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A nation’s greatness can disappear quickly
Monday, 03 February 2020 12:22
Special to the Daily Planet

Nothing has been the same since the Invasion.  We never recovered. 

Over the years, historians have written about the “War of Wars” and how it was lost — and nobody has ever really disputed that blame lies squarely with the man known to his followers as The Chosen.  One early historian was specific in his accusation.  The ill-fated Invasion that doomed our nation was for him “to gain in wealth and reputation by means of his successes.”   

Oh, the terrible sadness!  Our nation stood astride the world for over a century, then suddenly our grand experiment with democracy and the bright light of our innovations came to a sudden end.  Our conquerers disarmed us and installed a cruel tyrannical government over us.  Our creditors demanded austerity. 

In retrospect, we should never have been drawn to this man.  He grew up in wealth, with every advantage and no constraints.  As one historian wrote later: “He had several famous teachers, but he was noted for his unruly behavior.”  He was handsome and charming, a womanizer all his life, even seducing the wife of a prominent king.    

He knew no loyalty.  One historian wrote of him, “He repays with injury the open assistance of any of his friends.”   He knew no patriotism.  There’s no doubt he met in secret with a key delegation to the Mutual Tolerance Treaty, convincing them that he alone could maintain peace.  Six years later, the Invasion, and our nation was lost.

He knew how to turn the public mind with fiery oratory.  He ranted that elected officials other than himself were bringing disorder and instability to the country.  The Invasion was necessary, and victory would be easy, he promised.  He promised, and yet, incredibly, he had very little knowledge of real enemy strength. 

The expedition (Operation Syracuse, it was called) had no strategic purpose.  None.  It started small — 40 ships and marines onboard — but it grew until almost our entire military was involved.  There was no real plan.  Our overwhelming force was successful at first, but our adversary was reinforced by her allies, and battles were lost on land and sea.  At the end, a desperate, massive evacuation was attempted, and it, too, was bungled.  All surviving men and ships were surrendered.

The Chosen went into exile, where he collaborated with an ancient enemy.  A contemporary essayist called him ““the least scrupulous and most entirely careless of human beings.”  But amazingly, when he was allowed to return, huge crowds greeted his arrival. 

But then nobody should have been amazed, so strong was his following.  How devious was the man!  One critic wrote of him: “All his natural gifts created a traitor, an audacious and impious man.”  A poet likened him to a lion raised in the city — admired for his magnificence and power but savage, unacceptable and dangerous when released.  An early critic wrote:  “Instead of holding that he ought himself to conform with the laws of the state, he expects you to conform with his own way of life.”


It’s not about Donald Trump.  We’re not in some fantasy future looking back on the demise of the United States. 

No, the Chosen man in our narrative here was Alcibiades, whose invasion of Sicily in 415 B.C. ended the Golden Age of Athens.  Yes, I cherry-picked the facts about Alcibiades to highlight the similarities between Trump and Alcibiades, but facts given here are Alcibiades’ facts (except he was not called The Chosen).  The quotes cited were actually written about him.

The Alcibiades saga has two lessons, two warnings, for America today. 

One: Greatness is fragile.  Nations can fall from their highest height to lowest low very quickly.  The magnificent Golden Age of Athens ended in one misstep.

Two: Power in the hands of an arrogant, unscrupulous, impulsive person can be more devastating than anyone can imagine.  

Donald Trump has all the qualifications to be America’s Alcibiades.

It must not happen.  For all that is great in America, we must not let it happen.

Lee Ballard is a published semanticist and lexicographer who lives in Mars Hill.




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