Thursday, December 10, 2009

Awkward Moments

So how does one accept an award for peace while waging war?

With aplomb and humility, apparently:
OSLO — President Obama, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize here on Thursday, acknowledged the age-old tensions between war and peace but argued that his recent decision to escalate the conflict in Afghanistan was justified to protect the world from terrorism and extremism.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth,” Mr. Obama said. “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

[...]“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage,” Mr. Obama said. “Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight.”

This was your basic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" moment: Obama could not possibly have said anything that would have satisfied his critics.

From the left:
"Obama refused to renounce war for his nation or under his leadership, saying defiantly that 'I face the world as it is' and that he is obliged to protect and defend the United States,"

From the insane asylum right:
"They wounded two doves with one stone. No matter how much you like Obama and his foreign policy, it is patently ridiculous that a man who's served less than nine months as President should earn a prize that eluded even Mahatma Gandhi."

Nevermind, shithead, that non-northern hemisphereans were ROUTINELY denied the Peace Prize by your forefathers in feigned enlightenment! No! But a black man wins in America and suddenly you find the cojones to stand up for Gandhi, someone you've probably mocked as wearing a really bad toga.

My take on it is this:
Matt. 10:13: "And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you."

We are human. Barack Obama is human, but he stands for more to the rest of the world as well as to this great nation. His symbolism is profound. His election is a demonstration that, despite the hatred from the bigots and ignorant of the right, the country is healing from the terrible shame of slavery and discrimination. We have far to go, and so we cannot make it to Dr. King's Promised Land in one stride, but we must continue to take the steps, small and large, halting and fluid, until we do get there.

Likewise, the Promised Land of Peace beckons us on. Some would criticize this award as undue, as a down payment on a promise.

So? IF ONLY FOR THE HEALING HIS ELECTION BROUGHT TO THE SHAME OF AMERICAN HISTORY, he has earned the prize. He accepts it on behalf of us all, black and white, who voted for him and against him, for bringing the United States finally into the latter 20th Century. And if there is more to come, if indeed he can make inroads in the Middle East conundrum, or calm the waters in Pakistan and Afghanistan, if he can persuade Iran and North Korea to use atoms for peace, if he only brings China into the fold of fighting global warming, he will have accomplished more for peace than the sum total of every President up to this point.

Of course, there's no rule that says he can't win a second one...