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The founder of modern saturation advertising, Senator Cato the Elder (234-149 B.C.), had a monomania about Rome’s rival, Carthage. At the end of every speech he gave for 20 years – on any subject whatever – he would add, “delenda est Carthago” (Carthage must be destroyed).
The impact of his long barrage on that ad-free society likely surpassed the impact of tired modern equivalents like, “We try harder” and “Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.” In the end, the Senate caved and launched the Third Punic War, grinding Carthage into rubble and salted earth.
Today I offer with complete humility – of which only I am truly capable – this modern update of Cato’s slogan: Omnis Babylonia delenda est. I offer this wisdom at no extra charge to our allies in the beleaguered Bush administration.
Omnis Babylonia is All Babylon, and that, of course, is modern Iraq. But I hasten to add that I’m not suggesting the military “final solution” of nuking the entire Mesopotamian sandpile. I’m referring to a much broader solution: spiritual transformation. And a much deeper challenge: centrist suppression.
I should remind you in passing that Iraq is not a real country, any more than Palestine. It’s a jumble of warring tribes that hate each other passionately, and who, left to themselves, would revert back to civil wars of mutual annihilation that could make the current car-bomb festival look like the good-old days.
As the lion-hearted Jack Wheeler says, “The War in Iraq is a continuation of the World’s Oldest War. It is a war that began 25 centuries ago, when a few thousand Athenians, representing the founding culture of Western Civilization, faced a Persian horde many times their size on the field of Marathon.
“The Persian dictator, Darius, was sure he would crush these impudent Greeks who dared to demand their freedom from him. At the end of that fateful day in 490 B.C., 6,000 Persians lay dead, vs. 200 Athenians. Barbarism’s first attempt to subdue civilization was defeated.”
Now, I’m no big fan of the Greek city-states. They were far more suppressive than you might suppose. The freedom they sought was for the city, not for its individual citizens, who remained tightly locked into their roles as units of the almighty state. Nevertheless, Marathon was a leap of progress.
Actually, though, Dr. Wheeler was off by 957 years. The real start of the epic war against centrist suppression was in 1447 B.C., just two days before God gave the Ten Commandments. He said to Israel, “You shall be my prized possession, dearer to me than all other peoples! … you shall be for me a kingdom of priests!” (Exodus 19:6)
There you have it: the first Really Authoritative declaration of human rights, the right to direct access to the living God – without intermediaries or power brokers. I cannot imagine a more forceful statement of empowerment than this word from on high, stating that Joe and Jane Anybody could have a functioning role and direct connection to God himself without going through the usual channels, being subject to human power structures.
But alas, we bungled the offer. First, there was a mind-numbing series of rebellions that resulted in a 40-year circular parade through the Sinai desert. Then 335 years later, in 1112 B.C., the Lord’s hopes for a kingdom of priests got put on ice when Israel told the prophet Samuel flat out: “No! We want a king over us, that we may be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and march in front of us and fight our battles.” (I Samuel 8:19-20)
Whenever we reject the burden of thinking for ourselves and the task of self-governance, the result is some form of slavery. For Israel, slavery came with the troops of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. The 70-year captivity in Babylon was a tough lesson in not rejecting freedom.
Since then, the war for freedom has flared up and died many times. Yet we still have not learned to choose freedom over centralization. Our latest debacle was the Katrina mess, a vivid example of the stupidity of centralizing power.
FEMA was originally contrived as a political plum to be run by Clinton’s chauffeur. Since then, it has been a dumping ground for unemployable buddies of bureaucrats – if they weren’t qualified anywhere else, FEMA would take them.
But who responded quickly to Katrina victims’ cries for help? Churches, corporations, and local groups. Who was last to show? You know.
The lesson is hard to miss: Delenda est FEMA. Bye-bye, Babylon.