Friday, October 09, 2009

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding

Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama is an act of audacious optimism on the part of the Nobel people. It is motivated by the kind of hope and faith in the future which we haven't seen since the president's inauguration. More importantly it seems to be Europe's way of endorsing and reiterating that aspirational spirit which allowed the U.S. to step away from 8 years of Bushism and Neoconservatism in favor of Obama's slightly improbable candidacy.

But the prize does not fit the country's current mood which is deeply cynical and increasingly despairing. Fear-mongering, bigoted, seduced by conspiracy thinking, the American imagination is currently held in the grip of the Reactionary Right who serve as our de facto filters and mediators. Stupidity is always a ratings winner, but it's important to remember that the conservatives have been on the wrong side of every issue pretty much since the nation's founding. In other words, they have nothing useful to say even if they're hathetically mesmerizing while they're saying it.

Rather than having the courage to celebrate this award, most Obama supporters just want to know what the pundits are saying and which right wing nut job's heads are exploding. There's a marked timidity and passivity in their our failure to stand up for the president. We have lost sight of how much has been achieved simply through ending the stupidity and short-sightedness of the Bush years (at long last, we're being greeted as liberators!).

There is still much Obama can and will do. And he'll make mistakes. But the Peace Prize is not a lifetime achievement award. It is inspirational, idealistic, and utopian; a leap of faith. It looks toward the future, and uses the present as a tool to heal the pains and conflicts of the past. It may not be a logical choice, but it certainly is an intuitive and creative attempt to build a better tomorrow.