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Obligatory US election post

I can't help feeling today rather like the Italian allies apparently felt on the eve of the Social War in 91 BC. They fought alongside the Romans on campaign, and were therefore profoundly affected by Roman foreign policy. Rome's enemies were their enemies, and Rome's campaigns were their campaigns. But they had no vote in Rome, and thus no say in the decision-making process that lay behind declarations of war.

Velleius Paterculus describes their situation thus:
In every year and in every war they served with twice as many foot and horse as the Romans, and yet were not given the right of citizenship in the very state which had reached through their efforts so high a position that it could look with contempt on men of the same race and blood as if they were outsiders and foreigners. (Roman History 2.15.2)
Their reaction was to rebel against Roman power, causing warfare throughout Italy: an action which in fact resulted in them getting exactly what they wanted, since the Romans realised that extending the vote to the whole of Italy was a small price to pay for peace and stability on their doorstep.

I'm not saying anything of the sort is either desirable or necessary now - it would be far better if the United States simply stopped throwing its weight around so much, and dragging the rest of us into its ill-thought-out wars. But I empathise with that sense of frustration. Today the world's future is being decided by the electorate of one nation. And all the rest of us can do is stand there crossing our fingers.

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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
This comparison wins. I suppose it's the case with any hegemony that has such a large influence over allied but non-equal states. And yes, it's a big part of why I care so much about this election. We've gone through two wars as the result of the last administration.
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
Hee - thanks! It's annoying to even have to care so much about it - it shouldn't have any more influence over our lives than the outcomes of elections in France, or Japan, or Brazil. But the fact is it does. Let's just hope the feelings of the American people are in tune with those of the rest of the world this time around.
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I should have said - those dolphins are fantastic! I can see they're Classical, but where are they from?
Nov. 4th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
Knossos. (And I knew that without having to check, though Idid anyway.)
Nov. 4th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yep, they're from a Minoan fresco from Knossos. I love Minoan art!
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Imagine how we feel up here north of the 49th parallel. What's more, and more telling, there's been more fervent attention to the U.S. election than to our own federal election held just three weeks ago.
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
yes, but Canada just returned the conservative candidate again... sigh! As someone who comes from a similarly undernoticed country (Ireland), sometimes it's good to turn my eyes to a country where dramatic upsets can happen, rather than the Irish model of returning the same crooked party decade in, decade out...
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
Believe me, I had no part in electing pretty much the same awful minority government (same situation, now with an added cost of $3M!).

There *is* something thrilling about the anticipation (years long) in U.S. elections. The downside is that the campaigns run so long that I often wonder how any governing gets done, but the excitement when one gets to the end, and the closeness of the race certainly beats boring predictability.

I blame The West Wing. :-)
Nov. 4th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
the campaigns run so long that I often wonder how any governing gets done

Yeah, I've often wondered about that. Maybe it makes more sense from the inside, to people who really understand about each state having its own distinct identity, and therefore needing direct and individual attention from the campaigning candidates. But it seems downright weird from the UK perspective. I'm glad we have limits on that sort of thing over here.
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
P.S. - I do agree with you about how annoying US cultural hegemony is in principle, just so's you know!
Nov. 4th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
dragging the rest of us into its ill-thought-out wars.

Nice metaphor although I think in the most recent wars Mr Blair was a dragger rather than a draggee.
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Nov. 4th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
Aye -- you're not wrong there.
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Nov. 4th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
I bet that's annoying in games of Trivial Pursuit at christmas.

I'm wrong all the time, particularly in pink and orange.
Nov. 4th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure you're right about the threats. The same was true for the Italian allies, too. It was "Fight alongside Rome, or you're on your own, Sonny Jim." None of them were powerful enough on their own to survive without Roman protection, so they had to toe the line.
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Nov. 4th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
Good stuff! Except that I kind of wish you hadn't raised the assassination point, as now I will have to worry constantly about that for the next four years even if he gets in... :-/
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Nov. 4th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
I understand. :-)
Nov. 4th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
I was thinking much the same thing. SAdly it's all too plausible a scenario.
Nov. 4th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
Me too.
Nov. 4th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
Superb comparison.

It wouldn't surprise me if the US falls in a similar way to Rome one day.... divided, broke and invaded on all sides by p*ssed off nations. :-)
Nov. 4th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
It's usually the way these things seem to go... ;-)
Nov. 4th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
The US is divided already, you just have to be there to realise just how much. It is broke (they had to add a digit to the debt clock). And it is being invaded. More people in California now speak Spanish as their first language than English and the Chinese own everything...
Nov. 4th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
Yup... that's partly what I was hinting at :-D
Nov. 4th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
Nov. 4th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
Great post Pen. I hope your students realise how lucky they are!
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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