What, drawn, and talk of peace!?

15 Oct

Recently the President of the United States of America won the Nobel Peace Prize. You probably heard.

I read and saw many responses (Garrison Keilor’s, for example) talking of “the republicans” or “conservatives” as if they are a unified group that exists for the sole purpose of hating the current president. They are not. They are individual people. I read and saw many responses referring to what “some people” think and say without naming or identifying these people in any way. Most of the things I saw and read ended with a viewpoint, a takeaway, so that I would know what to think and feel about the President’s award. We are all individuals.

Let’s talk to each other and not about each other.

The purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize, as written by Alfred Nobel in his will, is to honor “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The winner of the prize, if there is to be one (the prize statutes say that if there is no suitable living candidate, the prize is not awarded that year), is determined by (again, per Nobel’s will) “a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting.”

So all emotional responses aside, what happened was this: Five people (chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, Kaci Kullmann Five, Sissel Marie Rønbeck, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, and Ågot Valle) in Norway decided that, out of 205 nominees, nobody had done more to be a “champion of peace” this past year than Barack Obama.

In response, Republican chairman Michael Steele said that “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.”

It’s a response I don’t understand. What is the value of such a response? What is the purpose of it?

It seems to say that Michael Steele doesn’t feel the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the right person. He feels it was undeserved, but neglects to suggest who did deserve it. He also feels that Americans agree with him, although I’m an American and I do not (Nor, it seems, does John McCain, who says that “Americans are always pleased” when their President is awarded. I guess he knows different Americans than his party’s chairperson?).

Michael Steele, you’re a human being, so I can talk to you directly. I can ask you, because I do not understand, what is the purpose of responding in this way? What is the value? Is anything positive accomplished? The purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize is to honor people who champion peace. The purpose of this response seems to be the opposite.

Look, I’m not saying it’s unfair to feel like, perhaps, someone who had accomplished more (if there were such a person) would be more deserving. That’s true, and it’s a sentiment that Obama himself agrees with. “Let me be clear,” he said, “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” He went on to say that he felt he didn’t deserve it, but that he accepted it as a call to action.

The purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize is to honor champions of peace. It’s a good purpose. It’s a purpose fulfilled by the 2009 award. Feeling proud as an American, feeling hope that we are moving humanity towards a more non-violent world, helps to fulfill that purpose. Anything that can be done to further that purpose is good for humanity. Why do anything less?

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