Tag: peace

February 28 2010

I often get accused of being an Obama worshiper, usually by people that don’t know me. They base that belief purely on me supporting anything he says. Somehow, the fact that I’ve always had a soft spot for the environment means that I can’t agree with the president without appearing to be bowing down at the man’s feet. They think that the president should represent their views, and if he doesn’t represent them perfectly then he isn’t doing a good job.

The reality is that America is a nation of the world, and it is our duty to consider the entire planet when we make certain decisions. We have most of the world’s wealth, an over-abundance of resources, many of the most intelligent and powerful people on the planet, and a military complex unlike any in history. Our behavior affects almost every corner of the world. As the self-proclaimed greatest nation on Earth, it’s our duty to act like it. Our local officials will take care of local issues, our state officials will take care of state issues, our federal officials will take care of federal issues, but our president represents us in the world stage. In order to succeed in the 21st century we have to recognize that we are part of a larger effort. No matter how much we try to isolate ourselves or alienate others, we are inextricably linked to the entire web of life.

We may not (as individuals) like everything that Barack Obama does. There are many things that he has promised that he has yet to deliver. But that’s not entirely his fault. Change comes slowly, especially when there are so many people resistant to it. The fact that he’s doing things I don’t agree with just shows that he’s not simply catering to his base. That’s because he recognizes he is the leader the entire United States, which is a diverse and complex collection of individuals. If all you do is please your political base, then you become as effective a world leader as George W. Bush was.

The Americans that aren’t comfortable with Obama’s inclusive behavior (e.g., speaking in Arabic to Muslims, pronouncing country names in a native dialect, offering to sit down to speak with our rivals) are an increasing minority in our nation. Their xenophobia consistently proves unwarranted and unproductive. Regardless of their protestations, our world continues to progress, our technology reaches almost everyone on the planet, our wars (and peace) spread to other nations, our behavior directly affects the environment, and we are beginning to recognize the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. Like it or not, this nation represents the world.

Obama clearly understands all of these things and has consistently worked towards making these ideals into reality. Though people will fight him every step of the way (and though he may not be able to achieve all of his goals), the important thing is that he continues to aggressively work toward world coherence. As the president of the United States, Obama represents the people of our nation. But as a citizen of the world, Obama represents every person on the planet. One doesn’t have to support the man, but I don’t see how one could not support the message. After all, the message is: peace through cooperation leads to progress. No sane individual could disagree with that.

October 9 2009

Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The committee voted for Obama just twelve days after he took office, so their decision was not influenced by the work he has done since becoming president. It was made because of such things as his stance on international cooperation, promoting democracy abroad, closing Guantanamo Bay, commitment to addressing both the Israeli and Palestinian concerns, increased global discussion on climate change, de-escalating the Iraq war, the looming threat of Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea’s ever-defiant behavior, and numerous promises to making America respected in the world community.

The Nobel Peace Prize is not simply a blue ribbon to show that you came in first place at the fair. It’s not a gold medal to show you were the strongest or the fastest. And it’s not a certificate that shows you’ve completed a course in Peaceology. Think of it more as a scholarship. Aside from the financial benefit, scholarships are a declaration that the individual has the support of other people. More importantly, it’s a form of social contract that says the individual now has a responsibility to use the privilege appropriately.

It’s mostly symbolic, like the olive branch, but it’s important. Winning this award does not declare that the winner has saved humanity from its woes; it says that the winner has committed to attempting to save humanity from its woes. In Obama’s case, it is the Nobel Committee’s way of saying, “Dear America, we realize you allowed yourselves to be hijacked by fundamentalism and fear for the past few years, and we appreciate you taking the steps to correct it. Now do something about it!”