Monday, November 16, 2009
Having worked for a major Japanese corporate entity and having studied the Japanese language and culture, I found Obama's display of obeisance to the hereditary Japanese monarch to be particularly embarassing.
Anyone with even a rudimentary knowlege of the culture knows that a bow, while customary amongst Japanese, is not expected of foreigners -- and certainly not by the leader of the Western World.
Moreover, the Japanese are particularly sensitive to the various gradations of the bow. The deep bow that Obama-san enacted would be more suited to the Japanese Emperor's gardener or chauffeur than to a fellow head of state.
After seeing this groveling Obama pose, I fully expected him to get out his bootblack kit and buff up the Emperor's shoes. Or perhaps segue into a Steppin' Fetchit soft shoe dance for the amusement of the Empress.
It was a disgrace.
Contrast this to the treatment that General Douglas MacArthur accorded the current Emperor's father, Hirohito, in 1946.
General MacArthur grew up in the Orient as his father was Governor-General of the US Phillipine Protectorate. He understood the Oriental mind probably better than any American of his time.
So when MacArthur moved into the Dai Ichi palace to assume his role as Supreme Commander of the Occupying Forces, he pointedly refused to pay a courtesy call on the Emperor of the defeated Japanese.
Understanding the Japanese concept of "face," he was making it quite clear that he was now the effective ruler of the country.
So the diminutive monarch, who had only by MacArthur's good graces narrowly escaped having been hung as a war criminal, donned his morning coat and top hat and sheepishly went over to Dai Ichi to meet with the new "American Caesar."
MacArthur, casually dressed and towering over the little despot, ordered a photo taken. And he ordered the Japanese newpapers to publish it.
This was a very significant political act and MacArthur knew it. Until then, the Japanese Emperor was still considered a god by his people. They were not allowed to lay eyes on him and had never seen a photograph of their diminutive deity.
When the photos appeared the Japanese were aghast that they had been considering this little fellow to be their god. The contrast with the statuesque American General was striking.
It was the act that sealed the modernization of Japan and cemented its ties to the victorious American superpower.
If Obama and his State Department buffoons had had but a fraction of General Douglas MacArthur's understanding of that culture and of his political genius, this embarassing farce could have been avoided.