Pop quiz: You are the president of the United States. You win an award, but not just any award. You capture the holy grail, the Nobel Peace Prize. Many claim you did nothing to receive that award and therefore tells you to reject it. There are agendas pending, and this award multiplies your onus of taking this pile of mess (inherited by the way) known as the economy, war and a ballooning health care system and making it manageable.
(A) Accept the award graciously
(B) Reject it and utter that you did nothing to warrant the prestigious honor
(C) Wonder why in the heavens would the Norwegian Council grant you this award
(D) Watch Saturday Night Live’s depiction of your presidential efforts
(E) Both A and C
Devoid of major context, the scenario above is a crude synopsis to the events that took place Friday. President Barack Obama now gets to add another accomplishment to his list, which isn’t lost on anybody with a politically conscious soul. It also isn’t lost on anybody with undying partiality to all thing Obamas, nor to anybody who happens to see only melanin when engaging in discussions about 2009 politics.
The only common tie between the above stakeholders is the intensity. There’s never too much intensity when it comes to Obama, and where there is intensity, sensible discussion tends to fade to black.
It’s not President’s Obama fault that he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner (he didn’t even know he was nominated). He deserved this prize as much as Cuba Gooding Jr. deserves another Oscar. But the Nobel Committee felt otherwise. And that’s cool.
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
Republicans across the spectrum reacted with its usual enthusiasm: How could an honor of this magnitude be given to a man who was just a state senator five years ago? Since when is an award normally given for lifetime achievement trumped by potential?
Typically when the Nobel Prize is given to any American, it is an emblem of pride. But these are not typical times.
For the ecstatic crowd, there are few things that can be said to sway them. For some, this is another validation tool that says “anyone can achieve whatever they want in this country now.” For others – African Americans mainly – this is “chicken coming home to roost”: For years minorities have been passed over for recognition. Obama’s win is payback.
While Obama isn’t the first African American to win (fellows by the name of Ralph Bunche and Martin Luther King can lay claim to this too), he is perhaps the most famous. More importantly, he won it as a president of a country that is notorious for death tallies across the world, faces uncertainty with the closing of Guatanamo Bay and thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Add current tensions with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran, this makes Obama’s choice all the more interesting (not more so than the fact that the namesake for the award, Alfred Nobel, was the guy credited with inventing dynamite).
For many, this is a pure victory. For others, this is Pyrrhic. Internationally, the U.S. has long been seen as a group of power and warmongers; perhaps Obama is their best chance of keeping America in check. In other words, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize because the world views him as too weak to continue to wield a militaristic regime that made it bones not talking about peace and tolerance. A trap.
Whatever the reason, even the Nobel Committee admitted that tangible results was not the reason he won:
Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting….Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.
There were more worthy choices to be made, arguably, and that’s where the outrage should start and end. If Obama’s newest honor was a move made to keep a check on America, then the efforts of Piedad Cordoba, Sima Samar, Hu Jia and Morgan Tsvangirai and martyr Neda Agha Soltan are merely tangential in an ever-sustaining system of politics (read: power).
Teddy Roosevelt won the award. Henry Kissinger did too. As did Frederik Willem de Klerk. So we know that the Committee can have dubious taste.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee didn’t make Obama’s job any easier by granting him this honor. Passing any agenda in a contentious Congress will no doubt be harder, with Obama’s opponents hellbent on proving that his status is more a result of charisma (like Hitler or the Anti-Christ) than ability. Resolving war conflicts abroad will also be more tasking, because the microscope now is on him to bring some peace (please excuse the pun) to the situation.
No he shouldn’t give the Prize back, nor should he have neglected to mention the more deserving nominees who were passed over. But then again, it doesn’t even matter what he does.
When it comes to Obama, people just can’t seem to get enough.