Putin and Exceptionalism
Robert E. Freer, Jr.
“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” John Winthrop, 1630
The premise that America is cut from a different cloth, an exceptional fabric that makes us different from the rest of mankind, goes all the way back to John Winthrop and his pronouncement in America’s infancy that we are different. Those who settled here understood from the beginning that from afar we were Winthrop’s “city upon a hill.” The entire world did look at us as different. Who are these people who will travel thousands of miles in a leaky boat to satisfy a dream? Who are these people who will settle on a rocky and cold shore to wrest from an unknown, limitless, dark continent a life devoted to freedom? What are the values that will sustain them through cold, privation, loneliness, sickness, and even death? They are the values that set this land apart and have sustained us for four hundred years.
America is an exceptional land with an exceptional history. The question is whether this generation, heir to that history, has the fortitude to pick up where their ancestors left off, and continue to be the last best hope of earth. For without that, the world is likely to lose its faith and hope in America’s lantern, nearly extinguished, and descend into a holocaust that could engulf us all. The debate is revived, and now comes Vladimir Putin to cast his pall over the very dangerous situation facing us in The Middle East.
Let me say, I welcome his participation. He represents the Great Russian people. They have been brave and hardy under the most appalling conditions to survive beastly treatment at the hands of invaders and its own masters for most of its history. President Putin says it is dangerous to allow people to think they are exceptional. Our president seems to agree with that, but I do not. It is not our shared humanity of which we must be conscious, but that our entire history has been lived trying to be worthy of that placement upon the hill for the world to view.
Certainly we haven’t always succeeded, but we persist, and over the centuries have been faithful to the sacrifice of those who came before. It is not our shared humanity, but our exceptional standards and persistence of our quest that will pave the road to a better life in the Middle East and throughout the world.
If we continue to quest for the exceptional, individuals throughout the world can continue to hope, seek, and ultimately prevail over a thousand years of strife to find a golden thread of peace and progress that has heretofore been denied them. As those charged with the responsibilities to remove the beastly instrument of poison gas go about their jobs, let us pray for their success. At this time, they are that “city upon a hill.” May they shine! If they can accomplish that small task, maybe it is not too much to hope that a lasting peace will come to that region of the world.