Some corners of the blogosphere are all a-twitter about Laura Bush’s supposed donning of an abaya during a recent trip to Saudi Arabia on a diplomatic mission about “women’s issues”–specifically, breast cancer awareness. As oftn is the case, the twitterers are straining at gnats and passing a camel.
Context is important. Here’s a contrarian view from an American woman who was present at the “incident”:
“The controversial photo shows Bush donning a black headscarf decorated with the iconic pink bows signifying breast cancer awareness. It was the only time Bush covered her head during the trip and the episode lasted perhaps a minute.
“The scarf in question was a gift to Bush from a dozen Saudi women who shared their experiences fighting breast cancer with the first lady. The morning meeting was touching and intimate, the sort of bonding experience that opens hearts and minds in diplomatically useful ways.
“Upon receiving the gift, Bush did what any decent, well-mannered person would do. She demonstrated her appreciation by placing the scarf on her head. In Saudi Arabia, it was a sweet, wordless gesture of friendship and mutual respect.”
While I don’t appreciate the administration’s cozy relationship with the Saudis* (heck, not just the administration: the State Department and Congress are also filled with Saudi-holics), this may not be the incident to hang ones hat on. I would, however, agree with the characterization of Laura Bush’s action as thoughtless, automatic “good manners” that ought to have been dispensed with on two counts: it’s a head scarf, in Saudi Arabia fer heaven’s sake! Come on, Laura! While it certainly showed respect and appreciation for the women who gave it to you, it carries a weight of symbolism beyond the pink bows.
The incident to be outraged about is the whole diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia thing. The only diplomacy the Saudis should recieve is at the end of a gun barrel. The kindest, gentlest “diplomacy” the Saudis have earned through their fake “friendship” with the U.S. would be to demolish their water desalinization plants, blockade the country and sell ’em water at $100/barrel.
The whole trip was a stupid, stupid idea to begin with. Laura Bush wearing a breast cancer awareness head scarf was just something for the ADD crowd to get in an uproar about.
*Do recall my name for Laura’s husband, “Fifi Mohammed I-never-met-a-Mexican-President-Whose-Lap-I-Didn’t-Like or a Saudi(*spit*)-‘Prince’-Whose-Hand-I-Didn’t-Love-to-Hold Bush”.
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