The Significance of a Hurled Shoe

| 12/16/2008 9:51:48 AM

Dirty Shoe

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that in Iraq, having a shoe chucked at you, as President Bush did on Sunday in Baghdad, is a huge slap in the face. If you’re still wondering why, Brian Palmer at Slate breaks it down: shoes are a choice weapon of disrespect “because they’re so dirty.” Though it’s unclear where the tradition originated, “Arabs—and perhaps Iraqis in particular—throw their shoes to indicate that the target is no better than dirt.”

Palmer goes on to explain the significance of feet in various cultures, noting that George W. isn’t the first member of his family to be sullied by shoes: “After the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein installed a mosaic of President George H.W. Bush on the floor of the Al-Rasheed Hotel. Hussein delighted in releasing images of foreign dignitaries stepping on Bush's face.”

Disrespect aside, the shoe incident may be “the best thing that’s happened to Bush in a while,” John Dickerson opines also for Slate. The shoe is being interpreted by opponents and supporters of the Iraq war as a sign of the conflict's failure or success, Dickerson writes, and he analyzes what the reignited popular debate could mean for Bush in his twilight days. Dickerson expects, if nothing else, “a spark of patriotism will kick in when some Americans watch the tape.” If that’s the case, perhaps Bush is looking forward to the farewell he’ll receive from protesters who, according to Politico, now plan to pelt the White House with shoes on his last day in office.

Image by Van Damme M., licensed under Creative Commons.

12/22/2008 10:16:57 PM

The shoe-throwing incident is an eye-opener for people of the Middle East. Six years ago in Baghdad, such an action would have meant blacked-out media and the man's "erasure" along with the shredding of his family. It is stunning to contemplate that real dissension and expression might be possible now in the heart of the area. What a healthy ripple effect this could have. I read where people of the old Soviet block were similarly stunned at the grace of Sen. McCain's concession speech. It was a vigorous model of what the transfer of power can and should look like. This is all good. The truth is we have succeeded in Iraq. Despite the fashionable meme, Pres. Bush has laid some excellent groundwork in the Middle East for Sen. Obama to expand upon. It's part of what makes 2009 and beyond so very exciting and full of hope.

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