Our Country’s Reputation (Unfortunately) Starts at the Top

November 12th, 2014


Just say "no."

Just say “no.”

Miss Manners must be beside herself.  If you don’t have her etiquette book handy (or any of the others out there), it’s pretty easy to Google everything you could possible want to know about public gum chewing and get a quick answer.  As Miss Manners might say, “Gentle Reader:  Don’t do it.”

So why was President Obama smacking on a stick of Nicorette at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference?  It was embarrassing. That said we’ll forgive him the silk pajamas he was wearing.  It’s always considered smart diplomacy to adopt the “when in Rome” approach to such events regardless of how odd they may play back home. 

But gum chewing at an event like this?  Ridiculous.

This isn’t the first time Obama has chewed gum in the presence of foreign dignitaries at important events.  He’s done it before.  This time, however, his Chinese hosts took note of it and made certain that their displeasure with this “disrespect” was duly noted in the press.

I’ve been reading several articles and blogs this morning on the subject, and naturally the liberals out there are crying that this is much ado about nothing. They’re right.  China isn’t going to unilaterally attack our country or call in our loans (we hope) over this, but it certainly is a completely unnecessary and easily avoidable distraction.

As an American mother, I’m also a little perturbed by the president’s lack of manners.  He may not care what the Chinese think about him, but he should also view himself as a role model for the next generation.  What will he say if on Sasha or Malia’s wedding day, their grooms are standing at the alter chewing away at a big piece of Double Bubble?

Will he be bothered by that?

Okay, you’re right.  He probably will be chewing, too.

Still, I won’t stop believing that part of the president’s job is to serve as an example to others, particularly young Americans.  Also, he represents us and he’s making us all look like we’re thirteen-years-old.

While the liberals are shaking their heads about how stupid this whole thing is it’s interesting to imagine what their reaction would be if China’s leaders stood beside President Obama and spit on the ground.  That’s not uncommon in that country, but it’s highly frowned upon in this country unless you happen to be a Major League Baseball player in which case you can publicly spit, blow your nose in your hand and wipe your shirt, and scratch various areas of your body you wouldn’t dream of touching publicly for fear of embarrassment or arrest.

So what if China’s president spit or picked his nose while Obama was giving a speech while visiting the United States?  Would we be bothered (even a little) by it? If not, perhaps we’ve fallen a little farther socially than I thought we might have.

This is not to say that China doesn’t have its share of problems from an etiquette standpoint. But at least they’re trying to do something about it.  Prior to the Beijing Olympics, for example, the country undertook a massive public service campaign to get Chinese citizens to conduct themselves during the games in ways that wouldn’t offend others.

Also, when Chinese citizens work in this country, they take great pains to comport themselves in a manner socially acceptable to Americans.  I know this firsthand since my sister once worked for a company where she was asked to do the voiceover for a video presented to Chinese employees entering the United States to work.  In the video, future company workers were instructed as follows: (1) Don’t stand too close to people; (2) Don’t cut in line; (3) Don’t sit in a chair at a restaurant just because it’s empty if others are sitting at the table; and (4) Don’t sleep on a park bench.

While I commend President Obama for trying to kick his smoking habit, I hope after this entire debacle he will suck it up and save the gum chewing for the golf course.

As often as he goes there, it’s not like that’s too big a sacrifice.




Tags: ,