When I heard this morning that Barack Obama had been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, I was pretty much speechless. I’m not entirely sure how to react to this announcement.
On one hand, I’m undeniably an Obama supporter—even if I don’t have a graphic tee with his face emblazoned on it like most of my friends do. I read Dreams from my Father, voted for him (twice), and watched the election results breathlessly last year while furiously checking FiveThirtyEight every ten seconds. I love his eloquence, his poise, and everything he represents: the return of intellectualism to the White House and the possibility of improved race relations across the country. Plus, he graduated from my alma mater, even if he hates talking about it. And his wife is pretty kickass.
On the other hand… when I saw this SNL sketch last week, I couldn’t laugh because I was too busy cringing. I agree with most of the points that the Saturday Night Live crew is making: Obama’s rhetoric has rarely been matched by decisive action. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still dragging on, healthcare is still a mess, and the recession hasn’t exactly ended, despite what some media outlets are saying. (Also, the sketch itself was just horrifically unfunny. SNL kind of blows this season… but I digress.)
Other Nobel Peace Prize laureates—Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, even Al Gore—achieved specific things that unarguably changed the world for the better before they got their awards. Obama, though, is almost more of a symbol than an actual agent of change—at least so far. If nothing else, this award seems incredibly premature. Why not wait until he’s at least been president for an entire term, after he’s actually had enough time to make good on his promises?
I’m also hesitant about congratulating Obama because this honor can only fuel the awful, hateful things that his enemies say about him. Republican pundits are already snidely responding to the award by calling it a “joke,” and I’m sure that crazy, right-wing internet commentators everywhere are also having a field day with it. The Nobel Committee has accidentally done something that will only widen the political gulf between red and blue by increasing the opposition to Obama, which will make it even more difficult for him to actually achieve any of his goals.
I wish I could be proud of my president right now, but there are just too many problems that come along with him getting the Peace Prize. At least I can count on him delivering a beautiful acceptance speech.
What do you think—does Obama deserve the Nobel?