Friday, December 11, 2009

Sailors Live by Higher Standards

This past week I have received an incessant barrage of emails from frostbite sailors deliberating on and working through the legal, ethical, and moral issues of a simple mark rounding. The thread began with the subject line “I love this sport and the people in it,” and went on to admire a sailor whose boom almost imperceptibly grazed a mark, and who, without a single word from a competitor, penalized himself with the appropriate turn. In a second incident, a boat taking a penalty turn was hit by another, out of control boat rounding the mark. Both sailors took a penalty. The ensuing discussion considered all the rules that might be involved and tried to sort out fault. As the subject line suggests, the people and the sport imbued with the ethical standards of the Corinthian Spirit deserve high praise and admiration. Those who can really live up to the standards to which they aspire and profess surely deserved to be honored.

Contrast this with yesterday’s Noble Peace Prize ceremony. President Obama was in the very uncomfortable position of having to defend war while receiving the world’s highest award for peace. Even being the avowed product of the ethos of Dr. Martin Luther King did not stand in the way of explaining the inexplicable and oxymoronic use of war to promote peace. He eloquently elevated doublespeak to its highest pinnacle in defending the actions of a country which almost always chooses war over peace as a methodology to achieve world stability. He may be a worthy president of the world’s latest empire, and in the end, his strategy may prove to be correct (though I am highly skeptical), but he is clearly not a man of peace. He is no Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela, or even George Marshall.

All of this is an ironic twist on the “audacity of hope.” The Nobel Committee bestowed the prize on the sole basis of hope, and Obama truly has inspired hope on a global scale. But promoting hope over actual deeds is certainly audacity on the part of the Committee. And it may have taken even greater audacity to accept an admittedly undeserved award for peace after escalating a war.

If measured only by deeds, there is no man, woman or child on the planet who has committed more human and material resources to war in the last year than President Obama. This includes the most evil of the evil (who may have more hateful intentions, but far less power). I would have to regrettably declare that he is actually the least deserving person on earth to be awarded a peace prize this year. Such are the ironies of history and such are the impossibly difficult choices of the most powerful head of state in today’s world, that what I believe to be a fundamentally decent, peace loving man, feels compelled to make such an unpeaceful choice.

This begs the question (at least in the nearly random cross connections of my mind): If Obama had been a sailor, would he have made different choices in terms of accepting the Peace Prize. If, in addition to admiring Dr. Martin Luther King, he had experienced fellow sailors, high school and college sailing coaches, club racers, sailing judges, and high level competitors all preaching the Corinthian spirit (and for the most part living it), would he not have the good conscience to call a penalty on himself and withdraw from consideration. Even the best sailors make mistakes, but they accept a penalty and move on. I would like to think that a fellow sailor would have found a way to do the honorable thing.

Is it too late to save the Nobel Peace Prize from cynicism and meaninglessness? I say no! There is still time to RE-GIFT the award. Is there a worthy recipient in this war torn world? Did the Nobel committee have a runner-up, like the alternate chosen to do the duties of Miss America Vanessa Williams when she was deemed unworthy? Can we pick someone who worked for peace in a previous year? Can we honor someone posthumously? So who is the best person to never have won the Nobel Peace prize? Or who deserves to get it twice? Submit your nominations here.

I nominate Mahatma Gandhi. A true man of peace. And at least once, according to the poster shamelessly stolen from, he was a sailor. Give the award to him, and give the money to the starving people of India. Then at least the award could maintain its integrity.

Mahatma Gandhi Indian Nationalist and Spiritual Leader Sailing from Boulogne to Folkestone

1 comment:

  1. Jesus never won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    I'm not sure if he was a sailor but he certainly hung out a lot with a bunch of fisherman who probably were sailors. And he could walk on water which is a handy skill if you fall off your boat.

    I don't think he is on record with his views specifically about Rules 31 and 44, but I think that "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" implies that he had a pretty dim view of people who break the Rules.

    Of course some folk may have a problem about making the award posthumously, but as he rose from the dead that shouldn't be a problem. I'm not sure if he would be available to go to Norway to accept the prize as I hear he's pretty busy these days what with having to answer all the prayers he receives and whatnot. But you never know. Awarding him the Peace Prize might persuade him to make a comeback.