Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

I can usually challenge myself to summarize my feelings into a single word when I post about something, especially something as important as this...but this time I am at a loss for a single word to describe my emotions, so I'll rely on a several words to convey my feelings this time: conflicted, ecstatic, disappointed, and preemptive.

The Nobel Peace Prize has gone to some amazingly intelligent individuals and pairs over the decades it has been in existence, but I can't recall it ever going to a president BEFORE that president really took office. Though it was just awarded, nearly 9 months into President Obama's tenure, the nominations were due in early February, not more than 3-4 weeks into Obama's term.

This is my first qualm with granting him the prize--under what basis? His promises? The "hope" that he inspires? The nomination, and therefore the entire award, is predicated on the belief that the policies and stances toward other countries and situations will change throughout his term(s) in office; but in the 9 months since he has taken office, everything he has promised is so far just inching into existence. He's balancing more than any president in recent memory: two wars, a severe recession (though it was thwarted from a depression because of his administration's quick action), a skyrocketing deficit, the need to raise taxes, the highest unemployment and welfare since their establishments, illegal immigration, nuclear weapon diplomacy, health care overhaul, racism, etc. etc.

Did he receive the award because the committee knew and could see that he was dealing with all these issues? Because he is America's first black president and essentially signals a changing of the guard when it comes to diplomacy, policy initiatives, and interconnectedness with the rest of the world? Does he properly represent the burgeoning liberal and progressive population of America? Or did he receive it because he isn't Bush? (Granted he has done a lot, he has changed a lot, and he is changing the world and bettering it for the next generation.)

I think the committee pre-emptively awarded him the prize. It would have been better received and seen if they had granted it to him next year, citing a combination of this year's promises of hope and inspiration, along with the progress he made on eliminating the recession, creating jobs, and initiating solid progress on all the relevant issues he must contend with. I could definitely get behind awarding it to him next year, but this year...I'm conflicted.

On one hand I am ecstatic and excited that he has been awarded it...I feel like it's one of the greatest gestures that could have been made toward the United States is showing that the rest of the world approves of our selection of Obama as president and that they will work with us to erase the fissures that were created since Bush took office. Remember, though Obama won the election by roughly 10% here, in countries like South Africa, Australia, France and Turkey, the percentage of the population that voted for him in mock elections/polls was closer to 75-80%. That's incredible.

Perhaps the United States just contains such a disparity in our populations when it comes to politics: the crazy conservatives and the radical liberals; the pro-religion fanatics or the nihilistic, anarchy-obsessed atheists; the uber-tolerant moderates; and everything in between and around.

I will be glad only if and when all of his promises come true. He inspires and commands more hope and change than can fit inside one man; Obama is bigger than his body. He represents so much more than he is. He is his own symbol, his own metaphor. Perhaps the award is symbolic of things to come, but it surely is a strange choice seeing as how he was nominated having not yet done much, and was awarded the prize only 9 months into his promised change.

The worst thing I can think of to happen is that this prize ends up becoming his downfall. Will the awarded prize create such inflated expectations (even moreso than already exist) that there is no possible way he can live up to them or achieve them? I think we may see this come true, as scary/depressing as it is to consider. There is too much on his plate right now, and with all of this hype, it seems that the world's expectations are already too high for him to meet them.

Let's hope he lives up to this award, and that it doesn't become the crux of his presidency.

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