Even though I disagree with some of his political positions I like the president. I appreciate his tone and demeanor. And I think that he's doing a pretty good job leading us through some tough times. I'd probably even vote for him if he were running for re-election this week. But I, too, have struggled to understand the Nobel Peace Prize. I thought the prize was supposed to be given to someone with a record of bold peacemaking.
Of course, you can't blame President Obama. He wasn't campaigning for the prize and it puts him in a bit of a silly pickle to get it -- might even hurt him politically.
I wonder, though, if we're not being too shortsighted in how we're looking at this whole thing. We see the prize as being awarded for bold actions related to peacemaking. We see it exclusively as an award for activities.
Of course, in this sense the president hasn't accomplished much as a peacemaker -- at least yet. (He was probably only in office for all of a month when he was nominated for the prize.)
However, the fact is that there are billions of people in the world (people with different political and cultural baggage than most Americans) who definitely see Obama as a larger than life man of peace -- not because of what he has done or will do but because of who he is and what he represents.
President Obama is a person of color in one of the most powerful positions in the world. To much (most?) of the world this is more encouraging than peace-treaties or development projects for the poor -- as important as those things might be. To the poor of the world our president signals a new era where even a dark-skinned person can get ahead in life. To them that is hope. That is peace!
Americans just don't realize how big a deal this is for the rest of the world.
Might it be that our definition of what constitutes peacemaking is too insular and narrow -- too exclusively Western -- too lacking in shalom?