Barack Obama’s bow-at-the-waist to Emperor Akihito has garnered some pretty harsh responses in the US. Namely, it is anti-Obama critics jumping on the President’s gesture with the ferocity of a jock at my high school who’s just been implicated as being gay.
That the President of the World’s Super Power akin to something along the lines of God of Earth, the United States of America should feel the need to bend over for a small Asian man (repeatedly, as Obama also bowed in an equally as controversial greeting to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at a G20 meeting recently) is thought of as repulsive, weak and definitively, unamerican by his critics.
Never mind that in Japanese tradition, the Emperor is a direct descendant of a divine being (the sun goddess, and thus probably even more powerful than any ‘god of earth’) and in American tradition, the president is just some chap who is popular.
Are the Obama critics really so afraid of being respectful of Asian traditions that they care about the angle of the President’s back? Is the WW2 anti-Japanese sentiment resurging to combine with some weirdo homophobic pride in a hybrid critique of the nation’s first non-white president?
Perhaps it would be more productive to critique the deep bowing of Obama to a symbolic ruler who represents a government that refuses to acknowledge many of its wartime atrocities and genocidal policies towards its Indigenous cultures. Or would such a critique be too close to the truth of America’s own national history?