Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Peace Prize’

Letter From New York 04 30 15 A day without rain and with hope…

April 30, 2015

It is, unbelievably, the last day of April. It feels as if the month has skidded by, careening away from me. I started it in India and then returned and blinked and we’re at the end of the month!

Today, according to yesterday’s weather forecast, was to be cloudy and rainy. It actually is fairly sunny and warm, not as warm as yesterday but enough that a sweater and a light jacket are enough.

It’s the kind of day I rejoice in.

It is also good today in that Baltimore seems quiet, even as reports begin to come out that Freddie Gray’s neck snapped while in the police van in which he had been placed after he was put in custody. The city is still under curfew; a friend from Baltimore left New York early today to make it back home before the curfew fell.

Hopefully, the news of the day will not ignite another night of riots.

Joining Hillary Clinton in the run for the Democratic Presidential nomination is Bernie Sanders. While a declared Independent, he caucuses with the Democrats. He is, according to reports, a plain speaking man with socialist tendencies and, as one admirer put it, “not afraid to speak truth to power.”

He could peel away some support from Hillary. It will make Iowa interesting, for sure.

In ravaged Nepal, two survivors were pulled from the rubble today, an improbable five days after the quake, one a teenage boy and the other a woman in her twenties.

Frustration continues to grow over the slow speed of aid arriving. Some villages have yet to receive anything from the center. The UN is asking for $415,000,000 to help Nepal through the next three months. Tension continues to grow between the citizens of Nepal and the government.

Cholera and dysentery are real possibilities as the supply of drinking water diminishes.

To the west of Nepal is Iran and the Straits of Hormuz, a strategic shipping zone for tankers and cargo ships. The US Navy announced today that it would escort all American flagged vessels through the Strait after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commandeered the Maersk Tigris, which sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Nestled between Iran and India is Pakistan, where ten men were sentenced to life in prison today for their attack on Malala Yousafzai three years ago. She was shot in the head for her academic activism on behalf of Pakistani girls. Malala, now 17, was sent to Britain for medical treatment, including several surgeries. She was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Kim Jong-un, who was in the news just yesterday for perhaps killing as many as 15 top officials since the beginning of the year, today cancelled his first trip abroad, which was to see Vladimir Putin. It was cancelled, say the Russians, for “internal reasons in North Korea.” This, along with the executions, has led to speculation that the pudgy little dictator’s hold on power is none too strong.

In other news, some NATO officers are concerned that the lull in Ukrainian fighting is giving time for Russia to help prepare another offensive. It appears they have brought in more troops and added to the anti-aircraft weaponry on the ground. On the other side of the equation are reports that Putin is open to an international peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine.

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. There was a ceremony there to celebrate the end of “the American War.” Once enemies, the two countries are becoming closer. 76% of Vietnamese think well of the U.S. Only 16% think well of China.

Today I read a series of articles in the NY Times and from the BBC, written by members of the Vietnamese Diaspora on how their lives have been affected since the end of the war. For some of them, the war is not really over. It continues in their minds and hearts and souls, many having lost relatives who stayed behind, or wondering about mothers who surrendered their babies to strangers to give them a chance in that place called America.

It was heartbreaking to read sometimes.

Louie Andre, a Vietnam vet returning for the first time to that country, said, “if you want to have hope about the future, you have to stop wishing for a different past. The past is what it is.” [Chicago Tribune]

He said he was met with handshakes and hugs. That gives me hope.

Letter From New York, October 12, 2009

October 12, 2009

Or, as it seems to me…

Last Friday, as on most days, I was awakened by the sound of NPR. I had been in a heavy sleep, deeply tired from having awakened at oh dark hundred the day before to catch the early train into the city. The announcer was telling the world that the Nobel Peace Prize had gone to President Barak Obama. I rolled over and buried my head under a pillow, not wanting to get up and wondering how Barak Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize had worked itself into my dream state, as I was sure that Obama and the Peace Prize were part of a very confused dream I was having.

However, it wasn’t a dream – Barak Obama had, indeed, been awarded the Nobel Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons. Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics.” [Announcement of the Norwegian Nobel Committee] I was stunned as I sipped my first cup of coffee of the day, wondering what had caused the Nobel Committee to make this choice? It didn’t seem like he had done anything to deserve this award at this time, even taking in the words of the Committee. Everyone I spoke with seemed perplexed, including friends who are ardent Obama supporters.

Even Obama himself seemed puzzled.

As the weekend progressed, it seemed to me that Obama was awarded both for his aspirations and his attitudes while at the same time the Norwegian Nobel Committee was also rewarding the United States for electing someone who had changed the American dialogue with the world from the bumptious, fractious tone of the Bush era to something more… and here I get stuck for words. Under Obama the tone of American diplomacy has been, well, diplomatic. It has also left doors open as opposed to unilaterally closing them. Whether diplomacy will accomplish something is still to be seen. However, we, at least, aren’t alienating most of the world and most of our allies simply by opening our mouth.

The Nobel Prize to Obama has set off a maelstrom among political pundits giving conservatives an opening to ridicule the President. Senator McCain was thankfully muted, simply proffering congratulations. As puzzling as the award may be, the vitriol with which it has been greeted on the right is, unfortunately, not unexpected. Deeply saddening was an article this week reporting that threats against Obama’s life are occurring thirty times more frequently than they did for his predecessor. This fact reflects badly upon us, a counterpoint to what the Norwegian Nobel Committee seemed to be praising us for – the election of a man of color with diplomatic tendencies who chooses words designed to bridge rather than divide, someone who has reflected hope on many levels on the world stage upon which he acts.

Also happening this weekend was a march on Washington by Gays and Lesbians, a National Equality March, highlighting the desires of the LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered] Community to have full “full Federal equality” including the right to marry and to serve openly in the military. On Saturday night, Obama pledged to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to thunderous approval of the crowds at a Human Rights Campaign even though the President took it on the chin on Sunday morning from some gay activists for not having set a timetable. Within the gay community there has been division over whether energy should have been spent on such a march when so much is happening and needs attending in states like Maine and Washington where important issues will be faced at the ballot box next month.

I am not sure whether energy should be focused at the state or federal level. However, what remains amazing to me is that energy is being focused on both those levels on issues I did not think I would see addressed in my lifetime any more than I thought I would live to see an African–American President.