Dear Muntadher al-Zaidi bka The Shoe-Throwing Iraqi:
I read yesterday that you received a three-year prison sentence after pleading not guilty to assaulting a foreign head of state. I wanted to write you and share my thoughts.
Three years is a long jail stay for throwing your shoes at a man more than half of the planet’s human population hates and for providing American football fans with the best unintentional — or intentional — halftime show since Janet Jackson’s nipplegate.
There are only two people I know of willing to make a bold political statement knowing that they’ll go to jail — the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (and the SF Chronicle reporters who wouldn’t give up their Balco sources). But most people believe the combo “SharpJack” pull those stunts for the publicity to make more money.
But not you. You’re a broke journalist lacking deference. You threw your shoes at George Walker Bush and called him a dog with the deepest sincerity. You cared little about consequence. I laughed hysterically the first 12 times I watched the replay, especially in slow motion. W. has mad reflexes.
But then I actually listened to the former U.S. president speak after the incident. He talked about how you could throw your shoes at him because of the liberation our nation has provided yours. Oddly enough, he sorta made sense. Saddam Hussein would have had you killed right then had you thrown shoes at one of his pals. Isn’t it the ultimate sign of disrespect in the Muslim world?
Now, don’t take that to mean I agree with everything that W. does or says. I surely don’t. But I don’t think he’s a bad man, either. I see him as a deeply religious and determined man with good ideas and major flaws alike. That’s no different from myself or most Americans. It just so happens that Americans elected him president twice knowing he was a C student (sing: “not the sharpest tool in the shed.”). Dick and mini-King Karl proceeded to run our nation amuck. Blame that on us — the American people. Not W.
It’s also the American people’s fault if we refuse to understand your gesture and see the world as it sees us. Sure, America is this great melting pot where all brews of stew and soups are wondrously made — red hot chili, jambalaya, Creole gumbo, chicken noodle, clam chowder, vegetable, crawfish and beef.
But the people of the world believe us to be a meddling, intrusive and manipulating people. We stick our collective nose in places it doesn’t belong far too often to improve our world standing. Even nutty chimps and blind bats know that’s why we are so interested in the Middle East. If all of the oil there were located in the Kansas plains, Saddam would still be alive — along with a few thousand American soldiers and more of your countrymen. That said, Hussein would still be persecuting your people to this very day. And for your transgressions, you would have already met your death.
You throwing your shoes at W. was high comedy. But I pray that Americans also take your newly minted freedom of expression to heart. I hope we Americans come to realize that we are not looked upon as the great and merciful people that we pride ourselves on being.
In your world, we are nothing more than the (poop) you might incidentally step on with the bottom of your shoes. I thank you for pointing that out. Peace be with you.
P.S. I find it ironic that you used your new-found freedom to lose it for a cause you believed in. But I guess that means you still have it, huh?