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  • Kathryn Patterson

The Fall of the American Empire

I have a secret. I see patterns. Okay, so  it’s really not as cool as seeing dead people.  But it’s my one super power (so to speak).  In elementary school, I saw patterns in numbers, and used the knowledge to ace every multiplication test on the planet.  (Did you know that there are at least 4 patterns to figuring out the 9s table?)  Later on, I used patterns to remember events in history, find results in science labs, and even write music for a humanities class.   Outside of school, patterns are not quite as useful.  I still use patterns when writing music, and I see patterns in the plots of books.  Today, though, I want to talk about a pattern that I see in history, and how I think it relates to the current situation in the American economy. Throughout recorded human history, civilizations have grown from small villages to huge empires, only to topple and be replaced by other empires. From Europe to China, empires rise and fall with regularity in history.  If you look closely, you realize that the vast majority of empires did not fall outright to an external force, such as another empire.  Rather, internal corruption weakened each empire, corruption that started at the top and worked its way through the political organization.   When I examine history, I see a pattern in this corruption.  It begins when the people at the top of the power chain begin to think that their needs and wants trump the needs and wants of society as a whole.  When people act elite, their decisions become self-centered.  Unfortunately, these same people tend to have the power in society, so the more elite they act, the worse off the rest of society becomes until there is a change.  That change is revolution, whether a bloody affair, such as the Russian revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, or a peaceful affair,  such as Occupy Wall Street. When our Founding Fathers set up the United States, they incorporated the concept of “We the people” into the documents and philosophy of the new country.  In the beginning, “We the people” only meant white men, but as time went by the concept grew to incorporate women as well as people of other ethnicities.    Now, “We the people” means everyone in this country, from the homeless person living in a cardboard box under a bridge to the wealthy inheritor who has so much money it could never get spent. The trouble came to our country when the very wealthy acted as if their wants were more important than anyone else’s needs.  When the wealthy act as if they are above “We the people”, you get banks who give out mortgages that cannot be paid back, because it gives the bank a short term profit.  When the wealthy act as if they are an “elite few”, you get corporations who pay less tax than any individual American, but still ask for more tax breaks.   When the wealthy and powerful act above “We the people”, you get the United States as it stands today. If history serves as an indicator of what happens next, then the American Empire already began to fall several years ago when the banks and corporations started to care more about short-term profit and money over the welfare of the country.  The only question left is what kind of revolution we will have.  

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