Maybe we should learn to throw shoes.

Throwing a pie in the face of various famous people is considered funny, doing it to politicians- minor, spitting at someone is the closest we come to showing disrespect. Words have lost their poignancy- with calling someone a “Mother sucker” (in clean terms) no longer having effect.
No, in America, we settle scores by shooting, fighting, knifing, leading us to having a ridiculously high incarceration rate- in the “home of the brave, land of the free.”

No, in the grand scheme of things- Muntadar al-Zaidi spoke to the world- not by blowing up the World Trade centers- or himself- but by throwing his shoes.

In the middle of the news conference with Mr Maliki, Iraqi television journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi stood up and shouted “this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,” before hurling a shoe at Mr Bush which narrowly missed him.

Showing the soles of shoes to someone is a sign of contempt in Arab culture.

Muntadar al-Zaidi throws a shoe at George Bush (14 December 2008)

Muntadar al-Zaidi was quickly wrestled to the ground and hauled away

With his second shoe, which the president also managed to dodge, Mr Zaidi said: “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”

Mr Zaidi, a correspondent for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, was then wrestled to the ground by security personnel and hauled away.

via BBC NEWS | Middle East | Shoes thrown at Bush on Iraq trip.

Symbolic speech without great harm. Much like wearing a mask to a city commission meeting, however this one was better understood.

He’s now facing several years in prison for his action. I’m wondering what we’ve accomplished in Iraq. Would the effect have been the same if he just screamed that Bush was a dog who was responsible for an invasion and occupation that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?

While we can’t have people attacking foreign heads of state at will- I think I’d rather have shoes being thrown than bullets. If someone threw their shoes at me- would it end up in court? I doubt it. At some point, we have to realize, that heads of state aren’t gods- and the punishment shouldn’t be any longer than it would be if it happened to you or me.

In the meantime- the longer the sentence, the worse the damage to public perception, and the more power earned by the shoe thrower.

The hurling of a pair of shoes at George Bush by an Iraqi journalist has revealed the full extent of the US president’s unpopularity in the Middle East’s media, with newspapers across the region taking delight in his discomfort.

Most commentators see it as beyond doubt that the treatment meted out to Mr Bush by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi is a just response to the president’s policies in Iraq, although one chides the shoe-thrower for expressing his protest through violence rather than “tough questions”.

via BBC NEWS | Middle East | Mid East press glee at shoe throw.

If Bush is looking to give a pardon before he leaves- he should consider Muntadar at the top of his list. Wasn’t a “Free Iraq” the reason we invaded? And what kind of freedom is there if symbolic speech is punished by years in prison?

In the world of instant communication- these are images that will long be remembered- and it reinforces the power of symbolic gestures. Here is the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D3u5UquSsE

Now, if we could only have the punks in Dayton trade their shooting for tossing shoes.

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14 Responses

  1. jeremy December 16, 2008 / 3:03 pm
    Well said. Putting the guy in prison isn’t going to do anybody any good, and when he comes out, he won’t be thanking the U.S. or George W. Bush. Doubtful anyone would have anyway, but why make things worse?

    Also:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/12/15/iraq-shoe-tosser-guy.html

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  2. Gene December 16, 2008 / 4:38 pm
    interesting advertising!

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  3. jeremy December 16, 2008 / 7:17 pm
    @Gene:
    lolwhut?

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  4. In the 'burg December 16, 2008 / 7:24 pm
    August 28, 2004 was my proudest, most patriotic day ever. I had W’s undivided attention for a couple of seconds and I gave him the bird. If I could have thrown my shoes at his head, I would have done that, too.

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  5. Mike Bock December 17, 2008 / 8:09 am
    David, you write, “If someone threw their shoes at me- would it end up in court? I doubt it. At some point, we have to realize, that heads of state aren’t gods- and the punishment shouldn’t be any longer than it would be if it happened to you or me.”

    The president of the United States is distinguished by our laws and traditions with special rights and protections. After all, within the presidency resides the entire Executive branch of our government. This unique identification of this office with our government, doesn’t make the president a god, but it does mean that unique laws / traditions have been agreed to concerning the respect that should be shown toward the office of the president. Regardless of the contempt that Bush has earned personally, the office he holds deserves respect. A threat or an affront to our president is a threat and affront to us all.

    This shoe throwing act, according to our laws — should it happen at a White House press conference — would not be considered simply as as affront or threat to George Bush as a person, it would be seen as threat and affront to the office of the president. Our laws would put such a shoe thrower in jail. I imagine every democratic nation has unique laws to protect the dignity and safety of its head of state.

    When you say, “the punishment shouldn’t be any longer than it would be if it happened to you or me,” David, you can’t be serious. You need to consider whether your contempt for Bush has distorted your thinking about this whole matter, and caused you to take a position that really is untenable.

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  6. David Esrati December 17, 2008 / 8:17 am

    I’m not saying that people should throw shoes- or go unpunished, but 2 years is a bit much. Am I also going to go to prison for giving him the finger- or saying, “George, you F’d up”? Are we supposed to start genuflecting?
    Shoes, pies, insults- are all better than bullets.
    Frankly, GWB has been an insult to all of us, our Constitution and other laws- it just took an Iraqi to point it out clearly.

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  7. Gene December 17, 2008 / 8:17 am
    Otherwise everyone would throw shoes at people they don’t like if there is no penalty or a small penalty for doing so……… also, people would have cold feet after throwing shoes, but you could bring extra shoes, which is a wimp move, but those shoes could go to people without shoes. And the whole heel issue……..

    Jeremy, someone put some bs advertising above my comment, like go to w w w.something-here-and-there,-look-at-me dot com. I believe David removed that entry. Now my first entry seems confusing, oh wait, most are confusing!

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  8. pizzabill December 17, 2008 / 9:13 am
    Gene brings up a good point with the “heel issue”: there should probably be graduated punishment levels for the types of shoes thrown. Sandals or Crocs- minor offense, gym shoes- a bit more serious (with high tops even more egregious due to their heft), and all the way up the shoe scale to the capital crime of stiletto heels.

    And I agree, bringing a spare pair is wimpy as it takes away the sacrifice implied by throwing shoes in the first place and removes the real significance of the act, especially if its cold out.

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  9. David Esrati December 17, 2008 / 9:43 am

    Gene- I did not remove your comment.
    Must have been the spam filter- or you forgot to hit submit.

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  10. Gene December 17, 2008 / 12:48 pm
    not my comment, some advertising comment that was above my first comment for an hour or so…………

    I say throw socks too……..

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  11. David Esrati December 17, 2008 / 1:44 pm

    I just talked to Faez at Halal International Market. He thought the shoe thrower was an idiot- and thinks that no more than 6 months in prison is just. However, he did say, if Saddam was still in power, Muntadar al-Zaidi would already be dead, and anyone who agreed with him- in prison. So Iraq has made some progress.

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  12. chris January 30, 2009 / 2:01 pm
    I love all the Bush haters complaining about how there are no more rape-rooms and torture chambers sponsored by the goverment anymore in Iraq. They act like Iraq was a paradise before we got there. I think the Iraqi shoe reporter should be thrown back into the streets in a pre-invasion Iraq where he could have gotten his fany raped by Uday and Qusay and he would have presumably like that better. I would also love to hear David Erasti pontificate more about constitutional law because I’m pretty sure he will have nothing other than what he heard some celebrity say to back it up.

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