Putin was right, Americans are not exceptional.

I don’t like Vladimir Putin.  At all.  He’s anti-gay and has shown several times that he values self-interest over liberty for his citizens.  However, some people see people they don’t like and immediately assume they make no good points.  I’m not one of those people.

Yesterday Putin published an op ed in the New York Times talking about how to approach the situation in Syria.  I think it was largely disingenuous, since it’s kind of obvious that Syria (which houses a key Russian military base) is an area of great political importance for Russia.  It’s sad, because the reasons Putin gave for opposing America rattling the sabre of war were pretty good.

Ironically, the cause for controversy has largely been the last paragraph of Putin’s piece where he said, contrary to Obama’s claims, Americans were not exceptional.

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.

Yes, god created us all equal…except for the gay men and women in your own country.

What I don’t get is why Americans are so perturbed about this.  Do we really think we’re all that exceptional?  I mean, it seems we’re a lot better than the rest of the world at feeling entitled (or worse, depending on how you look at it).  But beyond that?  Compared to the rest of the civilized world, we’re kind of getting trounced in wealth inequality, public education, and more.  At best you could cheer that we’re slightly above average in places, but for being the most resource-wealthy nation on earth one would think we could do better.

The idea of American exceptionalism seems to operate like religion, where it seems far more important that people believe it than whether or not it’s actually true.  And I’ll bet if you ran a study you’d find a very high correlation between the two.  Much like religion, I say of American exceptionalism that I don’t want to believe it until the evidence confirms it, and right now that just ain’t the case.  We’ve all known the guy who is average but who walks around boasting of his world-class skill at something.  I don’t want to be that guy, and America shouldn’t want to be that country.  That is why I want us to act as a partner to the global community, not as its parent.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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