So, some Iraqi journalist took off his shoes today and threw them at President Bush. According to a witty Bush (ha, ha) they were “a size 10.” Awesome. That doesn’t even come close to the hilarity that was watching the supposed leader of the free world ducking for dear life from a shoe onslaught. It was horrific and hilarious at the same time…does that make me a horrible person?
That prompted me to wonder–how far have we come since the days of the woman who lived in a shoe with too many children (or however the fairy tale goes); or Wynken, Blinken, and Nod who mysteriously sailed off in a wooden shoe; or since Cinderella’s glass slipper (speaking of which, how the hell do you walk in shoes made of glass? Ouch?)? The following is a brief chronological tale of the role of shoes in political or social defiance.
Apparently, it all started in 1910 during a railroad strke in France. Workers would destroy the wooden shoes–called “sabots”–that held the train rails in place, thus making it difficult or impossible for trains to get by and pissing everybody off on their way to work. Hence, the term “sabotage”
(ah, Star Trek VI, I can’t find the scene in the movie that describes it but here’s the trailer).
Nikita Krushchev was perhaps the best shoe referencer in the world. Of course, everyone knows of his 1961 speech to the UN, where he took off his shoe and started banging it on table as the Philippine delegation was speaking. Classy.
What you might not know is that in 1956 Mao and Nikita were both a little ticked at each other. Never one to pass up a good insult, Krushchev called Mao “the old galosh” which translated as “the old boot.” In Mandarin, “boot” translates as “prostitute.” So, one of two things: either (a) Krushchev and Mao had a much more intimate relationship than was previously known, or (b) Krushchev was a big a**hole.
After that, shoes were silent for a while. That is, until Richard Reid tried to destroy a commercial airline with explosives hidden in his shoe (and in a frenzy of unparalleled creativity, the media dubbed him “the Shoe Bomber”). Thanks to his actions, I now have to smell the feet of thousands of Americans every year in airports across the country. Thanks, pal.
I’m betting we won’t have to wait another 7 years for some poor unfortunate soul to find something crazy to do with his or her footwear. They’re just too damn symbolic.
So here’s to you, Shoe–May you forever be the “great equalizer.”
(I hope you enjoyed this brief history. Would you say it was about a Size 10, as well?)
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