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Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, had an op-ed in the NY Times yesterday. The piece outlines his preference for international reliance on the UN security council before war is launched.....not just in Syria, but anywhere. Putin favors diplomacy over unilateral U.S. aggression.
In his last paragraph, Putin chose to provoke Obama in particular, and Americans in general, about our peculiar version of "American exceptionalism."
I carefully studied his (Obama's) address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Putin was responding to this from President Obama's national address Tuesday evening....
...when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
The last paragraph of Putin's op-ed almost made Democratic Senator Bob Menendez hurl.....
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said the piece made him almost want to throw up.
Tuesday night, Obama seemed to be saying that America is exceptional because our nation of leaders and citizens are willing and able to act in defense of endangered children. Obama's assumption that only America and Americans possess this willingness and ability to act in defense of children......rubbed Putin the wrong way, as it should have, and Putin countered in the NY Times.
Over the past 12 years, or so, any suggestion or inference that the United States is not exceptional among all nations has been met with deafening, bordering on cultic, roars of USA, USA, USA. So, I, for one, welcome Putin's jabbing and believe that We the People should take what he wrote in his op-ed......seriously.
And it was more than appropo for Putin to include...."we must not forget that god created us equal." The notion that all men are created equal stands in direct contradiction to the notion that one nation of people, and only one nation of people, is more exceptional than all others. Though an unbeliever, Putin was smart to highlight this contradiction.
You see, if America is uniquely exceptional, then it would follow that America's leadership, policies and actions would also be exceptional. I mean, how could an uniquely exceptional nation not also have uniquely exceptional leaders, policies and behavior?
How exceptional have our leaders, policies and actions been over, say, the last dozen years or so? How about the last 40 years?
But Putin suggested that encouraging a nation's citizens to believe that they, and their country, are exceptional above all other citizens and nations....."is dangerous", "extremely dangerous." Why would that be the case?
To answer my own question I offer the history of blacks in our exceptional nation. Consider Thomas Jefferson's view of the "exceptional" white race......
Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man?
Jefferson's view was that white humans were superior to black humans. Whites, in that way of thinking, are exceptional. This 'whites are superior, exceptional' view was, indeed, "dangerous", to blacks. One hundred years of slavery and one hundred years of being treated, legally, as inferior to whites.....is the evidence from history that teaching American citizens that they live in a uniquely exceptional country is "extremely dangerous."
Naturally.....all the Very Serious of America have responded to Putin's "insult" with predictable mockery.
But if Putin's Syrian diplomacy deal wins the day...and Assad's chemical weapons are eliminated without launching Tomahawk missiles....AND Obama returns the favor by working with Putin to remove U.S, missile shields in Europe.....we'll see who gets the last laugh.
Perhaps Vladimir is an "exceptionally" sly fox.