When I heard that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I was surprised and a little cynical about it. It seemed premature, to say the least. As others have suggested, it's possible that the prize committee may have intended to honor the U.S. for replacing George W. Bush, who was despised by Europe.
It's not a bad thing that Obama won, but we all know such "prizes" are often awarded for subjective and political reasons. The appropriate response in my view would be a quiet golf clap, the kind you might get after parring the first hole. Nice putt, but there's plenty of golf left.
Then, perhaps foolishly, I started reading web posts from wingnut conservatives. You would have thought Obama had stubbed out a Marlboro Light on Old Glory, then used it as a golf towel. The rhetoric was coming from the usual suspects, the same people who led the cheering when Obama failed to get the Olympic bid for the U.S. — right-wing media types and certain of their GOP lapdogs. (John McCain and a precious few others were gracious — or at least good-natured about it.) The trash-talk was venomous, over the top. Remember, Obama didn't pay off somebody to win the Nobel Peace Prize. They selected him. And trying to win the Olympics for your country has never been seen as a bad thing before, as far as I know. Suddenly, it is.
If George Bush had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I would have been surprised, appalled, and, yes, cynical. When Obama won, I was merely surprised and cynical. If George Bush had gone overseas to try and win the Olympic Games for the U.S., I can confidently say I wouldn't have cheered if he had failed, though I have no doubt that there are some on the left who would have.
How did we get here, to the place where the president's winning a prestigious international award is an occasion for outrage by many of his countrymen? And, seriously, why would any American — liberal or conservative — cheer his country's losing the Olympic games? How did we become a nation where allegiance to one's party — or race or religion — supercedes one's allegiance to country and community?
"Divide and conquer" has been a political truth for centuries. In America's case, we're doing the dividing all by ourselves. Which makes conquering the easy part.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings
The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced last week that the I-55 "old bridge" across the Mississippi would be closed for nine months, beginning in 2017, so that the department could build new exit and entrance ramps. This is a really horrible idea, with potentially disastrous economic, public safety, and even national security ramifications ...