As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 has been awarded to our very own President of the United States, Barack Obama. It was a surprise to pretty much everyone, Obama included. He accepted the award humbly, saying in a statement this morning from the White House, “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments. But rather as an affirmation of American leadership. . . . I will accept this award as a call to action.”
I was pleased to hear the news on the radio this morning. When the president of my country wins a major international award, I think it’s a good thing. That’s just the kinda nut I am. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I wouldn’t have been as happy had George W. Bush won. But that’s not a bridge we ever had to cross, is it? The Nobel committee don’t tend to give their Peace Prize to assholes who start arbitrary wars and spend most of their term of office giving the finger to the rest of the world, Yasser Arafat notwithstanding.) The dwellers on the American right-wing fringe, patriots that they are, wasted no time in totally losing their shit over the news.
Rush Limbaugh likened the Obama Peace Prize to a suicide bombing. Classy, Rush. Glenn Beck, sounding even more like an off-his-fucking-rocker conspiracy theorist than usual, credited Obama winning the prize to the sinister “global interests” with “extraordinary power” that have been moving us mere pawns around for Joseph-Smith-only-knows-what evil purpose. But the sleaziest reaction to the happy news of the American president winning a coveted international award goes to Erick Erickson from RedState.com, who wrote that Obama winning the Peace Prize is the result of the committee’s “affirmative action quota.” Thank goodness the criticism of Obama isn’t racially motivated, eh?
Still, despite how great I think it is that Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize (only the third sitting U.S. President ever to be awarded the prize, and the first since Woodrow Wilson), I did wonder at first what he had done to, you know, deserve it. Like Rick over at Bent Corner, I questioned what Obama, who has only been president for a little over eight months, who has not yet ended either of America’s ongoing wars, and who has not yet been able to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has done to earn the prize.
Then I got a look at the Last Will and Testament of Alfred Nobel, which established the fund and the categories for the various prizes. In that document, Nobel directs that the Peace Prize be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.” Granted, Barack hasn’t done as much about reducing those standing armies as some of us would have liked, but what other world figure in the past year has done more for fraternity between the nations? I think it’s Obama’s one and only true accomplishment so far — and it’s a big one. The paranoid, bitter far-right dubbed his first trip abroad the “apology tour,” but those of us who actually heard and read what Obama said in those speeches know it was nothing of the kind. It was our new president picking up after the last one. It was Obama standing up to our neighbors, our allies and our adversaries, and offering them his hand. And good on him for it.
And does anyone else think it’s cool that the U.S. has really cleaned up at the Nobels this year? Americans shared in the prizes for chemistry, physics, and medicine in addition to the Peace Prize. Not too shabby.