Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Bow That Shook The World

It was former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who declared that he could only act according to the dictates of his conscience and then leave it up to history to judge the efficacy of his life. Recently the news has been inundated with stories of Obama’s ineptitude in dealing with foreign leaders. In fact, the media has perseverated on this so much, that the real purpose of his current trip has been eclipsed by that redundant story. Rather than see his observance of protocol as irenic, Obama is accused of showing excessive deference to both the Saudi King and the Japanese Emperor. Here are some of the disparaging and truculent comments that various blog and media outlets have posted:

  • "Someone should have kicked his scrawny ass while he was bent over.”

  • “Do we expect anything less from an Islamist?”

  • “Shame on Obama. He needs to be removed from office as quickly as possible.”

  • “An American president should stand erect and polite, and shake hands like a man. No American should ever show ANY deference to ANY Monarch. All Monarchs, including Elizabeth, don’t have 1% of the legitimacy of an American president. They don’t even come close.”

  • “No American should ever bow to any Royal of any family. And it would never be considered disrespect, because they already know Americans do not recognize Royalty.”

  • “I wonder if this was planned… no American should ever bow to anyone, much less the President, and much less to a Saudi.”

  • “I think someone called ‘BOY’, and he’s bending over to say; ‘SUH?’….”

If these were a true reflection of American sentiments we’d be in deep trouble. Fortunately these are just the inane ramblings of brainless Neanderthals. Or are they? I mean, the racial undertone is bad enough, but to arrogantly assume that America should not follow the protocol of nations that we deal with, smacks of the colonialism that destroyed much of Africa. The notion that we don’t recognize royalty is not only misguided and foolish, but portends the kind of soporific tendency that precedes a rude awakening (9/11 happened in large part because we believed we were impervious to any kind of external attack on our own soil).

As is to be expected, Conservative voices weighed in on what has come to be known as the “Japan bow.” William Kristol declared “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.” He further opined that “the gesture bespoke a United States that has become weak and overly-deferential under Obama” Bill Bennett also weighed in on the issue, declaring, “It’s ugly. I don’t want to see it. We don’t defer to emperors. We don’t defer to kings or emperors.” So, what do we really want? According to ‘popular opinion’ Bush was a “bull in a china shop.” Obama is “too deferential.” It’s so easy to Monday-morning-quarterback from the comfort of our own homes, when we don’t have family members dying to preserve our freedom. When we don’t have to give up anything, or make any monumental decisions that alter the course of human history. It’s true that to rule the most powerful nation in the free-world demands a person with a steely carapace, and that fact lends credence to the saying, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

Amazingly, amidst all the judgment and criticism leveled at Obama, he’s apparently accomplishing the purpose for which he’s in Japan. Quoting a senior administration official, Politico.com reported, “I don’t think anybody who was in Japan – who saw his speech and the reaction to it, certainly those who witnessed his bilateral meetings there – would say anything other than that he enhanced both the position and the status of the US, relative to Japan.” I seem to recall that it was actually an American president (Theodore Roosevelt), quoting a West African proverb, who once declared, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That’s my two cents.


Ash said...

i find it an honorable thing to pay respect to your host, and the japanese more than most cultures have a system for which they show one another respect and dignity, something we've lost in america. it's a form of being polite. how could anyone resent that?

Joseph said...

Well said Ash!

Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

Erick said...

Pastor Joseph --- The attitude I have towards Obama he created by not wearing the American flag on his lapel and his crotch salutes. Top that with "this is not a Christian nation" causes me to filter what he does and says. And that is the tip.

Joseph said...

Erick, thanks for being part of the conversation. This post was not meant to establish a political affiliation or leaning, but to simply highlight the inconsistencies and partisan arrogance in the way we tend to judge our leaders. If it's true that all authority is from God (whether the leader is good or bad) then there's something to be said for looking beyond just the politics of the office.

P.S.: I'm not sure that not wearing an American flag as a lapel pin is a reflection of anything beyond the fact that he simply may not like to wear lapel pins.

Joseph said...

Anonymous, if you'd "come out of the closet" and post as an identity we can relate to, we'd be in a better position to have a conversation. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to confess that I didn't really follow much of Obama's visit to Japan. But I did see this story. It made me realise how far there still is to go to promote cross-cultural understanding. Japanese people bow, it's a sign of respect, a greeting and yes to some extent a sign of deference. But that's seen as a good thing, not a sign of weakness. Like I say I didn't really follow the visit, so I am not sure how the Japanese press responded, if at all.