Monday, November 16, 2009

Keeping our eye on the ball.

WASHINGTON (AFP) News photos of President Barack Obama bowing to Japan's emperor have incensed critics here, who said the US leader should stand tall when representing America overseas.
Obama on Monday was in China, having wrapped up the Japan leg of his Asia trip two days earlier. But Washington's punditocracy was still weighing whether or not the US president had disgraced his country two days earlier by having taken a deep bow at the waist while meeting Japan's Emperor Akihito.
Of course, the political media is divided. Conservatives are saying that the bow is a sign of subservience, and that President Obama is showing weakness by bowing at the hand of another world leader.
That's precisely the type of jingoistic thinking that gets us into trouble around the world. Conservatives are looking for trouble and will scream at the first sign of something they don't understand. Technically:
Bows are the traditional greeting in East Asia, particularly in Korea and Japan. However, bowing is not reserved only for greetings. Bowing is a gesture of respect. Different bows are used for apologies and gratitude, to express different emotions, humility, sincerity, remorse or deference, and in various traditional arts and religious ceremonies.
There are a few words that some people aren't familiar with, so I'll repeat them: Respect, sincerity and gratitude. Look them up.
What's interesting is that the people who are screaming are known conservatives and the rest of us ... well, don't particularly care because it doesn't mean anything except "hello," because not everyone in the world shakes hands and says, "How are ya!"
"I don't know why President Obama thought that was appropriate. Maybe he thought it would play well in Japan. But it's not appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign one," said conservative pundit William Kristol.
You're right Bill - you don't know. Gosh, maybe Obama thought it would play well in Japan because ... anyone? ... he was in ... anyone ... Japan!
Some conservative critics juxtaposed the image of Obama with one of former US vice president Dick Cheney, who greeted the emperor in 2007 with a firm handshake but no bow.
"I'll bet if you look at pictures of world leaders over 20 years meeting the emperor in Japan, they don't bow," Kristol said.
Well, that's because Dick Cheney is a jackass and probably didn't bow because he's too pompous and full of himself to be polite. After all, he's the guy who told Senator Patrick Leahy to "fuck himself," so what did they expect? Emperor Akihito is lucky that Cheney didn't shoot him in the face. And, maybe Mr. Kristol could provide some photographs, because I don't trust his opinion.
Can we, just for a few minutes, get over this partisan sniping that people like Fox News eat with a big spoon? It might make for great TV, but it's divisive; and we don't need more division. Conservative - Liberal -- how about American? Could that work for a little while? We're up to our asses in crap and you nitwits are arguing about a greeting in Japan. Seriously. I'm really tired of the fighting.
Besides, would you rather have a president who bows in respect or one who kisses Saudi princes? They're both greetings, after all, right? Here are a couple of photos for you, Mr. Kristol:
Another conservative voice, Bill Bennett, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program: "It's ugly. I don't want to see it. We don't defer to emperors. We don't defer to kings or emperors. The president of the United States - this coupled with so many apologies from the United States - is just another thing," said Bennett.
Hmm ... I guess deference is something we reserve for certain presidents and certain religious folk.
Ugly is as ugly does, Mr. President.


Kevin said...

Loved the "shoot him in the face" reference!

junior alien said...

Don't you have this proverb: "When you're in Rome, do as the Romans do."

Apparantly, other than his predecessors, Obama was cognitively able to transfer it to another culture.

You're a funny country. The whole thing makes me chuckle.