I had 2 simultaneous first reactions to hearing the news that he'd won.
- What has he done that warrants this?
- Ok, yeah, I get it.
Even more, I think Obama gets it. He mentioned that he views it as a call to continue promoting the general welfare of people not just in America but in the world at large. I see it as a statement of just how profoundly our choosing to elect him over the grandstanding of the previous administration carried off even less successfully by McCain. The rest of the world sees him as someone with his head screwed on straight who not only has a vision of a better world but has the communication skills, stratgic thinking, and patience to make significant advances. And it's also a HUGE slap in the face to the way the previous administration set about doing things. I also think it's a message from the rest of the world to the people of this country (or at least the leadership in this country) to try and work with Obama rather than against him.
It has been curious to me, as well as infuriating, to see the mental gymnastics the spokespersons of the oppositions to Obama engage in. Even this morning, the "conservative" guy on NPR basically said, "I don't like him and you can't make me". That's fine. You don't have to like him, but you do have to respect the office of president and you don't. You spewed absolute filth about people who didn't respect GWB, but you do 10 times worse to Obama and call it justified? This is your wake up call that while you might not like him, he really does speak in a way that encompases more people than it rejects and that's a good thing. Hearing this commentator make self contradictory statements: "we don't approve of Obama, but the people of this country should get the prize since 'we' voted him in." when you know damned well that this man didn't vote for him made me a little dizzy. When he tried to downplay the importance of the Nobel Peace Prize in order to justify his need to downplay Obamas influence, it was just pathetic. I have no problem with dissent. I have a problem with obstructionists.
I also wonder if it's a wake up call to Obama that just because he's meeting unprincipled, knee-jerk obstructionism at home doesn't mean he should abandon the higher aspirations he brought to the office. He seems to be slipping a bit in some of the things we elected him to do: doesn't seem to be standing up for gay civil rights the way I'd like, doesn't seem to be drawing back enough from the abuses of the previous administration. So I wonder if this is a message from the outside world saying, "keep trying, we've got your back".
One reason they awarded him the award was that he had completely changed the tone of international dialogue. I don't think the importance of that can be overstated. Probably the best seminar I ever took was one in how to get things done by being assertive rather than an aggressive bully or a passive doormat. Using the principles from the class, I complained to a neighbor about his late night party on a weeknight and not only did I get an apology and no more weeknight parties, he brought me two bottles of wine. If I hadn't said anything, he likely would have had more parties. If I'd been agressive, I don't know about the party situation, but lets just say he wouldn't have offered me snowboarding lessons. And Obama is all about the assertive language. Assertive language is inclusive but determined. And seeing just how quickly the change in tone has set the world on a different path, I do think that's a significant accomplishment, if only people will recognize what it was that changed it. Certainly he has a big personality. But it's the way he talks to people with respect without ignoring the obstacles or creating enemies that is the lesson we should learn.
Lastly, a coworker stopped by to chat. He grew up in India and mentioned that the Nobel committee has a specific set of criteria they judge to and Obama has hit the trifecta. It's a nice little summary so I'd like to share it.
Nobel Peace criteria, per Ravi
- Looking at the world as your home
- Speaking for oppressed people
- Oppressed people having opportunity
The buzz around the office is that Obama hasn't done "anything" yet and that this is a "you better do something" message. I can see that too. I really fear some backlash on this, but only because I'm so used to our backlash. On the whole though, I have hope that things will continue to change even if they don't change overnight.