Everybody is sort of familiar with the ironic legacy of Alfred Nobel. He was the great Swedish chemist who devised a safe, portable explosive he named dynamite in the 1860’s; it made him both rich and loathed, because, not only was he perfecting a product for his family’s armament company but, consistent with the lesser angels of human nature, humans saw his product as conveniently useful not just for opening up mines but blowing up other humans and property with efficiency and certitude. Perhaps to salvage his reputation for the ages, Dr. Nobel funded an annual cash prize to reward and advance humanitarian and world peace endeavors.
The irony goes beyond an advancer of war material also being an advancer of the virtue of not using that war material. Nobel died in 1896, on the dawn of the bloodiest century in human history. So his posthumous pursuit of peace, via the vaunted “Nobel Peace Prize” awarded just about every year since his death, has run parallel to a simultaneous pursuit of violent death – much of it, it can be argued, propelled by his explosive invention.
Those two aspects of Nobel’s seem to converge when President Barack Obama was announced as this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. It took a nanosecond for the usual right-wing suspects to, shall we say, question this choice of the folks in Oslo. You could read, hear, and sometimes, like via grainy You Tube clips, see the heads exploding one by one, as if their various (G-rated) orifices were all stuffed with cartoon sticks of Nobel’s famous concoction, Itchy and Scratchy-style, and ignited by a short fuse.
Are they simply jealous? Are they Crazy? Are they secret Democrat operatives, but certainly they must know nobody is going to vote for such lunatics? no. They’re mostly worried that giving Obama the peace prize was a cynical plot by international peaceniks designed to prevent him from bombing Iran. (Okay, granted, it would be weird to riding hellfire missiles into Tehran, Major Kong-style, while wearing the peace prize medallion around your neck).
Glen Beck urged the President to give the award back (a common theme amongst these folks), because, you know, it’s such a joke that he got it. But he had a solution that presumably was not a joke: give it to the Tea Baggers. Michelle Malkin, the hot self-hating Filipina, declared the Nobel was simply the reward for Obama’s “Apology Tour” (where DO they come up with these snappy slogans?). I’m not up on what Bill O’Reilly said in reaction but I’m guessing he has some problems with it, because Obama is a noted baby murderer. Sean Hannity is probably convinced it was an international ploy to draw attention away from his Kevin Jennings “I wanna be like Glenn” witch hunt.
But the champion of course is Rush Limbaugh, who despite his protestations, remains the voice of the right wing. His first declaration was that Obama was an “international joke”. That seems to have been belied by the fact that he was awarded this international prize, and a whole lot of countries were in agreement. He then — I kid you not — proceeded to give an “Ich bin ein Taliban” spiel. That’s right. You thought “Better Rio than Chicago” was a bit weird, patriotism-wise, but Lord Rush pushes the constraints envelope to say, in this post 9/11 era, that if Obama stands for peace then, therefore, I must stand with the terrorists. To be fair, the Talibani were about the only other entity on earth to join the right-wing nuts in full-throated criticism of Obama’s prize; thus Limbaugh’s reluctant alliance (the concept of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” taken to degree beyond “nth”?). Of course, it then begs the question: Wait, isn’t Obama a Muslim terrorist, by way of Kenya and those Indonesian indoctrination schools? Hmmmm. Well, perhaps these “islamo-fascists” are not so single-minded as they would have us believe. (warning: don’t try to sort out the “logic”, or your head will explode.)
But, astonishingly, many of his liberal supporters also voiced various consternation and worry, if not their own mild objections along the lines of Clintonesque “what has he done but give good speeches?” Or they ask “Is this bad news for the White House?” As always, thanks for your help, guys. But to them, I give a benefit of the doubt. So frustrated are we with Obama’s reaching across the aisle for “bipartisanship”, and ending up with a bloody stump. So skittish are we of the right-wing reaction that indeed good news can be bad news.
But overall, I think most of the pressure on Obama stems from our own eagerness to correct eight years of toxic shock, and thus they want to hit Obama over the head with the peace prize as if to say “Now! Go do!” Anyway, I had to scour the Internet for what I expected would be an unfettered, jubilant, positive assessment of this incredible honor. I wen to The Nation magazine website, and even there didn’t really find one without some annoying “but” strings attached.
So, in the Obama “yes we can” spirit, here it is. I’m doing it myself on the Internet: an unabashed congratulations and joy on behalf other Barack Obama. And ourselves.
I’ll get to some high-minded commentary in a minute. But first, to really appreciate the award on a political – F-U to right-wing no-ers level, let’s drink it all in, because, in Glen Beck’s words, “It is so sweet!”
Let’s step back. Our President had quite a week, and so did the contrarian blabbermouths who complain about everything Obama does, often for no apparent reason other than that Obama does it (would that they would extend their logic to “Obama does not jump into lakes, so we shall!”) On Friday, October 2nd, there was unbridled celebration by the lip service patriots because the International Olympic Committee voted to award the 2016 Summer games not to Chicago, you know, that big American city, but instead to Rio de Janeiro. Certainly so fixed are they on the “don’t give Obama an inch” strategy undoubtedly cooked up by FrankLuntz and Karl Rove on January 21st, that they saw only a humiliating, international rebuke of their black, Hitlerian socialist non-citizen nemesis – as opposed to a striking disappointment for our nation (not a large one, to be sure, but nevertheless, having the Olympics is a good thing as opposed to a bad thing – or at least it was until we crossed into Limbizarro World a few years ago). Obama schlepped to Copenhagen, not on some personal junket to hype the IOC on his adopted home town, but rather to hype the IOC in favor of the United States hosting the Games, which presumably folks of all political stripes might’ve profited form and enjoyed.
Okay, here’s the sweet part: a scant seven days later, in one of the great fake outs of all time, another international committee, even more prestigious, more significant and with more ripples in history, the Nobel Prize Committee, awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.
Cue the exploding heads — not blowing up happily as they were mere days before with their gold medal Olympic rejection victory tour.
Now for the more lofty commentary and it’s not much.
It scares me to be reminded that McCain/Palin were gaining in the polls till Bush’s final robbery, the Financial Meltdown October surprise, was announced. And no doubt part of the long-range strategy was not just to deny McCain the victory (because he’s a flaming liberal, don’t you know) but to hand the Democratic President an almost insoluble economic problem – and snag a few bucks for pals at AIG, B of A, et al. But, see, that thinking is fabulously self-serving, but it is not country-serving, or history-serving, or humanity-serving. And really, can stupid really last indefinitely? Did they really think that? I know the Tea Bag “protest” tends to belie that, but that’s just noise; it’s not real.
As Gandhi said, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
It seems The World is one step ahead of us, so relieved are they that, in spite of ourselves — we elected a man of magnitude of Obama just in time to defray (although jury is out to determine if that is even possible) the terrible, catastrophic, toxic, despicable damage caused not only by Bush in these last eight dark years, but, still rippling, by Reagan, Bush the Elder, and even, to some extent, Bill Clinton.
Yes, the prize has a lot to do “with potential”, but that has been the history and nature of the prize. It’s not always to folks who signed agreements on a battleship (after ironically striving to kill as many of each other as possible) or getting combatants together (Palestine and Israel haven’t stopped fighting since Arafat and Rabin were awarded their prizes). And the mighty Teddy Roosevelt got Japan to stop fighting Russia, but Japan would cause a few problems about 30 years later.
But the point is we gotta strive for it, and work for it, and honor those that do, even though per No Country for Old Men “the dismal tide” is relentless. And here comes along a man who has seized the moment, if not in deed at least in thought (and it’s arguable that thier creating a sense of relief, and a sense of hope is not “a deed”). And perhaps it’s also a “deed” to be assured of what will NOT be done – no more Gitmo, no more Gitmos to follow, no more torture, no more nukes, no more threats, no more whimsical invasions of ancient lands. How does Afghanistan fit in? Well, that may surprise us all, and no doubt the Nobel people hope so and may have been trying to push it along. The old saying might be changed to “All’s fair in PEACE and love”. An may the only explosions we hear in the distance be those of the heads of distraught wingnuts and not actual human beings.
But I think as the Oslo committee and the world sees it, through whatever cosmic synergy emerged, or desperation or perhaps faulty Diebold machines, because we saw fit to elect this man, we Americans ALL won the prize, and we should ALL strive to be worthy of it, and EARN it. We cannot not just lay that on this one man Obama. Kissinger, at the time of his award deserved it, but, being the malevolent fraud that he was, he squandered it, as did Arafat. And some Israeli version of James Earl Ray snuffed out Yitzhak Rabins’s chances. But nevertheless it is the spirit and purpose of the Nobel to keep reaching for peace, and encouraging it nuturance, and that of loving thy neighbor and, in Al Gore’s sense, loving thy planet.
In the words of Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, and perhaps the best of things”. I would add, sometimes it’s the ONLY thing we have.
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Reprinted with permission from the Valley Democrats United newsletter, Margie Murray, Editor, where the article first appeared.