James Pringle, a Reuters war correspondent during the Southeast Asian unpleasantness, put this up the other day on a forum called Vietnam Old Hacks. Pringle is right. President Obama, of all people, ought to know better. And, sadly enough, probably does. But like all of us, he is subject to the old rule that where you stand depends on where you sit.
“It’s what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional,” Barack Obama said the other day when he addressed the US nation. Vladimir Putin picked up on this in his piece in the New York Times yesterday, saying it was ‘extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.’ OK, Putin is a former KGB man, and was not elected in a strictly democratic way, and has no entitlement to lecture other countries on such matters.
But this ‘exception’ business pegged to the US has been around for a while. I think I first heard it about three years ago from former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was complaining that people had verbally attacked her for talking about ‘American exceptionalism.’ I thought these were isolated moments, and that Barack Obama would encourage Americans to have the sense to turn away from such descriptions of themselves. That he should now use it himself the other day boggles the mind, at least my mind, and I wonder how Old Hacks see the issue. He should realise it runs the risk of the US becoming a yes, ‘laughing stock’ in the world, or being castigated as being ‘arrogant.’ John Kerry, it seems to me, is full of the same hubris, yet he bugged out of Vietnam after only three months, as I understand it. Americans should be ready to laugh at themselves — it’s much healthier…
I think that Hacks, in general, and not just Old Hacks, are less likely to be prone to this kind of ‘exceptionist’ bragging. After all, do we not all say — and know — that ‘you’re just as good as your last story?” It’s time American Old Hacks weighed in with OpEd pieces in their local papers pointing out how ridiculous the whole ‘exceptional’ business is. I lived in New York for 18 months as a correspondent at the UN, and believe me Americans are not ‘exceptional.’ They’re all struggling to get through life like the rest of us. Let’s put an end to all this ‘exceptionist’ claptrap before it goes any further!