A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish,
And Priam and his people shall be slain.
I’ve always found the Third Punic War to be a deeply instructive period of Roman history, one that helps us understand much of the modern world. What allowed the Romans to survive and then dominate their neighbors was their implacability. They never quit fighting even when they were beaten. The only ways to gain peace with Rome were surrender or defeat. No matter how many times you beat Rome in the field, they would keep coming back until they figured out how to win.
I think the reason for this is explained in the Punic Wars, particularly the final chapter that ended with the sack of Carthage. Rome was more than a place and a people. Rome was an idea, an animating force that defined the people of the city. Being Roman was more than just about lineage or location. It was a way of life, the way of life for righteous people. To accept defeat or compromise would be to reject the essence of being Roman.
It’s this nascent nationalism that drove the Romans to keep fighting. It is what drove them to sack Carthage and later Corinth. It was impossible to be Rome if these cities existed as anything other than subjugated provinces of Rome. This implacability is what carried Rome through the third century crisis period. Even when maintaining the empire made no military or economic sense, they did it anyway. It was who they were. Keep in mind that in the third century, Rome was led by men from the Balkans known then as Illyricum.
If you were an enemy of Rome, you knew there could only be two outcomes. You could surrender and hope for good terms or you could fight and eventually lose. Sure, you could win some battles and have a good run of success, but the Romans would never stop coming. Eventually, they would gain the advantage and win. Just as important, Rome did not just extract rents from conquered people. They Romanized them. Rome was the first iteration of The Borg.
This comes to mind now that we are in yet another Confederate flag debate. The first one of these I recall clearly was in the 90’s, but I seem to recall the Cult in a snit over the flag in the 70’s when Southern Rock started using it in their stage shows. Regardless, the Cult tried to stamp it out in the 90’s, the 2000’s and now again in this decade. Ever since that lunatic shot up the church in South Carolina, the Cult has been buzzing about that stupid flag.
As we saw with Obama’s birth certificate, the only people who care about this flag are liberals and lunatics, the distinction between the two is impossible without professional training. The rest of us, a group professional demographers call normal people, simply don’t care. But, we live in a country run by a quasi-religious cult and they do care, so the rest of us have to care – or else. That’s how it works in a theocracy.
What’s instructive here is we see the same implacability on display as I described with the Romans. In the 70’s and 80’s, I used to see Rebel flags on sale at convenience stores – even in Boston. Now, only outcasts display them and the occasional red neck. Most red necks have decided it is not worth the hassle. But, the Cult is still determined to sack any city that flies the flag in any way shape or form. The Cult never quits and never settles. They declare peace only when they have won completely and permanently.
Of course, the flag is not really the issue. That’s why normal people are caught off-guard whenever the Cult starts waving it around and ululating like lunatics. The real issue is the long War Between the Whites that started in the 19th century and continues to this day. We call this the Civil War and that’s a good label, but I prefer my label, as it is more precise. Civil War implies both sides were equal or the same or viewed one another in that way. They never did and they still don’t.
In the 19th century, northern whites of mostly English ancestry used slavery as an excuse to attack and kill as a many Southern whites as possible. Those southern whites were of mostly Scots-Irish ancestry. The northern whites were ready to join their European coevals in the industrial, global age and they did not want those backward agrarian crackers holding them back. Slavery had to go and the people responsible for it had to be punished.
Abolitionists cared more about punishing southern whites after the war than the welfare of the freed slaves. The squabbling between northern lunatics and more reasonable minds over how to go about the post-war reconstruction is largely responsible for the failure of reconstruction to resolve the issue of freed slaves. That was left to the South to figure out on its own.
Like those Romans 2,000 years ago, the Cult never quits or accepts defeat. For 150 years northern whites have been trying to finally eliminate their eternal enemy. Over the decades the Cult evolved from an English Protestant thing into a full blown post-industrial theodicy. They still have a special hatred for southern whites, but they have expanded their field of vision to include what Obama called “typical white people.”
That’s what was missed when he made that comment. Everyone thought race, when Obama was thinking class. This is a guy raised by elites in elite culture. His grandparents were low-class compared to his coevals in prep school. They were typical Americans, which the Cult identifies as middle-class, white and embarrassing. While normal people in the South have no emotions about the rebel flag, it means everything to the Cult as it has always been, in their imagination, the flag of their enemy – core Americans.
If you follow the logic, so to speak, it makes perfect sense for the Cult to go on jihad against the rebel flag after the white guy shot up the black church. The Cult’s idealized image of the enemy is white, male, southern and poor. His flag is the Confederate flag. Therefore, the logical response to this shooting, from the perspective of the Cult, is the same as the Romans when Carthaginian traders ripped off Roman merchants. That’s a policy of the extirpation.