THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Peace and Politics

How refreshing! The President of the United States held up as an exemplar of how the world can, should and must progress. That view is much to be preferred to one of a renegade nation's arrested adolescent figurehead, shoehorned into power by a judicial coup and cheating to keep it, relentlessly poking a stick in the world's eye.

I like to think President Obama is receiving the Prize on behalf of the American people who resoundingly elected this able political leader to serve us in the highest office in the land. It's a prelude, really. We also are responsible for enabling him to make his words manifest, for insisting that the people who nominally represent us in Congress actively engage with President Obama's vision of a better world where all can seek their own dreams.

So my first thought on hearing that Barack Obama received this year's Nobel Peace Prize was to rejoice.

My second thought, alas, was anticipation of the inevitable squeals, whines and bellyaches that America's extreme wrong-wing noisemakers invariably shriek, accompanied by dread that the media would, with straight faces and mock-serious tones, report their nonsense.

The best I can say for these shameless bullies, ratings-chasers and know-nothings is that they give me a serious case of cognitive dissonance. When did Americans yield our cherished high ideals -- and the recognition that it takes a lot of work to achieve them -- to a bunch of carnival barkers (as Bill Moyers named them), scorn dripping from their profit-driven lips? These faux-conservatives and their scorched-earth tirades bring to mind one of our general culture's better mom-isms: "Just because other people are doing it doesn't mean it's right."


When will the rabid right zealots learn that America is better -- much, much, much better -- than they want us to be?

Answer: When we individually and collectively publicly "call" these shameless bullies on their bald-faced deceits and lies. When we consistently and relentlessly make clear to their advertisers, sponsors and cronies that we reject this perverse use of the public's airwaves and privatized outlets. When we stop treating them as serious participants in the public, democratic dialog. When they cause their own demise, forced off their public pedestals, left high, dry and isolated by their own warped minds and not-free market-based economics.

We have no interest in abridging their freedom of speech. They are free to be wrong and stupid in private and public. However, the fact that they say silly and dangerous things does not require us to listen, repeat or report. Repeating silly and dangerous things, repeatedly, ad nauseum, does not make them true, and we should say so.


Better yet, we should loudly, publicly articulate a vision of economic and political justice, universal health care, an environment that is not toxic to ourselves, our children and generations to come -- a nation, a world, better than the one we now inhabit. Therein lies the appropriateness of the Nobel committee's choice. Theirs is clearly a political decision. It is politics which is required.

In this same vein, I find the timing of this Nobel Peace Prize particularly arresting. My country shamed itself and me when the clanging reactionaries howled about the Olympic committee doing the right thing in picking Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games, assigning President Obama an inappropriate role in the drama. Anyone not directly vested in capturing that prize or simply a devotee of the tooth fairy understands how fitting it was to expand the Games into South America.


Of course everybody "wants" that honor. My longtime hometown, Atlanta, wanted it so badly we set then-new lows for just how far a city would go to ensure they get it. Yes, things changed in Atlanta because the Games were played there. But not in the way anyone predicted, and certainly not in ways everyday taxpayers had been promised. Rio would have been the right choice, even if the United States had not been so dishonorably hostile, and unwelcoming, to the rest of the world year after year after recent year.

So I celebrate this important moment. President Barack Obama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize! In its own way, this is as delicious to me as being a jubilant witness to the sovereign people of these United States calling a provisional halt to Republican misrule by electing him to lead us. Now we should require that Congress join him and respond to the electorate rather than lobbyists, fat cats and semi-demented opinionists.

As always, I am heartened by how nicely the deep irony of a peace prize -- funded by the ill-gotten gains of a remorseful munitions manufacturer, chosen and awarded by the descendants of marauding Vikings -- intertwines with authentic and genuine hope for all of humanity. The irony is deepened by President Obama's struggles with the wars he inherited.

So when, in the presence of King Harald V of Norway, the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the American President the world's most prestigious recognition, I'll be applauding them and the people they represent. Now "We, The People" must do whatever it takes to make sure that the Prize Barack Obama receives on behalf of our own better angels lives up to its promise, far and near -- equality and justice at home, a nuclear-free world on a habitable planet all can share in relative peace.

Now the work begins, and the fun.