What a wonderful brouhaha Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up when he (or one of his PR flacks) wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times earlier this month.
Much of the piece was pretty much what you would expect from the Russian strongman and former KGB thug. He denied that Syrian president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens. “No one doubts that poisoned gas was used in Syria,” Putin wrote. “But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.” If you buy that one, he has a bridge is Vladivostok he’d like to sell you.
And don’t assume that his remark about “powerful foreign patrons” was a sly reference to Russia’s relationship with Syria. No, no, not a bit. After all, Putin wrote: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
Yes, I know. It’s hard to keep from laughing out loud at some of his absurd protestations. Here’s another one: “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” Like you did in Chechnya, comrade?
But nothing stirred up more response than Putin’s parting shot. In his final paragraph, he said he disagreed with President Barack Obama’s comments regarding American exceptionalism. The Russian near-dictator had the unmitigated gall to lecture his American audience on the subject, writing: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” And he concluded: “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
I doubt if Putin himself believes what he wrote in that final sentence any more than our own President really believes in American exceptionalism. Oh, sure. Barack Obama has used the words a few times, such as in his address to the Nation that Putin referenced, but never with any real conviction.
Four years ago, for example, Obama answered a reporter’s inquiry on the subject by saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Doesn’t that fill your heart with patriotic fervor?
Yes, America is exceptional. And it’s exceptional for a reason that neither Putin nor Obama will ever admit. America is unique among all the countries that have ever existed for one simple but profound reason: The United States was founded on the principle that our rights come from God, not from government.
One of the most majestic phrases in the English language is the one Thomas Jefferson included in Declaration of Independence expressing that thought. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It was our Creator who gave us our rights — rights that are unalienable. That means they cannot be withdrawn or transferred. At least, that’s the theory. I have no doubt that the Founding Fathers would be shocked by how powerful the Federal government has become today. And dismayed at how much it encroaches on our liberties (not to mention our wallets).
By the way, the Declaration of Independence not only opened with an acknowledgement of God, it also ended with the same recognition: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of a divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Yes, this country was founded on the principle that our rights come from God — and that governments exist not to grant them, but to protect them. The Declaration also said: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The men who drafted our Constitution worked very hard to craft a document that would limit what a central government was allowed to do. They wanted to “bind it down” with the chains of a constitution.
But even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the leaders of our new Republic, who were very aware of the lessons of history. They knew that governments, always and everywhere, tried to expand in reach and power. Even before the new Constitution was submitted to the 13 States for ratification, they added a list of Amendments, to make even more specific what the new government was not allowed to do.
The first eight Amendments in what became known as the Bill of Rights enumerate a whole list of things that the new central government cannot do. The 1st Amendment begins: “Congress shall make no law…”
And just to make sure that the people’s rights shall not be infringed, the framers added the 9th and 10th Amendments, basically saying that if they overlooked anything, government can’t do that either. They made it as clear as they could in the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
While government in this country was limited, the ability of our people to prosper was not. America became the freest, the wealthiest and the most powerful nation on Earth. It made us the hope (and the envy) of the world.
That is why the United States is exceptional — or maybe I should say why this country was exceptional. Because there is no question that our central government has become a bloated monstrosity, bearing almost no resemblance to the very limited government our Founding Fathers envisioned.
One of the charges against King George in the Declaration of Independence was: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
Let’s face it: Those colonists had it easy, compared to all the ways that our present government “eats out” our substance.
I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that it’s time for a new American revolution.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
P.S. There was one more comment in Putin’s opinion piece that merits a rebuttal. He said, “No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations.”
Wrong again, Mr. President. There are many of us who believe one of the greatest things we could do for freedom, peace and prosperity in the world is to get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S. And our numbers are growing every day.