King Abdul Aziz Order of the Merit
The first article I read in the paper this morning was entitled “Here’s Your Gift Mr. President. Please Stick Your Neck Out.” The piece was on the front page of one of the Sunday sections of the Washington Post; beneath the author’s name, were the words “On Culture.” Isn’t it interesting that our most widely read publications and commentary on “culture” are written by the most cultureless of individuals. The article, which wasted too many minutes of my time, went on to make fun of the gift presented to President Obama by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Just to give you an idea of the feel of the article, here are some of this author’s classy vocabulary:
The author doesn’t blame President Obama for taking it off, pointing out how of course the President wouldn’t want to tarnish his reputation by donning any type of rapper bling. I understand, I guess, what the author is trying to say. But even as a small satiric piece on oversized jewelry, the author directly contradicts the message the President was attempting to convey by traveling to the Middle East, and reflects the American ignorance and intolerance that we as a nation are trying to leave behind.
The “bling” the author refers to is the King Abdul Aziz Order of the Merit which is awarded “for meritorious service while in government office, for extraordinary deeds of bravery, and for other deeds of service to the state.” It has been presented to numerous heads of state and well-deserving individuals since 1971, and is considered Saudi Arabia’s highest honor. Indeed, before I even read the article, I saw a picture of the medal, and was amazed by its incredible adorned and elaborate beauty. But of course, why respect something a country regards as its most prestigious offering when we can make fun of it?
Maybe it’s just me, maybe I don’t have a sense of humor. But I guess when it comes to respecting other cultures, I don’t. Part of Obama’s speech (whether you agree with it or not) points to the deep level of misunderstanding between the East and the West that has divided nations so deeply throughout so many years.
“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace.”
I like that quote. I think it’s spot on.
And while we may agree or disagree with all the things President Obama had to say in his speech in Cairo, his presence and his words there are important. The President himself is the first to point out that “recognizing our humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people.” It was, of course, just a speech. But it is a good step, I think.
So to the author of this Washington Post article, I have to say, shame on you. Shame on you for emphasizing our differences rather than embracing the honor bestowed upon President Obama by King Abdullah. Shame on you for diminishing the importance of two countries reaching out to each other with kind gifts rather than hostile weapons.