Monday, December 15, 2008

When It's Not Funny Anymore

A mere 37 days before leaving office, our Lame-Duck-in-Chief President Bush was all the news yesterday. During a press conference in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shiite Iraqi journalist (Muntadar al-Zeidi) stood up and threw one of his shoes-- and then the other-- at President Bush's head, missing Bush by a hair both times. Al-Zeidi is reported to have shouted in Arabic: "This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." He was quickly wrestled to the ground by a hoard of Secret Servicemen and Iraqi journalists before President Bush composed himself and quipped: "All I can report is it is a size 10."

Strangely enough, I do not find this story funny at all. I find it embarrassing, and sad, and frustrating... a depressingly acute reminder of how far our country has fallen in the esteem of the world. The Leader of the Free World is a laughing stock and, what's worse, an oblivious laughing stock. I have no particular nostalgia for the "Founding Father" type, but seriously, whatever happened to statesmanship? Whatever happened to the dignity of the Office?

There are a lot of things to complain about in the last 8 years: the rolling back of civil (and human) rights, the pandering to corporate and capitalist interests that have decimated our economy, the unchecked hubris of American neoimperialism, the assault on science and good sense in the name of "values," the legitimated disdain for diplomacy, the wars. As Hugh Laurie said in his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live this weekend: "What an amazing year it's been. On the plus side, you've had the most exciting election in the history of American politics. And, I suppose, on the minus side... everything else."

One of the things that I look forward to most about Obama's presidency (and, to be honest, this would have been true of McCain too, I think) is the return of some modicum of decorum and stateliness to the Office of the President. Frankly, I just don't have it in me to laugh at episodes like Bush's shoe incident anymore. As cynical and sardonic as I may wish to be, as much delight as I may want to take in that circus show, it's just too old and too tired and too disappointing now. I'm ready for a change I can believe in.


10 comments:

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Amen. Oddly enough, the kind of thing that lets this appear "funny" (instead of woefully understated) is that we still tend to adhere to a rule of decorum but only in the wrong ways --- we pretend that the leader of the free world isn't a monster, that his advisers are engaged in rational, even if incorrect, decisions, instead of criminal and shockingly stupid acts, we pretend that the debate b/w Democrats and Republicans is a balanced and principled debate instead of a conversation between an anemic center and a grotesque extreme, etc.

For me, Stephen Colbert's speech at the Correspondents Dinner was the one of the greatest moment in democracy during the Bush years (except the final rejection of Bushism this year ---) precisely because Colbert managed to lampoon exactly this tradition of pretended stateliness (masquerading the muck we all know the state has mired us in) in front of the two most guilty parties --- the complacent Washington establishment and the press. Which is why the press hated it and why it was so great.

autoegocrat said...

This is perhaps the only "that's not funny!" post on the internet I can get behind. I thought it was very funny, but perhaps I was laughing only to distract myself from the objective horror of the overall situation.

Ideas Man, you nailed it.

Shep T. said...

I find myself agreeing with you- the fact that his leadership was caused this response in this man- and you can't really argue with his comment about the widows and orphans- isn't funny- he's our leader.

Yet I laughed. Because it was so appropriate. Because it was ingenious, what object can you carry into those press conferences? Also, it's almost over, right? But I suppose that's not true for the dead.

The Detective said...

home boy throwing his show was the most democratic act we've seen against this president in a long time. decorum? dignity of the office? bush squandered all of that ages ago. when you're one of the most heinous criminals on the planet, don't you pretty much give up the pretense of dignity and civility? that moment was only uncomfortable to me in the sense that it stripped away the pretense and illusion.

Fuck. George. Bush. That shit was wildly democratic - and fucking FUNNY

anotherpanacea said...

A lot of people will say that, while they do not respect the current resident of the Oval Office, they respect the position, the office itself. As Ideas Man, PH.D. points out, the aura of that office usually prevents us from appreciating precisely how execrable Bush has been as a president: how clearly incompetent and checked-out he's been.

I didn't think the video was funny, ever. However, there was something very satisfying about it. Bush has done unaccountable damage to Iraqis, but he still went for a victory lap, and someone responded with visceral disgust. Zaidi reacted to the man instead of the office; the decisions rather than The Decider. I only wish he didn't have to spend the next seven years in jail for his failure to uphold the charade.

That said, I wouldn't want people to throw shoes at Obama, so there's some inconsistency in my reaction that I have yet to work through....

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Well, I'm starting to think that the shoe throwing response was at least symbolically more apt after learning that showing someone the soles of your shoes is apparently the biggest insult in Arabic society...

Chet said...

ditto. not really funny. i was surprised when, listening to a summary of bush's trip on NPR, they left it out.

but i wonder if that decorum can really simply be restored. makes me think of that great line of richard harris' in "The Unforgiven" where he compares the respect for the Queen and the inestimable dignity attaching to her person and the small stature of a wholly human "president" there against.

of course, we might say that decorum is a marker of the respect we have for the official, but in thos regards, I cannot see how McCain, given the wrong turns of his campaign, could possible earn my respect.

cbr said...

You're all out to lunch. That shit was hilarious.

The Detective said...

cbr -

well said!

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