more on the nobel peace prize

As I wrote previously, my initial reaction to the news that Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was not only positive, it was profoundly visceral. I checked my email, saw an alert from The New York Times and got literal goosebumps. I was thrilled. And I know there were lots of people out there who felt the same way I did.

But well before lunchtime I was fully aware that there were also lots of people out there who didn’t share my visceral elation. And I’m not just talking about dittoheads mindlessly spouting talking points about Yasser Arafat. I’m talking about people who support Obama. People who voted for him and are just as proud as I am to call him our President, in spite of any and all imperfections in his accomplishments (or lack thereof) since he took office.

My Twitter/Tumblr friend nonlinearmind described it perfectly in his post titled Hey Nobel Committee, you got it wrong.

I volunteered for his campaign, I believed in his message of hope and change, I voted for him, swelled with pride when he was elected, and felt proud when I recently saw him deliver a speech in person. But Nobel committee, you’ve been blinded by his aura, the very cult of personality conservatives love to mock. You’ve reaffirmed your liberal leanings in the eyes of the right and dealt a blow to your own credibility by awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. What, you couldn’t wait for year two to see if he is an actual agent of change or just talks of it?

That speaks to me. Especially the part about giving fuel to conservative critics. As if they needed any more. Another Twitter/Tumblr friend, coyotesqrl, wholeheartedly agreed with nonlinearmind, and added that he was embarrassed. (Another great post was written by insooutso, which I won’t quote here but is well worth reading, as it includes an anecdote about the time he met Elie Wiesel, his personal hero. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He also wrote this:

“The true power of the prophet derives from his moral conviction. And from his courage and persistence in expressing it. He does not represent any political group, nor is he the representative of any social class. Typically, he is alone.”

I hope Obama has the courage to be alone.

It’s worth noting that when I emailed nonlinearmind to ask his permission to quote him in this post, he agreed but also told me that he’d since tempered his opinion.

Yes, feel free to post my view on it.  Although, I must admit, I heard some justification for him winning and it sort of dampened my opposition of him winning it, but not my opposition of the Nobel committee awarding it.  I think he is more deserving of it than I’d originally felt, but that, nonetheless, the Nobel committee was unwise to give it to him, given the work of others who have spent more time and personal effort directed SOLELY at peace and not, necessarily, to win an election or as part of a political party’s overall international strategy (who’s to say Hillary’s international efforts would have been any different?).

What I find interesting about it is that by the end of the day we had both moderated our initially extreme reactions and were more or less in agreement. He didn’t think it was as bad as he’d originally thought, and I didn’t think it was so good as I’d originally thought. We met in the middle. I haven’t taken a scientific sample or anything, but I feel like this is probably a good microcosm of what’s going on across the spectrum of Obama supporters.

Last year I was so emotionally invested in Obama’s potential presidency that I spent a few hundred dollars voting from overseas even though I was unemployed. The night of the election I bawled like a baby. In relief, because up until the moment McCain walked on stage to give his concession speech, I was afraid that something could go wrong, just as it had in 2000 and 2004.

I don’t know. What’s done is done and I’m not going to wish it hadn’t happened. On an intellectual level, I’m curious to see how history will tell this story. On a visceral level, I still love and trust that man with every ounce of my soul.

This week Obama was in Stockholm to accept his award. In his speech he boasted about having prohibited torture and closed Guantanamo, when he has done neither. He spoke of “just war”, when such thing a thing simply does not exist. Honestly, I just don’t get it. I don’t want to be critical. I don’t want to be cynical. I still believe in hope. But, Mr. President? With all due respect? I need you to show me. And I need you to hurry up.

choosing a college major: or how to fly by the seat of your pants

Please note that while the following does indeed constitute something resembling advice, it’s more of a cautionary tale than a how-to essay. Please note as well that I’m almost 33 and still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

When I applied to college, it asked on the application what our intended major was. It wasn’t binding or anything, I guess they just wanted to know my general intention. I wrote “history”. I chose it because I liked it as much as “english” but it was harder (for me) and I thought I shouldn’t pick something that was too easy. 

I’m not saying that makes sense. I’m just saying that was my thought process at the time.

Anyhoo. So I started school and became a history major for no other real reason than I liked it and they wouldn’t make me read any of the dead white people I didn’t care to meet again. I also took French and Spanish every semester because that was my true passion and I just could not resist.

Sophomore year I officially declared my major, got myself an advisor and continued to do my language thing too. The heart of the plot here is that I honestly didn’t give it a whole lot of conscious thought. I just went with the flow. When you’re a liberal arts major it doesn’t even matter that much what you study. You just learn how to write and how to make sense and how to make pseudo highbrow small talk at parties. So I just kept doing what felt right and figured I’d sort myself out re: what I wanted to do with my life eventually.

The sorting? Never happened. I could go on for hours about that part, but it’s besides the point.

Junior year I realized I had enough credits for a French major so I declared that too.

Meanwhile, every summer I was working at a Medicaid managed care plan. After graduation they hired me full-time and so public health and policy became my career. So did marketing, translation and project management. Oh and not-for-profit fundraising. And web design. And event planning. And teaching. All in the same job. Whatever I didn’t know – and there was plenty I didn’t know – I taught myself. I asked lots of questions. I watched and listened to people who knew what they were doing. I let myself be mentored.

I realized long after that what I had learned in college was how to learn. That what I had majored in didn’t really matter and that education merely fine-tuned my mind and gave me lots of tools that were adaptable to all sorts of work. What DID matter was the summer employment. That’s where I learned everything I know about computers. That’s where I learned about office politics. That’s where I learned about the professional world. That’s where I learned that responsibility sometimes means asking for help. That’s where I learned that the most important things you know you know because you did them.

To be honest, the fact that I just kind of fell into a major is something I might go back and change if I could. Now, fifteen years later it’s easy for me to see alternate paths I could have taken. Some of those alternate paths might have been better for me. Like, for example, enjoying the Florida sun and beach and having fun while learning at art institute miami. But there’s no way to know for sure, and, more importantly, everything turned out fine anyway. No matter how much you plan, there will always be something you can’t anticipate. Just keep picking up skills and doing things you find compelling and paying attention as your life’s path takes shape. Don’t expect to start out knowing where you’re going. Don’t worry if you change your mind along the way. And, most of all, just don’t sweat it.

first snow

Snow means work. And a legitimate excuse to wield that broom.

Snow means work. And a legitimate excuse to wield that broom.

If you’re three and a half years old and were born in the Caribbean, you figure snow only exists in movies.

And then when for the first time you see snow fall? With your very own eyes?


growth permits

The other day I realized that Bean’s favorite pair of jeans was suddenly too short for him. Like two inches too short. And I actually had him put on something else because it was bugging me that I could see his ankles.

This morning while getting Bean dressed for school, it became clear that all of his pants are too short for him. I came to the conclusion that over the last two weeks he has gotten two inches taller.

I want to know who authorized this.

And then I want that person fired.


China Swine Flu

A man walks past a graffiti on a wall featuring a crying woman wearing a mask marked with H1N1 in Beijing Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009. China’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that 51 swine flu deaths were reported last week, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country to 104.

(AP Photo and caption via)

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