Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Russians turn to St. Sergius, but the New York Times is skeptical: Is postmodern America on the right side of history?

According to the New York Times, Russian pilgrims have been flocking to the shrine of St. Sergius, which is located not far from Moscow.  St. Sergius founded the first monastery in Russia and is sometimes seen as the father of a united Russia.

But the New York Times is skeptical and suggested in a recent article that President Vladimir Putin is exploiting St. Sergius to bolster his political agenda. "Some historians and church figures are crying foul . . . ," Times writer Neil MacFarquhar wrote, "over what they say are the Kremlin's efforts to reshape the saint's legacy to enhance political goals, fostering what one critic called an 'official cult.'"

Far be it from the Times to ever show respect for anyone's religious traditions--particularly the Russians' religious traditions, who have refused to bow down obsequiously to President Obama's postmodern vision for a new world order. Farquhar's article, just short of snarkiness, is yet another scornful piece about Vladimir Putin and Russia's foreign policy.  Indeed,it has become fashionable in America's elitist media to refer to Putin as a bully, an egotist, and a scheming manipulator. And Putin's espoused religious beliefs are given no credibility whatsoever.

Putin, after all, has unsettled the Obamacrats because he has so smoothly outmaneuvered the Obama administration--first in Syria and now in Ukraine. So--since the United States is unable to charm Putin or make him cower, let's scorn him and diminish him; let's convince ourselves that Putin and the new Russia are a mere distraction. In particular, let's convince ourselves that Russia's activities in Ukraine will come to nothing.

But I am not buying the Times' interpretation of Putin, Russia, or the current international crisis. I think the Obama administration and the elitist media have made two mistakes in interpreting the current tensions between the United States and Russia.

First, Obama's people and the Times believe that America and America's foreign policy are morally superior to Putin's Russia; and that's not true. Let's go back over recent events concerning relationships between Russia and the United States.

Obama first drew Putin's ire when his administration lied to Russia about American activities in Libya just before the fall of the Qaddafi regime.  The U.S. assured Russia that we were only going to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, and Russia acquiesced.  But in fact American military forces launched air strikes over Libya, ensuring Qaddafi's demise--and look how that turned out.

Putin concluded, as he said publicly, that the U.S. lied to Russia about its intentions in Libya, and you know what? Putin is right.

Moreover, a great deal has been made about Russia's annexation of Crimea.  How underhanded, the Americans say. But the American government was scheming to overthrow a democratically elected government in Kiev, maneuvering to replace Viktor Yanukovych with their favored politician.  Remember the Secretary of State official's dismissive comment about European opinion about American intervention--"Bleep the EU!" she said.

So the U.S. can't really say that it holds the high ground in the Ukrainian crisis. We helped create this mess by intervening in Ukrainian political affairs in a bumbling and condescending way.  And it backfired on us.

Second, I believe Obama and his supporters are wrong to say that Russia is on the wrong side of history.  Obama has referred to Russia as a "regional power," a nuanced insult meant to convey that Russia has been eclipsed on the world stage by Western-style postmodernism--exemplified by the United States and by Obama himself.

But I'm not so sure Russia is on the wrong side of history, and I'm certainly not convinced that the U.S. is on the right side of it.  The United States has cowed the world for a century, manipulating national economies, starting regional wars, killing civilians with drones in countries with which we are not at war.  We have acted arrogantly, ignorantly and with total disregard for other nation's cultures and values. And we've financed it by printing more money. Personally, I  don't see how this can go on forever.

Meanwhile, the Russians are returning to their Orthodox religious heritage--or at least some of them are. And if Putin's religious convictions are questionable, at least he proclaims religious convictions, which is more than we can say about almost anyone in President Obama's administration.

No--America's government is not morally superior to Russia's, and America may not be on the right side of history.  Obama can dismiss Russia as a minor regional player, but China--perhaps with Russia as a partner, is formidable. Meanwhile, militant Islam is on the move--shattering all of America's fragile accomplishments in Afghanistan and Iraq and driving relentlessly into sub-Saharan Africa.

I would feel much better about where our nation is going if Americans, like the Russians, turned to their saints--if we looked for spiritual guidance from Servant of God Dorothy Day as the Russians are looking to St. Sergius.

But we are not looking for spiritual guidance. Our nation's government, our President, our elitist media and our elitist universities are driven by nothing more than hubris, arrogance, greed, and the quest for power.

And we are underestimating Putin and the Russians. Napoleon and Hitler underestimated the Russians, and it didn't turn out so well for them.


Neil MacFarquhar. From Pilgrims, Putin Seeks Political Profit. New York Times, August 3, 2014, International Section, p. 4.

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