President Obama began the concluding section of his speech to the UN General Assembly today in kind of an interesting way:
I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals. That America has plenty of problems within its own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri, where a young man was killed and a community was divided. So, yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions, and like every country, we continue to wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes by greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.
But we welcome the scrutiny of the world. Because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems, to make our union more perfect, to bridge the divides that existed at the founding of this nation. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago or 50 years ago or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and we are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable and insist on a free press and independent judiciary. Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy with respect for the rule of law, with a place for people of every race and every religion and with an unyielding belief in the ability of men and women to change their communities and their circumstances and their countries for the better.
This is, shall we say, a generous interpretation of what’s happening in Ferguson, where it’s not clear that anybody actually will be held accountable, and a generous description of the capacity for self-reflection in a country where it’s apparently legal to gun down an unarmed black teenager because you’re scared of how he’s dressed. It’s a rosy-colored view of our commitment to a “free press” and an “independent judiciary,” and of the legitimacy of the “rule of law” in a country where the judicial and political systems are both grossly rigged to favor and protect the interests of the wealthy elite. But it is also an interesting argument for American Exceptionalism, if you’re inclined to believe in such things. Yes, America has its problems just like every other country, the argument goes, but we don’t hide or suppress them. We bring them out into the open, discuss and debate them, and do our best to improve on a necessarily imperfect system. It may be a Pollyannish view of America, but it undoubtedly is a positive one.
Or, as Fox Nation put it:
Apology Tour, Part II – Obama Invokes Ferguson at UN: ‘We Have Our Own Racial and Ethnic Tensions’ – Fox Nation http://t.co/BTid51OqUs
— Fox Nation (@foxnation) September 24, 2014
It’s almost like they heard the speech they wanted to hear, isn’t it?