At fifteen, I'd never heard of D.H. Lawrence, but he instantly became my favorite witer once I'd read "Sons and Lovers." I had grabbed it, entirely by chance, from a shelf at the public library library on Amsterdam Avenue and 81st Streeet (where I trudged each week from my home in Manhattan, going back and forth with an armload of books), simply because of its intriguing title--which to my fifteen-year-old mind sounded quite enticingly juicy. It wasn't long before reading Lawrence became my downfall. His writing hypnotized me, and I became addicted. I couldn't get enough of him and went on to read everything he wrote.
I also became weirdly fascinated by Lawrence's relationship with his German wife, Frieda, who had abandoned her husband and two children to be with him. They were both very passionate and adored each other, but they had legendary fights, in which all hell would break loose and Frieda would throw handfuls of crockery at Lawrence. I was, I confess, in awe of a woman who could fearlessly throw things at the man she presumably loved, whenever he pissed her off or triggered a bout of rage. Sometimes, in fantasy, I would imagine myself, in the heat of a fight, defiantly throwing a shoe across the room at someone I loved, wondering how my life might have been very different had I had that skill. But I didn't, and even if I had, I lacked aim. Rather, I was the type of female who would burst into tears at any perceived hurt--not glow in the dark with rage. I wasn't any good at playing softball with shoes, except in blurred fantasies about a power I didn't possess.
All of this reentered my consciousness after hearing about the Iraqi TV reporter, a 28-year-old Shi'ite who has come to hate the U.S. military occupation, spontaneously hurling his shoes at President Bush, while Bush was making a final "victory" speech at a press conference in Baghdad. "This is a gift from the Iraqis, this is the farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled as he tossed, first one shoe, and then a split second later, the other. The guy had amazing aim: those shoes were headed, with the speed of missiles, straight for the President, but he deftly managed to duck them both.
The reporter, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, has been taken into custody and may be indicted. But in Iraq, he has become a national hero. Crowds have been demonstrating all week for his release. I append some of the responses in this country to the event (from the Huffington Post of December 16th):
"Mr. al-Saidi was not assigned to this particular event by his paper. He went because he had a message for the Decider/Liberator, who liberated millions from their homes, families, lives and country - a country now destroyed. No, don't fire this man, he is courageous enough to make news for all of us. He should be spared and hailed a hero. No, he would not have thrown shoes at Saddam. Only the U.S. was ignorant enough to do that. Under Saddam, he had a country, he had all his relatives, he had a home, a job and a life. ..Thank you, Mr. al-Saidi. Call me if you need more shoes."
"When does ANYONE have the right to physically assault another human being who is being non-confrontational? What would happen if I threw a pie at Obama? I would be arrested. That is what should happen to this so called 'journalist', and he should never be able to work for that news source again."
"Illegally invading a sovereign nation, leveling it, torturing Iraqi prisoners and leaving thousands and thousands of its citizens dead is pretty darn confrontational in my book."
" You are absolutely correct, the only question that remains is: should he be arrested for throwing the shoes . . . or for missing his target?"
"For those who haven't received the email from a friend, there's a Send Your Shoes to Bush campaign on, and now's the time to do it! Show support for the Iraqi journalist by sending a pair of your old shoes to GWB at the White House now. (Since they will probably end up being donated to charity, you'll get to express your opinion AND help a good cause!) The journalist, btw, was kidnapped in Iraq so he definitely experienced the effects of the war more than Goerge Bush did."
As for Bush, he has blithely brushed off the whole episode. "I didn't know what the guy said, but I saw his sole," he commented recently, wryly alluding to his now-infamous remark of some years ago, after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And then there was Imelda Marcos, and her 3,000 pairs of shoes, which also became a politically radioactive cause celebre. I can't help wondering if she ever threw any of them at her husband, Ferdinand? Meanwhile, I just took some of my old shoes to the Good Will. Utterly boring!