Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Have Shoe, Will Travel!

By now, everyone and their mothers have heard about the Shoe Hurled ‘Round the World; the now infamous news footage of the Iraqi news journalist hurling his shoes at President George Bush. A search of that particular news footage on You Tube will bring up dozens of clones of the incident.
The audacity (or comedy) factor of the reporter aside, one can’t help but wonder about whether or not this act symbolizes a voice of dissatisfaction among the Iraqi people about the U.S intervention in the country. Almost hours after the incident was made known throughout the news media, large numbers of Iraqi citizens took to the streets in support of the brazen reporter’s actions. Moreover, looking through You Tube’s (and other similar site’s) postings of the incident garners an incredible number of written replies—many also supporting the reporter’s actions—both within and outside of America’s borders.
As I watched CNN break in with the initial news reports of the incident, I actually pictured Vice-President Dick Cheney in a public school somewhere, reading a story to a group of grade school kids. In my vision of events, I imagined an aide walking up to him and whispering in his ear that “the president was almost hit by a flying shoe.” In order to keep up appearance of sturdy leadership, Cheney keeps reading to the unsuspecting kids. A few seconds later, the aide returns to the VP’s side to inform him that “a second shoe has almost hit the president.”

A humorously warped perspective granted, but my vision of the incident was just as comical and unrealistic as the president’s brushing off of the incident with—while admirable—out-of-place humor. True leadership would compel one to examine the symbolic defiance of the act and consider whether or not it represented growing dissent at the U.S. military’s occupation of the country. Maybe the act, the small but growing chorus of worldwide support, the rallies, and the pro-act newspaper editorials indicate that those opposed to the continued American presence in Iraq are becoming just as dedicated to stating their discontent as those who would martyr themselves with the goal of ending the American presence.
Exporting the ideas of Democracy, although laudable, has become tainted by hints of ethnocentrism in our oft-heard response that “the Iraqis should be grateful that we got rid of Saddam for them!” It presupposes that Democracy is the best system for everyone, which is at best debatable among civilized people from various cultures with varying beliefs. Ideas should not be imposed on anyone uninvited, and least of all, not at the barrel of a gun.
Most importantly, American leadership should be more competent, and the citizenry should demand more accountability for a lack of competence. If our leaders are so blinded by, arrogance, personal idealism, and the belief that what we do is in the Greater Interest that they cannot open their minds to the possibility that support for a man throwing a couple of shoes in dissent against American policy represents discontent, then maybe we need to stop viewing that video of the incident so much, and start looking at the Big Picture.


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