Another process brought hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis and other Arabs onto middle eastern streets expressing gratitude for the
act that gave voice to their frustration with the U.S. military presence in the
region. Such cries more often are expressed in poor and dilapidated
neighborhoods that decision-makers do not have to frequent.
Mr. al-Zeidi did not hurl his shoes in a vacuum. He hurled them in official halls of power, which normally are sanitized to protect the authorities from "facing" the consequences of their actions. Thus, to the demonstrators, Mr. al-Zeidi is a person who put his life and career at risk to say that Iraqis are tired of measuring death and counting refugees. They are tired of occupation. They are tired of imagined "progress." And, most of all, they are tired of being viewed as creatures who respond to carrots and sticks.
But another process that the flying shoes unleashed probably is the most important for us here in the United States. That is the open nature of this defiance, which occurred in a formal and visible setting and was directed at America's standing in the world as the power not to be trifled with.
Fatemeh Keshavarz is the author of Jasmine
and Stars: Reading More than "Lolita"
in Tehran (order from amazon)
Mr. Bush was lucky to duck the shoes. But the
truth is, if a journalist stands up in an official press conference and throws
his shoes at an official's face, the office that the official represents has
been hit, whether or not his face physically was struck.
It is easy to dismiss Sunday's incident as the work of an anarchist or an anti-American or a supporter of one extremist or another. It could be viewed as the result of personal grudge or grief. And, at the other extreme, it could be romanticized as a courageous act.
None of these addresses the real issue, however: A good deal of the world has had it with our carrots-and-sticks policies. The world wants to be recognized for its complexity, agency and humanity. This does not mean that everything other nations do must be acceptable to us or considered right, for that matter.
But it means that the United States may have to sit across the table and adopt a respectful attitude even, perhaps especially, toward those we disagree with. If we talk - and I mean talk, not issue ultimatums - with nations before hurling our blazing bombs at them and shattering their lives, they might stop and think before hurling their shoes at our face. Even more significantly, we might be able to reach some genuine agreements with them.
If we and the world are lucky, the flying shoes will come to mark a crucial moment in the United States' global leadership, a moment when we began opting for genuine diplomacy.
Fatemeh Keshavarz chairs the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University. She is the author of "Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran" and serves as honorary co-chair of Iranians for Peace.
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