In some ways, it is perhaps, inevitable that as America’s first black president, Barack Obama, actions were always going to be subjected to the closest of scrutiny. Inevitable questions regarding his poise, posture, and preparedness for office were always going to feature high on the agenda of News-Networks and their ‘Talking Heads’; Think-Tank specialists; political opponents; and ordinary citizens; particularly, those who from the very outset were uncomfortable with, and opposed to his ascent to, and assumption of, the presidency of the United States of America.
Recently, his bodily posture at an international conference has come under intense scrutiny and debate. Just before a photo shoot of G20 Heads of Government in London; President Obama was seen to approach the King of Saudi Arabia as he neared the dais. And as he got to him, he inclined forward; to such a degree which suggested, that he was; about to embrace his royal counterpart; or adopt a horizontal pose – in a gesture of salutation popularised and practised by the Yorubas; or that he was simply trying to adjust his towering frame to a level which would not appear intimidating to his royal, but older and shorter counterpart.
Undoubtedly, the footage of President Obama’s forward leaning posture jarred quite a few nerves and caused consternation in certain quarters in America. Some commentators in America believe that his posture in that instance did their nation a disservice. Everyone knows, or is expected to know, or at least so it is thought, that American presidents bow to nothing and no one. They receive ‘worship’; they do not give it to any temporal or earthly being. They ‘kick ass’. So seeing their president in such a pose, was in their view, demeaning and subservient, and a poor reflection on their nation.
But was President Obama’s manner of greeting to the King of Saudi Arabia really a bow? And if it was; was it really demeaning or subservient? And in the light of the current global economic climate, which has affected America rather drastically, more than most other nations, does it really matter? Many people, according to their powers of observation, prejudices, and assorted perspectives, will undoubtedly have views and answers to these questions. I imagine some of them will even cover some or all of the following possible scenarios which seek to shed light on the subject:
The New ‘Friendly & Humble’ America Scenario
Those who subscribe to this view see nothing wrong with his manner of greeting. If indeed, it was a bow, then the better for it. To them, the last administration put the nation in such a position of isolation, that America had become increasingly despised around the world. So here was an opportunity to rebuild bridges by demonstrating that a new chapter and page had been opened and turned. One which demonstrated, that America was prepared to engage other friendly nations in a new climate of cooperation and understanding. It was a case of the leader of the world’s leading superpower showing humility to an important ally and trading partner.
The ‘Star Struck’ Scenario
Some might say that, perhaps, he was star struck by being in the presence of royalty, to the point that, he lost, momentarily, his presidential composure. Unfortunately, this scenario carries little weight, because, he alone, was the undoubted star of the G20 Summit. And whatever genuflecting that took place at the summit was mainly aimed at him. He was the one covered in stardust. And besides, in greeting the Queen of England, he merely nodded his head towards her respectfully.
The ‘Conservative & Conspiracy Theorist’ Scenario
‘We told you so’ go the proponents of this scenario. The man is a closet Moslem. And he was showing deference to the pinnacle of that faith. The only problem with this scenario is that he is a professed Christian and one who has attended a Christian Church for 20 years, and has been lambasted for doing so. So what is it to be? He is one or he isn’t one; he can’t be both. He’s got to be either fish or fowl. Would a Moslem baptise his children in a church and swear his oath of office on a Bible!
The ‘Yoruba’ Scenario
Could he be a closet Yoruba? Who at that critical point of coming into contact with the Saudi King, was so overcome by a primordial urge to go prostrate on the floor after the manner of these people? It doesn’t sound plausible, not even marginally so. After all, his name is Obama, and not Obamakin. Aligned to this scenario, is the belief that black people are generally given to more outward displays of respect, much more so than their Caucasian cousins.
The ‘Common Sense’ Scenario
There was nothing untoward about his posture. It was simply a respectful gesture to a royal and elderly leader of one of America’s most important allies and trading partners. An important ally, on whose support, it will need to harness, in order to navigate itself out of the choppy economic waters, it find’s itself in at the present time.
In reality and more seriously, it seems that too much is has been made out of something, that was in actual fact, an innocent and fleeting episode. America has reason to be proud of their president. At the G20 Summit he was the star of the show, as he was of the subsequent conferences, he took part in across Europe. He, and his wife, showcased America in a confident and positive manner; in a way which hasn’t been seen for years. He demonstrated that America remains a strong and powerful nation willing to engage with, and provide purposeful leadership to, much of the rest of the world.
If anything, at all, it is clear that he is a wise man and one who understands that sometimes, and particularly, in difficult times, such as these, it is advantageous and even necessary sometimes to ‘stoop to conquer’.