It is absurd and it is embarrassing. It would even be infuriating if it were not such a declaration of emptiness.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has embarrassed itself and cheapened a great award that had real meaning.
It was a good thing, the Nobel Peace Prize. Every year the giving of it was a matter of note throughout the world, almost a matter of state. It was serious. It mattered that it was given to a woman like Mother Teresa in 1979. She had lived for 30 years with the poorest of the poor; she and her Missionaries of Charity dressed their wounds, healed their illnesses, and literally carried them from the streets to mats and beds in a home where they would at least have in death the thing they had not had in life, someone to care for them. She didn’t just care for them, she did the hard thing: She loved them. Her life was heroic, epic, and when she was given the Nobel Peace Prize, it was as if the world were saying, “You are the best we have. You are living a life that should be emulated.”
Nelson Mandela was unjustly imprisoned for 27 years, and he came out without bitterness. There’s a hero for you. He preserved his faith and that of his countrymen that together they could make their nation better, more decent and humane. He lived a life of moral and political struggle, broke the old chains that had bound South Africa. At the end he was a literal inspiration to the world.
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[The] giving of the peace prize to President Obama is absurd. He doesn’t have a body of work; he’s a young man; he’s been president less than nine months. He hopes to accomplish much, and so far–nine months!–has accomplished little. Is this a life of heroic self-denial, of the sacrifice of self for something greater, of huge and historic consequence, of sustained vision? No it’s not. Is this a life marked by a vivid and calculable contribution to the peace of the world? No, it’s not.
This is an award for not being George W. Bush. This is an award for not making the world nervous. This is an award for sharing the basic political sentiments and assumptions of the members of the committee. It is for what Barack Obama may do, not what he has done. He hasn’t done anything.
In one mindless stroke, the committee has rendered the Nobel Peace Prize a laughingstock, perhaps for as long as a generation. And that is an act of true destruction, because it was actually good that the world had a prestigious award for peacemaking.
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How to redeem this? That is a hard question, but here is one idea. The president will deliver a big speech in Oslo Dec. 10: white tie and tails, a formal, bound statement. The world, as they say, will be watching. He should deflect the limelight. (Can he?) He should make his subject bigger than himself. (Is there a subject bigger than himself?) He has been accused of traveling through the world on an extended apology tour. That isn’t fair, but the tag is there. How about an unapologetic address, a speech, with the world’s elites leaning forward and listening, about the meaning of America? A speech that shows a grounded and sophisticated love for his country and its great traditions and history. Not a nationalistic speech, not a prideful one, but a loving one.
For instance: The Peace Prize judges won’t see it this way, but America has gone to Europe twice in the past century to fight for peace. This is an old concept, and has to do with killing killers so they can’t kill anymore. It cost America a lot to do this, and we kept no territory, as they say, beyond the graves where our soldiers lie. America then taxed itself and gave its wealth not only to its allies but to its former adversaries, to help them rebuild. We didn’t actually have to do this. We did it to make the world better. We did it to foster peace. (They should give us a prize.)
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This might to some degree redeem this wicked and ignorant award, this mischievous honor.