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Cicero’s Message

Posted on Friday, May 3, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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Brussels, justice palace, vestibule, Cicero. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -JANUARY 3, 2016: Justice Palace, Brussels, Belgium, built 1866-1883 by architect Joseph Poelaert in eclectic style. Statue of ancient orator and philosopher Cicero at the vestibule

A man named Marcus Tullius Cicero (Cicero) was born about a hundred years before Christ, a Roman statesman, good talker, and writer. He died 43 years before Christ and wrote about humanity’s failings. Years ago, his words made sense in Latin, these days only in English. Oddly, they resonate.

Why does humanity never learn? Why do we keep insisting on doing the same dumb things? Why do we not listen to people like Cicero, distrust those in power – limit government?

Why do we fall victim to false promises, over and over again, imagining those in power are different, will make better decisions for us – will not hurt us, until they do?

Why do we think human nature changes, when Cicero – and many who followed, including Christ, taught us – that humanity is fallen, power is prone to abuse, governments tend to corrupt, and think they can be God, never getting there because they cannot?

Cicero was – perhaps not a surprise – a favorite of our Nation’s founders, skeptics of government, all quick to pull Cicero from their bookshelf, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Hamilton, and even John Locke before them.

So, what did this Cicero guy have to say? If we are going to save ourselves from big government, drive the arrogant from power, and return liberty to the people, how?

Well, one thing Cicero said, from painful experience, watch out for the enemy within. Disdain for common people, for their rights, is corrosive and brings all the worst to the surface.

Said Cicero: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it can not survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.”

Of course, Cicero was not thinking of China penetrating our towns, cities, states, Congress, White House, schools, and statehouses, nor of Marxism, Maoism, or fascism, words that did not exist. He was talking about power, how is can be taken from the people, often in a flash.

What else did he worry about? He thought a lot about intergenerational relations, kids, and how we teach, care, love, or choose to ignore, abandon, and give government power over children. He worried that society – by which he also meant parents, and families – is ruined by uncaring.

He wrote: “What society does to its children, so its children will do to society.” If we teach caring, confidence, self-reliance, suspicion of government, and concern for the future, we win, if not, we lose.

So, how are we doing? What do you think?  We have let drug traffickers run wild, demoralized and defunded those who protect us, passed laws making people afraid to protect themselves, chosen not to teach skills and values taught to us as kids, taught to kids since our Nation’s founding.

What else? We have allowed degrading, dehumanizing ideologies into our schools, and promoted them – the idea that gender is an ice cream flavor, that kids waiting at birth can be killed, that faith is to be mocked, tolerance for good ideas, history, science, health, hard work derided. How is that going?

Cicero was already there, and saw it coming, as did our forefathers, who tried to warn us – who wrote, taught, led and bled, died, and were followed by sons and daughters doing the same, all for us.

Where are we, then? Time to wake up. What else did Cicero see? Why did our founders love him? He was prescient, and could see around corners, all the way to ours, so here is what he sees.

Tucked into longer essays, “Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his errors,” and “more is lost by indecision than wrong decision … Indecision is the thief of opportunity.” Do we teach those things, or do we practice them, are we now?

 “When a government becomes powerful, it is destructive, extravagant and violent … it deprives honorable men of their substance, with votes to perpetuate itself.” Makes you think?

“The budget should be balanced, treasury refilled, public debt reduced, the arrogance of officialdom tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt.”  Does anything come to mind? It should.

Why do we never learn? Maybe we will. Perhaps Cicero’s words can guide America again, as they did at our founding. I hope so. They can even guide our daily life, which he also wrote.

In one essay, he even addressed my question – why do we never learn? “Six mistakes mankind keeps making, century after century: Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others; Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind; Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

So, there you have it, a blast from the past, Cicero’s time capsule, one that may surprise you. Amazing what they knew, how much is forgotten, worth remembering. Latin still eludes me, but not Cicero’s main logic. America has time, and need not fall as Rome did, but we better get on it!

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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S.B. GOODE
S.B. GOODE
1 month ago

In philosopher George Santayanas publication “The Life of Reason, or The Phases of Human Progress” (in the 12th chapter titled “Flux and Constancy In Human Nature”) stated “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, echoing the sentiments of Cicero. Then there is Thomas Paines ‘Common Sense’ in which he issues forth the statement… ” From the errors of other nations, let us learn wisdom”. His writings serve as a warning and a call to action, and argues that society is a blessing and government is a necessary evil, only needed, to restrain human vices when moral virtues fail. In other words, governments goal is to secure freedom for society and the simplest form of government is the most desirable, lest it become tyrannical. He presents to both soon to be and future Americans the pros and the historical pros and cons of government which we should well heed, lest we be ” condemned to repeat” past mistakes.

Dan W.
Dan W.
1 month ago

Cicero was certainly a thorn in the side of would be dictator Julius Caesar during Caesar’s quest to destroy the Republic.

I wonder what he would say about our two current presidential candidates ?

Joe McHugh
Joe McHugh
1 month ago

Cicero warned us that the career oriented politicians tend to become authoritarian in nature over time. The Democrat Party, once considered the party for the working man, has become a front for Marxism, ironically a party that gets most of its financial support from multi-millionaires, and big corporations.
The Democrat elite don’t really believe in the socialism that Marx promoted, they merely employ it to gain and keep power over the people. Liberals, progressives, Marxist and communist are all peas in the same socialist pod. The elite who promote any form of socialism understand the human proclivity to be beguiled by the false promises of politicians who offer government “assistance” to help the individual laboring under his financial burdens. The dependent people, who fall for such promises, never realize more than a meager living condition, and they remain sullen dupes. Psst! Unless one is born with a silver tea spoon in his mouth one is expected to earn his own way in life. You can earn an adequate living, become financially successful, or you can starve, it’s all up to you.
All developed countries help those citizens who are mentally, or physically crippled. All others should work to earn the money for what they desire in life.

David
David
1 month ago

The problem is, those who are in most need to hear and understand these things, are also the most likley to ignore them.

Robert E
Robert E
1 month ago

We are where we are because the prophecy of DeToqueville has come true: when the citizens discover they can vote themselves benefits from the government, we are doomed.
Yes, government by, for and of the people, but for all the wrong reasons!!
This goes to the breakdown of fundamentals: the family, common moral societal beliefs, personal integrity, an ignorant electorate produced by a failed education system.
The common threads that used to hold our patchwork immigrant society together have come unraveled and we are descending into tribalism and political parties who have no qualms using their power to destroy political enemies.
I truly believe we are heading for some sort of civil war. It will probably start with “civil disobedience” by certain states, maybe in the form of “keep your money”. We are already seeing some of this. I should start with rejecting Dept. of Education money.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

The problem as I see it that individuals like Robert Charles talk and write a great narrative but exactly what have they done to stop the degradation of this Nation? Mr. Charles and many others like minded individuals have been in those institutions of power (noted he was an undersecretary for Colin Powell), yet it has been under those individuals that the Nation slid further down the slopes of Socialism, Marxism, Communisim to the point it has become obvious to many.
I agree we have failed and now need an ACTION plan to right this adrift ship of state. Most people vote, others will take actions backing conservative candidates but with the corruption coming out of DC and the left stealing elections (I have little doubt 2020 and 2022 were rife with fraud) voting is doing very little.

Garnet Dwyer
Garnet Dwyer
1 month ago

Loved it, perhaps we should be teaching this in our school systems. People who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

John
John
1 month ago

Humanity is doomed as we refuse to learn from our mistakes.
Treasonous behavior from our Totalitarian Communist Democrat Party comrades is running a muck with no end in sight.

Lloyd Grisham
Lloyd Grisham
1 month ago

Eloquent and wise words for the times we live in. Sadly, lt seems that most citizens either listen to the propaganda coming from our leaders or choose to pay no attention to current events that are so important.

uncleferd
uncleferd
1 month ago

I’m glad Mr. Charles has showcased Cicero in this article. Cicero was a very wise man, and his brilliant platitudes hold enormous truths that will always be relevant and highly valuable in today’s (and tomorrow’s) marketplace of ideas.

Pat R
Pat R
1 month ago

AMEN, Mr. Charles. Cicero definitely wise for all ages. Thank you for sharing this. I shall post it on my FB page to spread “the words”.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Truth valid then & now

Rich
Rich
1 month ago

Amen!

Max
Max
1 month ago

RBC, enjoyed your article as usual. As to this nation’s demise, commentor Paul E always brings it this to light — The American public remains asleep like sheep. Occasionally waking up from their stupor –Oh, it is time to vote! Who should I vote for? Let see what MSM has to say about candidates (never researching the truth) and the nation ends up with bad leadership. As you stated, the nation is being destroyed from within from those who are actually pulling the strings of the puppets that are being controlled. Yes, it is time to wake up but those who under the age of 40 who are constantly falling for the rhetoric of the enemy, a majority have not been raised with the real values, morally or spiritually, continue to blindly follow the socialist/leftist agenda. Unless the people wake up real soon, all will be lost.
Have a great weekend, stay safe.

Dean C Howerton
Dean C Howerton
1 month ago

LETS GO BRANDON

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