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Obama Nobel Peace Prize For What? Rachel Maddow Explains While Thich Nhat Hanh Embodies Peace

posted by Ethan Nichtern
barack-obama-nobel-peace-prize.jpg

by Ethan Nichtern

All day yesterday, many of us, myself included, were saying to ourselves, they gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, For What? On the day that our President was awarded arguably the most hopeful award that exists on planet Earth, I got to watch another Nobel Peace Prize nominee speak, one who truly deserved to win. Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh spoke to a crowd of almost 3000 at the Beacon Theater in New York about suffering, mindfulness, and how to work for inner peace. Thich Nhat Hanh – Thay, as he is known to students and friends – was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1967 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his peace activism during the Vietnam War.


thich_nhat_hanh_9-11-quotes.jpg

It was certainly an odd juxtaposition – watching a truly deserving (losing) nominee speak and teach Buddhism on the day that a questionably deserving (yet still highly promising) winner took the prize. Then I got home and watched Rachel Maddow (as she often does), break the whole thing down. This blogger and (hopeful) practitioner and attempted-teacher of peace is very happy our president won the prize. I hope he returns to the promise of his campaign on issues like Healthcare for everyone, economic fairness, and saving the planet from environmental destruction.

Take it away, Rachel.



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Alex

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:23 am


posting a biased, sarcastic, mean-spirited individual such as Maddow does not inspire one to come to this blog for further partisan politics under the guise of buddhism. bottom line is that awarding Obama with the Nobel Peace Prize cheapened the prestigious award, and insults all of those individuals who toiled for decades to earn it. The argument that Obama deserves it simply for being the first African-American president just doesn’t hold weight, and I would go so far as to say that continually seeing the world in black/white isn’t helping our planet out much either.



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Ethan Nichtern

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:29 am


@Alex,
I find Rachel Maddow to be one of the smartest voices in media, and I don’t see any mean-spirit to her work. You didn’t really disagree with anything specific she said (she didn’t claim ANYTHING close to that he won for being the first black President, did you even watch the clip?).
This is a blog where we discuss all aspects of life from a Buddhist perspective. Among many other things, I have an interest in activism and politics. A lot of people who read and comment also do.
I’m not sure I was being partisan, but I was intending to be deeply political, because I feel that doing so is a large part of what awakening to interdependence, mindfulness and compassion (ie Buddhist Practice) is all about in 21st century globalized democracy.
I hope you keep reading, and if you so choose, represent thoughtful and compassionate conservatism in the voice that we welcome you to have here, should that be what moves you.



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Kellye

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:33 am


Seeing that video only tells me that in fact it was Obama’s teleprompter that deserved the award. Nothing more. Also, the world does not need one more Obama apologist. We have plenty. Let’s just own up to the fact this award was premature….it’s OK.



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Kathy Lique

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:40 am


President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. We have choices about what aspects of this event we focus on. National political figures and the press seem to have largely focused on whether on not HE deserves it. Is it all about him or is all about PEACE?
As a country, we do not talk about peace. We need to. Our world could be destroyed by nuclear weapons, seeing war as a solution to differences, and failing to face the global environmental crisis, to name a few. To address these issues that could destroy the planet, we need to become more a part of the world community and learn to reach out to those with whom we disagree and listen.
Obama has demonstrated some of these skills in his first 9 months in office. It is a direction that deserves thought and support.



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~C4Chaos

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:46 am


Rachel Maddow mean-spirited? i don’t know about that. maybe people should watch more cable tv news and compare her “mean-spirited”ness of what the Right media is doing. Maddow’s attack is always back by facts and delivered with humor, compassion, and grace. i agree with Ethan that Maddow is one of the smartest voices (if not the smartest person on Cable TV news) out there.
that said, if you find that Maddow’s views doesn’t align with your political ideology, then fine. when it comes to the Nobel Prize, the best explanation is that which came from the Nobel Committee itself. in short, the award is coming from perspectives (and political outlook) of world-centric people outside of the U.S.
see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/09/nobel-prize-to-obama-defe_n_316098.html
(note: ignore the Huffingtonpost URL, it’s the content that matters.)
my two cents.
~C



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Alex2

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:56 am


Great speech Rachel.
“The American president just won the Nobel peace prize. By any reasonable measure, all Americans should be proud.”
I’m %100 sure she would have said the exact same thing had George W. Bush won the Nobel peace prize (sarcasm). It’s great that people are expressing a hope for Obama to succeed in the things he says he’s going to do, but the question is what will this prize mean when 4-8 years from now nothing has changed? The answer is it will mean the same thing it means now: nothing.



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Ethan Nichtern

posted October 10, 2009 at 12:05 pm


Wow. People Named Alex seem to dislike Rachel Maddow. Ah, the trends we notice.
I think this award means a whole lot if it acts as a pressurizing reminder for Obama to live up to. If it at all affects how he handles Afghanistan, then it’s a huge deal.



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Kanye

posted October 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm


For what? you ask. Hello…McFly…the Beer Summit.



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Alex3

posted October 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm


In other news…
President Barack Obama has just been given the Cy Young award in the American and National Leagues for his brilliant pitching performance in the All Star Game.



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Abby

posted October 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm


One of the things I find interesting is that right wingers haven’t bothered to say who of the nominees deserved this MORE than Obama. If he didn’t win the award, who should have? Seriously, he’s already done a lot, people. A lot of good. He’s restored america to the world stage.
I hope he will come to deserve this more and more, and I believe he will.
Until you are willing to argue that another person had a bigger impact on peace in the world among this year’s nominees and name names of who, you have no business denouncing our President for winning.
The Cy Young Award sarcasm is just silly. Obama IS a professional in the peace game, and we need to at least see why he was chosen.



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John Doe

posted October 10, 2009 at 4:01 pm


Abby? What country do you live in?
Here in America we are hurting more now then we ever have been since the 1800′s. The american dollar is worth less now then ever. The american debt is at an all time high. Inflation is climbing with no signs of slowing. Unemployment is at 9% only because they aren’t counting the thousands of people who don’t qualify or have already been given there 6 months. Real unemployment could be anywhere from 10-30% and climbing.
Right or left wing, politics has nothing to do with him getting the NOBLE PEACE PRIZE! The fact that he has done nothing is the reason he shouldn’t have it. That’s the same arguement as to what qualifies him to be president, his 2 years in senate experience?
There are hundreds of people around the world who have dedicated themselves to finding peace for people, not for there own selfish gain, but because its what is right to do.
I don’t know were the other candidates, but surely there is someone in the world that is more deserving then this young, nieve, ignorant little prick.
Wait till Iran continues to ignore these sanctions that are on them, continues to develop nuclear weapons, and see where that leads.
Open a history book, when Germany invaded Poland, the world stood by and did nothing. Sounds pretty familiar.



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Kanye

posted October 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm


I am a serious lefty and I find the jingoistic crap spewed by people like Abby appallingly stupid. Obama was one nominee among 205, a record number. Are you seriously going to assert that Obama has done more for world peace than, say, Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s nemesis in Zimbabwe?
The award just proves that Obama is now more popular in parts of Europe than he is in America. But then so is David Hasselhoff.
Abby, apparently Alex3′s Cy Young joke flew over your head. Obama threw the opening pitch in this year’s All-star game. Oy.



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Ian

posted October 10, 2009 at 4:56 pm


Shame on Obama for accepting the prize. But he got this far on mostly rhetoric….



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Brittany

posted October 10, 2009 at 5:04 pm


ask not what your hurting country can do for you but what you’re lazy ass can do for this hurting country.
none of us deserve any of the good things happening right now and yes good things are happening every day, because as americans we love to complain instead of try to solve things. Good luck to us all , Obama gets the best in show prize for showing up and that’s quite a lot these days.



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Ian

posted October 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm


Ian writes: “Shame on Obama for accepting the prize.”
And what would a more honorable alternative be..?



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Ian

posted October 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm


Ian: umm, hmmm…boy, that’s a hard one…he might have hung up the phone after his 6am call, thought about it, and then called back expressing his gratitude for the honor which he must respectfully decline because he has yet to accomplish anything remotely resembling the creation of peace.
This is a huge shame on all of us. An inaugural address should’t warrant a Peace Prize. Schande.



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Ian

posted October 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm


Ian writes:
“he might have hung up the phone after his 6am call, thought about it, and then called back expressing his gratitude for the honor which he must respectfully decline because he has yet to accomplish anything remotely resembling the creation of peace.”
Obama’s response would be:
“I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.
But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build — a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”
http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/obamaforamerica/gGM45m
Note: “I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.”
What do you think?



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joe

posted October 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm


Maybe Paris Hilton will win next year.



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AJ

posted October 10, 2009 at 7:34 pm


I’m just happy to see that this blog hasn’t become the “Buddhist Democrats Club”; nice to see some variation of perspective out there. It gets a little weird when it becomes a giant stream of people all circle jerking on the last persons’ leftist blathering…. over and over and over again. After a year of eerie blind Obamania, it’s good to see people are starting to re-acquire some healthy critical thinking skills once again.
BTW, my name is not Alex, but not being a fan of Rachel Maddow is actually not illegal. Really.



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joe

posted October 10, 2009 at 7:42 pm


Yes, let’s be proud that our president has won the same award as murdering thug Yasser Arabigfat Liar!



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Your Name

posted October 10, 2009 at 8:39 pm


Is he going to share the $1 Million with those that voted for him?



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BuddhaGirl

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:31 pm


2nd Ian is more on point than first Ian.
And Ethan never said you have to like Rachel Maddow.
Yeesh. The Obama-Haters are worse than the Obama-lovers.
Obama-likers, like me, just tend to keep our mouths shut. He accepted the award with grace, and may come to earn it.
Chill out, haters.



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Hal W. Lanse

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:51 pm


WHY DID OBAMA WIN THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE? THE SHOCKING TRUTH REVEALED HERE!
On October 9th, 2009, President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. He received this award just nine months after taking office and was nominated less than two weeks after he was sworn-in. The awarding of the prize, which stunned many including the President himself, was followed by a firestorm of protest, criticism and bitter invective. People have been questioning why this happened and how it could happen.
I have meditated on the problem and Divine Forces have granted me Insight into the Truth:
BARACK OBAMA WON THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE BECAUSE HE DESERVED TO WIN THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE.
Okay; okay. Calm down. Take a deep breath. The Truth can be overwhelming and a bit hard to swallow. First, allow me to clear away one myth: “Obama doesn’t deserve the prize because he hasn’t accomplished peace on the world stage.” Let me respectfully point out that there is no world peace, never has been and probably never will be. Oh, we can contain situations and reduce tensions, even stop some killing now and then. All of which amounts to nothing less than acts of Divinity. But world peace? Not bloody likely.
Here’s a point to ponder: Not one Nobel Peace Prize winner has achieved world peace. None of them has achieved anything that’s even lasting. That would be impossible to do without stopping the thrust of Time. Life and its inter-activities are forever transforming our World. Time washes away all things in its wake. Nothing lasts. (Shout-out to the Buddha!) One day’s accomplishment is the next day’s dust. The only thing we can hope to do is to commit acts of generosity, compassion and healing for transitory moments during the brief span of Time we call our Lives. That’s it.
Has Barack Obama has given our Nation and the World Community any of these gifts? Damn straight he has. He has given us all one of the great healing gifts: Hope. Hope for deeper communication worldwide. Hope for a deepening sense of brotherhood. Hope for more compassionate healthcare. Hope that a greater diversity of people can take on leadership roles in our Nation. Hope that the man at the top, even if he makes mistakes (which of course he will) will at least act boldly, decisively and fearlessly in the interests of his own Nation and of the Humanity to which he belongs. For the moment, millions are breathing a sigh of relief because Barack Obama is in the White House.
Does our President deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? He deserves more than that. He deserves a kiss on the head from God.



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Estelle

posted October 11, 2009 at 12:19 am


@ Hal, @ Rachel Maddow:
Potential laureates included Hu Jia, locked up since December 2007 after exposing government abuses and the plight of China’s AIDS sufferers, and Wei Jingsheng, a onetime electrician who spent 18 years in prison after brazenly challenging former leader Deng Xiaoping to bring democracy.
I’ll leave my comments at that.



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Estelle

posted October 11, 2009 at 12:24 am


@buddhagirl:
it is dividing the world into neat groups such as “obama haters” and “obama-likers” that we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a conundrum to begin with. That kind of thinking is rather reminiscent of GW Bush. “you’re either with me or against me”…. not so buddhist.



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Hal W. Lanse

posted October 11, 2009 at 8:14 am


Estelle, where did you get the idea that “you’re either with me or against me” is not so Buddhist? We so love our romantic illusions, don’t we? Read the Lotus Sutra, Estelle. It strictly forbids interaction with other religions (not to mention actors and authors of secualr literature; so fuck you Tolstoy). Many Buddhists divide the history of the religion into two movements: Hinayana and Mayana (the Lesser Vehicle and the Greater Vehicle). In other words: Hang out at the Theravadan monastary down the block and you’re rolling with the idiots, the guys who follow the Hinayana path. Joining a sangha can provide wonderful support. It can also become pathetically exclusionary. A year or so ago I read an article in Tricycle pointing out that it’s very common for Buddhist teachers to put down the beliefs of other Buddhist schools. I myself once heard an SGI leader (with a smirk on his face I might add) refer to Zen as the lowest form of Buddhism. Sorry, Estelle, you’ve been misinformed. “You’re either with me or against me” is sooo Buddhist. Would that it were not.



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eirenety

posted October 11, 2009 at 11:56 am


Why not flood Obama with a mass of congratulations, urging him to turn hope into world changing action in the coming months . . .
on nuclear disarmament,
peace instead of war in Afghanistan and Iraq,
and a fair and lasting peace deal in the Middle East.
By going to avaaz.org you can send your congratulations direct to the White House.
with metta . . . eirenety.



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Anan E. Maus

posted October 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm


This was clearly an political statement by the Nobel committee.
As was their decision in 2007 to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore.
I certainly believe that global warming is an imminent threat to human survival. And if awarding Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize helped to bring attention to that, I don’t know that it is the worst thing in the world to do.
In addition to everything else, America was the embodiment of the brutal murder and oppression of African-Americans for hundreds of years. So, awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the first African-American president, one who has already made powerful overtures of peace to the Arab world, and to North Korea and on….again, I don’t think it is the worst thing in the world.
But of course it is a political statement by the Nobel Committee and not an award of merit.
Does it cheapen the Nobel Peace Prize? Yes, of course, it does. But this is hardly the first time that award has been given to a controversial figure.
If folks recall, Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t think folks can really say that his award was not as a result of political lobbying by those with conservative politics.
In the case of Kissinger, some folks think he helped facilitate the deaths of millions in Southeast Asia and to award him the Nobel Peace Prize was the ultimate mockery of the award. Yes, he and President Nixon did help bring the Vietnam era to a close and he did help start arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union, and I do think he did want to try and help create world peace.
So, again, this is hardly the first time a controversial figure has been awarded the prize.
And I fully agree, true men of peace, like Thich Nhat Hahn are the real peacemakers and the real ones who deserve the aware. Thich Nhat Hahn was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (by no less than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
I think folks will find that most contests in which prizes are awarded are heavily influenced by political factors outside of merit. Whether that is the Academy Awards, the Emmys, political appointees and on and on and on.
I think that a contest which truly awards on merit alone is the rare exception to the rule. Do I think it should be the norm? Of course. But let us not get skewed here in thinking that this award, is much different than just about every award that exists. Go look at the list of Academy Award winning actors…and then go watch a British production of Shakespeare by a leading company. In those companies, the extras with one line have more talent than many of our Oscar winners.
Human desire, unchecked, moving into greed, still rules the material world and the decisions made in the world. And people who act on the basis of truth – whether that is Confucius, Socrates, Gandhi, Lincoln or Dr. King…are so rare that they are honored as the great people of history.
And how come people just can’t stop for a second and be proud…that, hey, the President of the United States just won the Nobel Prize. Why can’t it exist in that realm, even if for just a moment? The political divide has gotten so extremely vicious, it seems that all anyone can see is red.
And that, helps no one and helps destroy just about everything.
gassho



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mf

posted October 12, 2009 at 2:01 am


JOHN DOE said: “I don’t know were the other candidates, but surely there is someone in the world that is more deserving then this young, nieve, ignorant little…”
I for one find this comment distressing and unfortunate. I have never commented here before but after reading that I felt compelled to respond. I didn’t copy & paste the entire offensive comment because I don’t want to perpetuate it. To me, John Doe’s language smacks of borderline hate speech particularly when he slurs our President and disrespects him by calling him out of his name. By all means, express your opinion, (free speech, etc) but I think it is unnecessary to stoop to such levels in order to do so. You may not realize it but you sound jealous and bitter. I wonder how you look at ordinary black folks if our President (who is very accomplished) brings about such vitriolic hatred in you. I also hope that the comment is removed.
@JOHN DOE: “Wait till Iran continues to ignore these sanctions that are on them, continues to develop nuclear weapons, and see where that leads. Open a history book, when Germany invaded Poland, the world stood by and did nothing. Sounds pretty familiar.”
President Obama did not create the situation in Iran, but he is addressing it. Maybe not to your liking but to say he is not doing anything is inaccurate. Your projection of anger at him for the current situation is misplaced. And if I recall correctly, in my history book (I don’t know which one you’re reading), England declared war on Germany when Poland was invaded. That wasn’t exactly the world standing by and doing nothing.
and speaking of history…
@Alex: “The argument that Obama deserves it simply for being the first African-American president just doesn’t hold weight…”
As far as I’m concerned it DOES hold weight (note: this is not what Maddow argued). Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of this country would know that electing an African American President (since that is how he defines himself, I do too)in the U.S. was UNIMAGINABLE, even three years ago when Pres. Obama began his campaign. People who try to diminish, minimize and otherwise discount that fact and the amazing shift in consciousness required to bring it about, are hiding their heads in the sand. RACE DOES MATTER.
I also believe that people outside of the US can see clearly the significance of Pres. Obama’s role on the world and domestic stage more easily than those in the US because we are blinded by the centuries of racism and oppression that this country was built upon. Dismantling it, the racism & oppression that is, continues to be no mean feat. If everything he does makes you angry, if his very existence makes you angry, then fine, stay angry. But I take it as a sign of the last bitter death throes of an old consciousness.
On a last note, I recommend the short story “Everything that Rises Must Converge”, by Flannery O’Conner. Not a Buddhist text, no, but enlightening nonetheless.
http://www.geocities.com/cyber_explorer99/oconnorconverge.html
namaste.



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catusha

posted October 13, 2009 at 6:22 pm


I love obama, feeling compassion and kindness to him i also had to ask “for What?”. If you can explain it to me i am all ears and have a mind to welcome a reasonable explaination.



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catusha

posted October 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm


It is a high honor to him to be awarded this nobel peace prize. So, maybe i don’t want to judge the why of it and be simply happy for him which i am it is just that perhaps there are other candidates, i am interested in how he was selected, what were the thoughts of the award panel. namaste’



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