17 September 2013, 21:28

Classical US despocracy or democracy 2.0?

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Check! The exclamation of my colleague echoed across the news room the moment he was done reading Russian President Putin’s op-ed in The New York Times. It is typical for Russian chess lovers to cry out “check” at the top of their lungs so that it can be heard in their neighbor’s backyard. It came as a relief, this sudden understanding that an essay can be discussed in 2013 as widely as scandals, which are usually the first to reap all acid retorts and whiney comments of Twitter politicians. How addicted we have become to this sort of pulp!

Mr. Putin’s article has voiced what millions of Americans secretly thought all this time. No, there is no mistake about the president’s surname. My feeling is that for the first time in US history a foreign president has beaten the American leader on his own turf. Barack Obama failed to convince his nation, letting his popularity slip even lower since the NSA surveillance outrage. Even his G20 trip to St. Petersburg passed unnoticed, indicating that a G20 summit without Obama would be just as successful. That was Russia’s big moment. And we made use of it to 150%.

The Russian leader and Russian diplomacy should be applauded for this fine game they played in the Syrian conflict. Apparently, the solution to it was there all this time, but Obama’s tough talk left him no leeway. At one point he realized that any word or action of his would only backfire. And it did. The political ball is in the Russian court, despite John Kerry’s claims or Mr. McCain’s taunting remarks on Twitter.

It is now obvious that the very “reset,” which the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made such a show of last year, has finally taken its course, though it came not from above, as Clinton’s PR campaign, but from the grassroots level as could be seen in Twitter and Facebook messages of many common Americans.

For instance, a certain Troy Simmons writes: “Putin looks like the good guy and our president looks like a fool! ” A message from another user, Adam Sierzputowski, reads: “It is funny to think that Putin is doing more to protect America than our own government. My hat is off to you Putin. ”

How about more? Here’s a comment from Stephen Witmer: “Hmm do you know who I really trust? A guy with pure intentions and a strong sense of morality. Someone who truly cares about the well-being of the USA. Vladimir Putin! ” And here comes the final nail. Bill Flynn writes: “How can anyone argue with his logic? I say they take Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and give it to Putin. ” The other side of the coin is critical responses about Vladimir Putin’s meddling with “our American business.” There is, of course, a place for nationalism and blind patriotism in any country, as well as people who fall for every word of their leader.

The massive interest that Putin’s article evoked and its appeal to the common public instead of sulky, nerdy pundits, mean that Vladimir Putin told the Americans as much as they felt deep in their hearts. Naturally, some of them have been irked to hear the words they expected from their own president coming from a foreign leader (“Who does he think he is to write about us?”). On the contrary, others came to realize they are an integral part of the world community that is larger than the US Empire, proving that a different opinion can yet crack the shell of American propaganda.

The US is starting to lose its leverage as the global policeman and its standing as a world power, not because the world’s biggest economy is in tatters and it cannot print out some more dollars, but because the times have changed. The Syrian crisis has shown that the US can’t just ignore the UN and strike at Syria, even after coercing its fund-addicted allies into backing it. The reason for it lies inside America. Your own people don’t share your viewpoint, Mr. Obama! It is they who averted your warheads from Syria. It was not all thanks to Vladimir Putin’s article in The New York Times that only served as a catalyst for the public outcry. Did you catch a glimpse of half America taking to the streets when you looked through the window at your White House residence, Mr. Obama? Remember those rallies spreading across all major cities? Remember when your police taught Occupy Wall Street protesters democracy with the help of fists and batons?

We are so used to talking about America’s “classical democracy” that we hardly ever give a second thought to what it really means. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006), “democracy,” or the rule of people, is a political system based on collective decision-making with an equal impact of all its participants on the outcome or on its main stages. In a nutshell, the people are entitled to choose their own leaders that are to protect their interests, and everyone has a say. Could it be that the Americans have forgotten about it? Or is it the US leadership that is trying to narrow the concept of democracy? The Syrian case was a wake-up call for the US government that suddenly realized that the people behind them may have their own opinion.

Over the past 50 years, the goals of American presidents and their administrations have boiled down to pursuing their money interests at the expense of their nation. The “Emperors” soon felt constrained by the boundaries of North America as they were driven them further on. Were airstrikes against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan in the interests of grassroots Americans? Would any sane American truly wish death to men and women, children and the elderly that fell victim to political and military ambitions of a hundred senators?

So much for “classical democracy.” Is that is the kind of cookie-cutter “democracy” the US intends to plant worldwide, I doubt that anyone including me would want it that way. The post-Soviet Russia has a long way before it. Our democracy is still young, but it is a totally new kind of democracy, Democracy v2.0, which relies on the people and protecting the sovereignty of those who don’t have enough weapons to stand up to an aggressor, not on money and military lobbyists. This is our democracy and our duty. Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Obama?

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