Friday, December 19, 2008

Yes, shoes were thrown at President Bush.

Some in the West have seen it as a joke. Yet, that vulgar, despicable action, is a result of a deeper pathology. Dr. Sabah Salih, explains:

There has always been a coarse side to Iraqi culture, made much coarser by decades of tyranny under Saddam. Saddam essentially erased the life of the mind. Under his watch, public language was transformed into a gruesome instrument for demeaning and demonizing all opponents. Overtime, that language became as brutal and as vulgar as the regime’s other means and methods. Argument, persuasion, debate, and respect for words were replaced with denunciations, crude name-calling, wild accusations, and bombastic statements. Language use became like combat: the enemy was to be subjected to a ferocious linguistic attack until he would be left speechless. Next came the more gruesome part: the person’s head would be shaven, part of his ears would be cut off, in some cases part of the tongue as well; the poor fellow would then be paraded in public, kicked and spat at repeatedly.

This pattern was repeated in less gruesome forms at virtually every level—the workplace, the school, the university, the neighborhood, the security checkpoint, because everyone with a little power felt entitled to act and talk like the dictator himself. A hapless kid in class would be kicked, called a dog, donkey, or monkey amid the roaring laughter of his classmates. A citizen, without political connections, visiting a government office, would be rudely asked to wait outside or come back another day without being offered an explanation.
My point is that, in various forms, what was done to Bush has been done to the Iraqi people a million times over; it continues to be done. It was done to me by my parents when I was too little to fend for myself, later by some of my teachers, in particular, my foul-mouthed, stick-wielding English teacher; and when I became a teacher myself I felt the position gave me the right to be as mean and as cruel as I wanted to be towards my student. Meanness and cruelty, I was told by colleagues, would translate into respect. Sadly, they were right. At home, I felt my male gender gave me the right to treat my little sisters in the same way. This social disease was the norm.

Iraqis can smell a Saddam loyalist a mile away, even as in this case the employer is a Cairo-based television station funded by the late dictator’s former henchmen. This hooligan, Muntadar al-Zaidi, tries to portray himself as the champion of the oppressed, but most Iraqis hear a familiar tune in his words, one, amazingly, much of the western media either can’t or doesn’t want to hear: it is the language of victimhood, liberation, and anti-colonialism in whose name Saddam justified his decades-long occupation of Iraq and turned genocide and village burning and mass graves into acts of heroism.

Try for a second to imagine this shoe-throwing hooligan as a father, husband, brother, neighbor, school teacher, policeman, judge: I don’t think the general pattern of his behavior and thinking would be any different, because his ugly deed pretty much defines his character; it also defines the milieu that cheers him. Regrettably, the social disease that gave us Saddam and his crudeness and cruelty continues to infect much of the Arab world.

If it is such hooliganism that gives the noisy part of Arab and Islamic political culture reason to feel good about itself, then another century will have to pass before shoe-throwing gives way to language as a means of debate, questioning, and understanding.

Thanks to Gateway Pundit.

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