Vladimir Putin has a point.
I’m no fan of the Russian president. Russia is a travesty of a democracy. He’s manipulated the constitution to keep himself in power, either as president or prime minister; and his critics all turn up dead at some point, even when they live outside the country.
Putin is Czar in all but name.
His concept of democracy is warped. But America’s idea of itself is almost as badly warped and in this the Russian leader has a point.
Mr. Putin wrote in his New York Times article September 12th, “America is not exceptional.”
“Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us’.”
A few years ago, on a visit to Ghana in West Africa, I remember a conversation with a group of Ghanaian men shortly after the US-led invasion of Iraq, which followed the invasion of Afghanistan.
“Bush is a war-monger,” “America likes war,” “America is a big bully,” were some of the sentiments expressed.
It doesn’t matter whether they were accurate or not. Perception is reality.
At the time, I frequently visited Ghana. On one visit shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I was shocked to see pictures of Osama bin Laden for sale at the side of the road. Ghana is a very friendly country and I had rarely felt anti-Americanism there.
I asked a friend who had been brought up Muslim why these pictures were for sale. I will never forget his reply.
“People think that America is trying to take over the world and that Osama bin Laden will stop them.”
This began an interesting conversation.
Why do people think America is trying to take over the world?
The constant wars (and invasions) are only a part of the equation.
Culture is another. The last twenty years has seen serious threats to the local culture in nations all over the world, as satellite television has brought a steady stream of entertainment, mostly made in Hollywood. America’s values (or, rather, lack of values) is having a profound effect on peoples around the globe, changing cultural norms that go back centuries. People feel their way of life is threatened and they don’t like it. They have a sense that America is indeed taking over the world.
Proverbs 14:34 says: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (NIV)
America had a great reputation around the world after World War II. That has all changed in the last 50 years as the United States has turned increasingly away from God and the values that Americans once believed in.
Putin mocked Obama’s reference to America being exceptional. Putin has a point.
America WAS exceptional – it still is, but increasingly in the wrong way. In the seven decades of American supremacy, the United States has gone from a highly respected nation with mostly godly values, to a bully, trying to impose ungodly values upon a world that isn’t interested!
Putin knows this more than most. In recent weeks Russia has been lectured by the United States on issues of morality. Members of the Russian rock group Pussy Riot were imprisoned after acts of obscenity, resulting in condemnation from prominent Americans; after reports that Russian children adopted by Americans were being abused and neglected, highlighting the appalling state of too many American families, Russia introduced a restrictive law on foreign adoptions, with, again, more condemnation; and, thirdly, with the Obama Administration supporting same-sex marriage, Russia’s anti-gay laws have also been condemned. The rights and wrongs of these decisions may be debated – what is very real is that they portray the United States In a negative light, in Russia and around the world.
America’s biggest export is its culture, movies, television programs, music, pornography, violent video games, to name a few. The image Americans give the world is of a very violent nation. Incidents like Newtown, reported on television channels around the world, only add to this negative image.
In the lifespan of many people alive today, the United States has done a 180-degree turn from the nation it was in 1945 to what it is now. It’s a completely different country, often espousing the exact opposite values it once believed in.
America truly has been an exceptional nation, inspiring peoples around the world to overthrow tyranny and helping liberate nations from despots. But today the country is too often perceived around the world as an aggressive bully, exceptional only in licentiousness and depravity.
Sad . . . but true.