Saturday, October 10, 2009

What a difference seven days make

Even if President Barack Obama had unanimous political support across the nation, there’s no way he could have done anything in his first nine months as president that would legitimately make him worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The award that he learned Friday will be bestowed upon him is a political statement, just like Obama’s detractors will spend the next few years claiming.

YET I’M NOT so sure that makes it a bad thing.

The people who bestowed the prize want to ensure that the direction in which Obama would like the United States to move in terms of its relations with the world and with the Middle East will some how prevail.

And if in the process, if means that we are forced to look a little more bluntly at Obama’s political opponents and see their actions as the crass opportunism that they truly are, then maybe this political statement is about viewing the issue a little more honestly than we have been in recent months.

Part of it is the fact that some of us are so determined to believe that “both sides” have equal legitimacy that we don’t want to acknowledge the crass factor that is at work here.

IF ANYTHING, THE safe thing for the Nobel people would have been for them to wait a few years, see what actions Obama took, then give him the prize in 2012.

Of course, Obama’s political detractors would have denounced that act as being an attempt by “foreign” elements to influence a presidential election (that is the year, after all, that he likely will run for re-election).

Who would have the nerve to vote against a fresh Nobel Prize winner, rather than whichever conservative ideologue winds up winning the Republican Party’s nomination for president in the next federal elections?

Instead, they’re awarding the promise of what could be from an Obama administration – in hopes that enough people will be inspired by the award. Instant credibility could bolster his political strength in the future, or at least that’s what the Nobel people probably are hoping for.

NOW I HAVE read some “instant” commentary from people who say that if Obama were truly the noble creature that the Nobel people claim him to be, he would refuse to accept the award, while also making some sort of self-deprecating statement claiming himself to be “not worthy.”

Which is why I noticed the statement Obama sent to his supporters by e-mail that almost goes in that direction, although he says he will accept the honor when it is formally presented to him in spring 2010.

“To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize – men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace,” he said, in his statement.

“But I also know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement, it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes,” he said.

I CAN’T HELP but note the recipient of the peace prize for 1964. That would be the year that Martin Luther King Jr. received the award for his pacifist protests on behalf of civil rights for all.

Technically, his activity that was awarded by the Nobel committee was considered criminal activity in certain parts of the United States, and mere evidence in other parts of the country of his “communist” tendencies.

Yet it was that Nobel that gave him a jolt of credibility that forced many of his contemporaries to regard King as more legitimate than just some rabble-rousing protester. And it was the start of the process that, throughout the years, has made us realize how ridiculous those people who several decades ago were so eager to label King a “commie” were being.

Could it be that the people who today are bashing the Nobel people for awarding Obama are upset because they fully appreciate how much of a credibility jolt he has received (despite their attempts to marginalize him and his supporters in our society)?

I WONDER IF the people complaining today about Obama receiving the award are the ideological grandchildren (if not the literal ones) of the people who thought it a disgrace that King got the honor?

Obviously, we’re going to have to wait a few decades to see how events pan out and whether King and Obama deserve to be regarded in any sense as equals.

But a part of me can’t help but note that the people who are most irritated by the actions of Friday are the ones whose views are most offensive to those of us who want our nation to move forward into the 21st Century – rather than take a few steps back into the first third of the 20th.

So it won’t bother me too much to see them upset.

OF COURSE, IT could also be that what really bothers them is that we went from last Friday with the pundits trying to blame Obama for the failure of the International Olympic Committee to award the 2016 summer Olympiad to Chicago, to this Friday with Obama getting the Nobel.

Any political fallout he would have suffered (and I’m convinced it would have been minimal) from the Olympics will be far overshadowed in the history books by the Nobel.


No comments: