• State Department Enters 19th Century

    May 31, 2014 // Comments Off on State Department Enters 19th Century

    Traditions are fun, and we all certainly enjoy dressing up at Halloween as Sexy Soccer Mom or Sexy Soccer Dad with Kids in Tow. Good times. When my kids were younger I had great fun dressing up as Santa Claus, sometimes even at Christmas.

    However, in the age of social media, images have assumed a greater significance. So, let’s ask ourselves what these images of State’s ambassadors presenting their credentials in Japan and the UK convey:

    Tradition holds that a newly-appointed ambassador must present his/her “credentials” to the foreign government. I’m not sure what credentials actually are, maybe some sort of leather scroll or parchment thing calligraphed by virgin dwarfs. The process does seem to involve elaborate 19th century doo-dads, and in the case of imperial countries like Japan and the UK, bypassing the elected government and going right to the Emperor and the Queen, respectively.

    The same credential process occurs in the U.S., but as best I can tell does not involve Cinderella carriages and Downton Abbey leftover costumes. Now I know that our intrepid diplomats abroad are mostly following local tradition in these photos, but one wonders if U.S.-Japan relations would indeed descend into Pearl Harbor-like animosity if we said “Hey, this carriage is kinda outside the 21st century e-Diplomacy Pivot thing we’re doing nowadays, plus the whole 19th century imperialist vibe, so maybe this year we’ll take a taxi. Cool?” After all, by tradition, our ambassador does not bow to the Queen because of the American Revolution (this is true), and that has worked out OK with the Brits.

    NEXT: State to consider requirement that all cables must be written in cursive longhand.

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    Posted in Embassy/State