US President Barack Obama passes by a battered United Nations flag that flew over the bombed Canal Hotel in Iraq at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in this September 23, 2009 file photo. (Photo: Reuters)
There seems to be split opinion on Obama’s win of the Nobel Peace Prize today. One thing’s unanimous: everyone’s surprised (including Obama himself), some pleasantly and others incredulously.
To me what was really absurd was that the nomination was made just two weeks into his presidency. How could the committee judge his efforts for world peace in just two weeks? As a commentator on BBC said, as if impressed by his charisma and star power than his actual actions.
As always, Obama in response has come out with a very diplomatic statement, keeping it light and acknowledging that it is more a ‘call for action’ than a recognition of his actual achievements. That’s very tactful and apt of him considering there has been so much surprise and criticism from many quarters.
I don’t expect Obama to end the Israel-Palestine conflict; I don’t expect him to solve all the problems of the world. But I do expect him to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. For starters, how about we stop the drone attacks in Pakistan? When I see that happen, I’ll believe he’s done something for peace. Of course I’m taking a very narrow view of the world, but it’s the issue that affects me most directly. After all, we stand where sit.
This is in no way a criticism of Obama himself. I read ‘Dreams from My Father’ sometime back and I was absolutely moved by his story and values. I really consider him inspiring in many areas of work such as social justice and better public policy, but unfortunately world peace is not one of them…yet. He has brought about a paradigm shift in engaging with the Muslim world– his Cairo speech and Ramadan message were worlds apart from the sort of hollow statements (can’t even remember if there were any) we would hear from the previous administration. Even if it’s just rhetoric, it’s a vast improvement. But when the nomination for the Prize was made earlier this year, none of that was on the scene. It was quite a premature leap of faith by the Committee.
Let’s hope this ‘call for action’ serves as an impetus for change. Change we can believe in.
I wrote this on our way to Dublin and posting it now:
I’m reading Obama’s “Dreams from my father” in which he explores issues of identity and race and the prevalence of racism and bigotry. And tonight at Holyhead port leaving for Dublin we encountered the worst racism ever (not directed at us thank God!). A man was shouting abuses at the only black man (and his family) standing in the queue waiting to board the ferry. We were right behind in line and I was terrified to be honest. They had to call security and then the police to deal with the guy.
The white man was drunk, but that is no excuse and the sorts of things he said I was shocked that people even THOUGHT such things any more: “I can’t stand the colour of your f***ing skin; I’m going to beat up that black face of yours”. And this hurled at the guy for absolutely no reason whatsoever! The black guy looked like a professional (smart clothes, specs, smart luggage, nicely dressed children– here I go stereotyping!) and remained absolutely calm and even smiled at the guy. When the police arrived, he dismissed the incident and did not want to press charges etc.
Later when we spoke to him asking him if he was alright, he laughed it off saying the guy was drunk so doesn’t matter. If I were him, I would’ve created such a fuss. Maybe he has a good sense of humour (although there was nothing funny about it– the ticket lady at the port counter said her hands were shaking and she had never experienced anything like it before) or maybe he was in a hurry and didn’t want to be delayed or maybe he thought it didn’t make much of a difference to get the guy reported– the police would just give him a warning either way.
The most disturbing thing for me was that the guy’s young children were also there and this must have been an awful incident for them- perhaps even their first encounter with racism: a “loss of innocence” as Obama calls it.