Muntadar al- Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who tried to hit George Bush with his shoe, has captured the world’s imagination, causing each of us to wonder: if we had the opportunity, what would we use to hit Bush? I am the least violent person I know: I cannot imagine hitting anyone, though I do not deny an occasional urge to strike out when words and careful ceremony fail me. I literally pray to be non-violent, having learned from observing over half a century of violence, how incredibly stupid it is. Thinking about this, in Mexico, during the 12 day celebration of the Virgin de Guadalupe, where children in white, their parents and neighbors beside them, march in procession in every little village, I have had a thoughtful time, holding these opposites: a world that still honors the feminine face of God, the Goddess, and a world that seems, by now, almost entirely masculine, where something so wonderful as a dog is considered contemptible, and the earth, from which everything is given to us, even more so. Whatever touches the earth is blessed, in my view, and what is of more humble service to mankind, than the shoe?
Still, I do realize cultures differ.
With what would I hit Bush? This man who has caused so much suffering, death, despair and pain?
Remember how Bob Marley sang: Hit me with music, hit me with music, now. Hit me with music, because when it hits you feel no pain? I think of this – what a genius he was, making us think in new ways, almost constantly – and I think of George Bush. About whom I have tried not to think too much, over the years. What I would hit Bush with, and what I think we all need to consider hitting him with is….understanding. I may be completely mistaken, but it is my sense that no one understands this person. I remember once, sitting in Chinatown with a Chinese family the night Bush was re-selected as president of the country. We were all of us feeling despair, but it took the eldest person at our table, a grandmother with wispy white hair, to put into words some of what we felt. She simply couldn’t believe Bush had been placed at the “top” as she put it of the country. Shaking her head, frowning, totally incredulous, speaking partly in dialect, she refused to believe he was the people’s choice. But why do you think it’s impossible that Americans have chosen him, asked one of us. Because, she said, as if it were the most obvious thing on earth: he has the eyes of a thief. That is the way people in the old days used to think, to size people up, to save the community and the family a lot of trouble. What happened to this ability?
We don’t understand Bush. I don’t. I remember marching, alongside millions of other people, against the war, speaking out against the war, being arrested protesting the war, all the while thinking: It is really strange that Bush ignores us. We knew perfectly well what happens during war: people are mutilated, murdered, made homeless and things even worse. He had to know this too. And then the long years of every ominous prophecy being fulfilled: hundreds of thousands murdered, raped, butchered, burned, bombed. Children blasted away in their orphanages, young girls raped before their parents’ eyes. There have been days and nights over the past eight years when I, like so many others, could not sleep. We knew what it meant when the media talked about things being more “calm.” Our neighborhoods would be calm too, we muttered, if nobody still lived there, but had fled to some other country where they suffered the indignity of being unwanted refugees. Very calm and peaceful too, are the dead and buried. But to our haggard faces, Bush turned a beaming countenance, year after year. And even now. He plans to leave the White House, he beams, move into a new place, start building his library and write his memoirs. His memoirs. If I understood him better I could tell him, there’s going to be a little child sprawled bleeding behind every page. What I understand so far is that the suffering of that bleeding child is not the story he’s interested in telling, and this makes it all the more necessary that we ask ourselves, as a country that elected/selected him: who is this?
The world’s people will demand that we get to know this man, so as not to let another like him loose on them. There will be more than talk about war crimes and crimes against humanity, fairly soon, for Bush and all those who collaborated with him in bringing such terror – shock and awe, indeed – to the earth. We might as well get ready for it. But thoughtfully. The least Americans can do to show we recognize our complicity in the wrongful assault on a country that did us no harm is to honor our own history of a belief, finally, in justice. Justice for the “evil-doers”we permitted to lead us; no more and no less. We will have to hit Bush with something. And it won’t be a shoe. But it will be meaningless beyond words, if we hit him only with vengeance or revenge or simple hatred, in an attempt to attach all the blame for our disaster to someone so out of touch, not only with reality, but with himself, as he appears to be.
As for the Iraqi journalist, I would wish to have the courage to express my outrage in such a well aimed and culturally apt way, if I were in his position. George Bush has destroyed his country, abused his people and disappeared countless children, colleagues and friends. I understand him; at least I understand his behavior, completely.
©2008 Alice Walker