The end of the week finds me up late in a quiet house, all loved ones now asleep. Today I awoke to what I thought was wonderful news, so wonderful that I shouted it upstairs in the early morn to (yes, again sleeping) loved ones. When I read the straightforward news story online--that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize--I was filled with my typical happiness and pride when anything good happens involving the Pres.
But as the day wore on--first, when I turned on my preferred morning show, Morning Joe, where the news was met with mocking laughter and snide remarks, and later as I read through the day's news stories on my favorite political sites--I realized that others didn't feel as I did. Uncharacteristically, I avoided the news all day, knowing that before long Rush & Glenn would be at it and of course all of the media sites would feel the need to report on what they said.
I know I'm stepping onto a soapbox here and straying somewhat from my writing topic (but I'll bring it back around to that, I promise), and I know that a lot of people get upset when politics is even brought up because it's always divisive, always incendiary, no matter how nice you try to be. And if you disagree with me it probably makes you want to, at the very least, not read my blog for awhile. But my emotions got the best of me today and here I am.
After last Saturday's SNL skit about Obama-the-unaccomplished-President, the media seems to have seized on the idea that he has had ample time now to do at least some of the things he promised, and his failure to do so indicates a tendency towards rhetoric without action. (Never mind the Republicans in Congress who refuse to work with him, who cheer when he fails, and complain and cheapen when he has any sort of success--they have nothing to do with the lack of new legislation.) When he has dared to speak to citizens of the world as our equals--and not, as in the previous administration, as lesser individuals who should either help us or fear us--Republican operatives take to the airwaves claiming that he does not believe in American Exceptional-ism and that he hates his country. Again, the media reports on this kind of thinking as though it is rational.
As we have been reminded all week, it's been 10 months since his inauguration, and 12 since election night. Have we so quickly forgotten what he accomplished just by being elected? Have we forgotten what it meant for an African American to be elected president, that as late as the night before the election there were many who believed all the polling was wrong, that there was no way, when it came right down to it, that Americans would be willing or able to pull the lever or check the box for an African American?
But then it happened. And it was a big deal because a country with an oft-denied past of hatred and ignorance was, it seemed, trying to make good. We were living up to what the civil rights leaders of the 1960s had dreamed for us--one in particular--that we would judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. It's a line that's been repeated often, but then again, I've been wondering all day, have we so easily forgotten? Have we forgotten how he reached out to us with his words? How he implored us to be better? We elected Obama because he made us believe that we could be better. He made us believe that all the things we thought were wrong with the world, well it was us that could fix them.
But we've forgotten, I guess. And so it's acceptable for the people on TV to laugh and joke derisively about our President, who won the Nobel Peace Prize today.
Perhaps it is not about checking off items on a to-do list, as the SNL skit suggested, but instead beginning to put into motion the dozens of things on that list that for so many years now have not only been ignored, but denied, treated like pipe dreams or the wishes of naive children. It's that old wish: peace on earth, good will toward men. Recited in song, fairy tale, and holy place alike. But it hasn't happened yet. Those awarded the Prize in the past have helped work toward that wish. When it comes down to it, it's about the courage to begin the hard, sometimes seemingly impossible work required to make it come true.
Those who dislike the President say he only gives speeches. But oh they have been great, powerful speeches. Words are what set things into motion (heck, that's what I'm trying to do with this blog). When Obama gave his foreign policy speech in Cairo earlier in the year, promising the world that we were ready to re-join the international community and ready to, in a nutshell, show compassion again, yes, he was just saying some words. But they were words of peace. And words that, for a long, long time now, and at the expense of many lives, no one else has had the guts to say.