Nobility

Okay, so Obama is a Nobel laureate.  Everyone I know has apparently lost their shit over this.  And I admit that my immediate reaction was something akin to “what the hell?”  He is, after all, a wartime president.

Anyway, it’s a multifaceted issue that people seem cavalier about reducing to (what they hope is) a pithy Facebook status update.  So I can’t think of any better way to express my opinions about it than by rebutting all the statuses I could find.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Andrei Sakharov almost feels pressured to write this status, as everyone’s talking about it. Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Do I like him? Yes. Do I feel he’s done well with diplomacy and improving America’s image abroad? Yes. Do I feel he deserved it? Not so much.

This one gets to go first because it was pretty much my exact first thoughts.  Yeah, the guys great, but it’s been nine months.  How could he have garnered the accolades for one of the world’s top honors in nine months, when there are people with lifetimes of work who go unrecognized?

Mikhail Gorbachev I officially hate Sweden…

While it’s true that the other four prizes are given out by the Swedes, the Peace Prize is actually awarded by Norwegians.  If you’re going to be vituperative, you might want to fact check, douchehat.

John Hume funny, I thought you actually had to do something to win the nobel peace prize…

Mother Teresa So Obama got the Nobel for his talking about attaining peace. In light of this achievement I contacted my Linear Algebra professor and told him that I deserve an ‘A’ for talking about wanting to do well in his class. He said no. Weird.

Elie Wiesel i haven’t actually finished this paper yet, but i’m thinking about it. can i get a pulitzer?

So the funny thing is you don’t actually have to do anything to deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.  Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland (yeah, that’s a Norwegian name) is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying “the prize often has been used to encourage laureates rather than reward them for their achievements.”  Unlike the Pulitzer.  Or linear algebra.  The example you’ll probably hear quoted in however the hell long it takes this to blow over is Willy Brandt, who won the prize in 1971 after being elected chancellor of West Germany in 1969.  Brandt’s goal was to normalize relations between the west and the eastern communist bloc, which didn’t really happen until, oh, sometime between 1989 and 1991.

Desmund Tutu fer serious with this obama getting the peace oprize thing? he hasnt done shit…

Okay, this one says the same thing but is way more Internet hilarious.  I want an oprize.

Dag Hammarskjöld doesn’t think many people, including those sitting on the selection committee, quite understand what the Nobel Peace Prize’s purpose is. Has it become the international equivalent of Prom King?

The Nobel prizes are always a popularity contest.  Gandhi never won, you know, and it’s not like he didn’t do something spectacular in the name of peace and human rights.  The awarding of a prize is based on so much more than results — it’s calculated to make a statement, make an impact.  Most of the time this means honoring results.  But in exceptional circumstances it can be used to further an agenda.

Jimmy Carter where the hell is my Nobel Peace Prize?

Oh, shut up.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wonders how many people realize that Obama did not win the award for anything he has done as president, seeing as how nominations for the award were closed less than two weeks into his presidency.

Okay, let’s dissect this.  Yes, nominations closed on February 1st.  But a record-breaking 205 people were nominated.  Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have the President of the United States of America on that list just in case he does something that, oh, affects the entire world?  The process of narrowing down these two hundred names to twenty and then to one happens in the intervening months.  I agree nine months of presidency is, well, nothing, but it’s also nothing like two weeks’ worth of nothing.

The 14th Dalai Lama Keira Knightley is doing a play in London? And Obama just won Nobel? yowzers

This one was definitely my favorite…

Nelson Mandela okay, honestly, if ANYONE else would have won the Nobel Peace Prize, how many of you would’ve known or cared? Do you guys actually follow this year to year? Everyone is suddenly an expert.

…but I probably agree with this one the most.

Linus Pauling Obama won the Nobel Prize? The Peace Prize is losing its legitimacy. AT LEAST wait until the guy has been in office a year. This is all latent Bush-hate.

I don’t think the prize is losing legitimacy at all.  It’s a symbol — a symbol of hope, of pride, of belief that one person can change the world.  What’s wrong with giving that to someone who managed to inspire the planet?  The committee had, if I may borrow a phrase from the silver-tongued Commander-in-Chief himself, the audacity to hope for a better world, for one where Obama’s visions do come true.  Obama has laid out an ambitious plan — and one he admitted in his acceptance speech will not be complete in his presidency or probably in his lifetime.  But the fact that the ideas are being voiced is just as important.

And yes, I agree that it is probably “Bush-hate.”  But by Bush-hate, I mean a welcoming of America back into meaningful international discussion, something we have been sorely missing in this millennium.  If the international community is ready to welcome us back with open arms, I’m ready to stop by for dinner.

***

So it took me a while to sort out my feelings on the matter.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that I support the Nobel committee’s decision.  Obama was awarded the prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”  Well, if those are the criteria, Obama has accomplished a lot more than the nothing his detractors claim — he’s strengthened diplomacy and cooperation simply by opening dialogues closed for almost a decade, and of all the plans laid out by the Obama administration, by far the one it’s made the most progress on is de-proliferation.

I concede that Obama may not have been (and probably wasn’t) the best choice — but we won’t actually know until 2059, when the other 204 nominees are released.  Until then, I, too, hope that by the end of Obama’s presidency we will see a meaningful move towards peace.  I believe in the power of the Peace Prize as a symbol, a rallying cry.  It is a beacon of hope that reminds us no matter how bleak the night seems now, there will be a dawn eventually.

It could very well be that in fifty years, people will ridicule this post as much as I’ve ridiculed these impetuous statuses.  But I’m willing to throw my support behind my president.  It takes a bold move to start any meaningful public discourse, and if nothing else, this was a bold goddamn move.  Obama had the audacity to hope.  I hope for more audacity.

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2 comments

  1. For some reason, I feel obliged to note that though I gladly voted for Obama in the presidential election (and never for a second though about not doing so), I did not vote for him in the Democratic primary. Lest you all think I’m a whatever the liberal equivalent of a Paul-tard is.

  2. I expect to heretofor be called Andrei. And Broth’s roommate to be referred to as Nelson Mandela.

    I’m glad I started catching up on friend’s blogs, by the way. The Seth Material has brightened my blog-reading day exponentially. Cheers!

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