It’s Friday, October 9th. I had originally intended to post on another topic, I awoke this morning to the surprise announcement that America’s very own sitting president, Barack Obama, has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for what I imagine to be the promise that his administration—behind his rhetoric—holds in the area of global diplomacy. Actually, surprise is something of a criminal understatement; the assembled reporters covering the announcement could be heard letting out a collective gasp.
And as I continue to watch and listen to news coverage of the announcement, just as predictable as the astonishment of the award are the shrugs of So what?, Who cares? and No big deal from those who oppose his policies, either on purely ideological grounds, or as a reflex against his popularity in many domestic and global quarters (with regard to his popularity and the fervor by which those who support him embrace him, opponents often refer to him—mockingly so—as the “Messiah”).
President Barack Obama before the announcement (archive photo)
Indeed, the questions surrounding both his surprise nomination and his being awarded the prize are merited, especially given the immaturity of his administration and his standing on the global stage as a policy-shaper. Its questionable to be awarded such a prestigious recognition only 9 months into the administration based on presumption alone. But in the Grand Scheme, it seems that the award is a unexpected counterbalance to the relentless criticism of the administration's staunchest and most vocal critics, who unfairly charge that his policies are ineffective...after only such a short amount of time in office (again, based mostly on ideological differences rather than substance of policy. I myself gave Bush II the benefit of the doubt far longer before than that before the counter-productive nature of his policies became apparent). And although I don't pretend to find favor in every policy of the Obama Administration (especially as they relate to the soft-handed handling of terrorists), I do applaud among other endeavors, his efforts to craft a policy of universal affordable health care coverage for every American. While this accolade for peace is no halo or conferring of sainthood, in a perfect world, it should give his opponents pause for unswervingly embracing their political ideologies at the expense doing what is simply right and practical by the American people. It’s a sign that the world is watching America, and that many others actually embrace the hope that America can live up to its promise as an example of progressive global (as well as domestic) leadership…despite how we Americans often live and think inside a fishbowl.
However, I’m sure as tomorrow’s sunrise that in the coming days, opponents of health care and other much-needed people-oriented and practical legislation will spin this award as reflective of the irrelevant opinions of other nations, or some other such rhetoric. But maybe the awarding of the 2009 Nobel Peace prize to our president wouldn’t be such a shock to Americans if we would learn to see ourselves as others see us. Maybe if we could see in ourselves—both as leaders and citizens—as having as much promise in America as the Nobel Nominating Committee, maybe we finally be smart enough to craft policies, both domestic as well as global, based on the progressiveness of need, and not out of some adherence to some vision-limiting ideology.