Monke: The monument to America's memory
What will be America's monument to history?
Every great civilization has left behind a monument denoting its time of power. Many of those monuments also give us a glimpse into their rise, dominance and eventual fall.
So, what will be the monument future civilizations look to when remembering America? Given that scientists imagine Earth will be around for a few billion more years, give or a take a hundred million or so, it's a safe bet that the way things are going, America's lifespan is a bit shorter than that.
One would imagine that more than a few monuments will survive to be relics in a thousand years. I'd put good money on Mount Rushmore being one. After all, it's still a mountain.
Even though most disaster films find a way of destroying the Golden Gate Bridge and skyscrapers, some monolithic man-made structures will undoubtedly survive any catastrophic calamity we face in the future, be it near or far.
Who knows, maybe one of them will be the Mall of America. Wouldn't that be a shining beacon of American success and excess?
In our little corner of the world, we don't have many monuments that haven't already existed for thousands of years. North Dakota's monument is the land. And for the time being, about 10,000 oil wells.
Perhaps America's greatest monument won't be something visible or physical. Instead, could it be the remains of our society's most important monument for the next great civilization will be a lesson?
We have a national debt that is spiraling out of control, constant in-fighting between our most powerful of citizens, many of whom can't get along long enough to solve even the simplest of problems, and a public that would rather be ignorant than care.
This week, I saw an Internet memee detailing their thoughts on the current government shutdown and political bickering that seems to be just another straw on top of an already weary collective American back. For those of you who don't know, a memee is a photo combined with a witty or humorous two-part phrase. This meme featured a photo of the U.S. Capitol building that belonged on a postcard. It's text read: "We are going to stop working ... because we can't agree on how to spend the imaginary money we don't have."
Amen. Blame it on Obamacare, Republican foolishness, Democrat arrogance, media ignorance or some combination or interchange of any and all of the above. One way or another, those in charge are doing their best to speed up our country's expiration date.
Richard Duncan, a world-renowned economist formerly of the World Bank, calls America's nearly $17 trillion -- and growing by the minute -- national debt a "death spiral." He went as far as to say he does not believe "our civilization could survive it."
Call me an alarmist if you'd like. Tell me I read too deeply into political discussions and essays. But one can't look to solve the problems of the future without looking into the past for guidance.
Political corruption, a mismanaged and failing economy, a stretched military, a sharp decline in education, ethics and values, and citizens too reliant on government handouts.
You think I'm talking about America, don't you? Actually, I'm referencing many of the problems Ancient Rome faced not long before it's fall -- a fall that stretched over centuries, mind you.
In the second century, Rome was a shining beacon of human success. No culture to that point in history had amassed so much knowledge and harnessed as much technology, and few had used that knowledge and technology to build structures so massive or elegant.
By the fifth century, Rome was an open wound festering and ripe for invasion. The empire eventually splintered into kingdoms. It remains a civilization we look to when studying government, politics, law and architecture. Its influences are felt throughout our culture.
So wouldn't it make sense to study Rome's rise and fall and how it is eerily analogous to our own situation? Maybe that would be a little too difficult for a group of people whose best talents are convincing people how great they are at their jobs despite few facts to support their statements.
So how will America be remembered by historians and archeologists in thousands of years? Hopefully it will be for our monuments and not our mistakes.
Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at monkebusiness.