Monday, November 16, 2009

Bow? Wow. Wow!

I have mixed feelings on the subject of President Obama bowing to Japanese Emperor Akihito because while I understand his move as a symbolic one of the U.S. being less egotistical and prideful than we’ve gained a reputation for in recent years and willing to meet others without affectations of superiority, I also can’t help but think of the many World War II veterans, who we just celebrated on Wednesday and what they might think about the action?

First things first, I think it’s important to point out that both Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon bowed to Japanese Emperors. It’s not an unprecedented action from either side of the political spectrum. And President Obama certainly set a precedent when he bowed to Saudi Arabia’s King. Had he not done so in this instance it could have looked very suspicious.

Regardless of the intent or the precedent of other president’s from each party having done it, I still have some issues with our President bowing to anyone. When two people bow to one and other, they show mutual respect. When one person bows to another, they show deference. While an arrogant, smug United States is bad for the world, it’s not as bad as a meek one could be. The message our President should be sending to one and all is that we are willing and ready to meet as equals. Bowing to an individual does not communicate that at all. It is a sign of weakness.

A man as eloquent as President Obama should be able to communicate his desire to meet and speak as equals without the grand symbolic gestures. He should also listen to the people and realize that they are not in favor of him bowing and scarping. Our last administration never admitted a wrong or made an apology—the Change I Believed In promised it would when called for, but so far it has not.

I keep coming back to the veterans of WWII, specifically those who fought in the Pacific. I’ve seen many wonderful documentaries about Japanese and American veterans meeting on bits of land where they fought each other and killed each other’s friends and comrades. They have found peace. They embrace. The forgive one and other. They share a deep and impenetrable bond and it’s an amazing testament to humanity.

Individually, it’s a wonderful thing and something to be celebrated, but in the grander scheme of things can you imagine a day, some sixty-something years in the future when a President of the United States bows to a leader of al-Qaeda? No matter what passes between now and that hypothetical day to establish friendship, don’t you think it would be an insult to those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001?

Each side has come a long way since Pearl Harbor, and Japan has paid a great price for their actions of December 7th, 1941. I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t be allies, or friends; that we shouldn’t be respectful of each other and the traditions we each hold dear, but a man who has called Hawaii home should never forget what happened there. No matter how mended the fence, or how strongly new ties have been formed, the leader of our nation should be respectful enough of those who died at Pearl Harbor to never bow to office that ordered their deaths.

There are better ways to make friends, Mr. President, than by being symbolically humble. For the sake of those entombed in the harbor, you should apologize and find a better way.


Anonymous said...

It's dark o'thirty and I am suffering from extreme insomnia as I type this, so please forgive any rambling and/or incoherency! I have to disagree with you on this one, my lovely. Much as the American claim "we won WW2" rankles with the rest of the world because, no, you didn't, it was a joint effort of many nations, this hit a similar nerve. *I* was not there, neither were you (I'm using these pronouns to represent multitudes, not individuals) ... "you" did not "rescue" anybody except "yourselves". I could go into a realistic history lecture here that would upset the balance of American-taught re-written schooling, but I'll leave that up to the pros. Point being, that I/we are not responsible for what happened generations before us so why the dickens are we supposed to maintain a grudge and act on it accordingly? The current world governments are not the ones who waged war against one another for whatever misguided reasons, why can't we move into the current century and leave behind old grudges and hurts? The entire nation of Japan did not attack the nation of the Franklin-adamantly-war-avoiding nation, and yet look what America did to its very own Japanese citizens. OK, sorry love, but my sleep deprivation is wrecking my train of thought at present, hopefully I made some kind of sense though ... xoxo

Beverly said...

I haven't seen the video. Did the emperor bow back? Was it mutual respect, or was it just Obama bowing? Anyhow no need to actually reply. I'll go look it up now. The answers to those questions would affect my opinion substantially.

Beverly said...

Well, he didn't bow all that much in return, but it looks like he might have fallen over if he did... haha!

I can't say I have a strong opinion on this one. Didn't bother me at all, but I appreciate your thoughts and I think they make sense. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm going to have to paste your comment over here so I can respond to it where it belongs (ooh, listen to Little Miss Netiquette!).

Albert says: well i’m going to have to disagree right back at you, on a couple points! first, i really don’t think i implied that the americans won the war on our own, nor do i believe that, nor is it taught here. history is a great interest of mine and my knowledge of ww2 goes far beyond anything school-taught and includes opinions and ideas from quite a few different countries, including japan and g.b. and germany.

as for the fact that i personally didn’t fight in the war excluding me from being able to support and honor the memories of those who did–well that’s just a load of crap. both of my grandfathers fought in that war. both came home greatly affected. their stories are haunting and horrifying. each of them would be highly offended for a president of ours to be bowing to a japanese emperor and i take offense on their behalf.

as i said, i believe we should be friends, i believe we should meet anyone who wishes, halfway, but just because time has passed doesn’t mean that pearl harbor should be forgotten. forgiven? yes. forgotten? no.

DK says: if I only had one single dollar for every time an American has stated to me “We won WW2″, seriously, I would have hundreds of dollars. No kidding. But that wasn't really my point, I am NOT disagreeing that you have every right to honour and support the feelings of your forebears, not at all. I just interpreted your commentary as being along the lines of "I have to hate that guy because he dumped my best friend" rather than "I don't like what that guy did to my best friend, but I respect her feelings". My grandfather was a POW for several years, came home a shell of a man, was unrecognised by his little girl (my Mum), and died from resulting health complications at the tragic age of 42. Does that mean I should hate all Germans and refuse to show them respect when I am in their country? I don't think so, but that's just my opinion.

I didn't watch the video, but saw a photo and I have to say that Obama sure did go a little over the top with the bow. I worked for a Japanese company for a while and from eyewitness experience, I can say that a formal bow is more of a shoulders forward head bob than a deep bow from the waist. :)

raebie said...

"No matter how mended the fence, or how strongly new ties have been formed, the leader of our nation should be respectful enough of those who died at Pearl Harbor to never bow to office that ordered their deaths."

Not that I should be commenting on American Conservative Political opinons… BUT. are we acknowledging the other side of this? how many citizens of other country's have died as a result of the American Administration? Should those countries withhold respect for the American President based on that? just curious...