Symbolism over Everything

I wish I could ask my father what he thinks about the President of the United States bowing to the emperor of Japan. My father fought in Iwo Jima, the Philippines, and Guadacanal. While he has held no grudge against the Japanese people I would suspect he would draw the line at bowing to the royality of the country that interupted his young life in 1941. I suspect he would say a respectful handshake would do.

And me. I thought that thing that happened in 1776 and beyond meant we moved on from the necessity of bowing to-anyone. Maybe even a head-bob would be sorta okay. But our President becoming a right angle for anyone should only be done on Sesame Street in a math lesson.

Japan Obama Asia


  1. P-dude spends a lot of time bowing, doesn’t he?

    I wish the man could understand he can stay upright and show respect without giving our country away.

  2. I question why this is relevant. Cindy, you say he’s “giving away our country.” Come again? I don’t see it that way. I see it as a form of respect…the Emperor isn’t a real position of power anymore (not since WW2) but more of a ceremonial dignitary.

    To be sure, many liberals were upset with George W. with how cozy he was with the Saudi King…though that had more to do with appeasing an oil baron than anything. Still, it’s a cultural thing: would we rather make the world angry with us?

    Until I see him kissing the Pope’s ring, I’m not buying this whole “Obama is an appeaser to the world” thing. There’s a difference between appeasement and trying to make a good impression on foreign dignitaries.

  3. You miss the point given Chris Walker. As Cindy put it, “I wish the man could understand he can stay upright and show respect …”

    Point is – our culture is important to us. Showing respect is two way and mutual.

    I was disappointed to see this.

    Nice post Randy – I so agree with you.

  4. Wilson828 –

    “Showing respect is two way and mutual.”

    Right on!

    ** Darn…I keep forgetting to leave my name. It’s Libby. Not Anonymous.

  5. Wilson,
    I appreciate the insight you have given me. However, I still don’t see this as a problem. “Staying upright and showing respect” does the bare minimum in my mind…sort of like the grocery store cashier who does his job right but doesn’t greet/acknowledge the customer (can you tell where I’ve just been??).

    Imagine how much better a consumer feels with good customer service. That same principle can apply to foreign relations. We can be cordial and shake hands…and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. But going the extra mile creates warmer feelings, both in grocery stores and in foreign policy.

    When you say, “Showing respect is two way and mutual,” I agree with you. The picture above shows a “one way” street — Obama bowing. But it’s likely that the Emperor, too, showed cordiality and kindness to Obama after the shot was taken. If Obama had bowed and the Emperor treated him in a different way, then I’d be inclined to agree with you. But from all indications, that isn’t the case here.

    When you say, “Our culture is important to us,” I agree with that, too. But so, too, is the Japanese culture important to the Japanese. Again, a simple handshake would have sufficed — but bowing to such an important dignitary, the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy (though without real power) in the world, shows a great deal of respect.

    I suppose this is just something many Americans will have to agree-to-disagree with. I can see your point of view, but to me it doesn’t offend one bit.

    As for former military in the Pacific theater during WW2…and this is just an interesting bit of information…my grandfather, too, served on the front lines. He had three children when he came home. Eventually, one married a Japanese woman. My grandfather loved both of his grandchildren and his daughter-in-law. I don’t know how offensive this image would be to him, but he’d likely take the same view that I do…that is, it’s no big deal.

  6. No American ever should bow to any titled person. Our country was established on the principle that no extra respect is due to any person becuase of his or her birth: we are all born as equals. If, in some countries, people of all ranks give a nodding bow to each other, I suppose it would be appropriate for an average American except the President to reciprocate — but that would be for everyone, high or low, and not just kings and emperors. As as a matter of protocol, no President ever bows to anyone. Pres. Clinton created a stir (and was condemned in the NY times) for giving the duly elected leader of Japan a sort of mini-bow/nod similar to what Japanese give each other. And the deep bow is ridiculous — no one gives those. It makes him look like he came into town on a load of turnips.

  7. Okay Chris Walker… I read your response and I acknowledge your right to your opinion – I don’t agree – I don’t think the analogy of a retail store clerk applies – but it’s your opinion and that’s fine.

    Have a nice weekend. Go Packers!!!

  8. Wilson — thanks for the acknowledgment. And I agree — GO PACK!

    Jackson — I think you and I can agree on one thing for sure: no American should ever be forced to acknowledge a person’s lineage with respect. That is, I don’t have to think the Queen of England is great and mighty simply because she is the queen.

    With that said…Americans certainly have the right to do so anyway, don’t they? If I want to treat the Queen with respect, I certainly can do so. It’s my right to do that, correct?

    When a president does this, it certainly riles up a lot from the public (you mentioned Clinton had done this, and W. Bush has also been criticized for buddying-up to the Saudi King). But I look at it as a sign of respect — certainly we want to show foreign dignitaries respect, don’t we?

    So no, the president should not feel forced to bow to anyone. But if the president WANTS to, out of respect for someone, can’t he do that? So long as he’s doing it out of respect for that person, I see nothing wrong with it.

  9. Heavens. I can’t shy away from a good discussion. I agree with Chris in that it’s very likely the Japanese guy bowed back. HOWEVER that picture didn’t make it onto the public’s placemat. Why did this one?

    America may well have to get used to the fact that Obama is a bower. I certainly see signs that he’s a suck up, so I suppose it wouldn’t surprise me. But to be the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES you have to set some of your own happiness aside and measure your constituency. I’m betting his constituency isn’t impressed.

    BTW, Obama made a dive to kiss the Saudi King’s ring. There’s no evidence he humbled himself before the Pope – although two of his staff did. It seems the Great Appeaser picks and chooses to whom he stoops.

  10. Whoops. No evidence of a return bow. Shoot. The way Obama is bobbing around it looks like he’s doing his own version of duck and cover.

  11. Chris,

    What has the emperor of Japan done to deserve more respect than any other person? Nothing. The gesture shows submission rather than respect. If others want to look silly bowing and scraping before others, that’s therir right. for the President of the United States to do it reflects on the rest of us. I voted for the guy but he still hasn’t learned that he’s the President and not just some yokel who can violate protocol without consequence for the rest of us.

  12. AUH@O Republican says:

    I’m certainly not crazy about some of President Obama’s policies, but chastising him for this display of courtesy in a foreign country (I understand that Japanese bow the same way we shake hands) is less than superficial and not a worthy subject of your blog…

  13. AUH, I’d buy your argument if the Japanese guy had displayed a courtesy by bowing in return. Not the same way we shake hands when it’s one-sided bowing.

    And evidently you aren’t a regular reader. I’d compare brands of facial tissue if I decided that’s what I wanted to write about today. Randy has the same luxury.

  14. Randy in Richmond says:

    I would assume since you believe the subject not worthy of this site you would apply that same logic to other sites and news sources. Below is a short list of some of the sites discussing this story. But first I would like to link a picture that the left will most likely hang it’s hat on that this isn’t the first time for a President to bow. That picture is President Nixon’s meeting with emperor Hirohito in 1971. If President Obama had ‘bowed’ as did President Nixon this Post would never had happened nor would, I suspect, the superficial links below.

    Go here:

    A few other sites discussing this issue:—-how-will-White-House-explain-70102617.html

  15. I just think he likes to bend over for other people

  16. Don’t you?

  17. not in the context your’e thinking