Saturday, February 12, 2011

Geography, Culture & War

Protesters in Cairo

Sometimes, good things can come out of war. War gives opportunities to learn geography. War also gives us a glimpse into the other people's cultures. When I was younger, I would not have had a clue what the symbolism of the photo above meant.

However, since my early twenties, 20 years and several wars have gone by. I have a pretty good idea what that means. In Arabic cultures, showing the soles of one's shoes is offensive. Doing it on purpose is like a big ol' "Screw You" to whoever the recipient is. In the photo above, the protestors directed their anger at Mubarak when they thought he was going to step down but didn’t, despite rumors to the contrary.

I vaguely remember hearing of one story of the lead-up to Desert Shield where a U.S. diplomat crossed his legs and the bottom of the shoe pointed right at an Arabic guy. Understandably, the Arab was offended and cut short the meeting that day. I wish I remembered the details of that moment.

Of course, how could anyone with a heartbeat forget about the Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President Bush a couple of years ago. Even the most rabid Bush-hater has to admit that Bush adroitly bobbed and weaved with finesse and skill that day!

I'm sure the shoes are not in the air anymore.

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