I would like to preface this post by saying I am well aware of the type of comments such a topic might draw, but as a blogger, staring at this article on my screen, I felt it would be utterly wrong and self-defeating to self-censor myself as a Jordanian citizen. There is an obligation to make this kind of news, the kind I know will not make it to the local mainstream media and the kind that will not please a handful of people – known. There is an obligation, as a citizen, to examine certain decisions and voice one’s opinion in the most respectful manner I know how. As for any comments from other readers on this topic, well, I can’t possibly be held accountable for what people say or think, but I will ask that they attempt to (for my sake) articulate such opinions respectfully. It’s winter, and I quite enjoy the comforts of my warm room as opposed to any other venue I might find myself in because of something someone said.
And with all that being said:
…While Bush himself didn’t fare nearly as well, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raked in at least $316,000 in gem-encrusted baubles from the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia alone, making her one of top recipients among U.S. officials of gifts from foreign heads of state and government and their aides in 2007.
In January, Jordan’s King Abdullah II gave Rice an emerald and diamond necklace, ring, bracelet and earrings estimated to be worth $147,000, according to the State Department’s annual inventory of such items released Monday just in time for Christmas. The king and his wife, Queen Rania, also gave Rice a less expensive necklace and earrings along with a jewelry box valued at $4,630, the document shows. [source]
Now, I fully understand the type of arguments that could emerge from such news. I also understand that the Arab street has never been in line with Arab leadership and thus, there are things our leaders do that, at times, bother and annoy us, or even completely diverge from the mainstream of public thinking. Other times – not so much. It depends on the country, its people and its leadership. Political perceptions are fluid in the region.
In a population of 5.6 million, there is simply no Jordanian who has any love for the Bush administration. And to clarify what I mean by “no Jordanian”, I am referring to the 99.9% of people in this great country that have no ounce of respect, let alone love or admiration for the Bush administration. And I would go about listing the many, many, many reasons why that is; reasons that have accumulated themselves abundantly in the past eight years, but, I get the feeling that anyone reading this, be they Jordanian or otherwise, could probably list at least half a dozen reasons off the top of their heads right now.
If polled tomorrow, I would go so far as to assume (and probably with some degree of accuracy) that 99.9% of Jordanian citizens would not agree to giving any sort of gift to any one in the Bush administration, unless of course that gift was a shoe. Perhaps that is the perfect metaphor of the gap between Arab leadership and the Arab street: one gives jewelry, the other throws shoes.
Furthermore, putting politics aside, one would assume that in a time when so many of our citizens are struggling to make ends meet just to put food on the table, it is a fairly callous act to gift someone so disliked here, jewelry worth $151,630. I assure you, I am not naive in thinking that such a sum is going to change the country; that’s not my point. However, with the majority of the population making less than $300 a month, there is symbolism to consider. The symbolism of gifting someone something so lavishly, be it in the name of the Jordanian people or its leadership, is symbolically off-putting.
Please note that I do not say this in the context of sentimentality, such as: every time people don’t love one another another puppy sheds a tear. I say this with concern. I say this as a member of this population. Everything done on the state level by our leadership or otherwise, affects us all and is a reflection on us all. And while there are larger and indeed, more important disagreements to consider (such as policies) which occur a whole lot more often – this particular piece of news stands out in such a contrasting manner that it absolutely begs a critical voice to speak in opposition.
There is so much that can be said, but I think I got my point across – as respectfully as one possibly can given the circumstance.
On the bright side, at least the Dali Lama got it mildly right when he gifted Mrs. Bush with $6 worth of assorted nuts and dried fruit. If only these were parting gifts.
Lastly, I know this is probably not a single person’s decision and the news is not always gospel, but, as a citizen, I would love it if someone in government would respond to this and clarify it. The only reason this news is out there is because of the accountability mechanisms in American government. So, in the interest of transparency, I would appreciate it if someone did care enough to clarify this story.