Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Just a Shoe

If I ever get around to compiling a list of defining moments in '08 - the Bush shoe incident will top the list. Seldom has Dubyah given me much to laugh about (lots to cry about, though) during his reign of incompetency, but today's headlines gave me plenty to snicker at.

The act of shoe hurtling is profound. On so many levels.

My first reaction, knowing little about Iraqi culture, was to snort and comment to my attentive canine crew that Dubyah didn't even rate a pie in the face.

But reading further - fortunately the New York Times was astute enough to provide cultural context for its readers - brought me to greater appreciation of the gesture.

Shoe-throwing. The ultimate insult in Iraq. Could it get any better?

And not just one shoe, but two shoes. Muntadar al-Zaidi is my new hero.

Not only do I love the fact that this reporter would stand up and throw his shoes at a man that deserves so much more thrown at him, but that he would do it first with one shoe and a shouted comment, and then with the other (no word as of yet whether reporters now will have to go to press conferences shoeless, or if TSA will implement a ban on all shoes at airports in response to this latest "terrorist" act).

I also greatly appreciate that Iraq has something that is universally understood throughout that country (and I suppose throughout the Arab world) as the insult nonpareil. The US, melting pot that it is, lacks these gestures of ultimacy. We have no single pejorative, no pithy insult or curse that hurtles from deliverer to recipient and leaves no room for alternate interpretation.

My father has always famously (and bitterly) complained that English was a piss-poor language for cursing. He noted that anglo imagination was limited to off-color commentary about sexual intercourse, mothers, and illegitimate offspring, and lacked the breadth of creativity of the Hungarians, who, in addition to the aforementioned subjects, utilize the entire pantheon of Catholic saints, and incorporate their legacy as horse-riding people of the steppes to boot.

How the Iraqi puppet government handles the disposition of their shoe-throwing reporter will be telling. Will it be an all expenses-paid trip to the lovely isle of Cuba on the Gitmo Express? Will he have as his cell mate that other shoe-loving "terrorist" that tried to take down a plane with his sneaks? Prior to the Bush years, no one would seriously consider internment without end as possible for someone who was simply engaging in his right of free expression (which is, after all, nominally what Bush says our government is seeking to secure in Iraq), but nowadays all bets are off.

It takes no stretch of imagination to suspect that Muntadar may pay a serious price for his outburst. One can hope, however, that the court of world opinion will prevail, thus preventing Bush, al-Malaki and their minions from extracting punishment for this very public humiliation. Otherwise, Muntadar might find himself one among the throng of "enemy combatants" rotting away in the tropics.

I realize that by now most will have seen the huge variety of video clips of this incident out on the web, but still, I cant resist embedding one here. It is truly is a fitting coup d' grace to the Bush Era Error.

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