Sole Calibre

« December 2008 »

Memo to Muntader al-Zaidi: SHOE ARE NOT DUMB.

You've all seen it. Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi hurling both his shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference. Bush was making his final visit to Iraq as U.S. President, which means his last visit to Iraq ever. al-Zaidi decided to express his displeasure with Bush's Iraq policy by hurling shoes at him, which sounds kind of goofy if you don't understand that the soles of the shoes are considered dirty, and shoe-based insults are common in the Muslim world.

Bush ducked both shoes, which is not surprising, since he's spent the last eight years ducking questions, responsibility, and the final reckoning for all that he's fucked up. Bush, of course, has tried to shrug it off as just one of those things that happens to Presidents from time to time, joking immediately afterward about it being a "size 10", and calling it "bizarre". But we know better, and I'm pretty sure he does too. If you wonder why you feel a little thrill in your heart every time you hear the story, it's because what al-Zaidi did is such a poetically perfect form of, dare I say it, shoedenfreude.

First, and foremost, it provides a certain symmetry to the reign of the stupidest president in modern history. Bush started his tenure as leader of the free world and was almost taken out by a pretzel. And he ends it almost being taken out by a shoe. Everyone gives Gerald Ford shit, but Gerald Ford got fucking SHOT AT TWICE and was only in office for three years. Bush? Eight years, one pretzel, two shoes. Do you know how much fake cowboying and brush-clearing that simple fact negates? All of it, and then some.

And it's such an elegant counterpoint to the pre-war hype. I wish I had a time machine and a portable video player, so that I could appear every single fucking time Bush or Cheney talked about how we'd be greeted as liberators and thanked by a grateful Iraqi people, who would be naming things after Dubya who freed them from tyranny. Sorry. No flowers. No parades. Just a rain of shoes, a collective middle toe, if you will, from the Iraqi people.

And then there are the little things. You know, like the entire Arab world rallying around al-Zaidi and clamoring for his release. Goddamn. A couple of shoes lobbed in Dubya's general direction and the guy's a hero over most of a hemisphere. If anything tells you how much Bush has endeared himself to the Middle East over the past eight years, this ought to cement it firmly in place. Hell, I don't remember the Russians cheering for John Hinckley, and that was deep into the Cold War.

But my favorite part of the whole thing? Apparently, the Iraqis are holding al-Zaidi in custody not because he heaved footwear at a visiting dignitary, but because Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki was in the room at the time, and thus al-Zaidi threw his shoes in the general direction of the country's leader. Why, it's almost as if they were desperately trying to save face on account of arresting a man for an action vast swaths of the public approve of.

Who thought a few pounds of leather could carry such emotional weight? Well, apart from the guards at Abu Ghraib, that is. And while clearly, it would be wrong of me to approve of throwing shoes at presidents in a general sense, I can't bring myself to condemn this one particular instance. Because years from now, when people think if Bush and Iraq, this will be the thing they think of. A dipshit ducking thrown shoes. I think that's fitting.