Immediate Lessons From The Roman Empire

He looked down into her brown eyes
And said, “Say a prayer for me.”
She threw her arms around him,
Whispered, “God will keep us free.”

They could hear the riders comin’,
He said, “This is my last fight.
If they take me back to Texas,
They won’t take me back alive.”

Seven Spanish Angels – Willie and Ray – 1984

The use of the phrase ‘civis romanus sum’ was available to every Roman citizen during the time of the Roman Empire. Quite simply, it translates to “I am a Roman citizen.”.  It was said a Roman citizen could travel anywhere within the Empire in safety, free of fear of persecution, free to demand justice from Rome, free to live their lives knowing the might of the Roman Empire protected them at all times.

There was a time an American citizen could travel around the globe, secure in the knowledge that being an American meant something. Foreign countries, even those at odds with our government, tended to tread lightly with our civilian citizens. Whether it was respect or fear, there was a time where governments simply did not subject our citizens to unjust arrest, torture, persecution and death.

In 1986, on April 5 in the evening, agents from Libya bombed a nightclub in Germany. Three people were killed, but one American was killed, a US Serviceman, along with 229 injured. Ten days later, the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps executed air strikes against Libya, and dropped over 60 tons of munitions. It is safe to say Gaddafi was never the same after that night.

Just the other day, North Korea delivered Otto Warmbir back to his home country, the land of his birth. He arrived on death’s doorstep. He had served almost 18 months of a 15 year sentence of hard labor. Hard labor would have been a step up for this 22 year old University of Virginia graduate. No doubt, he would have traded just about anything for “hard labor”. But that’s not what he got, is it? For attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel as a souvenir, he was beaten and tortured literally to an inch of his life.

How were we then treated by the North Korean government? They sent him back to the U.S. within days of death, with the smugness that screamed “Here, take care of this trash, throw it out for us.” These wicked doers of evil couldn’t have disrespected us less if they had handed us a soiled napkin and dismissively ordered us to dispose of it.

American exceptionalism is more than our Constitution, more than our Bill of Rights, more than our form of government, and yes more than our resources. American exceptionalism is to its core about the people.  The backbone that stood up and said “Don’t Tread on Me” and the stubborn sense of justice that overcame Germany and Japan are a part of it to be sure. But there is also the sense of right and wrong, the kindness and pity for the underdog, the intractable anger at the bully, and the thrill of freedom.

Right now. Immediately. North Korea needs to see yet another aspect of American exceptionalism, our military might. We are exceptional in making war, and that nation needs, no must, experience that exceptionalism up close and personal.

I’m not here to eulogize Mr. Warmbir. I didn’t know him. That only way I know him is as a fellow citizen, wronged beyond belief. Murdered by wicked men who take pleasure in pain and torture. There is a lot to make people angry now days. Its a veritable buffet of choice. This is what makes me angry. Angry beyond belief. Angry to the point of demanding retribution.

We are less than exceptional if this act of international thuggery doesn’t anger us as nation. We are not who we used to be if we simply allow Fox News to express our outrage for a few days, and then move on.

Mr. President. By the 4th of July, when we celebrate our freedom, by Independence Day, I would ask you to deliver justice.

By the 4th, let the rockets red glare be over North Korea. By the 4th, let them feel the bombs bursting in air. And by the 5th of July, let the sun come up over our fruited plains with your citizens safe and secure in the knowledge once more: “I am an American citizen!”

About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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