In his Wednesday op-ed in the New York Times, I think one of the points Russian President Vladimir Putin made was right on target: "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."
He's right! People who view themselves as exceptional tend to equate this to mean superior. People who believe they are superior to others tend to be arrogant and dismissive. Even worse, those who view themselves as exceptional and superior often act as if the rules of life don't apply to them. And so, when leaders urge their citizens to view the nation and themselves as superior to others, it is an invitation to become abusers.
If we take a look at the US in the last century or so, I think it is very apparent that we are an abusive nation. We talk at length about the rule of law, international agreements and general human mores, but we only pay heed to any of these when it's convenient to our so-called national interests. When it is not convenient, we thumb our nose at everybody else! We break the rules all the time and become indigent if anyone points it out.
And why do we consistently break the rules? Because we view ourselves as exceptional and exceptional people are above the rules.
If truth be known, though American leaders say it all the time, the elites in this country actually do not view most Americans as exceptional. When they use the word, we, they mean themselves, not the rest of us. Sure, they make it sound like they are being all inclusive -- it serves a rhetorical purpose -- but their actions prove that they view the unwashed masses as anything BUT exceptional.
If our leaders genuinely viewed each of us as exceptional/superior, then they would go out of their way to insure that all of our needs were met and that our dreams would be attainable.
They wouldn't fight the notion of a living wage because they would want exceptional people like us to be paid well.
They wouldn't fight against the notion of universal healthcare because they would want exceptional people like us to be healthy.
They wouldn't fight against the notion of well-funded education because they would want exceptional people like us to learn as much as possible.
They wouldn't try to spend all their time spying on us because they would want exceptional people like us to enjoy our right to privacy.
And they wouldn't try to erect as many barriers as possible to the exercise of democracy because they would want exceptional people like us to participate fully in running the nation.
But they don't do ANY of these things because they do NOT view the vast majority of us as exceptional in any way, shape or form. No, they are the exceptional ones and our job is to serve them.