Universal Rights and American Exceptionalism

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Over here, this is what we believe.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke in China in a town-hall type environment, bringing up several topics, including environmental issues and trade. But he also spoke of the two very different ways in which China and the United States treat their people, and of the values those two countries esteem. According to ABC News online, Obama said that “freedoms of expression and worship and access to information and political participation, we believe are universal rights.” By “we,” I can only assume that he, as our spokesman, was talking about Americans collectively. The President said that these freedoms should “be available to all people […] whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation.”

By speaking of “universal rights” that rightfully belong to “all people” no matter where they reside, Obama is 1) saying that rights are not decided by cultures, but by something that transcends cultures. That is, there are some rights that are not made up–they are not culturally relative, yet some cultures have chosen to recognize these universal rights, while some have repressed them. But the conclusion of Obama’s words are plain: the rights still exist in cultures that repress them. Two, he is making it clear that some cultures are superior to others, and 3) deciding to engage in cultural warfare, promoting American ideals of liberty to the exclusion of other (inferior) ideals. This is good.

Obama himself may or may not even realize the implications of declaring certain rights to be universal. It is essentially saying that the American way is more right than the way of Communist China and their authoritarian methods of restricting information and freedoms of dissent, dialog, and religion. It is pitting one culture against another, not to compare two “equal but different” ways of life, but to choose between right and wrong. It is recognizing that rights aren’t man-made. It is appealing to a transcendent standard. But whether Obama understands these necessary implications or not, for stating clearly that certain rights are not granted, nor can be rightfully rescinded, by culture or government, but are absolute, I applaud the President.

Advertisements

One thought on “Universal Rights and American Exceptionalism

  1. Kate says:

    America really IS the best, for all its failures. Like Thomas Jefferson said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Naturalis Historia

Exploring the Intersection of Science and Faith in the Spirit of John Ray

Today's New Reason to Believe

Integrating Science and Faith

Soliloquium

Faith Seeking Understanding

Tim Challies

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge" (Proverbs 15:14).

Christian Knight

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12 ESV)

Board Game Pair-A-dice

Where the fun just keeps rollin'

Pure Soliloquy

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge" (Proverbs 15:14).

Operation Living Water

A biblical community with a voice

danieloquence. *

* it's like eloquence, only messier.

Tu Media Naranja

Our life on an urban frontier.

%d bloggers like this: