Blessing and curse

Dry Bones Theology

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. — Gen. 12:3

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. — Barack Obama, April 2009

No, I do not have an opinion on whether or not the well-known biblical promise will be fulfilled. But there is a sense in which betrayals — of allies and ideals — do indeed bring down a curse on a nation.

The US is a liberal democratic country, one in which belief in the rights of freedom of speech and religious expression are almost fetishistic.  You would expect that it would support other nations with similar ideals, and that its policies would favor freedom and tolerance, and oppose oppressive regimes. But lately it has been doing the opposite.

George W. Bush was explicit in his belief that promoting democracy around the world was one of the most important goals of his policy. Perhaps the implementation was naive, but who can disagree with the intention?

Apparently the present administration has decided that Islamism is the wave of the future, despite being fundamentally anti-democratic, racist and misogynistic, and denying just about all the basic freedoms that are so important to us. Regardless, Obama’s America has decided to back the strong horse, support the Muslim Brotherhood, and not push too hard against Iran.

This is cynical and, worse, a betrayal of the principles that our nation is founded on. Now maybe you think the US is really playing with a deck stacked against the poor and ‘people of color’, etc., and those principles are just a lot of propaganda to keep the chumps in line. Even if you are right, though, aren’t these the ideals that we, as a nation, should be trying to realize?

Even if it is true that the US committed genocide against the indigenous inhabitants, even if it is true that the institution of slavery existed here for hundreds of years, does this falsify the ideal of  equal justice and opportunity for all humans that we should be striving to achieve today? Of course not.

Our exceptionalism consists in the belief that we Americans have a commitment to live according to the principles of “liberty and justice for all,” as it says in the Pledge of Allegiance, and a duty to champion these values in the world — because we believe they are right.

We believe they are objectively better than the values of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Iranian regime because they reject the idea that some humans (male Muslims) ought to have more rights than others, because they understand that slavery is wrong, women are not chattel, executions for apostasy and homosexuality are repugnant, and that planning and preparing for religious genocide is not acceptable. Exceptionalism is not simply chauvinism, as the President’s comment suggests; it has a moral basis.

Can you honestly say that the Brotherhood and the Iranian regime are not morally worse than we are, just different? I think you can’t.

Our recent loss of power and prestige — as Israel’s Moshe Ya’alon recently pointed out to the enormous discomfort of the administration — is due directly to the lack of confidence in American ideals in those at the very top of our political pyramid. Vladimir Putin’s opponents may not admire him, but they respect him because of his consistency in pursuit of his goals. Our administration behaves inconsistently because it doesn’t know what its goals are, so naturally we get no respect.

If there is a political sense to the biblical curse, this is it. Yes, the US is betraying Israel, its true ally and the only country in the region that shares its values. It is also betraying these values, and is beginning to pay a high price for it.

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