George W. Bush, dodging soles of disdain
News of the Iraqi reporter who hurled a pair of shoes at President George W. Bush caused me to rub my eyes and make sure that I read the headlines correctly. After all, it is not every day that a world leader is the recipient of airborne footwear, and given the tightly-controlled nature of presidential appearances, I am surprised that the loafer-chucking Muntader al-Zaidi even managed to take off his shoes, let alone fire them in rapid succession at Bush.
Yes, I know that the dirty soles of footwear are a form of disrespect in some parts of the world, and I know that Bush is far from the most popular world leader at the moment. Yet there is something especially surreal about a used pair of shoes being launched at a world leader.
I am not sure if I would have laughed, scratched my head, or frowned were I to have been present at the brogue-based bombardment. Certainly the Bush presidency earned a measure of anger, and I suppose that different cultures are entitled to their own forms of expression. Still, the journalist in me scoffs at the idea of reporter-as-center-of-attention, although admittedly he had access to Bush that outsiders lack.
I also wonder if the catapulted shoes will only reinforce stereotypes about people in the Middle East, like the way that Nikita Khrushchev was lampooned as an uncivilized barbarian for the infamous shoe-banging incident that occurred in 1960 at the United Nations. While far be it from me to advise other people on the optimal methods of political protest, perhaps activists might consider the PR ramifications before flinging their footwear.
Or not. Maybe Muntader al-Zaidi pays little attention to what Western pundits like me think, and that his real goal was to speak for millions of people who did not have a voice in the events of the last decade in the region. In that case, Muntader al-Zaidi achieved his political aims, if not those of his projectile ambitions.