Friday, December 26, 2008

Walk like an Iranian, throw a shoe

I admit it, I am just wasting time. I should be writing a lit review for a grant application, but alas, I just can't seem to stay focused on the work.

I am surprised by how much the shoe throwing journalist has generated buzz. No not by our snarky media in the US,,,,I figured it would be a big deal here. Lots of jokes as has happened. But how Arabs and others in the middle east are responding to it, surprises me. I'm not sure this incident needs Jay Leno to keep it going.

I heard on the BBC this morning, that in Iran, street vendors are setting up targets of Pres Bush and people take out their frustrations by throwing their shoes at him. So, here is my little Iranian street vendor,....

According to Time,

And one major issue will undoubtedly be case of shoe-tossing journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who became a hero on
the streets of Iraq and much of the Arab world after his failed attempt to bean
President Bush at a press conference. Zaidi is to stand trial on New Year's Eve,
Abdul Satar Birqadr, the spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council said Monday,
on charges of "assaulting a foreign head of state visiting Iraq." Even if
putting Zaidi on trial appears to risk igniting public hostility, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
may yet seek to make the case work to his a political advantage ahead of next
month's poll, for which some 17.5 million are registered to vote.

The former speaker of the Iraqi Parliament praised Muntader the shoe thrower as "brave."

The newly resigned Iraqi parliament speaker on Wednesday praised the
journalist who threw shoes at President George W. Bush and said the legislature
should have supported him.

Is this a sign of a maturing democracy where "Muntader the shoe thrower" becomes a celebrity and hero of the political opposition aka Joe the Plumber? Such political characters have a long history in the US, so why not in Iraq?

But the effects of Muntader the shoe thrower go beyond just Iraqi politics. It has become a basis for pride and self esteem for Iraqi outside the borders of Iraq. For instance,

The Iraqi people are courageous people,” a taxi driver in Amman, Jordan, told me
a few days ago. It was strange to hear this praise after hearing years of verbal
abuse from Arabs in Jordan and Syria. When my uncle was shopping in the market
in Amman recently he heard a voice yell: “Are you Iraqi?” In the past this would
be followed by a speech about the war and the Americans. Instead the man yelled
to my uncle: “You made us proud.”

If this raises Iraqi's pride, egads, what would something more, erhm, lethal have done? Makes me kind of wonder. Political violence is one thing, but makes me feel good violence is another.

I don't really get it. But then, I didn't really get the outrage at the Danish cartoons. Ha, ha. And we should all be able to laugh a bit at ourselves. Now, I can laugh at Muntader the shoe thrower, but I don't get 'brave' (perhaps misguided, impetuous, maybe even dumb). I think it goes to show how different our respective perspectives are. And how much folks in that part of the world dislike us. I don't think it is just Pres. Bush (I really wish it were), but he is a stand-in for the rest of us.

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