Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obama How Now Bow?

"si fueris Romae, Romano vivitomore; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi." If you cannot read Latin, this roughly (very roughly) translates to "when in Rome do as the Romans do." I am using this quote to start off my post because it relates to criticism that President Obama has been receiving by the press for bowing to leaders of foreign countries. You all probably remember the media-hoopla that resulted when Obama bowed to the Saudi Arabian King back in April, but Obama is back at it again. This time, he bowed to the Japanese Emperor Akihito.

It seems however that some people find this appalling and shameful. In the comments section of a article on Obama's bow one commentator wrote: "Ass Kisser." Another comment reads "I think I just threw up in my mouth." Is it really that bad? Seriously? Am I just too liberal minded to not get the jaw-dropping significance of this act?

In my opinion I do not see anything wrong with bowing. When you are visiting another country and you meet the president, king, emperor, etc. of that country, I think it is polite to bow. What would the critics of his bows have Obama do? When a foreign leader goes to shake Obama's hand, have Obama extend his hand and then at the very last second take it away and then rub it through his hair while yelling out "syke!"???? Come on people, you know that the United States doesn't really have the best public image in many of the countries around the world. Obama is acting as a visiting dignitary should: respectful and dignified.

Some people have stated that "the Emperor did not return the bow." While this is true, I am not sure these same people have noticed how much younger Obama is than the Emperor. If you watch the youtube video you can notice that the Emperor is much older and probably not as spry as Obama. During the bow in the video at 0:11 you can notice that the Emperor is caught off guard by the bow, and by the time he is about to return the gesture, Obama is finished. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of courtesy.

So in conclusion, I would not to tell people to stop trying to turn Obama's kindness and dignified actions into something they are not. I seriously do not believe he is communist; he is not showing weakness or subservience; he is just plainly acting like a political figure should act. What I argue is that, like the Latin quote I started this article with, courtesy in a foreign country goes a long way and it is especially important for political figures who are in the media and public spotlight. Maybe people have been subjected to Bush for too many years to remember what political diplomacy and courtesy actually look like.


The Commentator said...

DC, it's not that he bowed. In Japanese culture a bow is, apparently, nuanced and holds a deep significant root.

In a nutshell, the more protracted your bow, the more deferential you are.

The left can try all it wants but Obama looks to have missed on this one. Like his wife touching the Monarch.

Anonymous said...

dc, thanks for writing. without knowing much more about these exact scenarios, it seems he was in the right. staying within both cultural and generational norms and honor is something that our culture-- and generation X (and younger) simply do not 'get'. i speak from experience.