Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And... Scene!

So, I've done my share of making fun of George W. Bush. Not any more than my share. Not your share. Don't worry. You could still do a bit more. Be clever. Do something original. And by that, I mean DO NOT THROW A SHOE AT HIM. Why? Because it's been done before. It's tired now. Here it is, first at full speed, then in slow-mo.

I heard a professor interviewed on NPR who made an excellent point: This incident is symbolic because the reporter failed to connect. Had he thrown more effectively, or had Bush failed to duck so quickly, we'd be looking at a very different kind of story. But, as is, it's just symbolic. And what a symbol it is!

According to Iraqi culture (and others, as I understand it), throwing one's shoe at a person is a way of saying, "You are like a dog." Let's examine that for a moment. The subtext is that Iraqis hit their dogs with their shoes. I find this distasteful. Announcing yourself as the kind of person who hits dogs with shoes seems to me to be more insulting to the shoe thrower than the shoe target.

And then there's the text itself: This is a country where people express their displeasure with one another by hurling objects. Bush made light of the incident by comparing it to shouting things at political rallies or waving the ole one-finger-salute, but, unless those symbolic gestures are performed wildly inappropriately, neither will draw blood from the victim, and both are unlikely to spread disease to the intended target. In fact, shouting at someone at a political rally will hurt them with your words, but may hurt the person in front of you with your germs. Not so with shoe throwing, which can transmit the poo from the dog you beat earlier today (probably beaten because he defecated and you stepped in it) all the way across a crowded press conference to the politician with whom you have some disagreement. Imagine if Saddam had thought of this. He could have wiped out many more Iraqis by introducing some lethal-to-humans toxin hidden in dog's food, turning ordinary, angry Iraqis into death tossing terrorists via a common cultural convention. And Saddam would have done it, too, because he was a rotten bastard. I haven't seen his HBO biography, but I'll bet he probably liked to hit dogs with shoes.

Which brings us back to our own would-be-dictator, soon to retire to his own dirty hole in the desert, albeit a very expensive one built in the Dallas suburbs. Personally, I still hold out hope that, like Saddam, he'll be plucked from his hole and brought to justice. I don't want to see him hung, but I want the guy to do some real time. I don't think it will happen, though, so I'll bet this is as close as Bush will come to his just deserts. Which, if you watch the video, is pretty darn close, physically, though in a legal sense a shoe-to-the-noggin would be getting off pretty easy for his crimes. At the very least, I hope this becomes a summation of the man's legacy: While distracting the country with a debate about whether he was stupid or evil, and running it into the ground on the domestic front, Bush took us into a war of choice in Iraq based on false claims including the lie that we would be greeted as liberators. And at the first chance one of these liberated people threw a shoe at him. And, just as he'd ducked responsibility for his misstatements, bad judgments, his choice of cronies, and his high crimes and misdemeanors, he ducked the shoe, too.

This has been a dramatization of a terrible presidency. And... scene.

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