Thinking About Empire

by Fred Cederholm

Why is ABC airing a six-segment drama series called "Empire" this summer, starting with Julius Caesar's dictatorship? Is there a subliminal message in there somewhere?
I’ve been thinking about empire. Actually I’ve been thinking about ABC-D (D for Disney), infotainment, the 22nd Amendment, Edward Gibbon, lead, and Zero Mostel. On Tuesday, June 28, ABC starts airing "Empire," the epic six-hour summer drama series, which begins with Julius Caesar’s return from his military campaigns of empire building to become ancient Rome’s first emperor—a dictator for life. Why this subject/topic? And, why now?

You see, Hollywood/television/media has a long history of capitalizing on unfolding current events and the imagination of their viewing public. That’s how they get their market share and make the big bucks. Presidents and their administrations (of both parties) are fair game. Remember how Bill Clinton, during the height of the Monica business, had launched a multi-million dollar missile attack in Afghanistan against an "Al-Qaeda camp," and an attack against a "munitions installation" in the Sudan? While in reality those attacks wiped out some 60 goats and an aspirin factory, the heat of the Monica moments was temporarily diffused--a "Wag the Dog" moment.

In the broad spectrum of the entire Roman history and empire, I find it particularly of interest that the ABC-D epic begins with Julius Caesar’s dictatorship and carries through the exile/flight of his nephew Octavius. Julius seized power from a neglected and corrupt republic by crossing the Rubicon with his troops. This violated a sacred Roman tradition of not militarizing the capital city of the empire—the bulk of whose protecting troops were spread/deployed across their known world. Our own "Caius Dubius" and his loyal cohort/VEEP "Richus Maximus" have already crossed the Potomac/Tigris. Dubius is already commander in chief—not controlling the Congress via his veto powers, but orchestrating his agenda via a plethora of executive orders.

The public only now is becoming aware of the proposed repeal of the 22nd Amendment. Would such a repeal set the stage for an American empire?

Timing is everything and time is running out constitutionally for Dubius and Richus because of the two-term presidential limits of the 22nd amendment to the US Constitution. The wheels have been set in motion to eliminate this obstacle as a plan/plot/proposal to repeal the 22nd Amendment was initiated by Hoyer, Berman, Sensenbrenner, Skabo, and Pallone on February 17 of this year. The clock is ticking as ratification by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after submission for ratification is required for implementation, and the next presidential election is 2008. This scenario hasn’t hit the mainstream media and didn’t hit the web blogs until June 14. And now "Empire" premiers on June 28th—timing IS everything!

Comparisons/analogies/metaphors of imperial Rome to Uncle $ugar and other great world powers are nothing new. Most, however, focus on using Edward Gibbon’s monumental six-volume history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This has been particularly true if current perception was that the contemporary great nation/state was globally spread too thin, was morally and economically bankrupt, and was governed by a maniacal and corrupt leadership. Rome wasn’t built (or didn’t collapse) in a day; yet, things do move faster in the 21st Century.

The Rome of Julius Caesar (and Augustus Caesar) was characterized by a massive political restructuring, the consolidation of imperial/ executive power, and the further empire building of a New World Order. The Rome of Caligula and Nero—with the themes of paranoia, dementia, madness, intrigue, and impotence (that were most likely triggered by a cumulative, long-term exposure to heavy metal poisoning)—came much later. I realize that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is an old house, but I highly doubt that much, if any, of the original (lead) plumbing is still in use; or, that Dubius and Richus do much toasting from lead-laden goblets.

These next three-and-a-half years will be critical in solidifying the legacy/epitaph of the Bush-Cheney administrations. Will they live on via the words of Virgil from the Aeneid: "I sing of arms and the man"? Or...will they be remembered by the paraphrased musings the Zero Mostel character, Pseudolus, from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum": " Something for oye-il, something for Wall Street, money for all our friends, a spending boom tonight!"?

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2005 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE and a forensic accountant. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.

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This story was published on June 24, 2005.