(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
"The Business of Bowing"
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Protocol is political.
KENNEDY: Once upon a time Jacqueline Kennedy wondered whether she should curtsy to the queen when she and her husband were planning to visit England. After all, she had curtsied when she and her sister Lee visited the UK years earlier. Wisely, she consulted her husband's chief of protocol, and he said: "the wife of a chief of state does not curtsy." Problem solved before it became a problem. The Kennedys dined with the royal couple in private during their visit to England.
REAGAN: Nancy Reagan said out loud that she "wasn't going to curtsy to anyone" when she and her husband visited the UK. Unfortunately, her remark was repeated, and she was the object of derision before she ever set foot in the palace. It is good to consult the chief of protocol, Nancy found out. She and her husband dined with the queen and hundreds of others, at one of those state dinners the queen hosts when she really doesn't like her guests and is being nice at the request of the PM.
THATCHER: The other night on a "Frontline" documentary, I saw a vintage video clip of former PM Margaret Thatcher being greeted at a foreign airport by dignitaries. She shook hands with all those present, except the last man presented to her. She took his hand, and gave a deep curtsy. Not likely to be off her game when it comes to protocol, Margaret must have been meeting a prince of the blood or a king. But wasn't she a chief of state back then? If so, why did she curtsy? Possibly because the queen is the chief of state in England, even though political power is exercised by the PM? OK, that works for me.
OBAMA: We all know that first lady Michelle put her arm around the queen when America's first couple visited the UK recently, and we've all heard that one doesn't touch the queen. Apparently the queen was not bothered. After all, the Obamas dined in private at the palace with Elizabeth and Philip.
Now the juicy part -- did President Obama really bow to the Saudi King? We could not hear the dialogue in the video clip, but the king was smiling broadly during this public introduction. Was there a shared joke? Was Obama deliberately fanning the fears of American reactionaries, who still fear that he is a secret Muslim?
For some reason, I'm enjoying this entire subject immensely. So little is funny these days in the international news.
(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
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Union of Concerned Scientists, VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against War), Doctors Without Borders, Waterkeeper Alliance, PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility...