Agam's Gecko
Thursday, April 09, 2009

t seems that there is a slim possibility that the Royal Bow seen around the world may in fact jump the US domestic news blackout and get some attention in the President's own country.

Politico's Ben Smith asked the first question, swallowed the anonymous answer whole, and then went on to refer to Obama's "dipping toward the king" (first link below). Sorry Ben, "dipping" is what he offered the Queen of England along with her Ipod. This was another thing altogether.

But in the interest of communal harmony, I've come up with some alternate excuses for anonymous White House staffers to try out. The Top Twenty-two Excuses for the Royal Bow:

22. There was a shiny new riyal on the floor, which is change he can believe in. Also, fiscal responsibility.

21. Double-checking the correct words of greeting for the king in his new, shoe-mounted miniature teleprompter.

20. SOICS (Sudden Onset Intestinal Cramp Syndrome)

19. "It's not a bow. Your eyes are lying to you. How do I say that in Austrian?"

18. Needed a closer look at Abdullah's name tag.

17. Sore back from carrying all that American guilt around everywhere he goes.

16. Loose thread on the carpet caught his heel, throwing him momentarily off balance.

15. "I did not have genuflective relations with that King... Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz..."

14. He's so tall, needed to bend waaay down just to reach the diminutive king's hand (excuse actually used by anonymous White House staffer).

13. Noticed a smudge on his shoe, time enough for a quick wipe.

12. No War for Oil!

11. Noticed a smudge on the king's shoe, time enough for a quick wipe.

10. Stifling a sneeze.

9. Really appreciated the financial help (which got him into Harvard) raised by Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour (formerly Donald Warden), top advisor to the 19th richest man in the world Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (a billionaire 23 times over) and Saudi billionaires Abdul Aziz and Khalid al-Ibrahim.

8. "That is not a bow, depending on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

7. Demonstrating his standing abs crunch routine for the fitness-conscious king.

6. "Bush held his hand!"

5. Wanted to check out Abdullah's new diamond-studded Rolex up close.

4. Left knee was suddenly really itchy.

3. Almost fumbled the king's Ipod.

2. Wanted to show Abdullah where he's starting to get a little gray on top.

And the number one reason for Obama's bow:

1. As a good and respectful boy growing up in Indonesia, he was taught the proper way for polite children to greet an elder: Handshake (right hand only, please), touch forehead to back of elder's hand. A light kiss of the hand is nice if it's a lady, for example your grandmother.

The anonymous White House staffer told only half the story. He did need to bend way down in order to reach the king's hand — with his forehead.

Agam still does this for one person only, his ibu (mum) in Aceh. Before he passed away just after tsunami, bapak (I miss him so much) also always got the forehead to hand treatment every time I greeted them after a long absence. Children will do this for any adult when their parents say, for example, "Give salam to Uncle Agam." It's part of the expected good manners. Grown-ups will do it for their parents, grandparents, or someone else who is older, very close and highly esteemed when meeting after a long absence.

Addendum: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the same Saudi prince (nephew of King Abdullah) who had offered Mayor Rudy Giulliani $10 million after the September 11 attacks, as well as the suggestion that U.S. policies had caused them. Mayor Giulliani figuratively threw the cheque back in his face.


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