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insults, american style
if the shoes fit….
by robert a. melos
pop culture

In his last press conference in Iraq proclaiming what a success the Iraqi War has been, President Bush had to dodge not bullets but size ten and a half Italian loafers. He joked and shrugged it off, not getting the level of the insult, even after it was explained to him by a reporter after the incident.

We are told in Arabic culture the greatest insult is to throw shoes at someone for the soles of the shoes are filthy and the act shows the greatest disrespect toward the recipient of the act. What the shoe thrower, an Iraqi reporter who lost family in the war, didn’t know is that in American culture at one time it was popular to throw shoes and rice at brides and grooms as they exited the church. Throwing shoes in American culture is nothing more than using an object to hit some other object. Lame Duck President Bush’s reaction was to say, “I don’t know what his beef is,” and went on to imply the reporter only wanted to get on television.

Now if he really wanted to insult the President of the United States he should’ve yelled something like, “Your mother blows goats!” See, a few years back I did just such a thing. Well, I didn’t yell that. In an on-line comic I stated that George H. W. Bush was a minion of Satan and his wife, Barbara Bush was Satan’s Tuesday night mistress, implying that Mrs. Bush wasn’t hot enough or good enough in the sack to earn the coveted Friday or Saturday night time slot with the Lord of Darkness.

As it was, it probably was a fluke that Babs got preggers by Lord Satan. I’m pretty sure the much sought after position of giving birth to the spawn of Satan was slatted for one of the hotter political wives, like Rita Jenrette or even one of Nixon’s daughters. Granted not too many of the wives and daughters of the politicians of the 50s were babes, but then I’m a gay man who’s judging beauty. We all know how well Mr. Blackwell was at picking beauty.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. The ill-fated Iraqi reporter (apparently Prime Minister Maliki wants to have the book thrown at him, meaning he could get eight years in prison for throwing shoes at Goober) didn’t know the ins and outs of American insults. Lobbing insults at a person’s family is, in American culture, much more effective than throwing shoes.

Now aside from the aforementioned “Your mother blows goats!” which I always consider a classic, there’s the ever popular “your mother blows goat herders,” which might actually be more insulting in Iraq because, well, they still have goat herders. Of course if your father happens to be a goat herder, well, um, anyway there are more insults where those came from.

At one time it was insulting to shout “your mother wears combat boots.” It seems insulting mothers in American culture is the highest form of insult. But this doesn’t mean the rest of the family is off limits. Had the reporter called the President’s daughters drunken sluts, referring to their previous antics before the secret service finally got a handle on them, might’ve been more insulting. Of course this wouldn’t have been nice, and many times we in America feel it’s unfair to bring the family into the art of insult slinging, but it might’ve been more interesting than throwing shoes.

Alas, the actual throwing of the shoes has overshadowed a much bigger blunder President Bush made in the after the incident interview, where he mentioned that Al-Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq until after the American invasion of the country, implying that by invading Iraq America lured Al-Qaeda into Iraq. So basically because of President Bush’s need for vengeance against Saddam Hussein for allegedly plotting to kill his father almost 20 years earlier, he very willingly sacrificed the lives of the people of Iraq and brought into their midst a terrorist organization he claimed to have destroyed in 2003 and 2004, but now claims is still in existence and therefore American forces need to remain in Iraq as an occupational army until the extinction of Al-Qaeda can be confirmed.

Yeah, throwing shoes might be thought of as the highest form of insult in the Middle East, but apparently the subtle art of insults are lost on the likes of George W. Bush, and a good pair of loafers were wasted in the efforts.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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lucy lediaev
12.16.08 @ 1:27p

Nice analysis of the situation with a good dose of humor!

tracey kelley
1.23.09 @ 7:16a

Nicely done. I still have a hard time grasping the surrealism of all of that.

robert melos
1.26.09 @ 4:52p

Looking at it from the shoe thrower's perspective, America is the invading country, and culturally when the highest insult in your country is to show the sole of your shoe to someone you dislike it makes perfect sense that someone with that mind set, someone with a high sense of honor, would be driven to the highest form of insult as a form of protest.

In our own country, all humor aside, we've got a history of protesting wars, sometimes violently, and sometimes with sit-ins, love-ins, chaining ourselves to trees and federal buildings. We showed our displeasure with the Vietnam conflict, and more recently with the very same war this man was protesting. In our country most protestors would get a fine, but in his country he is facing serious prison time.

I personally find the arrogance of George W. Bush to refuse to even see it from the side of this man, to say "I don't know what his beef is," shows a man so self-absorbed he is completely ignorant of the world around him.

tim lockwood
3.13.09 @ 2:20a

Just a little bump for this tale in order to bring an update.

It seems that shoe throwing reporter Muntadhar al-Zeidi was sentenced to three years in prison for the Iraqi equivalent of flipping a foreign dignitary the bird. Meanwhile, we'll be working on trying to extricate ourselves from the countless messes the former Pres got us into for years if not decades to come, while he gets to wander around Texas free as a bird making jokes about looking for a job, as if the joke wasn't at the expense of eight out of every 100 adult Americans.


robert melos
3.13.09 @ 5:25p

I wonder, if it had been a wingtip instead of aloafer would he have gotten life?

Bush just never knows when to disappear quietly or keep his mouth shut. Will so many out of work, and so many losing their jobs, he should've kept this little "photo op" to himself. Now it appears like he's rubbing it in the face of every unemployed American. "Hey, I screwed up the economy, cost you your jobs, and now I'll make a joke out of it." The man is an idiot.

Thanks for updating us, Tim. I hadn't heard the outcome of the shoe thrower's sentence. It really is unfair that he got anything more than a stern warning not to throw shoes at idiot foreign officials.

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