the student getting questioned over Mao surfaced over the last week or so with different details, so it may turn out to be the birth of a new urban legen. (Or as some might call it, a hoax.) But don’t worry — the librarians are all over it: http://lisnews.org/article.pl?sid=05/12/19/1857219. ;)

  2. Tyla
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Follow up report on the “Little Red Book” incident: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-05/12-21-05/a01lo287.htm.

    Unclear at this point whether it was a hoax or not, but the Department of Homeland Security spokesman’s lack of comment on whether they engage in that kind of surveillance doesn’t fill me with complete confidence.

  3. Mike Hoye
    Posted December 25, 2005 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Update: Hoax.