Saturday, August 10, 2019

Putin on Western Values

8/10/2019—On Sunday, my column about mass shootings will appear in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, for which I write a biweekly column. So, I won’t scoop myself here. But the column ends with a quote from Vladimir Putin that has not received enough attention in America.

Putin said in June that the liberal idea has become “obsolete.” He was referring to specific matters that of course people differ about—gay rights, multiculturalism, etc. But on a deeper level, he was equating popular views with truth. So, he was claiming a great deal more. He was claiming that rights are not real. That truth has no power. That self-determination of a people can be manipulated.

Putin was not exactly greeted with outrage. And this is the issue. Would Americans die to save the Union, as thousands did in the Civil War? Would Americans die to save democracy and human rights, as thousands did in WWII? Maybe. Americans would fight to protect America from invasion or attack—in fact we do. But what about our ideas and ideals?

America has always been about an idea, not group and not place. This is why the notion of American nationalism is so repulsive. That idea has basically three manifestations—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address—you can add other pieces of Lincoln’s expression. Rights are primary. Governments must be limited by structure and law. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That’s really it. It’s also the liberal idea that Putin says is obsolete.

The validity of Putin’s claim rests with us and he knows it. He meant, even the West no longer believes in this. If we do, he is wrong. If we don’t, he is right.

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