In case you were living under a rock for the past week and not reading the news, there was a state visit by HM Queen Elizabeth II to the United States that concluded this week. If you did read the news, you may have learned that the during said visit the president winked at the queen. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6637549.stm
Most people probably consider this just typical George W. Bush behaviour. I'm sure it is. He's famous for stunts like this. The thing is, it isn't just an amusingly awkward way of trying to get out of a verbal blunder. It's not just cheeky. It is unacceptable behaviour.
You see, once upon a time it would have been a crime. (In fact, there are parts of the world where it still is.) Now granted, even Queen Elizabeth I would not have had it in her power to behead a foreign head of state over such a thing, but you can bet that lesser heads would have rolled for such a thing. The crime even has a name. Free speech laws mean that it is no longer a crime in this country, but just because something is technically legal that does not make it acceptable. The free speech laws were meant to allow for honest criticism of a leader. That is rather different than an unprovoked wink at a female head of state, which is simply an assault on her dignity. Granted, I don't think anyone actually believes the president meant it as an insult, but that is not an excuse for being careless of the dignity of others.
Of course, this is hardly the first time the president has been guilty of this. There was a rather infamous unwanted shoulder rub for a fellow elected world leader, and I believe there have been other incidents. I know its fashionable these days to not take yourself too seriously and to be impatient with formal manners, but these manners have a reason for existing. When one head of state doesn't seem to understand the need to respect the dignity of another head of state things have clearly gone too far. Sadly I think very few people realize exactly why George W. Bush got the look he got in return for that wink, and why it was actually a mild and generous reaction to what he had done. It seems that people realize that the wink was not the right thing to do, but they can't put their finger on exactly why. It seems simple to me, the need to treat other people with dignity and respect, and yet it must have eluded George W. Bush and others. If he can forget so easily with people of rank and importance, one has to worry about how he would treat those who have little rank or importance.