Sept. 12, Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed column in the New York Times, which caused considerable commotion among the American populace. While there are some points that I would agree with the Russian President on, I must staunchly disagree on his assessment that Americans are not exceptional. Rather, I side with our President when he said we are different and exceptional because we will help people in other nations.
I understand why Mr. Putin would assert that any people seeing themselves as exceptional is dangerous, since the Nazis saw themselves as exceptional and ravaged nations during the Second World War. However, the Nazis were exceptionally evil, but just by being the best does not necessitate nor create an evil people.
Several states have been exceptional throughout human history. Greece, Rome, Arabia, Britain and Russia are some the most important players in world affairs over the last two centuries. Today however, the mantle of world power lies with America, as it has for awhile now. America is not even close to perfect, we have our faults and our scars, but we are atop the world stage for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, America is an extremely altruistic nation. We are the largest donors of foreign aid by far; giving more than 23.5 billion dollars worth of cash and goods in 2012 to other peoples. We care about other people, and I’m not sure there is a place on this earth that if it were affected by natural disaster, we wouldn’t be the first ones itching to help. Americans today care for people because we are all human beings, regardless of individual or national differences.
Individualism and liberalism are ripe in this country; America has been called “the great experiment in democracy” after all. Because of this, great people and great things happen here because of individual talent, not due to aristocracy or large amounts of government corruption. We have produced some of the best musicians and writers and generals and world leaders because of our foundations in liberty. And because most Americans buy into the incredible system of government we have here, we are able to do things the rest of the world can only dream of emulating.
America is extremely lucky in its geography. Sitting between two vast oceans with only two relatively stable neighbors, we have few domestic threats to our security. We also have immensely vast resources, and when coupled with American ingenuity and our global position, we have created the most powerful economic system the world has ever seen.
And yes, our nation has involved itself in a large amount of foreign conflicts, sometimes regrettably. But I truly believe that America has always tried to treat all war combatants with basic human dignity. When America has gone to war it has sometimes been misguided. But we have also done a lot for the modern world; ending the tyranny that was the Japanese Empire, and contributing a decent amount to the defeat of Germany in both world wars for starters. We also rebuilt Western Europe into a viable region again almost single handedly. Not many other nations can say they would’ve done the same.
Americans do not do everything better than everyone else, but our economic and governmental systems, coupled with the uniqueness of individualism and innovative spirit that makes up every American, certainly makes us prideful. And to be honest, I do not see why we shouldn’t be.
We may not always be the most powerful state in this world, but for now, we are. This means that in times of trouble, the world will turn to the Americans, because our policy is so often instrumental in shaping the policies of the world. Whenever injustice is done around the world, you can count on America to seek to protect the weak.
This attitude is not some misguided attempt at altruism. Rather, it is who we are for better or worse. And so far, judging by our standing on the world stage, it has served us well.
Here in America we have a population that comes from around the world. Europeans, Africans and Asians all chose to come here over anywhere else in the world, and to also become Americans, and I think that is pretty exceptional.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Res Stecker is a senior international studies and history double major, and is happy to write witty whimsical words of wisdom for all. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org