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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Farewell Wish

“I say to those who reproach me: do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated.

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.”

Muntazer al-Zaidi

The Guardian recently published a translated version of Muntazer al-Zaidiís (a.k.a. the shoe thrower) statement on why he threw his shoe at George W. Bush. This article brought me back to the day when Muntazer threw his shoe at the reigning President of the United States while he was giving his Farewell Speech. Minutes after it happened, the video was blasted over theInternet and television; from Youtube and Facebook to Al-Jazeera and Fox News. For weeks, it seemed like that incident was all that anyone talked about.

Watching the video of the incident, I thought the reasoning behind throwing the shoe was simply to humiliate or insult Bush, but this changed after I read Muntazerís statement. Do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims?

This shoe, according to Muntazer, is what had seen the effects of the occupation of Iraq?the shoe of a reporter, who while wearing those shoes, had visited many bloodshed locations, entered many shattered homes, interviewed many widowers and orphaned children and, at the same time, interviewed the people responsible for it all, in their fancy hotels enjoying their luxurious lifestyles. Keeping in mind that this is not any reporter, this is an Iraqi reporter. An Iraqi reporter who is reporting on how his country has been violated, his daily life has been destroyed and his family, neighbors and friends have to suffer on a daily basis. Throwing the shoe at Bush was a personal choice for Muntazer, influenced by his experience of the occupation which that shoe has come to embody or symbolize.

A few days after it happened, CNN had a 40 minute segment on the symbolic meaning, of throwing a shoe at someone, in the Middle East, indirectly stating that this incident was culturally-influenced. In the following weeks, I remember being engaged in conversations with people about what it means when ‘one of my people’ throws a shoe at someone. It quickly became very irritating and insulting to be repeatedly asked such a question. My response was always the same “what the f*ck do you think it means?” Then I see that look of confusion on their face, like I have just asked them to solve the mystery of our expanding universe. At that moment, I realized that they cannot comprehend the possibility of the existence of a connection between the Middle Eastern culture and the American one. Like those two people are two different species that cannot have anything in common. It is apparent that the two cultures, or any two cultures, will have different traditions but their inability to comprehend the possibility of the two cultures having anything in common, is what shocked me and made me think?why is that? Why is it impossible for them to think that we are not so different? Would this question have been asked if this incident happened in Venezuela for an example?

The conclusion of this segment was that in the Middle East, throwing a shoe is a way of expressing contempt and dislike and in this case it seems to be an expression of disapproval of the war. Now let me just ask this, isnít it also an expression of contempt in the U.S.? Surely one wouldnít throw a shoe at someone when s/he is expressing support and approval; anyone can see that! But we are being told on daily basis that the Middle Eastern culture is completely different than ours and this 40 minute segment is a perfect example of that. And by designating a whole segment about it, it is an act of alienating that culture from us even more?making us feel like what would have been instinctively understood by us, needs to be explained because the Middle Eastern culture is so different from ours.

I just finished watching a video of a 16 year old being beaten to death by other kids on a sidewalk in Chicago. It made me wonder how anyone can do that to another human being. Canít we feel for each other? Or do we have a sense of superiority that allows us to think that that person is worth going through this? Is it because we canít see ourselves in them? We canít find that connection amongst us? For all of you out there remember we are all human. We have more in common than what separates us; race, color, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation are all small parts of a bigger, more complex individual. They are merely parts of a human being. If we define ourselves only as human these divisions will seize to exist. So when anger and hatred takes over?just remember we are all the same; we are all HUMAN!

Rima Mahmoud

Political Science and International Relations

UMass Boston ’09

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