Reflections of a Decade of Civilian Life, Emergence of Roman History, & Our Modern Epilogue

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready, the teacher disappears.

Lao Tzu

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of my last day as an active duty Marine. As I look back on my time spent in service, I am ever reminded that I had the fortunate blessing of encountering some of the best leaders of my life… and many of them. I dare postulate that the U.S. Marine Corps is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, single institution at leadership training and instilling within its ranks leadership capable of leading otherwise common peoples to overcome innumerable odds.

For anyone who cares to take a gander at history, the Marine Corps is filled with page after page of leaders achieving the unthinkable equipped with nothing more than free men and women fueled by a sense of esprit de corps.

Shortly after I took off the uniform and seemingly almost everyday since, I have also had the luxury of bumping into many fellow Marines as I continue walking my path in life as a civilian. One such person was a gentleman who goes by the callsign Pete Carpenter. Pete and I met at a local community activism group where we were discussing events of the day as well as what we could do to improve the quality of life for our community at-large. After the meeting, Pete and I linked up in the parking lot outside of the building our previous meeting was held at and sparked up a lively conversation which spanned topics far and wide but were tied together into how to be good and honorable citizens. It is one of those unplanned encounters and subsequent conversations which one will remember to the grave.

Despite Marines not usually being understood as highly intelligent beings capable of holding their own with a Harvard-level debate team, during my conversation with Pete I was reminded of the depth to which our surface-level branding isn’t entirely accurate or all encompassing. Of course I am jaded, but I have come to understand many Marines as some of the most awakened or enlightened beings I’ve had the great fortune of knowing. This is especially true as seen with most officers and senior enlisted. They aren’t “dumb” in any sense of the word and rather closer to what Mahayana Buddhism refers to as a bodhisattva.

As I spend the day reflecting on what has transpired during this last decade as a civilian, I logged into Facebook to not only see the memory of my last post in uniform appear in my feed, but a post made my Pete appeared as well. Seems like an bizarrely accurate timing to see such a post from such an intimate source.

I suspect this is simply one of those events which many would cite as being a message sent directly from universe. Whether it is or isn’t, I can say with complete conviction that I enjoyed seeing Pete’s post now as much as I remember enjoying his sage advice some 10 years ago. To give a glimpse into the wisdom I speak of Marine leaders possessing as well as insight into the being that is Pete Carpenter, I’ve added his post in it’s entirety below. I hope you too will recognize and understand the blessing I speak of in being able to encounter such wise beings along my journey in life.

History tells us that in the last days of the Roman Republic, a singular consul emerged from what was a nearly an all-out civil war between different factions that had already threatened to divide the old Republic and irreparably damage what had been the leading light of the Western world.

This particular consul was by contemporary and history’s measure a charismatic leader capable of achieving great things and affecting the will of the people in ways worthy of legend, albeit always in a whirlwind of controversy and self-promotion. A capable general, author, and businessman, he had already helped lead the Republic through a civil war where the avarice of all politicians -including himself had already corrupted a nation at the time to be the wonder of the world.

As troubles appeared prior to and during his time, the Senate of Rome had continuously delegated and heaped more and more power upon the role of Consul in contrast to its Republican roots so as someone could help contain the struggles of the citizenry, and the republic back to greatness. Fear of despotism, ever present in the Roman psyche since the days of its founder Romulus hundreds of years before, was held in reserve during these trying times, but power is difficult to recall once granted, and avarice was still at large in the halls of the Senate.

In the culminating era marked by the years of 45 and 44BC, a number of Roman Senators, generals and leaders of great renown began to meet and discuss of their fear of this consul and his intentions. He was unconventional to say the least, and took on the airs of a monarch, yet notably refused the crown, and continued to curry great favor among Romans. Might he make himself king and with that kind of popular support, it may spell the end of their vision of the ‘republic’ forever, and the traditions of the Roman Republic, along with those institutions that those Senators represented would fall out of favor… and then what would they do?

Most all of them necessarily were men of virtue or of means to be in their positions. They debated as to who, if they were to covertly act and commit to a coup, should be the one to remove their presumed despot. Considered by most to the moral and natural leader of the group, one particular Senator was urged on. He ethics and formerly friendly relations with the Consul made the challenge nearly unthinkable, and he protested against the others. Yet, when finally certain indications, signs and portents were observed, this well meaning and now morally convicted Senator felt enough was enough, and that if anyone ought take down this apparent tyrant, it ought be someone that will signal to the people the virtue of the act, on behalf of the Republic, and in spite of his former friendship.

….On that 15th of March in 44BC, as the conspirators plunged their blades, the formerly hesitant and now final conspirator emerged to do his part. The dying Consul – Gaius Julius Caesar – looked at his former ally. Recognizing the complete betrayal, he implored the Senator to finish the job, translated as “…and you (as well), Brutus…” Shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannus,” Brutus then plunged his blade.

The man Caesar was then gone, and the aspirants of the coup led by Cassius and Brutus moved quickly to restore a sense of order within the now leaderless Republic, and to right the ship, as they thought ought be done. Yet what they discovered was that they their act sparked an irreparable outrage and distrust among the people of Rome, and they were forced to flee. Where they imagined to find relief from tyranny they instead found yet more civil war, and ultimate defeat at the battle of Philipi, followed by the rise not of a healthy republic, but of a yet worse tyranny with the likes of Marcus Antonius, and Gaius Octavius Caesar, now known to history as Augustus, Emperor of Rome.

The letters sewn on the banners would continue to read the republican initials of ‘SPQR,’ “for the Senate and People of Rome,” yet for the next millennium, the entirety of the civilized Western World would know only emperors, war and despotism with very few exceptions. Brutus in his intended act of virtue would bury any sense of representative government in Western civilization until the advent of the arguably Republic of Venice a thousand years later but no great republic such as Rome once was would arise again until a few angry farmers gathered on Lexington Commons to resist the tyranny of their day in April of 1775. Brutus would try to fight where he could during the ensuing civil war, but would ultimately fling himself onto the swords of his own men.

History may yet repeat itself since it appears forgotten. As I find myself with at the moment in curiously parallel four lettered banner out on the periphery of the Republic… or as some would say, Empire, I ponder of our epilogue – as they may not have known to do then – how many Cicero’s may soon be extinguished by the next regime, in the name of ‘unity.’ …We live in trying times, but this next page of our history seems like I have read this one before.

Written by Pete Carpenter

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