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America's Bread and Circus Society

June 14, 2010


The Roman poet Juvenal (circa 100 A.D.) wrote regarding the way latter-day Roman emperors retained power and control over the masses that were seemingly more than happy to obsess themselves with trivialities and self-indulgences while their once-great-and-powerful empire collapsed before their very eyes. He wrote:

"Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions--everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."

I submit that a good many in America are, like Rome of old, carelessly frittering away their God-given liberties, foolishly clamoring for nothing more than government handouts and never-ending entertainment. Millions and millions of Americans (especially males) are literally intoxicated with sports. Sports are no longer a great American pastime; they are now a great American obsession.

Mind you, this writer has been a sports fan all of his life. I began playing organized basketball in the fifth grade; I was on the high school wrestling team; I played football in high school and college; and I ran track. Still today, I enjoy watching a good NFL game (yes, I'm still a Green Bay Packers fan), a good college game when the Gators are playing, a good NCAA men's basketball game (especially during the tournament--even more so when the Hoosiers are in it), and any NBA championship series between the Celtics and Lakers (I root for Boston). And I even like to watch a round of professional golf once in a while (it helps me go to sleep when I'm trying to take a nap). But none of the above will interfere with anything that is important, and I am not going to plan my whole universe around any of it. If it is convenient, I will watch. If it's not, I will read about it in the sports section of the newspaper. And I'm certainly not going to spend my hard-earned money following any sports team (even those I like) all over the country like some rock band groupie.

I am not talking about sports in general; I am talking about the way many American men have allowed sports to control and dominate their lives. With many, sports are not just a hobby; they are a religion. I cannot count the number of conversations between men that I overhear in restaurants, airplanes, boardrooms, and, yes, even church houses, in which every man in the circle is literally consumed with all sorts of sports facts, information, and opinions. In many such discussions, these men will talk about nothing else. To these men, there is absolutely nothing in the world more important than the latest sports score, announcement, or trade. NOTHING!

And there is also a very real psychological pitfall associated with a man's intoxication with sports. I submit that an obsession with sports gives men a false sense of masculinity and actually serves to steal true manhood from them.

For example, it used to be when men stripped their shirts off and painted their faces, they were heading to the battlefield to kill the tyrant's troops. Now they are headed off to the sports coliseum to watch a football game. A man's ego and machismo was once used to protect his family and freedom; now it's used to tout batting averages and box scores. The fact is, if we could get the average American male to get as exercised and energized about defending the historic principles upon which liberty and Western Civilization are built as he is in defending his favorite quarterback or NASCAR driver, our country would not be in the shape it is in today.

The sad reality is that much of today's masculinity is experienced only vicariously through a variety of sports teams and personalities. Instead of personally flexing our muscles for God and country, freedom and liberty, or home and hearth, we punch the air and beat our chests over touchdowns and home runs (even though we had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with them ourselves). Instead of getting in the face of these would-be tyrants in Washington, D.C., who are doing everything they can to steal the American dream, we get in the face of the poor umpire who makes a bad call or the Little League coach who doesn't play my son enough. Our happiness, well-being, and mood are not determined by anything personally achieved (or lost), but by what others accomplished (or didn't accomplish) at the ball park. Whether our children inherit a land of liberty and freedom does not seem nearly as important as whether they make the starting lineup on the football team.

Add to an epidemic obsession with sports the demand for more and more handouts from Big Brother and the outlook for liberty is not good. Everywhere we turn, we seem to hear people clamoring for government to give them more and more. They expect government to supply their every need and meet their every demand. They then have the gall to turn around and say, "God bless America: land of the free?"

Ladies and gentlemen, one cannot have it both ways. If we expect government to be our supplier, we cannot expect that it will not become our master. Always remember this: government has nothing to give except that it first takes it from someone else. Every dollar and every job that government gives is first taken from someone else. Furthermore, every job given to government is another freedom--and another dollar--taken from the citizenry. Every government job brings with it a restriction, a prohibition, a regulation, an inspection, a fee, a tax, an assessment, etc.  As government grows, freedom shrinks. As government spends, wealth shrinks. And as government hires, opportunity shrinks.

Most historians agree with Juvenal that the mighty Roman Empire collapsed from within due to a morally reckless, selfish, pleasure-crazed, sports-obsessed, bread and circus society that willingly surrendered the principles of self-government to an insatiable central government that, through perpetual wars and incessant handouts, destroyed a once-great republic.

By all appearances, the bread and circus society has reared its ugly head in America. And make no mistake about it: if the people of the United States do not quickly repent of this madness, the consequences will be just as destructive for our once-great republic as it was for Rome.

Copyright ©2010 Chuck Baldwin

 


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