Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Obama’s Bow

The headline in this morning’s Yahoo! News reads “Outrage in Washington over Obama’s Japan Bow”. I said “What?” Seems the conservative pundits in DC have their knickers in a knot because President Obama bowed to Emperor Akihito when he met the Emperor and his wife.

“Oh, God! What shame!” Bah! I am disgusted with this kind of arrogance. “Ugly Americans” are alive and well and kicking, and are as blind as they ever were about how the rest of the world views them.

In case you’re wondering who “ugly Americans” are or what the term means, it means the loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens and corporations abroad and at home.

It means acting as though it’s proper to walk into anyone’s house or country and do what you want without apologizing for the inconvenience, discourtesy or disrespect.

It means telling others what is good for them instead of asking because you don’t consider them important (and you consider them too “stupid” to understand how important you are, though they recognize how self-important and arrogant you are).

So William Kristol, Bill Bennett and others are having hissy fits. "We don't defer to emperors. We don't defer to kings or emperors. The president of the United States -- this coupled with so many apologies from the United States…” Some said Obama’s bow was particularly grating after he publicly bowed to Saudi Arabia’s Kind Abdullah at the G20 meeting in April. Quelle horreur!

These people say the president “has hastened America's decline as a world superpower by being too apologetic and too deferential in his dealings with other world leaders.”

Oh, really. What they’re missing besides good sense and good manners is this: The best way to shore up US power in a region increasingly dominated by rising giant China is to show respect for the people you want to improve your relationship with. In countries where bowing is a sign of respect, this means bowing where it is most appropriate. And bowing to Emperor Akihito is very appropriate and important to the Japanese people.

But if you’re an Ugly American, you don’t see it, because you think walking in and telling people people what you’re going to do is the way to win friends and influence people. Self important, arrogant behavior is “ugly”, and it just does not go over well. Showing respect does.

Here’s an example. I spent a few months in Mexico City in 1973-74 when President Nixon was involved in the Watergate scandal (his people had sent burglars to break into someone’s office) that eventually forced his resignation. The Mexican people greeted the affair with high hilarity. Here was good old self-righteous Uncle Sam caught with his hand in someone else’s till. “Ho-ho-ho!” A restaurant in the Zona Rosa featured a special dessert made of minted  peaches. It was delicious. The restaurateur called it “Impeach mint.” Still makes me laugh out loud!

How does President Obama go over in Japan? His face, his words and his books are everywhere. Kids use his speeches as part of their English language study. His bow to Emperor Akihito was played over and over again on the news. (I know because I watched it.) It was a gesture of respect and kindness, a huge step forward in repairing damages done, especially over the previous eight years by an administration that had no time to genuflect to anyone, including their own country’s citizens.

Former President Bush? He threw out the first ball at Japan’s recent baseball championship game, he’s popular with former Prime Minister Koizumi, and without trying he does a pretty darn good imitation of Mad Magazine’s mascot, Alfred E. (“What, me worry?”) Neuman .

Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Neuman

All for this post,


Sapporo, Japan


Simon said...

Bloody Marvellous George!

Scribbler said...

Still got the old zing in your stride and the sting in your tail, Toasty, despite the mellow decore.
Good to hear an American decry American arrogance. I couldn't agree more, ugly attitudes make for ugly behaviour which makes for a loss of respect, just when America is so much in need of the opposite effect.
Keep it up, Toasty. We need more voices like yours raised in protest against the arrogant imperialism of certain fringe-dwellers.

Sibel said...

Hi! your post is right to the point. America and American have unfortunately lost their Nation's leadership Status. The world looks at us and laughs. It is like watching a tiger without teeth trying to growl and scare others to submission. Lol
President Obama is working at regaining America's respected by the world's nations by showing respect to other culture and leaders.

Meam Wye said...

It's pacifying to have this frank and honest opinion not from some non-American, but from an American citizen. I consider this as a message of hope for a better future for everyone.

Stephen said...

No other current world leader has bowed to the emperor of Japan. None. There's a video circulating showing them ALL shaking hands or nodding the head slightly, which is entirely appropriate.

We have this stupid notion in America about all men being equal, and American leaders have always had an aversion to kow-towing to emperors and kings ever since that bit of nastiness back in 1776.

In short, no American leader should bow to anyone.

That said, if I met him, I'd bow deeply to the emperor out of courtesy - then again, I'd have NO problem "bowing low" to any Japanese man who's my elder, and I have done so.

As for the "damage" done in the past 8 years, this is a fantasy of the Left.

I don't remember Bush spitting in the emperor's face when they met. Correct me if I missed that.

Just because America didn't pursue a Leftist "One World" agenda for 8 years doesn't mean it didn't respect other nations, it just didn't bow to the will of them - at the expense of American citizens - like this president is doing all the time.

AnthonyP said...

God forbid he respect and follow the culture and traditions of another culture when he's in their country. I suppose, to assert America's power and place in the world, he should have just punched the emperor in the face and yelled, "America's number one!" Another thing about this, something which has been completely ignored in all of the complaints about the bow (at least the ones I've read): in terms of body language, accepting a handshake from someone who offers one to you can be seen as a sign of submission as well. So what if the emperor, or any other foreign leader, offered the handshake first? Should he just raise his hands and say, "No way, not gonna happen." Absolute shenanigans.

Bruce Ferguson said...

I wish Americans could see how he is showing the rest of the world a different US..a US with people whom I am interacting with on a daily basis who are very respectful of other countries...and honouring the traditions of others in their territories is a very good selling point fo rthe US.

Trulyfool said...

Well said, George. American 'independence' doesn't mandate arrogance. We would also do well to remember 'our Puritan heritage' and its clear condemnation of Pride as sin. The right wing, as you've taken note, simply will ride Obama for anything he does, hoping to erode what power he has.