From Madison reading Cato and Cicero when framing the Constitution to the outsized impact both Rome and America had on the world around them, the United States has long been associated with historical Rome. There are great similarities, and there can be much to learn—and what’s happening now does not reflect well on either historical Rome or America.
When most of us think of the worst emperors in Roman history we think of names like Commodus, Nero, Caligula, and Elagabalus. To a man they were vain, self-centered, bloodthirsty hedonists who took what they wanted and tortured and killed many thousands of Romans and provincials.
All emperors, including the great ones like Augustus, Trajan, and Aurelian had blood on their hands to one degree or another but most tried to maintain or grow the empire. Commodus et al didn’t. Their goal was to satiate their lusts, whether literal lust or gluttony or, sadly, bloodlust. While there were other bad emperors, these four are among the worst.
What makes this relevant today is the fact that all four of these “men” were spoiled, pampered, entitled sadists who were given free rein when they were still essentially children. Commodus was the oldest at 19, while Nero was 17, and both Elagabalus and Caligula were 16.
They were overindulged brats who never faced consequences for their behavior. They were given virtually anything they wanted or, just as often, allowed to take what they wanted with impunity. And at those ripe young ages, and with that upbringing, they were literally given the keys to the kingdom and unleashed on the Empire—and virtually everyone in it suffered as a result.
Every day in America we see modern-day Commoduses or Caligulas wreaking havoc on our streets and in our stores, restaurants, schools, and more. Instead of a single entitled Emperor, America in 2022 is being ravaged by a generation of young men—many of whom have grown up fatherless—who have been told that they can do and say anything they want and that, regardless of what they do, there will be no consequences for them.
Just as Elagabalus et al brought nothing but blood, despair, and dysfunction to the Empire, these 21st-century youth are bringing blood, despair, and destruction to America. A generation of Americans has grown up being given “time outs”, “participation trophies,” and grades that have nothing to do with actual academic success, while at the same time they’ve been told that all inequality is due to racism, sexism, homophobia, or anything other than individual choices or actions.
The consequence of this indoctrination is that far too many young Americans think they can do anything with impunity. If they want something they take it. If they’re mad about something they protest, disrupt the lives of everyone within shouting distance, and frequently riot. They assault, rape and, sometimes, even murder, increasingly with impunity.
Pat Moynihan predicted much of this 60 years ago in his “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” In it he “…described through pages of disquieting charts and graphs, the emergence of a “tangle of pathology,” including delinquency, joblessness, school failure, crime, and fatherlessness that characterized ghetto—or what would come to be called underclass—behavior.”
While most of the scenes of flash mobs, carjackings, Knock Out Game punches, subway shovings, and daily shootings involve black male youth, this is not a race issue. Yes, the problem is disproportionately black, but White and Hispanic America is increasingly experiencing the same challenges of unwed mothers, school failures, and the lack of responsibility that underpins much of the dysfunction.
Whether a California college student getting 6 months for rape, a Texas boy getting no jail time for killing four people in a car crash, or charges being dropped against a South Carolina boy for killing someone in a boat crash, unaccountable America spans across races, wealth, and indeed the country itself. This is nowhere better demonstrated than by the legions of rioters who participated in the “peaceful protests” of 2020 who found their charges dropped or their bails funded by the glitterati.