[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
Update: Hot Air has a powerful video on the presentation today.
Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to an empty suit, harming the prestige of the award. This year represents a bit of a redemption, as they awarded it to an empty chair.
Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s absence was marked with an empty chair at the ceremony to award his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway on Friday.
This marks the second time in its more than 100-year history that neither the recipient or any representative was unable to collect the prestigious prize.
The last time was 1936, when Adolf Hitler prevented German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky — who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp — from claiming the award.
Three others — cold War dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Lech Walesa, as well as Burma democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi — had their prizes accepted by family members.
Because Xiaobo could not attend, his gold medal, Nobel diploma and cash prize were not handed out. Instead, Norwegian Nobel Committee officials say they hope to give them to the jailed laureate at a later date.
In his comments at Oslo’s City Hall, Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said the decision should not be seen as “a prize against China,” as he urged officials in Beijing to “become used to being debated and criticized.”
As the NYT notes, Mr. Liu’s family was being prevented from leaving the country, as well as the winner himself. And on a tangential note, you know those crazy Taiwanese animators? Well, they created a serious video about Liu, which you can view here. I mean, there is literally nothing funny about this video at all and it’s not trying to be funny. Watching it, you can almost feel the pain of the Taiwanese. They consider themselves, after all, as Chinese as the mainlanders. So in a real way, Taiwan is like a colony of escaped slaves circa 1850 or so, looking to see millions of their brothers and sisters in bondage and knowing they can do little to help.
But while this year’s award is a significant improvement over giving the prize to Obama for merely becoming president, or to Al Gore for making up a pack of lies about the environment (because somehow scaring everyone about the environment and demonizing modern, industrialized countries will automatically lead to peace breaking out), this appears to be a righteous choice. This is more in line with what we think of when we think of an appropriate recipient of a peace prize, such a Martin Luther King, Jr. I have long argued that the fact Dr. King was awarded this prize did more to help the reputation of the prize than the prize did to help Dr. King’s reputation.
But at the same time, is peace really the answer, here? Even Dr. King recognized that there were times when non-violence just didn’t work:
Martin Luther King Jr. once said of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyred World War II pastor, “if your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi. But if you enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.”
Bonhoeffer, of course, was one of many people who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. And like Abraham Lincoln, I see all issues of politics, global or local, through the words of the Declaration of Independence. All persons are created equal, including the Chinese. They are equally entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the only legitimate government is one that rules by consent of the people and honors those rights. Our rebellion against England was well-justified, but our grievances against England at that time pale in comparison to the grievances of the Chinese people against their oppressors. And Tiananmen Square proved that their opponent does not have a conscience. In fact, only a handful in the army showed any conscience at all that day:
A person like the famous “Tank man” lacks nothing in courage. But he needs more than the courage to face death; he needs the willingness to fight for the freedom of himself and others. The Chinese need a revolution, in favor of representative democracy.
Update: This is nitpicky, but if you look at the gold square lettering, it spells out LXB, obviously for Liu Xiaobo. Which is all well and fine, but that isn’t really how his name is written. That is the transliteration from Chinese. So if we want to be culturally sensitive, and perhaps send a message to the Chinese people, shouldn’t it just be the Chinese characters, whatever they are? You would probably be able to write his entire name in almost the same amount of space.
Update II: In the comments Dmac mentions another disgrace in the Nobel’s past: Arafat.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]