The Line Between Courtesy and Subservience

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Apr 02, 2009 12:15 PM
On the web, there is plenty of coverage ofMichelle Obama's breach of protocol manifested by her touching Queen Elizabeth II.

I'm not exactly Michelle Obama's biggest fan, but this is an issue about which I could hardly care less.  Apparently, the Queen touched Mrs. Obama first, and she reacted in what could have been an instinctive gesture of reciprocal liking.  And after all, we are a democracy; although (let us hope) our leaders offer every courtesy to foreign heads of state (and although I admire the Queen enormously), we are  not bound to offer them the obeisance that, say, their subjects are.  We are no one's subjects.

That's why this disturbs me much more -- a picture of President Obama bowing to the Saudi king in the manner of a subject, courtesy of Clarice Feldman. 

The image actually highlights what, for me, seems to be one of the biggest problems for this administration: The line between courtesy and symbolic subservience.