I’m quite in agreement with those, seeming to include the Barack Obama himself, who say that Obama is not deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. The lack of merit doesn’t relate, though, to insufficient progresss on the relevant issues, or a thin record on Obama’s part as much as it does to efforts toward greater diplomacy being a shared undertaking. It is, as Obama says, more a matter that he is representative of a new way of thinking as well as validation of some old ways of thinking — of engaging enemies, of working toward dialogue and understandings, of recognizing that more often than not, peace is won by engagement and real listening, not by the bullet. In so many ways our fragile earth is becoming smaller. Acts of destruction reach around the world in their effect and every single mine that takes even a single life is an impediment to God’s transforming work in restoring God’s creation.
I would also issue a strong rebuke to the Democratic National Committee and its spokesperson, DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse, who said, “The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists — the Taliban and Hamas this morning — in criticizing the president for receiving the Nobel Peace prize.” And that’s regardless of any criticism lodged by the Republican National Committee, through its chairperson, Michael Steele. While Steele unfairly mocked the awarding of the Nobel to Obama, nothing Steele said merited the DNC reviving the Bush-era strategy of portraying political opponents as “in bed” with terrorists. RNC Chair Steele had earlier said, “The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’ It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain - President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.” I don’t agree with Steele’s assessment, but the DNC reaction is out of proportion to the RNC statement and steps on the moment of the day even more than Steele does. Indeed, the DNC should have simply ignored Steele and just expressed pride in the award being bestowed on the U.S.A.’s 44th president, and him in turn helping to cast the award in wider terms and recognition, in terms of struggles past and struggles ahead. This was not simply an “Obama’s” day, but a movement’s day, and the DNC inflicted the worset damage in making the award narrowly about American politics. The whole nature of the peace prize award, particularly this time, requires recognzing those of various nationalities and cultures who are trying to keep this planet from self-destruction. Strong disagreements can still be shared in civility, but there is nothing civil about Woodhouse’s inflammatory words. Steele and the RNC were petty and narrow-sighted, but not uncivil, I believe.
Regardless of whether you think the Oslo committee made the correct decision regarding the Nobel, I hope it will cause each of you to think and re-think how human beings can share this tiny planet without constantly slaughtering each other at the worst, and assaulting each other’s humanity dignity at the least. Part of the re-thinking, I am convinced, requires raising the standard of living around the world, helping to encourage just governments, continuing to advance civil and human rights, giving greater respect to the sovereignty and legitimacy of smaller nations, and enancting, by God’s grace and power, a shalom that is more than the absence of war. Taking all these considerations into account, I believe the awarding of the prize to Obama was correct, even if it represents hope more than accomplishment.
Note: Richard and I have shared different perspectives before. Perhaps our most noteworthy disagreement had to do with Santa Claus.