President George W. Bush of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, exchange handshakes Thursday, June 7, 2007, after their meeting at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have been meaning to write this post, and today is the perfect opportunity since our audience in Russia seems to be busy today.
People of Russia and South Carolina,
Last week, two major representatives from your governments commented on what makes the United States of exceptional in it’s history. As Senator DeMint put it (as only a Tea Partier with a white-washed, cherry-picked view of US history could do), “We are, in other words, a nation not based on ethnicity, but on beliefs, and not coincidentally, that is why we attract people of all ethnicities and they become proud Americans.” Well put, Senator DeMint, I am glad you got around to mentioning African enslavement and the white domination of First Nations peoples…..whoops, you didn’t. I am so glad you mentioned the 3/5th’s compromise or any of the relevant Constitutional Amendment dealing with chattel slavery and black people’s rights to vote. Oh ooooops. The argument that all people are created equal but not all nations are is problematic, and quite frankly, at the bottom just as racist as DeMint’s whitewashed views of U.S. American history.
Now, to Putin,
President Putin, I am so glad you are willing to be so critical of American Exceptionalism even though you were best friends with President George W. Bush, whose very legacy in domestic and foreign policy centered around American exceptionalism [re: superiority and cultural hierarchy, empire]. It took a President whose father was not involved in the Cold War like you to make you see just how wrong American Exceptionalism is. I applaud the effort for peace, that there is always a nonviolent option since war is never necessary. The non-necessity of war applies to all wars in human history. It is a human choice, but it is not the only choice we have, since we are all made in the image of God, we have the capacity to choose what is good, that of peace and justice.
President Putin, I must question a few comments you made however.
“The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.”
How can you say that the world’s relations has been stable? Was is not the Russians who invaded Afghanistan before the United States? Stability is a suspicious term, for whose stability are we speaking? The West’s? The Eastern Bloc? The task of colonialism in all of its forms is to destabilize others’ nations and cultures, so that in its stead, domination and exploitation can take its place.
I commend you, President Putin, for your concern for (international) law and order, and your dedication to the dictates of the United Nations. The US of A signed a treaty, therefore, it must follow that body’s rules and regulations. Speaking of international human rights, the United Nations has a Declaration of Human Rights that says in article 3, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” and that, according to article 2, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” No matter how monstrous you believe that the Chechnyans are, they are human beings and they do not deserve the injustices you have wrought on their population. No matter how disgusted you are with Pussy Riot, they have the right to freedom of speech. No matter your religious commitments, you have no right to abuse your LGBTQIA Russian sisters and brothers.
Indeed what Scripture has to say about what makes nations exceptional (or special) in YHWH’s eyes is completely different from how we understand it today. In fact, Scripture completely flips the Tea Party understanding of national exceptionalism on its head. According to Wisdom literature traditions, in Proverbs, it is justice that makes a land stable (see for example, Proverbs 29:4). One example of this is from the book of Daniel, with the repentance of King Nebuchadnezzar (an agent of colonialism, idolatry, and instability in his own right), where all of God’s ways are truth, and all of God’s ways are justice (Daniel 4:36-37). Every nation is capable of achieving this exceptionalism because our God is a loving God, and considers all nations equal and gives all nations equal access to knowing what it means to be special, that is just. Justice for the poor and the downtrodden, the following of the Golden Rule. This is the objective moral standard, the one of neighborly love that transcends nationalism.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor perish forever.
Rise up, O Lord! Do not let mortals prevail;
let the nations be judged before you.
Put them in fear, O Lord;
let the nations know that they are only human.
– Psalms 9:18-20 NRSV