Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Historical Parallel

What do ancient Rome and modern-day Los Angeles have in common? For the answer, one must turn toward historical literature.

In his book Europe and the Middle Ages (Prentice Hall, 1989), Edward Peters addresses a subject that can be found in just about any Medieval textbook: the Visigothic invasions of the Roman Empire in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.

The arrival of the Visigoths, a branch of the Gothic people, at the Danube frontier in 376 constituted the first of the new invasions [of the Roman Empire]. Although the Romans permitted the Goths to entire the empire en masse (the first time the Romans had ever done this), Roman officers and administrators appear to have mistreated them. The Goths revolted in 378, destroyed a Roman army and killed the emperor Valens at the battle of Adrianople in 378, and began their wanderings through the Balkans, northern Greece, and northeastern Italy. Negotiations with the western imperial court proved unsuccessful, and the Visigoths marched through Italy itself briefly capturing Rome in 410, and then moved north and west into Gaul and Spain. There they patched up a temporary alliance with Rome and settled down to establish an independent Germanic kingdom inside the western part of the Roman Empire. (p. 38)
Peters then dedicates the subsequent chapters to detailing how it was these invasions that prompted the evolution of Europe from a Roman government rooted in law to a mishmosh of ethnic kingdoms and communities, most of which went on to form the core of modern Europe. Peters does not claim that these invasions were an ominous moment in history, as they ultimately did form the precursors of nation-states that we know today, but he makes it clear that the political entity that came before was done in as a result of the waves of invading foreign peoples.

I imagine that, if Roman authorities had had photographic equipment during the sacking of Rome in 410 A.D., they would have taken pictures akin to this:

Before those of you out there start bellowing bigotry or racism, I encourage you to remember that there is a legitimate pro-law, pro-sovereignty, anti-illegal immigration counter-argument that does not think it is acceptable for non-citizens illegally, and brazenly, present in the United States to remain here. Many give lip service to the United States being a "nation of laws." I would submit to you that becomes mere lip service in the absence of enforcement of those laws.

In sum: Rome died not because of some overwhelming military counter-empire, or some vast intellectual movement. Rather, Rome died because it permitted itself to decay from within via what was essentially illegal immigration, through inaction and complacency, until it was too late. Unless the United States government (at least some people seem to grasp the dangers of unchecked illegal immigration, and seek positive action on that front) can find the time to brush up on its history, we run the very real risk of repeating history.


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