Thursday, March 23, 2023

Planeta Nostrum

It's cold in the shade, but sunny and clear on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in Almada, Portugal just a five-minute ferry ride across the Tagus from Lisbon.  I'm 10th in line to get into Ponto Final.  Behind me a French group banters as to whether they should've gone to McDonald's instead.  In front of me an Italian couple wonder how much longer it will be.  And every so often the Portuguese maitre d' comes along and asks each group how many they are.  All of us are connected, not just by the fact that we're waiting to get into a trendy restaurant but also as heirs to Roman culture and language.

It is as much historical fact that Rome fell to Germanic invaders from the north, as it is that Germanic invaders from the north fell to Rome.  The rot of the Roman elite, both physical and moral, and its never-ending wars did bring the political entity that was the Roman Empire to an end in approximately 500 AD, but not before that Empire established cultural hegemony across much of Europe.  That 1500 years later I was able to get the gist of the French spoken behind me, the Italian in front, and the Portuguese to the side is a testament to this.

When directed to my table, however, English was the language of choice.  There have, of course, been many important empires between the fall of Rome and the establishment of the American world order after World War II.  But in political, military and especially cultural hegemony none have been as relevant in my opinion, as post 20th century America.  I have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, from Tokyo to Lisbon.

It is sad that the America First isolationists will never realize how important their language and culture are to the rest of the world.  They may, at most, get a curated view of a few Caribbean islands on a bad cruise.  America is to the world today what Rome was once to the Mediterranean, only better. Constrained by the rule of law and an international order we help maintain, spreading our culture, our language and our prosperity everywhere we go.  I hope there are enough of us left to defend this vision in the coming years.