I just read the transcript of President Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech in the New York Times.
It was a difficult speech, and Mr. Obama acknowledged his controversial position, having just opened up the war in Afghanistan. I have been a supporter of the Nobel's selection of the President for the Prize, and rallied to his support in my post on October 9.
I felt that, based on their own criteria, the Nobel Committee members made a reasonable choice. That, and the fact that there is no one else with as high a profile as Mr. Obama with the daunting task of improving the opinion of America abroad, and unraveling tensions among impossibly unstable world situations. Millions have made him the caretaker of their hopes for a more reasonable and inclusive world.
But I bristled at the text of the speech; before I read the text, I heard only sound bites on TV and radio, so I did not have the benefit of the delivery or the music of his language as vehicles of meaning. Some words and ideas, though, ran counter to what I had come to expect from Obama, even as I struggle with my own confusion in my support of him.
Consider some of the words that were used, words which carry their own emotional connections in or out of context of the speech: "evil"; "Crusades"; "morality"; "peacekeeping"; "wagers of peace"; "purpose of faith"; "moral compass"; "the spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls". These read like code, fraught with meaning.
I noticed his glorification of Nixon in China, Pope John Paul and the Catholic Church in Poland, and Ronald Reagan in the Soviet Union, all held up as paragons of world peace, despite their involvements in Vietnam, social oppression, and Iran-Contra, respectively. It all began to appear as a re-payment for some mysterious bargain struck with Conservatives to whom Mr. Obama seems to have sold a bit of his liberal soul. Conservatives even nodded in approval afterward, while those on the other side of the aisle were guarded, even muted, in their praise.
It was a strong speech, but I missed the humble and likeable Obama who gave me hope last November, the man who I believed (and still do) could win over skeptics with the sheer force of his inspiration and respectful regard for world peoples and leaders. A few times he appeared pre-packaged....as though he were absent from his own words:
I wondered what an American parent who has lost a job, living on the brink of poverty; or another parent with a sick child without health insurance; or the brother of a child killed in American gang conflict; or any number of Americans trying hard to secure their rights to job security, marriage equality, or affordable health care, would think of these words.
Are we at peace here at home? or more to the point, is it a just peace?
I want Mr. Obama to succeed. I still applaud the Nobel Committee for awarding him the Peace Prize, and I congratulate the President on this honor. I originally supported his candidacy because his words were a strong assurance that he cared about the things I cared about. I want to hold on to the hope that he still cares about them in his own way, and in his own back yard.