Wednesday was Independence Day. That makes today a good day to publish a quasi-political poem, yes?
This poem was written for the November 2016 Poem a Day Challenge, and in fact was written on November 8. Election Day. The prompt: Nothing Changes, Everything Changes.
I was, as I’ve mentioned previously, in Boston for a conference that week. In fact, I spent that very morning wandering around with coworkers (and, eventually, Jen Rose Yokel). We visited Bunker Hill. We paused for a photo on the site of the Boston Massacre, where the British army killed 5 people (an event that helped spur the Revolution). I didn’t think about it at the time, but we may have crossed the harbor where the Tea Party happened.
Given that Boston was definitely Hillary country, I feared a repetition of history if Trump won the day.
But in addition to British history, I had Roman history on my mind. Over the course of that year I read both I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Claudius was the emperor between Caligula and Nero. His own reign was fairly benign, at least per the books (fictionalized memoirs by Latin scholar Robert Graves), but in I, Claudius in particular he reflected on the tides of influence that led Rome to beg Augustus to become emperor, and in the sequel he discussed the movements of the populace that made him decide against reinstating the Republic as he claimed to want to do, and even his own irritation against the citizens that eventually made him name a teen who he knew would be a despot as his successor.
And it felt like America. In fact, I think at the time I felt more of a kinship with the Romans of 6 AD than I did with the patriots of 1776 AD.
The truth of the matter is, America is getting old. We’re nearing 250 years; by at least some accounts, that’s the average lifespan of an empire (though this article has more historical data that disputes that average). More realistically, we as a country are probably going to face a major change in the next 50 years or so. Maybe we’ll fragment into smaller regions. Maybe we’ll just fade into overall mediocrity while some other country rises to ascendancy. Maybe someone will successfully consolidate power and we’ll become an empire under a dictator (note: by at least some accounts Trump may be trying, but I don’t think he’ll be the one to succeed.)
All that to say, that’s what was going through my mind when I wrote this sonnet on Election Day in 2016. I don’t know what will happen to America. I’m not particularly looking forward to finding out, though; I don’t think the outcome is going to be particularly pleasant. But I do have faith that, whatever happens, God is behind it. It’s just that sometimes He chooses to bring people to Himself by letting us see how terrible our own chosen rulers are.
The Course of Current Events
They say there’s nothing new under the sun,
That history will just repeat itself
The threads of time have already been spun
And all “new” things are ancient things in stealth
I see today trajectories of Rome,
A land (like ours) ruled by oligarchy
Who put an emperor upon the throne
And sacrificed their once-Democracy
For promised peace—and gained it for a time,
But power always proves to be a trap.
A beautiful veneer may cover slime,
Until the snare is triggered with a snap.
A kingdom rises, lingers, one day falls:
But through it all we know God rules it all.