India’s home minister P. Chidambaram is only the latest political leader to be attacked with a shoe. Former US president George W. Bush and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are recent examples of those who have been at the receiving end of what has become the iconic political insult of these times.
On Tuesday, TV channels flashed images of a journalist throwing his shoe at Chidambaram. The shoe-throwing epidemic began in Iraq in December (Bush), continued in February in London (Wen) and has now arrived in India.
This incident has cemented the shoe’s status as a global medium for political expression. It’s not a very polite thing to do, but such use of the shoe is a perverse sign that a country has a vibrant democracy.
One cannot imagine an Iraqi taking aim at Saddam Hussain in power or a Chinese at a Communist leader in Beijing. Chidambaram’s assailant was gently led away. Worse has been done to protestors for gentler actions in countries such as Iraq and China.