Friday, March 13, 2009

Does the Shoe Fit?

In Canadian politics there have been many incidences that could have been major issues. They range from a pie in the face, to a Prime Minister being defended in his own home by his wife with an Inuit statue, to a pie in the face, to people eating their electoral ballots. The Canadian psyche has been to downplay the significance of these events. No harm, no foul and good for a laugh.

The case of Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who through his shoes at George Bush would have fallen into the same category. The fact that shoe throwing has become a popular form of protest around the world adds to the amusement factor. Even George Bush was willing to shrug it off when it happened.

Then the lawyers and the courts got involved. All of a sudden they are dealing with serious charges. Someone attempted to physically assault a foreign dignitary, who happens to be the President of the United States. This is the frame of mind the court took when the handed out a 3 year jail sentence. It appears that the courts only showed leniency because of his clean record and age rather than in reality it was really a minor incident.

The arguments put up by his defence team are quite disturbing. What is more disturbing is that these arguments have been picked up around the world and are being used to justify other acts of violence. He told the judge that it was a natural response to the occupation. This seams to be a growing trend. Any action can be justified by blaming the situation around them. It is amazing that in the entire country he is the only one who was forced by the occupation to throw his shoes at politicians. It is still better than bombing civilians or military personal. In some cases Aboriginal groups in Canada have turned to blockades to fight for their land claims. They seem to be getting more violent. Can they now blame the 'occupation', if they choose to attack police officers or others that stand in their way? How far can society go with 'natural responses' until enough is enough. Why can't people take responsibility for their own actions.

The most unusual argument was that Bush was not on an official visit and therefore just an ordinary visitor (who happens to be President of the United States). If his actions were motivated by the occupation what difference does it make if an official invitation was issued? Is it normal to throw shoes at other people?

The most ironic argument was that his actions should be protected under freedom of speech. Tariq Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in jail for his role in the execution of 82 merchants. They were guilty of price fixing. Without, the liberation of Iraq Aziz actions would have gone unpunished. Sadam Hussien tested chemical weapons on his own people and was executed for murdering 148 people in response to an assassination attempt. Does al-Zeidi really believed that his freedom of expression would have been protected if he decided to throw a shoe at Saddam Hussein. The death sentence would have been carried out quickly.

This incident was relatively minor and the court should have taken that into consideration. His justifications for his actions should not be used to condone what he did. He should have never done it. This incident is minor enough to justify a more lenient sentence.

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