Friday, September 13, 2013

American Exceptionalism (or Who Do You Think You Are, Mr. Putin?)

Who says America is not exceptional? Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, for one. He said so yesterday in an opinion article he wrote - an article that the New York Times thought was worthy of publication. Maybe you would have to be my age to see the irony in this.
My generation grew up during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was our arch enemy.  The Cold War was the back drop of our childhood years.  We had drills at school so we would know what to do if the Soviets (Russians) bombed us during school hours.  Every little town in America had meetings about how to prepare your family in case of a Russian attack.  A lot of people had bomb shelters built in their back  yards.  My parents considered doing this, although they never quite got around to it.  I remember that they went to a meeting once to learn how a bomb shelter should be constructed.

I remember the cranky Russian leader, Nikita Khrushchev, who liked to bang his shoe on the table to be sure he had everybody's attention.  In 1956, at a meeting in Moscow with Western diplomats, he shouted, "We will bury you!" - meaning America.  Now it's said that this statement was mistranslated, and that what Khrushchev really said was, "We will show you!" or "We will outlast you!"  Whatever.  He was mad when he said it, and it came across as a thinly veiled threat.  That's when the bomb shelter business started to boom.

Needless to say, I never thought I'd live to see the day when a Communist Russian leader could get an article, critical of the United States of America, published in the New York Times.  But this is 2013, and President Obama has had a great deal of success in "fundamently transforming America."  Read Comrade Putin's entire article here.

I'm not going to say that there's no truth in Putin's article.  Even the devil has been known to speak the truth when it suits his purposes.  But don't be deceived by Putin's saying that Americans should not think of their country as "exceptional" - that it's even dangerous for us to think we're exceptional.

What does "American Exceptionalism" mean anyway?  President Obama has put his own erroneous spin on this phrase.  In his recent speech about Syria, here, he said this:

" . . . 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."

When you put it that way, Mr. President, who can argue with the goodness, the rightness, the virtue of keeping children from being gassed?  But alas!  That's not what is meant by "American Exceptionalism."  I begin to think there is at least as much truth in Putin's article as there is in Obama's speech.

We have to review history to understand why America is exceptional.  Since the beginning of recorded history, far more people - the vast majority of people - have lived under monarchs, dictators, or tyrants.  Whatever rights they had were given to them by the monarch, dictator, or tyrant to whom they were subject.

But God created human beings, and the rights they have come from God himself, not from any earthly ruler.  Throughout history human beings have instinctively known this and have made various attempts to assert their God-given rights.  Some attempts have been more successful than others.

In 1215, on a summer's day, a group of feudal barons met at Runnymeade, about 20 miles west of London, England; and here the Magna Carta (Great Charter) was born.  This document was a milestone in human history because it limited the king's powers and guaranteed the baron's rights.  An ancestor of mine, named Fitzwaren, is said to have attended the meeting at Runnymeade, but he refused to sign the Magna Carta.  He didn't think it was strong enough to accomplish what he and the other barons wanted to accomplish - securing their God given rights.  He may have missed out on the fame of having history record him as a signer of the Magna Carta, but history proved him right.  As time passed, most of the clauses of the Magna Carta were repealed. Today the United Kingdom has a lot in common with a socialist state where individual rights are more restricted than they are here in the United States.

The French were a bit more strident in their efforts to get out from under the rule of Royalty.  They beheaded as many members of the aristocracy as they could get their hands on during the French Revolution (1789-1799).  What they ended up with after the revolution wasn't exactly freedom - it was Napoleon Bonaparte who declared himself Emperor.  By 1814 the French had had enough of Napoleon, and so they ousted him.  There were a few royals left who still had their heads, so Louis XVIII was installed on the French throne.  Today France, like England, is socialist in nature.

And then there's Russia, Mr. Putin's country.  The Russian Revolution began in 1917.  The Russians forced Czar Nicholas to abdicate.  Later they executed Nicholas, his wife, his son, his four daughters, the family doctor, a maid servant, and the cook - and maybe the family dog, too.  I don't know.  At any rate, I guess the Russians thought they had been thorough enough that freedom would surely reign for the common people.  But what did they get?  Communism and tyrants far more ruthless than the Czar and his family.

It's worth noting that both the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution were atheistic in nature.  Napoleon went so far as to come up with his own calendar that had nothing to do with Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Success in the Russian Soviet Union required publically professing atheism and avoiding religious activities.

After discussing failed attempts to lay hold of God given rights, let's talk about a successful attempt - The American Revolution, wherein we won our independence from Great Britain and King George.  The aftermath of the American Revolution saw the creation of a political system that had never been seen in the world before - a system of laws to protect its citizens, and - at the same time - a system of rights that gave the individual an opportunity to flourish whether that individual's origins were humble or great.  When we compare this to the rest of the world's history, how can anybody say that the United States of American is not exceptional?

Why was the American experiment so successful in spite of its internal squabbles and flaws?  Because we were not founded on atheism.  We were founded on a belief in God Almighty.  All those who were instrumental in the founding of this country believed in God, and most were professing Christians.  God blessed us with success.

And now - a cautionary note.  Just because we have been and are exceptional does not mean we always will be.  We're skating on thin ice now as we let atheistic forces have undue influence, and as we allow truth to be sacrificed on a daily basis on the altar of political correctness.  May we see the error of our ways!

But in the meantime, don't let Mr. Putin tell you we're not exceptional, and don't let Mr. Obama change the definition of American Exceptionalism to some watered-down politically correct idea.  The history of the world is evidence of American Exceptionalism, and so is the fact that millions of people all over the world are striving to come here.  God bless America!