It isn’t Denis Mukwege, the doctor who’s treated at least 21,000 rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He’s the only doctor there who does such treatment and the hospital he founded has helped hundreds of thousands of women. It isn’t any of the Chinese dissidents who’ve been jailed or had to flee their native land for daring to speak against its government. It isn’t any of the human rights campaigners working in difficult nations without major media recognition. It isn’t the Afghan woman’s right campaigner. And it isn’t Handicap International and the Cluster Munition Coalition, two organizations dedicated to clearing mines and helping the victims of cluster bombs and land mines. Instead, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize goes to the leader of a nation that continues to use cluster munitions and refuses to ratify the ban on land mines. The prize has been awarded on hope.
Maybe that’s the right thing to do. The committee put great stock in Obama’s policy for nuclear disarmament. And while we haven’t destroyed a single weapon, the goal is as noble as they come. My own criticisms of Obama would be wiped away if he leaves office with even significant progress towards nuclear disarmament.
I appreciate that much of the world views my native land more favorably since Obama’s election, and i hope that he will follow the carrot being dangled in front of him. But i have my reservations.
According to the committee:
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.
This is nice talk, but what of arresting a social worker for twittering police orders in Pittsburgh? Where is the stern response to the coup in Honduras? What of America’s world leading prison population? Am i the only one who questions that the US speaks to everyone of peace while waging war? What sort of values are represented by telling Iran that it cannot develop nuclear weapons but refusing to speak on Israel’s arsenal? Can a man who presides over the world’s largest exporter of arms be a standard bearer for peace?
Yes, my idealism is peeking through. But remember that a cynic is just an idealist who’s been confronted with reality one too many times. I cannot disagree with the idealism that formed the basis of the committee’s decision. I applaud that idealism even if i cannot share it.
But i would like to see the Nobel Peace Prize given to someone who has achieved something rather than discussed achieving something. I would rather see the prize money used to build another hospital for Congolese rape victims or applied to removing land mines around the world. I would like to see the award given to someone who’s work has come in the face of severe adversity, someone who has suffered for his/her idealism and retained it.
I appreciate the thank you given to a president who has, at least apparently, chosen to rejoin the world after the disaster of the previous administration. But is that such a great achievement? Shouldn’t that be expected of our nation?
I hope that President Obama leverages this award to good effect. But i’m finding it more and more difficult to sustain myself on hope. So i’m left with Gogol, laughing my bitter laugh.