Dec 15, 2008

On Presidents and Thrown Shoes

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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.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always wondered what happened to the shoe bomber...glad that he is as feckless as ever as ever in his efforts at letting the other shoe drop. Alas, a shoe in the bush is worth two in the hand. My question for you is: Can Obama fill Bush's shoes?

hauptcouture2009 said...

http://krunchd.com/bushshoemix
Compilation of Iraqi Bush-ShoeBomber Remixes ;
http://digg.com/world_news/Bush_ShoeBombing_goes_VideoRemix_Viral

historymike said...

Odd that this post would attract so many comment-spammers. Cleanup in progress....

historymike said...

Anonymous:

Nice. This topic is ripe for footwear-related puns.

microdot said...

When I view and review the video, which is being played and replayed on the worlds media, I find the serene unblinking non reaction of al-Maliki striking...to him, this is just another day at the office.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mikey...just give the heel, the boot!

historymike said...

Microdot:

I saw the same videos, and al-Maliki scarcely evenntwitched. Maybe living in the Green Zone is a good way to get used to unexpected assialants, or maybe al-Maliki has become so used to the idea that every breath could be his last that a flying shoe was no big deal.

Anonymous said...

The episode gives a whole new meaning to the Nike slogan!

ProfessorSeal said...

I am impressed with the cat-like reflexes of the Secret Service. I understand getting one shoe off and thrown, but two? They should have had that guy down like a calf at a rodeo.

historymike said...

Thanks for the thoughts, all - I got bogged down with grading and did not respond individually to the thoughtful (and sometimes funny) comments.

kooz said...

I was angered at a CNN "news anchor" who said she couldn't help but laugh when she saw the footage. What ticks me off? The fact that if the guy would have thrown the shoe at Obama...CNN anchors and those like her would have spun the story much differently.

It would have been a huge story of concern for Obama. They would have been offended that someone would do that to our president. But, its Bush...so they laugh.

I do find humor in this too. I find it funny that the shoe thrower is now being beaten and tortured. You see, when you are stupid enough to throw a shoe at the very man who gave you that freedom...then you deserve torture.