14 December 2008

He Speaks For Many

People who've been following the story since 2003 will recall that it's supposed to be an ultimate humiliation for an Iraqi to hit someone with a shoe; hence the motif of smacking statues of Saddam Hussein with sandals and such. So here's an Iraqi reporter at a press conference following President Bush's latest and probably last surprise appearance in the country. Various reports have him calling Bush a "dog" and saying "this is the end" as he fires away.

Americans will no doubt look down their noses at such an outburst. Perhaps because we take pride in ours being a representative government, and sometimes act as if ours is the only one, many of us insist on absolute respect for political discourse. Heckling, not to mention displays like today's, don't seem right to many Americans, but why, exactly, should politicians be exempt from humiliation? I can understand if people insist on civility, but sometimes their insistence borders on demanding acquiescence, as if our representatives are accountable to us only on Election Day. I can understand if they insist on dignity or "respect for the office," but sometimes it seems reasonable to state that a representative, even one who could be called "our leader," isn't entitled to dignity any more, has himself disrespected the office, and so shouldn't be able to hide behind it. George W. Bush will probably live out an unrepentant retirement under perpetual Secret Service protection. He may know that many people despise him, but it doesn't hurt to have his shell of complacency shattered every so often. It's going to take more than this, as you can tell from this clip, which includes his comments on the incident.

Maybe if more Americans are willing to sacrifice their spare footwear the point can be made more forcefully. On the other hand, we may end up adopting Muslim habits in this country, and we may have to go shoeless at the White House -- though it might be imprudent for the next President to propose this idea.

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