Friday, October 09, 2009

Noble Nobel?

As pretty much everyone with access to any form of media now knows, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today.

I have to say that, despite being a huge fan of our President and everything he represents, I was just as shocked as everyone else around the globe. Do I think of him as a transformative figure in many spheres? Absofrickinlutely yes. Do I think his concrete achievements to-date belong up there with those of the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela? Umm... you know, I actually don't. I certainly feel he has the potential to make those kinds of impacts in places yet to be determined but right now it's somewhat like awarding a masters degree to my 6-month old daughter, Daisy. Yeah, I think she's gonna be a smart kid, why don't I just give her the roll of paper in anticipation of those achievements? (And plus... oh the pressure!)

I also have to say that part of me also groaned as soon as I heard because, although this is indeed a huge honor, I knew it would provide all kinds of dubious fodder for the right-wing media to chew on for several weeks. I'm certain that I'm not so politically savvy as to be the only person to have thought of this - I'm sure the White House didn't know whether to laugh or cry when they heard.

I haven't listened to Fox News or the like today but I'm willing to bet my last dollar that there's all sorts of back-handed slights about the President's rock-star-like adulation amongst the international community much the same way there was when he was greeted by hundreds of thousands of people in Europe before he was elected. (As if being liked is reason for scorn, for heavens sake.) Somehow I just see this all being played into the underlying storyline that the President's critics continue to weave about how he is all talk and no action - a big bag of hot hype that delivers no results.

(A quick glance at the Fox News internet site already headlines "Some Analysts Warn Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Complicates War Efforts", by the way. Shocker. Like I didn't see that one coming.)

Of course, he does have a lot to live up to. The sense of hope and promise he riled up in the American people last November was a beautiful thing. His promises of bi-partisan cooperation, no more politics as usual, better health care, a way out of the economic mess, peaceful diplomatic relations, withdrawls from military conflicts... they weren't small and they all added rungs to the huge ladder he must climb to come anywhere near living up to expectations. And now comes the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet something else he needs to live-up to.

Which just makes me a tad sad for President Obama. Not that I don't think that he has the chops to deliver - I wouldn't have voted for him if I didn't think he did (although I'm sure he won't win on every front.) The reason I'm sad is because this honor that he has received is being questioned and will, in the short term at least, lack the respect that was afforded to previous winners. How much nicer it would have been if, ten years from now, the Nobel committee had sat down and, instead of awarding him for his promise, awarded him for his concrete achievements. Then the title would be justly given and rightly respected.

Not everyone around the world views Obama's acheievement through the same spectacles. This article by the Christian Science Monitor online provides a pretty good overview of the mixed reaction across the globe. Even so, most of it hints at the award being given for promise rather than achievements. Which makes one wonder who would have won in previous years if that was, indeed, the criteria?

Image courtesy of and Jim Young/Reuters

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