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Shaking Hands: It's What We Do In Civilized Society

20/03/2017 16:32
Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Or civilized society in the West that is. A quick perusal of Wikipedia will tell you that the ritual of the handshake goes back to the times of ancient Greece. The origin of the handshake, after all, is "to illustrate that you come in peace, to show that you bear no weapon in your hand and you want to bond with your fellow human by the mutual clutch of the palms."

And for a completely different civilized way to meet and greet, look to the Eastern approach, palms together, a slight bow: "Namaste", indicating, "a reverential acknowledgement of you". Note: "reverential". The Namaste or Namaskar greeting requires the greeter to look past personality and boundaries, and acknowledge something beyond, in the "other". Call it a common ground, where differences can meet.

So that wasn't going to happen in the Oval Office when Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany met Donald Trump. As reporters clamoured for the standard handshake, recalling how the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was nearly yanked off his seat, and as Merkel quietly asked, "Do you want a handshake?", Mr. Trump looked at the ground, apparently refusing to engage, or as the alternative interpretation goes, "not hearing the request" . And so, Twitter had a field day.

But seriously, Mr. President? Seriously? Here's the opportunity to fly in the face of accusations of Chief Misogynist in the White House by acknowledging one of the most intelligent and highly respected females on the world stage today, and this is what we get? As if this was Hillary and the campaign trail and here we are again: anything goes.

Decorum, dignity, decency, good taste, good manners, respect; it's what we teach our children. It's all part of the fragile threads that, woven together, give form and substance to civilized society. These little acts of putting our egos aside , our personal opinions, our differences and even our disdain or contempt, is what separates us from thugs and animals, and believe it or not, helps the world go round and keeps us safe; all of us. Parents, teachers, counsellors, social workers, all over the world are working so hard to "teach their children well". And you are the President. Not just Donald Trump of Trump Tower but representing a whole great nation and much of the western world. What were you thinking?

Again, a quick perusal of the many forms of greeting throughout the world, illustrates the breadth of socially and culturally acceptable ways we humans find to "connect", all so different but all so good. In the West, the male species in particular has increasingly found and used newer and ever cooler ways to make that contact handshake warmer and more real, morphing more into a male-hug than just a 'shake'. It's touching, man.

Communicating and connecting, cross-culturally and across borders and boundaries, is what keeps us human and moving forward. Division, hate, disrespect due to differences, tears us apart and moves us back, into darker times, taking us down the rabbit hole which ends we know not where. In the end, this kind of negative trajectory affects everyone negatively; even Presidents .

There's time to turn this around, Mr. President. Please don't ever ignore the likes of an Angela Merkel again. The kids are watching.

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