Archive for April 2009

Hey Iran! Free Roxana Saberi! Free Her Now!

April 19, 2009

Free Roxana Saberi! Free Roxana Saberi!

Come on, chant with me. Free Roxana Saberi! Release her now unconditionally! Tell those Iranians to release her from prison immediately and allow her to return home to North Dakota! Now!

Whew. I’m glad I could get that out of the way. Now I can rest assured knowing that I made at least some noise to protest this travesty of justice.
On April 18, U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage, according to her lawyer and family members. The 31-year-old reporter worked for NPR and various other news organizations throughout her career. She has reported for BBC, ABC, and Fox. She decided to move to Iran in 2003 to report on its life and culture for an upcoming book.

Saberi has dual American and Iranian citizenship; which explains why the Iranian government has the ability to arrest her. She was given a “trial” that was closed off to the public. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, was not allowed to be present. Talk about abusing justice.

This kangaroo court gave her no chance to refute accusations of being a U.S. spy. The U.S. and Iran have not had regular diplomatic relations together since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent storming of the U.S. Embassy that led to 52 American diplomats being held for 444 days in captivity. The authoritarian regime in Tehran has recently expressed interest in developing nuclear energy. They say it is for peaceful purposes. U.S. officials believe otherwise.

Former President George W. Bush infamously called Iran one of the “Axis of Evil,” along with Iraq (which we later invaded) and North Korea. Despite talk by new President Barack Obama to open up dialogue with the regime, hostilities between our two countries still exist.

Saberi’s arrest is just the icing on the cake. There are currently other U.S. citizens being held in Iran, including a student arrested last October and a former FBI agent held since 2007. In addition to accusations of developing nuclear weapons, the U.S. believes Iran supports terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and aids Iraqi insurgents against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Iran somehow suspects that the U.S. and Israel will invade it someday. That makes sense, considering the United States has invaded two Middle Eastern countries since 2001 and has talked of using military force to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has been known to fight wars against its Arab neighbors, so the Islamic Persian nation is justified into thinking a similar war is pending.

Or are they? The U.S.’s new administration is unlikely to use military force against such a large and powerful Muslim country. It can’t afford to. Israel’s image in the world is quickly deteriorating faster than it can do damage control for. One more image of Israeli aggression against an Islamic state will surely bring about her total isolation from the Muslim world.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Iran feels threatened, whether it has proper justification for believing so or not. It makes sense that they would see any U.S. incursion on its soil as an act of hostility.

Which brings us back to Ms. Saberi. Do the Iranians actually believe she is a spy who works for the CIA, NSA, or State Department? I have no idea. While Iran has reasons to believe that the U.S. would spy on them, it seems ridiculous that America would send her, of all people, to complete reconnaissance missions. She’s a journalist, for crying out loud! Her intention is to publish her findings, not secretly give them to the U.S. government.

But what’s the difference if you live in constant fear of military attack? The Bush administration’s harsh language against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad throughout the past few years makes it sound like American B-52s would be dropping bombs on Tehran at any moment. Such has not been the case yet.

For Iran, Roxana Saberi might as well be a spy. She’s an American who is there to record her experiences and share them with the Western world. Sounds like spy work to me, doesn’t it?

My guess is that Iran really doesn’t suspect that she’s a spy. Her arrest and imprisonment is meant to send a message to Americans and journalists everywhere that Iran’s sovereignty will not be violated. No one can find out about Iran’s dirty secrets and get away with it.

Authoritative regimes have the tendancy to make sure no one knows what happens within their borders. Just look at North Korea. Although Iran is no where close to North Korea’s isolation from the rest of the world, Tehran has enough skeletons in their closet to not want journalists to report on what happens behind closed doors.

Iran is sending a message to the United States that if you want to find out about us, you have to act on our terms. That means withdrawing from Iraq, ending talks of nuclear nonproliferation, and condemning the war crimes committed by Israel.

American journalists cannot expose what life is like in Iran before the U.S. concedes that it will no longer a threat to Iranian sovereignty. After all, you don’t see Iranian journalists coming over here to find out what American culture is like, do you?

For now, Saberi’s prison sentence will be a symbol of hostilities between our nations. She cannot be both an American and Iranian citizen; she must be one or the other. By her coming over there in order to report on what life is like in Iran, deep down inside the Iranian government is insulted because, in a way, she’s implying that life in the U.S. is better than it is over here. She’s an Iranian citizen, but chooses to call America her home. What could be more insulting than that?

But that is all speculation. What we do know is that she needs to be released now. She’s a journalist, not a spy. She reports the truth, not conceals it. Free her now! Free her now! For the love of Allah, free her now!

I can hear you chanting already.

 

 

 

Does Superman Cause American Imperialism to Occur?

April 17, 2009
Superman: American symbol of justice or a pro-war, pro-genocide nationalistic fascist imperialistic war criminal?

Superman: American symbol of justice or a pro-war, pro-genocide nationalistic fascist imperialistic war criminal?

I guess people do read newspapers these days.

On Thursday, April 16, 2009 Whitworth University welcomed the Reverend Peter Storey to come lecture at the Robinson Teaching Theatre. Rev. Storey is a South African religious leader who was Nelson Mandela’s chaplain during his imprisonment on Robben Island. Storey played in important role in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa and ushering in a new era of democracy and racial justice.

Storey was one of the leaders of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that brought perpetrators and victims together in a spirit of forgiveness. Oppressors confessed their crimes in front of the victims or family members of victims as a way to heal national wounds caused by racism and injustice. The TRC is part of the reason why South Africa did not boil into a civil war after the apartheid government lost their power.

His lecture was part of the annual Simpson-Duvall lectureship that welcomes speakers from backgrounds in history and English. I met Rev. Storey before when I visited South Africa as part of a study tour in January of 2008.

On the morning of April 17 Storey came into my “History and Politics of Nonviolence” class. The professor, Dr. John Yoder, is a peace studies scholar who led the South Africa trip that I went on. At the beginning of his lecture, Storey held up a copy of The Whitworthian in front of the class and wanted to point out a particular story.

He read the headline: “Superheroes Do More Than Just Entertain” and tried to pronounce the name of the author.

“Tim Takeechee?” Storey asked.

A helpful voice shouted out “Tuh-keh-chee,” which cleared that up.

Tim Takechi, who happened to be in the class, identified himself as the author of the article that he is referencing. I’m guessing Storey had no idea the author of the opinion piece would be in his audience that morning.

Storey said the opinion article points out that in times of crisis, people in society turn to their mythological heroes for inspiration. Such an assertion is true and follows the point the author was trying to make. But then Storey changed directions and started to criticize the author’s lack of mentioning that superheroes use violence to solve problems.

Rev. Storey is a peace activist who believes that violence is never a good option in solving problems. This is a point of view that I respect and recognize as quite credible. However, Storey went a step further and implied that the author of the piece (which, if you haven’t figured out yet, is me) seems to be saying that superheroes are justified in using violence to defeat evil.

Often times peace activists will blame the “media” as perpetuating violence in the world. The “media” show that violence is the only option and fail to acknowledge that peaceful nonviolence is a viable solution even in today’s world. When in doubt, blame social evils on the “media.” It works every time.

But does reading Superman and Batman comic books or watching the Spider-Man movies make you a violent person? Or even deeper than that, do these characters contribute to fueling the American War Machine that invades every oil rich and pro-Communist country in the world? Will reading Wonder Woman comic books make young girls want to join the military and kill every dirty Arab and Muslim in the Middle East? Storey, though not to that extreme, might think so.

Maybe it’s unfair to say that Storey believes reading comic books will lead to a violent pro-genocide pro-war right winged Nazi American culture. But then again, maybe I’m just a tad upset that Storey ridiculed my editorial in front of the entire class.

He even went as far as to joke that I should rewrite my article. Rewrite my article a month after it has been published? Ouch! That hits below the belt. Even Jayson Blair would tell him that he’s being too insulting.

But does pop culture really lead to a violent culture at large? That’s a whole other blog post. For now, I think it is suffice to say that I should be proud as a journalist, not upset. This is not the first time I’ve received criticism from people regarding my opinion pieces. Every journalist gets ridicule sometime. It’s part of the job. But this is the first time such a high profile person has said anything negative to me.

Storey is not just some random person. He’s a major figure in South Africa and international peacemaking. I feel just like Thomas Friedman or George F. Will, who are always being criticized by heads of state and political figures for their stories. This is a sign that I’ve arrived on the journalistic scene. How many student journalists can say that a prominent national leader has criticized their work in a public setting? Can Jim McPherson say that?

By now, my upset feelings have subsided and have been substituted for feelings of pride. I defended my article in class, but in the interest of time, I did not have time to completely argue my case. Either way, I can sleep well tonight knowing I’ve rattled at least one important person in the world of global politics.

The Great and Mighty Peter Storey now knows that at least one American college student will not go down quietly when his work is being slammed. Having a doctorate degree, years of theological experience, partaking in ending apartheid, and being a friend of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu does not mean people will automatically bow down to you and agree with everything you say. I’m an American. We’re used to fighting back against authority figures.

But this whole incident reminds me of something more important. In an age of economic recession, dying newspapers, and emerging online multimedia journalism, it is comforting to know that at least someone out there is reading newspapers. Not just any newspaper, but The Whitworthian, of all publications in the world.

Do people still read newspapers? Yes. But as I know now, not necessarily comic books.

Unlimited “Sext” Messaging, Anyone?

April 12, 2009

Young people sure have a way of making trouble.

There has been a recent trend among teens and tweens (“tweens” being defined as kids roughly between the ages of 9 and 12) of “sexting,” a practice of sending sexually explicit or pornographic images of themselves or others to their friends. Get it? It’s a play on the words “sex” and texting.” We are so clever.

But the consequences of such actions are not so funny. CNN reported a story recently about a young man named Phillip Alpert, who shortly after turning 18 (which makes him a legal adult) sent a naked photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend to friends and family after the two had a major fight.

The original photo was sent to Alpert by his girlfriend prior to the incident, but it wasn’t until this fight that the photo got out to half the world. And if you know anything about anything, word spreads like wildfire. The police in Orlando, Florida somehow found out and Alpert was arrested under charges of sending child pornography. He pleaded no contest to this felony and was sentenced to five years probation.

Worse yet, Alpert had to register as a sex offender because of the underage pornography aspect to his crime. He, for the rest of his life, will be categorized in the same sentence as rapists, child stalkers, pedophiles, and predators. The crime he committed took a grand total of two or three minutes to commit. For that, he will pay for the rest of his life.

But is it fair for him to be placed in the same category as the scum of society? Though technically he was an adult and she was a minor, the circumstances suggest they were practically peers. But this particular case bears little interest to either you or I. What really is interesting is that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Teens and tweens and old folks like me are doing this all across the country. Sending nude photos of yourself to your girlfriend or boyfriend seems to be a new way of flirting in today’s dating scene. Whatever happened to the good old days of going up to someone and striking up a conversation? Whatever happened to relying on your wit and conversational skills to attract someone of the opposite sex? When did “sexting” replace decent human interaction?

I guess this is all part of the technological advances in today’s world. The wider ability to communicate make us more likely to do and say things that we would never do in real life. We would never take off our clothes in front of someone to impress them, but we would be willing to take a picture of ourselves with our cell phone camera and text it. What’s the difference?

This brings up the disturbing question about whether technology is making us more immoral, or worse yet, amoral. Sending and creating child pornography is something that was infinitely more difficult to do prior to the Internet. Today, it is much easier to access these materials. As “Avenue Q,” famously put it, the Internet is for porn.

If technology is really making us amoral and desensitized to committing foul acts of indecency, what is the solution? I have no idea. Moderation, perhaps? I’m no Buddhist, but maybe there is some wisdom in the notion of forsaking worldly attachments in order to save one’s self.

We cannot change the culture of “sexting” without recognizing the root cause: the realization that we do because we can. If the technology is out there to send naked photos of yourself to your significant other, who is to say you can’t do that?

I’ve never sent photos of myself over the phone, and have never received any likewise. But if I do, who is to say I won’t forward it to my friends and family, even if it’s as harmless as a photo of a new puppy or a pet cat? Nudity is the next step, but that step is not too far off. People will commit acts of indecency not because they don’t know any better, but because it’s so easy. It’s just one click of a button away.

Just make sure the authorities never find out about it.

It’s Time to Put Newspaper Political Endorsements to Bed

April 8, 2009

Newspapers are supposed to give us the news fairly, accurately, truthfully, and as objectively as possible.

If this is the case, why should newspapers officially endorse candidates for political office?

The Whitworthian, the newspaper of which I am a proud staff writer, is the official newspaper of Whitworth University, a small Presbyterian private university in Spokane, Washington. The school is in the middle of elections for next year’s ASWU (Associated Students of Whitworth University) executive positions.

Last year the Whitworthian endorsed Obe Quarless for ASWU President over Peter Cleary. Quarless ended up winning by the slimmest of margins. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he won by less than 10 votes.

With a student body of about 2,400 undergraduate students, it is not hard to imagine that the Whitworthian’s endorsement pushed Quarless over the edge. Whether he is a better president than Clearly would have been is beside the point. The point is that the newspaper swayed the election. The media, one could argue, decided the outcome.

This is not a new phenomena. Newspapers have endorsed presidential candidates since the early days of daily papers. In the 2004 presidential election, 418 newspapers across the country endorsed a candidate, or about 29 percent of newspapers in America. Most endorsed either George W. Bush or John Kerry.

The New York Times proudly says that its first endorsement was Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Afterward, the Times mostly endorsed Republicans. After Woodrow Wilson’s victory in 1912, they shifted to mostly endorsing Democrats. From John F. Kennedy onward, the Times have endorsed only Democrats. This should come as a surprise to no one.

But what is the point? If newspapers are supposed to give us fair and objective news, how can we trust their credibility if we know who they wish to see win an election? If a newspaper officially endorses Barack Obama, how do I know their coverage of Hillary Clinton and John McCain will be fair? We have legitimate reasons to doubt.

The media have many skeptics these days. It seems “the media” are blamed for every social problem facing our country today. People, especially young people, see the mainstream mass media as bias toward either the left or right. This might explain why people are either turning to alternative news sources (Jon Stewart, anyone?) or ignoring the news all together.

This must stop. But seeing newspapers endorsing candidates will do no good. The media are supposed to educate, enlighten, and inform us; not manipulate us. The Whitworthian is the only news source available to students regarding campus affairs. They have a monopoly on political and news coverage. By endorsing a specific candidate, they hold more power than other papers around the country do. Other newspapers have nation-wide competition. The Whitworthian has none.

I believe newspapers should stop endorsing candidates in order to protect their integrity, reputation, and fairness. I have no problem with specific writers endorsing candidates, but the editorial board should never take sides. The entity of the newspaper itself should stay neutral and only report the facts about the candidates and let their readers make the decisions for themselves.

I have no beef with the Whitworthian and am not criticizing their journalistic practices at all. I know the people on the staff and respect their free speech rights to endorse whomever they want. All I am saying is that I respectfully disagree with their decision to choose someone they want to see get elected.

Objectivity may be an illusion, but there are certain steps one can take to restore as much fairness as possible to journalism as the fourth estate of government. Journalists are supposed to keep the government in check, not choose who gets to be in government.

As for this upcoming ASWU election, I hope students will read the Whitworthian’s coverage of the candidate’s positions and disregard who has been endorsed.

We don’t need any more authority figures telling the people what to think. It’s time the media inform the people, not dictate to them how to behave. If more newspapers across the country follow this notion and stay neutral in political campaigns, the negative stigma placed against the media may dissipate.

If not, I may have to find a new profession.

*I would like to note that although I am a member of the Whitworthian staff, the views supplied on this blog do reflect the views of the newspaper. The Whitworthian should not be held responsible for my personal views and beliefs. I would also like to note that I am not making any commentary on Obe Quarless’ performance as ASWU President or Peter Cleary’s candidacy. That is all.

Three Strikes and We’re Out?

April 6, 2009

Baseball might be back, but will we be?

Tonight debuts the 2009 season of Major League Baseball amid some of the most tumultuous relations between the league and its fans since the strike season of 1994. The recent outing of mega-paid superstar Alex Rodriguez of steroids use is just one example of many of beloved players (well, he’s not so beloved in Seattle or Texas) being caught cheating at “America’s pastime.”

Not only that, but America is in the middle of an economic recession. Money’s tight, families are cutting back. Will teams be able to fill up stadium seats for the entire season? Prospects are looking grim in this area.

The cost of going to a baseball game has gone up since, well, as long as I can remember. Attending a New York Yankees game, for example, in their new stadium, will cost at least $350 and at the most $2,625 for a lower deck seat.

Yes, you read that right. A single ticket at the Yankee’s new stadium can cost up to $2,625. Who can afford to pay that? Ironically, the players can. They’re the only ones who can afford to shell out that much dough to see a game that you can watch easily on television.

Just ask new Yankees superstar Mark Teixeira, who during the off-season signed an eight-year $180 million contract. He’s not the only Yankee who is paid that much money. The previously mentioned A-Rod and fellow stars Derek Jeter and new pitcher C.C. Sabathia are paid comparable fees.

“Like every election, it’s the economy,” Teixeira said. “In tough times, disposable income may not be there.”

Yeah, you’re one to talk, buddy.

The Seattle Mariners, my home team, are no better. They had the privilege last year of becoming the first team in Major League history to lose 100 games (they lost 101) while having a payroll of more than $100 million ($117 million payroll on opening day). That’s disgusting considering the Tampa Bay Rays went to the World Series on a fraction of that.

So here’s the deal: players are becoming more selfish, players are sacrificing integrity for power stats, and tickets are becoming too expensive to afford. Three strikes and you’re out. This is not a good combination.

Besides, baseball is not as popular as it once was. Today, the National Football League is much more popular than Major League Baseball. “America’s pastime?” Maybe not anymore.

But here is the bright side: baseball has a way of persevering. When World War II broke out and the U.S. was forced to become involved, baseball persisted even as some players left to fight overseas. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League formed as a result, which encouraged women to enter into athletic competition. Ever seen “A League of Their Own?”

Baseball served as a way for African Americans to empower themselves. The famed Negro League allowed black baseball players to play professionally for just as long as white players were able. The famous Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, a few years before the Civil Rights movement became a mainstream social cause. Baseball proved that the art of athletic sport is colorblind and can teach us to come together by sharing an interest that we have in common.

After 9/11, it became essential that baseball resume playing in wake of the attacks. Returning to “normalcy” means returning to playing the game that is truly “American.”

(It is important to note that the origins of baseball is ambiguous. Some say it is European in origin, but for our purposes, let’s assume the game we know today is of American invention)

Living through the summer and fall without hearing the crack of the bat would be unpatriotic, right? In fearful times, it was important that we knew that there would be stability in our lives. Watching the playoffs and World Series reminded us of better times.

And now flash forward to today. In the wake of the banking crisis and Bernard Madoff scandal, it is easy for baseball fans (and even non-fans) to become disenfranchised with players’ high paid contracts and cheating ways. But if history has taught us anything, it is that the game will always go on. When things get bad, people revert to what is familiar to them. Going to the stadium and cheering for your home team can be just the trick.

Will fans be back for this season? I’m sure of it. There might be a slight downturn in attendance, but once the economy gets back to normal and the steroids era comes to an end, going to the ballpark will be business as usual.

Now go buy yourself a box of Cracker Jacks and don’t care if you ever get back.

Afghanistan Might Be Our Fight Alone

April 4, 2009

In our war in Afghanistan, it looks as though we might have to finish it alone.

President Barack Obama met with European leaders at the G-20 summit meeting and is currently touring France in his first major overseas trip as president. Before the start of the summit, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed with Obama’s plan to send more troops to Afghanistan, but did not go as far as to promise that they would provide some of the personnel.

Ever since the October 2001 invasion of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition troops have tirelessly pursued Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents all throughout the region. Recently the fighting has spilled over into neighboring Pakistan, a country not known for stability itself. Obama has said that winning the war in Afghanistan is crucial for protecting America from Islamic terrorism and a rebirth of al-Qaeda.

Today U.S. and NATO forces are struggling to bring stability to the sparsely populated outer regions near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The former Bush administration has been accused of diverting America’s military attention away from Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and toward Iraq, a battle many Americans believe is not part of the larger “War on Terror.”

Obama promised 17,000 additional troops for the war effort but has not specifically addressed how our NATO allies will contribute. There seems to be apprehension on their part to continue a war that is becoming increasingly more unpopular around the world.

Sarkozy and Merkel promised to help in the effort, but did not commit any troops to be part of it. What has been promised is increased assistance in training Afghan police and military forces.

“We have a great responsibility here. We want to carry our share of the responsibility, militarily, in the area of civil reconstruction and in police training,” Merkel said.

If any “surge” in Afghanistan is to happen, count on us Yankees to carry a majority of the burden. Europe looks unsure, especially in today’s shaky economy, that they want to participate in any long armed conflict overseas.

This could go back to the days of World War II. Violence is much more taboo over there than it is here. Europe has a much darker and harsher history of war than America. The last time a war was fought on U.S. soil was the Pearl Harbor invasion of 1941. Even that was not nearly as dramatic as having two world wars going on in your own backyard.

Obama is quickly learning that America is becoming more and more isolated in the world. What political leverage we once had is either slipping away or is on temporary hiatus. Eight years of George W. Bush certainly did not help. With rising powers in China and India (and, of course, the European Union), growing leftist movements in Latin America, a reemergence of Russian power, and talk in Africa to form a “United States of Africa,” we Americans are losing our identity. We’re having an identity crisis of post-Cold War proportions.

America losing its superpower status is certainly a favorite subject of the global media and academia. This current economic crisis might tip us over the edge, but our inability to convince our European allies to help us fight a “just” war cannot look good. Remember right after 9/11 when then-French President Jacques Chirac said “We are all Americans?” A Frenchmen saying that? You better believe it.

Maybe NATO feels itself overstretched and weary of already contributing plenty of troops for the war in Afghanistan. But nevertheless, no one can doubt that in order to end this conflict and allow for U.S. and coalition forces to pull out, taking the fight to the enemy will be our job alone.

We cannot expect the all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to ride over the hills and come to our aid to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. As Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather Part II,” always remember to keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

America may have to rethink its role in the world before it can hope to have friends again.

Hey Michelle! Don’t Touch the Queen!

April 3, 2009

Michelle Obama has officially made her first big mistake as First Lady.

President Obama and his wife are currently in England for the G-20 summit meeting between twenty top economic powers to discuss the global financial crisis. Before this important meeting the Obamas met with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

And everyone knows the strict protocol on meeting the Queen of England. Be polite. Bow to her (if you are one of her subjects. The Obamas definitely are not). Don’t touch her unless she initiates the contact. This means don’t shake her hand until you see her extend her hand toward you first. Even then, don’t firmly grip her hand like a tele-evangelist meeting with this donors. Be gentle.

Michelle Obama apparently didn’t quite get the memo. Or, at least, the British media are making a bigger deal out of this than is necessary.

The situation is quite simple: Mrs. Obama and the Queen hugged. Uh oh. That offensive gesture is equivalent of throwing your shoe at the president in the Arab world, apparently. The Queen is not a touchy-feely type of lady. I guess that’s what happens when you’re one of the longest tenured heads of state in the world.

But most observers in America are noting that the Queen started it, and Mrs. Obama simply followed suit. No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong. Those stuffy Brits sure love their Queen. At least Michelle didn’t pull off a George W. Bush and give German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unexpected backrub. That would be supremely awkward.

This is the difference between our cousins across the pond (their not my cousins, however. I’m Japanese) and us. We have a more egalitarian approach toward our leaders. We should be polite to our president when we meet them in person, but outside of that, anything is fair game. Mean jokes, brutal satire, the works. The royalty still holds an important place in their hearts, apparently.

Which is interesting considering the Crown is more of a symbolic position than an active political role. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is really in charge in that country. But tradition is tradition, and the regent should be appropriately venerated. That’s their culture. Not ours.

But what is the difference between the Queen and us? Or Pope Benedict XVI, or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, or Ayatollah Khamenei for that matter? They are mere human beings like us. Why act like they’re some sort of divine figure living among us mortals?

That’s because that’s sort of how people feel about these folks. Dating back to the divinely-appointed Caesars of the Roman Empire, there has historically been the belief that regents are chosen by the Almighty. God wants these people to lead the people, so they should be treated like a god. The Queen of England is technically the head of the Anglican Church. She is the “pope” of this significant denomination of Christianity. Talk about being a VIP.

In our post-Enlightenment rational society that values democracy over outdated monarchical government, this concept is incomprehensible. We see our leaders as people like us, who bleed red and put their pants on one leg at a time.

Maybe this says something about our views of politics and government. To us, America is a country founded upon the values of freedom, civil liberties, and distrusting governmental authority (we won our independence from those Brits, after all). We select our leaders to represent and fight for our interests. If we don’t like them or we think they’re doing a bad job, we vote them out. This really destroys any notion of divine right to the throne.

If politics are subjective, so are the people who lead it. They are men and women like us, who make mistakes and do the best that they can given what they have to work with. Last year George W. Bush was one of the most powerful people in the world. Today, he’s enjoying retirement life like millions of other Americans. No special privileges there.

This attitude is why we find no reason not to hug our elected leaders. We can pat them on the back, shake their hand firmly, even chase down a few shots of whiskey with them (as then Senator Hillary Clinton did on the 2008 campaign trail). Presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, state representatives; they’re all disposable. One is always ready to be replaced come every election.

This explains why we yanks can’t wrap our minds around why following proper etiquette to meet Her Majesty is so important.

Besides, the only Queen that we care about is a rock band from the 70s.