Monday, October 12, 2009

In Defense of the Prize(s)

What an irony that the recent announcement of this year's Nobel Peace Prize has created such a war of words. Between the canons shot across various Web sites and blogs, the bombs dropped in countless opinion columns, and the bullets shot from thousands of Tweets, the online news world is experiencing a 21st century battle of sentences and exclamation marks. Again. It was too early, many say, and too ridiculous; or too exciting, too cool, too soon or too hard to live up to; between the soldiers of campaigns, the bloggers with agendas, the professional reporters and the engaged citizens bent on adding to the barrage, all have pulled the pin of a grenade and tossed it online.

I, for one, couldn't be happier. At the discussion, that is. Such explosive discourse is the stuff of free speech and democracy after all. We need it. We need to challenge opinions, argue points, investigate new territory. Each step on the battlefield helps us decide for ourselves and come to our own conclusions about how we, too, can work for peace in our own worlds and spheres of influence, that is, if we can actually decipher the authentic discussion beneath the attacks.

Still, for all the digital combat about President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, I wonder if another bias is behind the rhetoric. Is it more about utilitarian functionality than character? Does it reveal a preference for the ends while ignoring the means? Put another way, does all this angst say more about how Americans are addicted to end results with little regard for process? What has he done, for Pete's sake, we ask? Not what has he been.

Is it too simplistic to consider if the new president has promoted global peace—simply by being new or by having the same skin color as many of the world's population or by using his gift of language to inspire anew? Which brings us full circle in this war of words: Isn't peace-making as much about challenging perceptions and attitudes as it is about ending wars?

Then again, maybe all this smoke had nothing to do with the Nobel selection. Maybe the naysayers just wanted another reason to toss their grenades. At which point, the prize of genuine discourse gets blown to pieces. So much for world peace.

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