What is wrong with us?
So, President Obama bows in respect to the Japanese emperor during his recent visit to Japan and the next thing you know, all kind of crazy, nonsensical, and ridunkulous statements are flung through the newspapers, blogosphere, radio shows, and chit chats.
What exactly is wrong with the image above?
What are your reactions to the reactions?
Here are some of my thoughts:
- The bow is incredibly important in Asian culture – especially in Japanese and Korean culture. And he’s in Japan as a guest…How else do you want him to greet his hosts? Fist bump?
- In fact, the proper bow is incredibly important. The proper and traditional bow (90 degrees angle) is as Obama is captured on film (some would say minus the handshake).
- While there are various (and different) reports to the origins of bowing in Asian culture, one thing is very clear: it is a sign of respect – particularly to your hosts and elders. I still bow (although not 90 degrees) to visitors (and members) to my church that are of Asian descent that are older than me.
- But bowing is also mutual. I’d love to see a videotape of this exchange (if there is one) because I’d be shocked if the Japanese emperor (and his wife) did not respond by bowing as well – in fact, several times.
- Bowing is a sign of respect but also a sign of Trust and Relationship. One story I read about the origins of bowing comes from the times of the feudal history of Japan. Warriors and samurais would bow to one another (eyes down, head bowed, 90 degrees) to another warrior and in essence, expose their neck (and their lives) to another warrior and his samurai sword.
- Bowing is beautiful. It reflects the beauty of another culture and people. It reflects respect, trust, and friendship.
And this world needs a little bit more of mutual respect, trust, and friendship.
American needs a little bit more of respect, trust, and friendship.
We should all learn to bow.
And while we’re at it, let’s kick H1N1’s butt and forget the handshake. I think we should all adopt bowing.
Here’s an article from the UK Telegraph that includes some of the nonsense over Obama’s bow. What are your thoughts?
At over six feet tall, the US president was photographed bending to nearly a 90 degree angle when he greeted the relatively diminutive Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace on Saturday.
Right-wing websites criticised the US president for showing deference to the Japanese emperor, with the Drudge Report running a banner headline reading: “Obama bows before Japan’s emperor”.
Critics claimed the sign of deference went against state department protocol, which decrees that presidents bow to no one.
In a blog post titled “How low will he go?” , the LA Times’ Andrew Malcolm compared Mr Obama’s bow unfavourably to the upright greetings extended to the emperor by Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, and Douglas MacArthur, the latter observed during the US occupation of Japan following the Second World War. Mr Malcolm suggested that Mr Obama’s “wow bow” was undignified and showed a lack of understanding of the history between the two countries.
At least one blogger went as far as to call the president’s actions “treasonous”.
Right-wing commentators unleashed similar criticism in April, when Mr Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during the G20 summit.
The Washington Times called the alleged bow a “shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate”, which ran contrary to American tradition of not deferring to royalty.
“By bending over to show greater respect to Islam, the US president belittled the power and independence of the United States,” the paper said in an editorial. “Such an act is a traditional obeisance befitting a king’s subjects, not his peer.”
But a senior administration official dismissed the criticism , telling Politico that the US president had simply been observing protocol by bowing to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
“I think that those who try to politicise those things are just way, way, way off base,” he told the website.
Mr Obama is not the first US president to come under criticism for his treatment of royal hosts and visitors.
Bill Clinton, the former US president, experienced similar problems when he welcomed the Japanese emperor at the White House. He was widely mocked for slightly inclining his head in a non-committal semi-bow.