There are times in my life when I go onto Digg and see a news story on the top ten and my first reaction is to assume it’s a joke story from one of those fake news sites like The Onion or Fox. I usually make this assumption when I see something so outlandish that I actually can’t believe that it happened in our world – something fanciful and impossible that can only exist in the world of science fiction or rap music.
So when I saw the other day that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I was all, what? For serious?
Don’t get me wrong – I love Barack Obama. I think he’s a man of exceptionally high moral fiber and a damn good leader. I do not think he is a socialist, Nazi, or Muslim, and while I do hold out hope that he might in fact be a secret atheist, I’m pretty sure he isn’t. That being said, out of the 205 people nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, I would say he’s pretty far from the best choice on the list. To be honest, I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to make an announcement to the United Nations revealing that everyone on Earth just got Punk’d by the Nobel Committee.
The nomination deadline for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize fell just two weeks after President Obama started work at the White House. At this point, he’s been in office for nine months – this time last year I was still deathly afraid that Tits McGee was going to wind up one heart attack away from the Oval Office. And now he’s got a Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”?
I feel like I do a pretty good job with current events for a college student. Sure, I don’t read the paper or watch the news every day, but my patronage of Digg keeps me abreast of all the top stories and I swing by the websites for CNN or MSNBC every couple of days to see what’s shaking in the world. When I’m at home in Portland, NPR is always droning out of one of our many radios and I subconsciously absorb information like a big political sponge. And from where I’ve been sitting over the past nine months, I haven’t been aware of a lot of groundbreaking foreign policy decisions coming from President Obama.
I know that he made a speech in Egypt about fostering communication between the United States and the Middle East, and I know he’s pursuing diplomatic relations with Iran, and I know he was recently at the G8 summit. He’s probably done a lot more for international relations that’s slipped under my admittedly faulty radar.
But hear me out: If the man won a Nobel Peace Prize after nine months in the White House, I’d God damn well better know about something he did to create world peace. For him to go from a Midwestern junior senator on the campaign trail to a Nobel Peace Prize recipient in the space of a year, Barack Obama should have done something so phenomenally, overpoweringly brilliant to end human suffering that everyone on Earth, right on down to Tibetan monks and unborn fetuses, knows about and is impressed by it.
You know what I have heard a lot about? I’ve heard a lot about President Obama busting his ass to get a public healthcare option for all Americans and I’ve heard a lot about him sending more troops to Afghanistan. I’m pretty glad he’s doing both of those things, but neither one of them contributes an awful lot to world peace. In fact, one of them is kind of antithetical to world peace.
The Nobel Committee explained that they selected President Obama because, “We would like to support what he is trying to achieve.”
Emphasis on trying.
Hey, People magazine! I’m trying to lose some weight – how about showing some support for what I’m trying to achieve by picking me as the Sexiest Man Alive this year?
The problem with awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to someone based on what they’re trying to do (as opposed to what they have done) is that it puts the very credibility of the prize and the organization at risk should the recipient fail to live up to his goals.
That being said, the Nobel Committee has already done plenty of damage to their credibility by giving Nobel Peace Prizes to Yasser Arafat, who could be charitably described as a terrorist, and Henry Kissinger, who spent a lot of time in the 1970s working to topple democratic Marxist governments in South America in favor of right wing capitalist dictators with a penchant for chopping off hands.
One of the nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was Greg Mortenson, a former US Army medic who has spent the last 16 years traveling to remote parts of third world countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan to build schools, with the express aim of promoting literacy among girls. In the process of building these schools, Mortenson has been shot at by Afghan opium warlords, had fatwas declared on him by Islamic clerics for trying to educate girls, been kidnapped for eight days, and received death threats from Americans for trying to educate Muslims.
But the Nobel Prize Committee gave the award to President Obama based on what he’s trying to accomplish in the international arena.
I’ve got a lot of faith that Barack Obama is going to do some really great things over the course of the next eight (God willing) years, and I think that there’s going to be plenty of time once he’s out of office to reflect on his accomplishments and give him awards. Right now, though, he still has to prove to the world that he can do what his supporters think he can do.
Truman Capps hasn’t been this frustrated by an award recipient since Crash won Best Picture.