Honestly . . . Who Throws a Shoe?

As I’m sure you are all very aware of by now, George W. Bush was the latest victim of a shoe throwing attack. This incident occurred at a press conference held in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday evening as President Bush said farewell to Iraq. As the President was speaking, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush who successfully ducked for cover. It was an obvious statement from one unhappy Iraqi to the Bush administration.

The reaction from Bush was nothing out of the ordinary. He laughed it off with his usual smug expression and tried to joke about the incident. The reaction of Americans back home was varied, but it does appear many saw it as embarrassing and ‘childish’. Both Bush and some Americans seem to miss the whole point in the Iraqi throwing his shoe. Bush tried to dismiss the incident and asked the question:

“So what if a guy threw his shoe at me?” – President Bush 12/14/2008

Can we really expect President Bush after all his years in office to look beyond his simple concept of the action and analyze the cultural significance of an Iraqi civilian throwing a shoe at him? The media has bombarded us with stories and articles describing exactly what this means in the Muslim world. It is an obvious sign of contempt and it was meant as a sign of defiance as Bush leaves the White House. Whether Americans understood it or not is irrelevant. The journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi who threw his shoes is now a national hero in Iraq and thousands took to the streets to protest against President Bush, inspired by this man’s actions.

What I find really ironic is that we are now seeing old pictures and footage of Iraqi civilians defacing Saddam’s fallen statue with their shoes. This happened back in 2003 when America invaded Iraq. The difference is that Saddam Hussein was President of Iraq from 1979 until 2003, for more than 20 years. It only took President Bush about 5 years to get the same shoe treatment.