"The Shoe Hurling Crew" - National Heroes or Imbecile Protesters?

"Shoe Hurling" could be the next popular competitive sport. Do not be surprised (or alarmed) if you see it as a category at the next Olympics. By pseudo definition, Shoe Hurling entails a shoe, an unhappy member of the public in the form of a journalist (or student) and a government official, local or foreign. During a press conference, a question-answer session or a speech, given unsatifactory answers or for mere dislike, a shoe is thrown in their direction. Hit or miss, this "sport" causes great humor, gains much interest and can be awfully entertaining while other times it can cause much chaos.

"Shoe Hurling" seems to be catching on with journalists all over world. The founder of the Shoe Hurling Club was media person Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was quick to throw both his shoes at the previous American President George Bush during a press-conference in Baghdad. After he was tackled by security, arrested and questioned, he came out to claim he was simply saying goodbye to the former President on behalf of the Arab world. Farewell, in perhaps the most insulting ways. In Arabic culture, showing the sole of a shoe to someone is a sign of disrespect and thus, throwing your shoe is a sign of extreme contempt. The citizens stood by the journalist claiming he did what Arab leaders "failed to do." Fellow Arabs stood up in pride and the rest of world mocked Bush's dodging skills.

Next to join the Hurling Crew, was Cambridge student Martin Jahnke, a Pathology student who decided to throw his sneaker at the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as he was giving a speech at the prestigious campus. Jahnke, of German decent, was extremely angered by the Premier's ideas on globalization and screamed, "How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here? How can you listen to the lies he is telling?" After which, he threw his athletic trainer. The Premier was shocked but gathered himself calling the incident a "dirty trick." Cambridge dealt the student themselves, asking him to personally write a letter of apology to the Jaibao, after which the Premier encouraged the University to reinstate the student and allow him to continue his education. Although, he was pardoned for his "indecent behavior," he was charged on numerous accounts and additionally, fined 5,000-pounds. Unlike the Iraqi journalist, who was thrown into a jail, Jahnke was let off the hook considerably easily.

Jarnail Singh too, became a member of the crew as he hurled a shoe at the Indian Home Minister, P. Chidabaram, during a press conference. The Sikh journalist's emotional outburst occurred during at the question session after the Home Minister read out the Congress party's agenda if they were voted into power in the upcoming elections. The Minister quickly answered his question pertaining the clean chit given to congress leader Jagdish Tytler after his involvement in the 1984 Sikh riot case. When the journalist was refused to ask further questions, his bottled emotions seized to remain dormant, as he shouted, "I protest" and threw his shoe at the Minister. He was taken out of the room by security and of course, to jail for questioning. He was set free a few hours later, realizing that his actions were unacceptable. In fact, his newspaper, Dainaik Jagran, wrote a front page feature condemning his misbehavior as did all political parties, left and right, and his family. However, the Sikh community saw this occurrence in a different light. Overnight, they deemed him a local hero, offered him a seat on parliament and additionally, offered him Rupees 200,000 (5,000 USD) as a congratulatory bounty. The journalist refused all offers.

This new form of protest or disgust for politicians seems to be catching on with journalists around the world. Do they not realize that there are many different ways to show their distaste? To their benefit, journalists have the power of the pen that they can put to use instead of throwing a shoe. Perhaps writing an article would not bring in as much publicity, but it definitely beats losing dignity and being hauled into jail for a day. Gandhi for one, would be turning in his grave at such despicable behavior. In most cultures, the shoe is seen as a symbol of dirt and to some extent the devil. Is it really respectable to chuck a shoe at anyone, let alone a politician. Gaining respect from a small population but losing self-respect in the eyes of oneself, ironically does not seem worth it. Interestingly, every country has dealt with their nationalized "Shoe Hurlers" differently. Some were thrown into jail and declared heroes, others were penalized.

Jarnail Singh's protest however, may have hit the nail (shoe rather) on the head and proved to be a success. Okay, so he missed the Home Minister, but did manage to help local courts give Jagdish Tytler the boot to becoming potential forerunner in their party and whose involvement in the 1984 riots was being questioned. In his case, the shoe antic transpired this time round but does that mean it will always work?

Just as a matter of observance, the Shoe Hurling Crew completely exists of men. Wonder when the ladies will be a part of the gang. Perhaps a few stiletto heels flung at the officials may create more drama and allow them to taken seriously. Women are more dramatic by nature. Additionally, the members need to indulge in a few shoe-flinging sessions. None of the shoes, in all their forms: loafers, sneakers and trainers, have managed to actually hit their government victims. While Bush proved his dodging skills, Jhanke missed as did Singh. A few lessons would help the Shoe Hurler's credibility and skills. And lastly, it would be interesting to know the brands of the trainers; ironically, was a China-made Nike sneaker pitched at the Premier or an All American New Balance high-top at Bush? The Indian media did manage to disclose that Singh's sneaker was a size-9 Reebok; probably made in India.

Conclusively, I personally believe these educated journalists (and students) should stop behaving like illiterate vigilantes and find other methods of demonstrating their unhappiness with government officials. Superficially, I'm not sure if I want to lose a pair of shoes (sneakers or stilettos) to a government personnel...especially a good designer pair! Hey, those are expensive.

Photo Credit: Discovery Education

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