Obama marks the path for future West/non-West relations

Anyone who says that this is not what it obviously is—a deep bow alien to the West and unheard of in any American president greeting a foreign or non-Western leader—is lying.


Anyone who claims not to see what it signifies—the deliberate abasement of the United States by its president, the submission of the West to the non-West—is blind or lying.

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OneSTDV (here is his blog) writes:

I’ve been struggling with a question recently concerning Obama. It’s clear Obama is a radical leftist who harbors a deep animus towards whites.

But does he actively wish to see America fail? Does he hate this country so much that he would celebrate its nonexistence or its degradation into a second-world entity?

Curious to hear your thoughts.

LA replies:

That’s a kind of question we have wrestled with frequently at my site. There’s a duality in the liberal mind. Their beliefs all tend toward destruction, but, no, they don’t actually consciously want things to be destroyed. So they make lots of exceptions, they don’t put their ideas into effect consistently. But, because their ideas do tend toward destruction, not just the destruction of “those forces of conservatism” (Tony Blair’s phrase), but of themselves, in the long run the reality they have unleashed will catch up with them, and then, I have argued, they will surrender to it. And they will surrender to it because they, the liberals, have no ideas that can oppose it. All their ideas are destructive. When they realize how destructive their ideas are, and that those ideas have led to actual destruction, they will be momentarily shocked, but then they will finally understand and accept what they’ve been about all this time, and they will consummate their marriage with death.

I recently made that argument here and here, relation to feminists and homosexuals’ views of Islam.

Palahalli S. writes:

With reference to just the deep bow accompanied with a handshake/hold, is it not an older Western tradition? I ask because I’ve observed this style of greeting in some visitors to Hindusthan as well as seen it in movies (old war—especially Germans).

However there is one crucial difference with Obama’s style. In what I otherwise witnessed, eye-contact was never lost. This is true of the Eastern traditions of bow-as-greeting too. Eye contact between the bower and the bowee ensures that self-respect of the bower is protected and the bowee never misunderstands the gesture.

The Hindus have the additional tradition of receiving blessings from teachers and respected elders in society and family by touching their feet. The categorisation of whose pada or feet may be touched ensures again that this gesture is never misunderstood or taken for granted.

So when Obama loses eye-contact with the bowee he effectively cedes a superior role or position to him and consequently denies himself equality or any kind of superiority.

Daniel H. writes:

Apparently MacArthur ordered that this photo be distributed to the Japanese media in the days following the surrender. He wanted to emphasize that Hirohito was in fact a mortal, a very puny mortal at that, and not a god as the Japanese had believed.


Looking at the photo you can almost feel Hirohito’s anxiety. Look at him all gussied up like some little Lord Fauntleroy. He had to know that he was a marked man and he very well could be swinging at the end of a rope when all was said and done. Apparently he was spared a hanging because MacArthur figured out that he could be useful in reconstructing Japan. Note Macarthur: a little tired looking, but a commanding, no no-nonsense presence. To imagine that the President of the United States would be bowing before Hirohito’s son, MacArthur must be turning in the grave.

At this moment Japanese men are probably musing that all they had to do was wait 60 or so years before they took on America and she would have fallen into their hands like ripe fruit. What shame Obama has brought upon this nation. I didn’t think that he could go lower than Bush but he has.

Paul Nachman writes

Wonderboy’s deep bow to the emperor of Japan represents abasement of the West to the Other. But, if so, isn’t it also self-abasement of the greatest egomaniac of our time? How do you fit that in?

LA replies:

He’s not abasing himself. He’s abasing America, which he represents. By abasing America, he’s glorifying himself over America. By trashing the dignity of the office of President of the United States, he’s asserting his superiority over that office.

Also, this is standard leftist psychology. As I wrote once at VFR:

Once you conceive an abiding and unappeasable resentment against your symbolic “father,” whether it’s your country, or your civilization, or nature, or God, or any other principle that embodies the structuring principle of your existence, you are compelled by an internal logic to embrace whatever is the opposite and adversary of your “father,” seeing it as the embodiment of the warm humanity—or the powerful authority—that your “father” lacks.

By bowing to non-Western monarchs, Obama is expressing his allegiance to the non-white world that is his true father, and showing his contempt for his false father, America.

Terry Morris writes:

Where did he learn to do this?

Ferg writes:

I forgot that they won the war. Of course he should bow.

John B. writes:

I object to Daniel H.’s sardonic reference to Little Lord Fauntleroy. Fauntleroy was a gentleman. Had Americans understood gentlemanliness, they would not have become liberals.

Terry Morris writes:

Skeptic that I am (particularly of leftists and their motivations for doing certain things), I just can’t suppress the question of whether this particular bow wasn’t actually a staged photo-op as an attempt to dispense with the theory that Obama is a closet Muslim evidenced by his deep bow before the King of Saudi Arabia. I mean, after all the flack he took from that, why would he do it again? Or at least allow it to be caught on camera?

I wouldn’t put anything past this guy.

LA replies:

I’m sorry, but I think Terry is being too clever by half. Instead of the bow being what it obviously is, an expression of exaggerated reverence, wholly improper for a president and thus an insult to the office, it’s some complicated ploy to remove the onus Obama supposedly feels over bowing to the Saudi monarch. The theory assumes that Obama’s bowing to the Saudi was a mistake that he regrets, rather than something he deliberately chose for obvious reasons and is now repeating again.

Speaking of complicated theories, see the next comment.

Jeff W. writes:

It has long been my belief that you can understand people better if you know how they get their money. I believe this approach can be used to explain why Obama bowed to the Japanese emperor.

Obama and his Chicago friends get their money in a variety of ways, including: graft relating to real estate (which includes zoning manipulation and use of public housing funds); trial lawyers’ proceeds from lawsuits; various shakedown rackets; government jobs, especially in education and social services; high-paid government consulting contracts; other miscellaneous graft from corporations that do business with government; union dues; and political consulting.

Obama and his crew make money from government in every way they can. But one major department of government is missing from the list: the Defense Department. Obama’s crew does not yet have its hooks into any significant Defense Department money.

So what do they do? They try to strip money from the Defense Department and give it to other agencies that are controlled by friends, such as the State Department or ACORN.

To me this explains why Obama is bowing. It has nothing specific to do with Japan; he will bow to any foreign leader as part of his charm offensive. Obama’s clique thinks that a charm offensive will reduce the need for the military, and thus allow Defense Department budget to be reallocated.

Leftists always have their eyes on the Defense Department budget in the same way that a hungry lion looks at a wildebeest. If Obama can teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, it will be a multi-billion dollar bonanza for them. Obama, Emmanuel, Axelrod and Jarrett figure, “If a few bows can put the price of an aircraft carrier in our pockets, why not?”

Terry Morris writes:

You wrote:

“The theory assumes that Obama’s bowing to the Saudi was a mistake that he regrets, … “

No, no. It assumes that his being caught at it was a mistake he regrets, not the bowing itself which I do not believe for a minute that he’s ever had any kind of feeling of regret for having done. Obama’s regret is of the same manner that a criminal is sorry that he was caught, not for his crime.

LA replies:

But how could he feel he was “caught”? It was a public act, meant to be seen publicly. If the world hadn’t seen it, it would have failed in its own purpose.

TM replies:

Because he didn’t realize at the time that the bow before the Saudi King would elicit so much negative reaction from Americans.

LA replies:

So because the first bow to a foreign monarch elicited so much negative reaction from Americans, and he wanted to get rid of that negativity, he decided to perform an even deeper bow to another foreign monarch?

TM replies:

Not exactly, no. My theory is that he may have wanted to dispense with the suspicions which resurfaced concerning his being some kind of closet Muslim brought about by the first bow. What better way to accomplish that than to bow in the same manner (it’s exceedingly strange that he would bow in the exact same manner before these various monarchs) in front of a couple or three non-Muslim Monarchs? Of course you’re right that the new bow, and the appearance it gives that this is going to be standard procedure for Obama, raises new issues that he’ll have to deal with. But that ought to be easy by comparison to the problems raised by the Muslim issue. So he took a calculated risk.

LA writes:

If there’s anyone who imagines that Obama was following the normal protocol for greating the Japanese emperor be sure to see the collection of photos at HotAir of foreign leaders shaking hands with the Japanese emperor. There’s no question but that Obama was acting deliberately and consciously to express something that he wanted to express. The notion that this was some kind of boo-boo on his part is obviously incorrect.

Michelle R. writes:

The bow screams to me:

Sorry for that nuclear bomb, Japan. I’m really, really, sorry those evil white Americans dropped that awful nuclear bomb on you. I, the black president, profoundly apologise for evil white Americans. I will keep bowing and bowing just to remind everyone how much nuclear evil the white people unleashed on your country. I know I look really stupid bowing, but every new country I visit I’ve got to hit that ‘reset’ button and apologise for the white man. But, hey, what better way to remind the world how evil white men are than by invoking the ultimate symbol of white evilness: those mushroom clouds wrought by Little Boy and Fatman over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I never miss a photo opportunity to remind the world how evil white men are.

LA replies:

Yes, I think that apologizing for the nuclear bomb is part of the bow.

Expatriot writes:

I thought you might be interested in the Japanese reaction to Obama’s bow, even though it has little bearing on the question of its appropriateness from an American perspective. First, the only coverage it got followed the coverage it got in the U.S., and has been more like coverage of the way the American press is covering it than coverage of the bow itself. Had it not been for the attention it’s been receiving over your way, it would have passed unnoticed here.

When Japanese people see that picture of Obama’s bow, it just looks funny. In the first place, they do not see any need for foreigners to bow to their emperor. He is emperor of the Japanese and no one else. Beyond that, it is strange to bow deeply while attempting to shake hands at the same time. A deep formal bow is not accompanied by a handshake. You should do one or the other, but not both.

In short, Obama’s bow looks so funny to the Japanese that they would be incapable of seeing any symbolism in it. The last thing that would occur to them is that the president of the United States is trying to abase himself to a foreign potentate. They see it merely as one more foreigner making an inept attempt to follow Japanese etiquette—an attempt that, far from being offensive or embarrassing, comes off as somewhat endearing precisely because of its inadvertent silliness.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking issue with your characterization of Obama’s intentions (though I suspect that, on the part of his advisors at least, there’s also a measure of wanting to show how hip they are by following what they take to be Japanese protocol). I’m just saying that while Obama may be trying his hardest to convey his own anti-Americanism with his body language here, it should be some small comfort to you to know that the Japanese at least aren’t getting the message. (I realize, of course, that the whole world is watching, not just the Japanese.)

November 16

Paul K. writes:

Your correspondent Expatriot writes that to the Japanese “the bow comes off as somewhat endearing precisely because of its inadvertent silliness.”

That may be one way of looking at it, but ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper quotes an expert on Japanese culture as saying that the Japanese found Obama’s bow to the emperor so odd and inappropriate that they are only showing photos of his more restrained bow to the empress:

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms…. The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.”

Nixon “bowed” to Hirohito in 1971, but it was a non-deferential, American bow, more of a slight incline toward the other person as anyone might do when exchanging greetings.

LA replies:

Amazing. The Japanese, who have a sense of propriety, are more bothered by Obama’s inappropriate behavior than the Americans are, and cover it up so as not to spread a negative message.

Leonard D. writes:

My impression of Obama’s bow is that he is attempting to be multicultural. In Japan, they bow! So we should bow over there! (Never mind doing it right; I saw how to do it on TV.)

It is like going into a Mexican restaurant and speaking pidgin Spanish to the Mexican waiter. The progressive believes he is demonstrating solidarity with the waiter, that is, equalizing them. The waiter thinks it is condescension.

It is interesting to read your letter from Expatriot: Obama is doing it wrong! Obama’s bows must be improvised. Surely, they must have people in the State department who know how to perform Japanese rituals correctly. That he did not do it right, suggests that he never consulted with an expert.

The incorrectness of the bow shows Obama’s progressivism in another way: to him, the meaning of social rituals must be personal. Whatever traditional meaning may have existed in the handshake, or in the bow, is not relevant to him. Thus he is free to mix and match rituals at a whim. He, himself, is the source of meaning, not other people (aka tradition). If he believes he is honoring the Emperor with his bow, he is!

I agree with your thesis: this is Obama denigrating America. America is, or at least traditionally was, Western. We shake hands as a greeting, and we do that worldwide, not just here in America. This is Obama using the bully pulpit to teach the rubes in middle America: our social rituals are not enough; we are too high and mighty; we must lower ourselves to the level of the world.

Chuck Ross writes:

I have been tracking Obama’s submissive behavior towards other world leaders. I wrote an article about it on my blog and on The Spearhead.

I laid out an equation by which I showed that Obama is less dominant than any of our former enemies from WWII (I included Russia). He defers, through his posture and behavior, to other world leaders much more than they defer to him. I offered that perhaps this is a contrived diplomatic strategy to correct for the previous administration’s macho attitude, but upon analyzing pictures, I believe that Obama is just naturally beta and submissive. He tilts his head and displays subtle signs of timidity when in the presence of other world leaders.

One can get maintain diplomacy while still being strong. Reagan did it. Clinton did it to an extent. Obama is just naturally submissive; this isn’t good for America.

LA replies:

Naturally submissive? I don’t know. What he’s doing with health care and bringing the 9/11 conspirators to New York for trial is not the act of a submissive person, but one who imposes his will on others regardless of how they feel about it. I’d say the submissivenss is only toward foreign leaders, and it’s connected with this leftist/nonwhite need to lower America’s stature in the world.

Karen writes from England:

It’s more than a bow; he is practically bent over double in the way a servant would bow to the Emperor. The Emperor looks amused, not unsurprisingly. A handshake would have been enough. Non Japanese don’t have to follow Japanese customs. I think Obama is out of his depth in the role and is humiliating the USA. The impression he gives is a man not to be taken seriously. He is a lightweight who likes clowning around. I don’t believe that his negotiation skills are much better.

LA writes:

People who think that because lots of people (including us) are laughing at Obama, this means that the bow was a mistake. It was not a mistake. He knows what he’s doing. Beyond the people who are offended by the bow, are millions of people who will see it as a wonderful, healing gesture.

America is too rich, too powerful, and too white, and Obama is going to change all that. That’s what the bow symbolized.

Jon S. writes:

I agree with you whole-heartedly as to the reason for Obama’s bowing to non-Western leaders. I think you are right, that he intends it as a symbol of subservience of whites (as represented by America, which he in theory represents) to the non-white world. I wonder if you could elaborate on Van Wijk’s excellent and insightful comment on your “inner Obama” thread:

The only thing Obama despises more than the whiteness of America is the whiteness within himself. By purging the whiteness from the United States he believes, at least on a subconscious level, that he can purge his own whiteness. Such are the dividends of the black man-white woman miscegenation.

I wonder what you think of this. There seems to be something of a history of persons born of two races/cultures becoming intense partisan race warriors for one side. One example that comes to mind readily is Eamon De Valera, only half-Irish and born abroad, who became a zealous supporter of the Irish independence movement and future president of Ireland, even going so far as to help start the Irish Civil War following independence, because he felt that the treaty did not go far enough. Another example was Comanche chief Quanah Parker, the son of a Comanche warrior and a white captive, who was one of the last tribes to surrender, and who, according to what I remember reading, was known for his savagery toward whites, even among Comanches. In theory, since Obama was raised by the white side of his family, he should strongly identify with whites, but the opposite is the case. I wonder why you think that is.

LA replies:

Van Wijk’s comment doesn’t click with me, maybe just because I felt the word “despise” was too strong. I don’t see Obama as “despising” the white part of himself. Yet, as he wrote frankly in his memoir, his bi-racial nature was a big problem for him. Because he was half black, he couldn’t be white. so his choice was either to be non-racial or trans-racial, like Tiger Wood, or to be black. In fact, only blackness offered a real identity to him. But to be black, he had to reject the white part of himself. He had to turn against whiteness. I’ve written sympathetically about his dilemma in a March 2008 post about American-British columnist Janet Daley’s theory, expanded on by me, about why Obama, who did not come from a black American background, gravitated to the most racist aspect of black America at Trinity Church.

However, while he wrote frankly in his book about his younger years when he adopted a strong black identity, I am struck by the fact that no reporter ever asked him when he was running for president: “Senator, you said you turned angrily away from whiteness and embraced blackness in your late teens and twenties. Do you still feel that way now? If not, when did you change? What made you change? And what did the change consist of?”

There is no account by Obama saying, “I used to be a race man, and now I no longer am one, because as I went through life I had experiences and understandings that led me to a better place.” He’s never said anything like that to my knowledge. In fact, his continuance as a parishioner of the vile white-hater Jeremiah Wright right up to March 2008 strongly suggests that he did not undergo such a change, and that the thoughtful, non-angry, non-thratening, beyond-race Obama we saw in 2006, 2007, and (less so) 2008 was largely an act.

Cindy W. writes:

In addition to your observations, I think there is also truth in what Rush said earlier today. He says Obama bows because he’s envious of royalty. He wishes he were on the receiving end of bows and displays of subservience.

Michael S. writes:

“Naturally submissive? I don’t know. What he’s doing with health care and bringing the 9/11 conspirators to New York for trial is not the act of a submissive person, but one who imposes his will on others regardless of how they feel about it.”

Good point, but consider the tactical differences. It’s one thing to stand behind a microphone and bloviate, and another thing to deal with another man face-to-face. With health care, there are all kinds of people out there duking it out. And who’s bringing the 9/11 conspirators to New York? Eric Holder, again, sitting behind a desk or standing behind a lectern.

But shaking hands with foreign leaders, that’s different, it seems to me. Maybe he is intimidated.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2009 06:15 PM | Send

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