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Obama Becomes Superman

This wasn’t the topic I was planning on writing about today, but I think I would be remiss if I didn’t. President Barack Obama has already joked about being born on Krypton and talked about ridding the world of all nuclear weapons and now we has become a symbol of peace for the entire world.

Today, President Obama surprisingly won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. He didn’t win this honor because of the actions he had taken, but rather because of the hope of actions not yet taken. Obama’s speech in Cairo earlier this year probably helped to put many in the Islamic world at peace after the 8 years of Crusade rhetoric from the Bush Administration. But that alone was not the reason for the honor.

The Nobel committee believes that Obama can do more. They are hopeful that he will be able to quell international terrorism, help to reverse global climate change, foster global diplomacy and international relations, and work to rid the world of all nuclear weapons.

I think part of this honor is a way of inspiring America back to the role of global leader and international community builder that we lost during the Bush years. Under Bush, America got the global reputation as being a bully rather than a leader and as a nation who goes it alone rather than a nation who unites other nations together in common cause. For Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t recognition of achievement, but rather a call to action… not only for the President but for others to rally behind the President.

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  • Kat

    When I read the title of this blog, I thought i was going to have to argue with you, but you surprised me.(:
    The Nobel Committee sited his ” extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” Just the fact that he’s trying to strenthen our relationships internationally and trying to undo damages from the Bush Administration deserves a prize. I don’t think he’s Superman but I think it’s a great sign of HOPE. I think it’s rediculous that so many people, especially ones who voted for him, think he’s not done enough. He’s only been President for 9 months! Did they REALLY think he walked on water?

    • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

      I have to say that as President, Obama hasn’t done enough.

      • Josh

        Agreed. He has even broken several promises, specifically not repealing but supporting faith based initiatives and repealing don’t ask don’t tell and other anti-gay practices in gov’t and gov’t related areas. There is a lot more too, I’m hopeful, but… Well there is no way he is doing all he can do.

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=413747468 Robb

    The credibility of the Nobel Peace Price has been in question since Arafat received the award. Now a President serving as commander and chief of a two front war is the recipient? Really? This isn’t a slight on Obama, but rather to question the Nobel institution.

  • ShaunPhilly

    I agree with much of this, but I want to address some issues of nuance.

    I don’t know of anyone trying to drive anyone out of any movement. If anyone is even attempting this, I think they are not thinking it through. As many have already said (in many blogs I read), I am not sure what that even would look like; I’m not sure that’s a meaningful idea to try and implement. How do you kick someone out of a movement? You can kick someone out of a sub-group, but that’s not the same.

    I only know of people who don’t wish to interact with some people, sometimes for good reasons sometimes for bad reasons. There are people I don’t wish to interact with as well, and I am willing to bet you feel the same about some people. I’ll bet we even have some overlapping lists there. (Would you want to hang out with Tomkinson?). The bottom line is that there already exist differences of values between people in the community, and indicating those points of disagreement and differing values does not kick anyone out of anything, nor does it create the rifts. It really just identifies the rifts, which is done for many good reasons (Greta Christina has articulated those reasons in the past quite well).

    I want everyone under the same roof, I just don’t see a roof big enough for that. I think it’s too difficult a task (right now; that may change), and I prioritize improvement over mere growth. Improvement, whether personal or communal, requires intense deconstruction, criticism, and potential pain. Think about the Socratic method here; did his conversations seek to make his interlocutor feel closer to Socrates or to draw him to see some fault in his argument, in a larger attempt to see the Truth? Does seeking the truth and improvement in any group of people result in loss of friends, allies, etc? If a family member stops inviting you to dinner because you came out as an atheist, did you kick them (or them you) out of your family or did the existing difference, when spoken aloud, force the undesired split? Said family member does not kick you out of the family, they just don’t see you as a person they want at dinner. I nor anyone I read regularly seek to kick anyone out of atheism, we seek to create an atheist subgroup for people who care about some intersectional issues (like gender, racism, etc), and point out others who are causing harm or are grossly in error related to those issues.

    Specific example: I would never seek to kick someone like Justin Vacula out of any movement, I simply think his values and ideas are quite often wrong (especially as they pertaining to gender issues) and until he either understands that (and stops associating with the slymepit, which is a group as near to irredeemable as I’ve seen) or at least starts trying to have a real conversation with those he demonizes (yes, others demonize him too…) many of us simply do not wish to socialize with him. We don’t want him at our parties. When I’m at Women in Secularism this weekend, I will not interact with him, because there are too many people I want to see and too little time to see them. Perhaps I’ll talk with him some other time.

    I often read the work of people I don’t personally like, agree with, or share common values with (such as Vacula). Personally I find quite a few people in our larger community to be not worth my valuable social time. I have fundamentally different values with some of them and while I think they can be reasoned with, that isn’t the issue. The issue is that when we argue, the reasons we give are rationalizations for more fundamental values which are not being addressed. Pure intellectual arguments are great, but when they are imprecise avatars for emotional, moral, and value differences, then they are not authentic discussions but mere verbal intercourse, or masturbation of only one person does the talking.

    Some ideas ARE worthy of ridicule and attack. And on rarer cases some people deserve some level of social punishment for truly egregious behavior, but I believe in allowing people the room and respect to learn and grow from their mistakes. Some people are not so forgiving, and I have issues with that lack of forgiveness and compassion (but I don’t see it as bullying). Sometimes a person’s leeway runs out (just like with the Catholic Church, my opinion of which is pretty close to irredeemable), and some of those people are in the atheist community. They are not completely beyond redemption (from me, not the community. I nor anyone else can speak for “the community”, which is why kicking anyone out of it is an absurd notion), but until I see motions in the right direction, I don’t see the point of paying much attention to such people.

    You said:

    “Claiming that we are right and everyone else is wrong doesn’t solve the problem. Name calling, labeling, cyber-bullying, “call-out” culture, etc. doesn’t solve the problem either”

    Nobody is always right, nor is anyone always wrong (well, maybe the WBC…). But I disagree with the idea that calling people out is not helpful. Whistle-blowers are a useful part of any culture, and it’s intention is to bring attention to a problem, and not to make social pariahs. It’s part of the solution. Name calling is sort of childish, but there is a difference between identifying behavior and pure teasing. If someone says something racist, their behavior is racist. I agree with Ian Cromwell (on FtB) who (seemingly) agrees with you that calling them a racist is not helpful. In fact, that’s a fairly common idea over at ftB, thinking about it. Distinguishing between calling out behavior, rather than a person, except in egregious circumstances or circumstances where identifying the person is inevitable, is an important nuance here that I think you may have missed, mostly because you have not been reading certain blogs that make those arguments all the time. I don’t blame you for not knowing what you don’t read, but I think some cause for fault exists for refusing to read them at all.

    As for labeling, well, I don’t understand the problem with that. Identifying what things are is not a problem. Perhaps you could clarify what you meant by ‘labeling’? I’m an atheist, and so are you. I just labeled you. Is that something I should not have done? Perhaps I’m not understanding.

    Finally, bullying…. Well, it’s crappy when it happens, and certainly there are people of various sides here that are guilty of it, but I almost never see it. It certainly is NOT systemic at places I read. Harsh tones are sometimes common, and there are people who are quite critical and unforgiving, but bullying? I think we use that term indifferent ways. Would condemning the Catholic Church the way many atheists do be bullying? I would like to hear your perspective on bullying more specifically. You use that term, but I don’t think how you apply is is consistent with how I think about the term.

    For me, it implies having power over, using that power in intimidating ways, and being non-proportionally cruel to another person or group of people. Without the power, bullying cannot occur. Leaders of groups have power (and only for those groups), so they could bully (potential) members of that group. Yes, big names in the community have some ideological power, but you have to buy into that power for the potential bullying to be real. Those who do buy into that power are part of the problem. I don’t know of any people in leadership positions who ask for that ideological power. In fact, I often see them doing the exact opposite.

    So, hypothetically, if PZ Myers were to write a post saying “Staks Rosch is out of the movement! He should be a pariah, ignored, and everyone should hate him”, it simply would be a powerless proclamation, and would be absurd. He might (potentially) be an ass-hat for saying it, and those who actually followed him would be idiots, but it would not be bullying. Rebecca Watson, when she said she’d stop supporting Richard Dawkins, was explicit in saying she was not telling anyone else to stop doing so as well. She was announcing her decision and gave her reasons. When they kicked Thunderf00t off of FtB, they were not kicking him out of the movement. They just dis-invited him from their party.

    When you received criticism for your atheist of the year and subsequent “token” comment, nobody was bullying you. You were being criticized for what amounted to some mistakes on your part, and I hope that you see that they were mistakes. Anyone who sees you as a pariah because of that criticism is an idiot, and should probably be ignored. If they are the bullies, then the bottom line is that they are not in any real power anyway. (I talked with Matt Dillahunty about that issue over dinner last year, and he said that he holds no ill feelings about it at all, for some context).

    None of that is bullying, so the question is what is bullying? What examples of it from people in any significant position do you have in mind? Asshole commenters, harsh toned criticism, and trolls do not systemic bullies make.

    [As a final note, I want to add that I still consider you a genuine friend,. You are one of the people, even if we disagree or run in different atheist circles, that I do want to spend my valuable social time with. I value you and hope you don't feel alienated from me because of my recent criticisms.]

  • http://twitter.com/OhioAtheist1 OhioAtheist

    Great blog. I agree wholeheartedly. With respect to ShaunPhiily’s comment, I do believe some are trying to drive others out of the movement. There has been the petition for the removal of an individual from the board of a skeptic/humanist/atheist organization in Pennsylvania (which was successful, as the person resigned), as well as calls for the resignation or removal of the CEO of the CFI. Whether these calls for the removal of the CFI CEO are even heard or taken serously, I don’t know. But it is happening. Some people are so black-and-white, so inflexible that any dissenting opinion must be quelled, and in some cases, with extreme prejudice. Until this ends (I am skeptical that it will, any time soon), progress is next to impossible. As someone fairly new to the movement, I am very disappointed by this. We are at odds with ourselves, and we cannot move forward.