Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lighten Up, Awreddy! The Prez Fist-Bumps, and the Buddha Giggles!

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 9:59 AM

So a candidate for mayor — nay, an acting mayor — is supposed to be all cleared throat and sanctimonious solemnity? So he cannot be a bit of a cultural messenger and have a little fun? More to the point of the already famous “Hello, Dalai” fist-bump caper involving Mayor pro Tem Myron Lowery and the visiting eminence from Tibet, good-humored exchanges of that sort do not run counter to the requirements of statecraft, they are a fundamental part of it.

Japanese prime ministers in the jungle room at Graceland, Khrushchev at Disneyland, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” These are signal moments in diplomacy, attempts by representatives of one culture to cross the divide separating them from another. And this distinguished Tibetan cleric, here on a very mission of cross-cultural bonding, for Heaven’s sake, is not some pulpit-pounding televangelist scourge. He’s from Asia, where a sense of humor is intrinsic to theological traditions. I mean, the Buddha laughs. He even giggles!

Like it or not, the fist bump is a nascent form of greeting in these United States. The President of the United States and the First Lady famously did it. And the acting mayor of River City, U.S.A. is supposed to be above it?? Nah! As for “Hello, Dolly,” the Broadway-descended title from which Lowery’s good-natured pun derives, it is — again, like it or not — a bona fide cultural reference, a part of American history, if you will, not an insult.

Instead of acting like offended self-righteous elders or, alternatively, scornful cynics whom nothing can please, why don’t we take our cue from the Dalai Lama himself, who responded to Lowery’s gesture with apparent pleasure and, as the admirable Chris Davis’ on-site videos demonstrate, reciprocated it later on with an appropriate homily on how it symbolizes the conversion of a symbol of violence into one of affection.

Quite simply, that is exactly the meaning of the fist-bump. Hello, Dalai! Nice to have you here and glad you speak our language!

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