On a quite summer day, in late antiquity, during the Roman “decadent” period, the senate convened at high noon. In was a heterogeneous crowd that took the floor; not only patrician gentlemen in wigs and togas but also wily barbarians, ruddy and tattooed, from head to foot.

Outside there were wild cheers from the coliseum, the common people roared aloud as they watched athletes rip each other to pieces. The spectators were all drunk and satiated on subsidized bread and wine.

Senator Paullus, the most despised man in the empire, took the floor in front of the senate, standing before his rival, Senator Odoacer, high-chief of the Visigoths.

“Gentlemen,” began Senator Paullus. “May I have your attention? I call witness to my previous speeches; we Romans are civilized men, inclined to persuasion by rational argument; however at our very feet lay the most injurious superstitions.”

Many of the senators felt an uncomfortable feeling in their stomachs as he spoke.

“As such,” he continued. “Barbarian hoards, cunning and duplicitous, trample all over our sacred creeds: our old gods are mocked, our women are defiled before our very eyes, and our land is trodden upon without time-honored reverence.”

The crowd looked around and began to feel very uncomfortable. The section of Gothic chieftains removed their raised feet from their seats, and stomped the ground in violent indignation.

“Their religion, Arianism, is a front of Christianity, but deep inside they still worship Wodin, their war god, whose blood-thirst knows no satiation.”

Senator Odoacer rose and cut the Senator Paullus off from his speech.

“First of all,” he began, shoving his long auburn hair out of his face. “I am not a ‘barbarian;’ I am a Romano-Goth. I resent your gross stereotypes, lumping us all together as if we were all the same person without individual thoughts or feelings.”

The senate applauded.

“Second of all my religion is just as good as anyone else’s. You have no right to judge the god that I worship. I allow you to worship any gods you want to.”

“You allow me?” inquired Paullus in heated defiance.

“Third of all I would like to point out the gross hypocrisy of your argument: in olden days Patricians exploited and brutalized the Plebeians, and now we are all equal and so much the better for it. Citizenship to Rome used to be for only those residents of this very city-state, but when it was widened to include all of Italy, the new citizens created some of the best soldiers, and philosophers in our history. But from the beginning Rome was founded on the murder of Sabine men, and the rape of the Sabine women, and as such has no claim to cultural superiority regarding ‘sacred ground’ or treatment of womenfolk or any other such moral high ground.”

“Those new members of our republic that you mentioned,” began Paullus. “Shared our ways, and our values; not like you Northern barbarians. The Sabines were our rivals, and were eventually assimilated into our culture. I honor their memory.”

Odoacer rolled his eyes, and several senators expressed outrage at the insensitivity of portraying Rome’s past crimes in such a positive light.

“Such intolerance,” said Odoacer. “What are you afraid of, Paullus? Can’t you see that we are all equal? That a Romano-Goth is as good as any other Roman?”

“‘What am I afraid of?’ You ask…?” he looked around at the marble floors of the senate. “I am afraid that your double-tongued lies, and jargon are only self-serving nonsense created in order to blind us Romans from your true motives which are to rob us of our inherited traditions, and our liberties. I am afraid that you and your kin will trample down our frontiers and hold us in derision and slavery, thus retarding civilization for the next thousand years.”

The senators all shrugged, and sunk lower into their seats as the Gothic Chieftains glared around in indignation and moral outrage.

“Your arguments are absurd, Paullus,” said Odoacer. “I assume you must be suffering from some unresolved neurotic issues with your father, whom you probably wish to kill in order to ravage your own mother.”

Several senators raised their eyebrows at this accusation.

“We are an oppressed minority, we Romano-Goths,” continued Odoacer. “Julius Caesar, the bloodthirsty pig, killed and oppressed our ancestors, and then took our land. Don’t you want to atone for the sins of your fathers, Paullus? Aren’t we all brothers? Aren’t my people all deserving of citizenship given the past sins of Rome?”

“Your attack on my sanity is irrational and has no counterpart in the natural order of the world. Your contempt for our leaders is brazen, revealing your disdain for our culture, and furthermore I do not believe in collective guilt, but I will add that if I had been Caesar I would have done the same thing as he did, to the greater glory of Rome.”

The senate gasped for air. A few supported Paullus but were too afraid to speak up. Not out of fear of the Gothic Chieftains, who were few in number, but in fear of the countless guilt-ridden senators that fell sway to the arguments of Odoacer.

“There you have it, gentlemen,” said Odoacer with his hands in the air, gesturing in triumph. “My opponent has betrayed his true self: he shows no remorse for the sins of his ancestors, he prejudges my people, the Romano-Goths, and shows a tendency towards paranoia. He should see a good Greek physician for his mental ailment and step down from the senate as he is obviously an insane person, and wretched human being, who condemns his fellow Romans, my people, the Romano-Goths.”

The senate applauded Odoacer.

“All in favor of Senator Paullus abdicating his post cast your votes,” he proclaimed, glaring in all directions.

There was a long deliberation as the votes were cast.

All of a sudden one of the Senators ran towards the pillars of the veranda, and looked out under the blazing sun.

“Jupiter save us!” he exclaimed with eyes bulging out of their sockets. “The barbarians are coming!”

The coliseum seemed to take no notice of the screaming barbarian masses that poured into the city unleashing torch and sword. The spectators continued in their hypnotic gratification.

The senators ran around in confusion, each exiting his own way, creating bottlenecks at every exit. The Gothic Chieftains raised their swords and hollered in joy and triumph. “Praise Hannibal!” exclaimed Odoacer.

Only Paullus remained in the center of the building.

“Being correct never felt so…” he paused for a moment, looking at the breath-taking tapestries on the walls. “Terrible.”

He ran towards the coliseum in order so that he could grab as much wine and bread as he could before it was all gone.

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