I’m scared. It’s mid-October, but my fear has nothing to do with the ghouls and goblins that normally occupy the human imagination this time of year.
Trump, politics, and the upcoming midterm elections have me shaking in my boots. If you’re not scared about what’s happening in these dis-United States of America, you ain’t paying attention. Pull your head out and open your eyes and ears. If you do, you’ll certainly see and hear the rambling and wildly irrational speeches of a demagogue with an impressive comb over. He’ll likely be surrounded by a throng of red-hatted septuagenarians with angrily contorted faces and raised fists. Many who make up such a mob will likely be frothing at the mouth and hurling insults at a variety of scapegoats. Their Great Leader encourages their ire and expertly directs their hatred. He plays them like a musical instrument, but the sound produced lacks all beauty.
These screaming cultists simply need to be given marching orders. The moment he sets them loose on the rest of us is the moment of the lighting of the fuse.
Not long ago, seeing where things were going, I made sure I knew where my passport was located. And because I’m married to a North African émigré who practices the religion of Islam, I very quietly and without causing alarm, put together a Plan B just in case Plan A—staying in America—became, suddenly, unworkable.
I’ve lived in countries where things rapidly unraveled because of politics. What I see happening now, in this “first-world” country, reminds me a lot of what went down in the “third-world” nation-state of Egypt during the run up to the deposing of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
I know that might sound like hyperbole to many Americans who think IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE. To those who feel this way I would say that IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING HERE.
For folks who are as concerned as I am and want to know what they should be doing to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse, I leave them with this fantastic piece—an oldie but a goodie—by the brilliant Timothy Snyder.
Last Saturday I met Charles Bukowski at a Starbucks in a Barnes and Noble bookstore in San Antonio, Texas. He was arriving just as my wife and I had finished up our coffees and were gathering our belongings to leave.
Because he could see that we were getting ready to take off, he walked right up to us and asked, “Are you finished here?”
“Yes,” I answered as I stared at his acne-scarred face and misshapen nose—the bulbous proboscis of a wino.
“I ask because you’re at my favorite table, and I want to claim it if you are leaving.”
“You can put your stuff here if you’d like while we get ready to head out. By the way, has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like Charles Bukowski?”
“Charles who?” he asked gruffly.
In fact, he was a spitting image of the renegade poet-madman-drunkard.
Because we’d bought books and had to put on coats and scarves to gird ourselves against the cold, it took us awhile to get our stuff together. During this period, a conversation began to blossom. “So you come here often?” I asked him.
“Every Saturday. You see, I’m retired, but I give private lessons on the side to people who want to learn English. Right now, I’m working with three young girls from Djibouti. I always teach them at this particular table.” After saying this, he leaned in to me and whispered, “Their English is very weak.”
Azza, my wife who speaks Arabic as her mother tongue, is not really a shy person, but she sometimes has a hard time inserting herself into a conversation between Americans when they are speaking a hundred miles an hour.
“I bet they’ll learn very fast, though,” I told him. “They will probably be better at learning our language than we would be at learning theirs.”
“Maybe. But who would want to learn whatever it is that they speak?”
“Ask them to speak their language to you and really listen to what they say. I bet what you hear will sound beautiful if you open your ears and mind. It’s my opinion that more Americans should learn a second language.”
He kind of frowned and then said, “So many people from crap countries want to come here. They are just flooding in. They have to learn English because it’s the lingua franca.”
I could feel the hair stand up on my neck. Only days earlier, Donny Trump, the Hairpiece, had called African countries “shitholes.” I had the feeling this old fart was likely a Trumper, and a part of me wanted to snarl.
“By the way, I’d like to introduce you to my wife, Azza. She’s from Africa. Her country and the people who call it home are beautiful in many ways.”
“I’m sure it is and that they are,” he said a touch snarkily.
“I think Americans should be a little more careful about judging others. Don’t you think this country has its share of problems?” I asked him.
“Compared to other places, America is el paradiso,” he said, suddenly shifting to a foreign language. “By the way, where, in Africa, is your wife from?”
“Egypt,” she said, finally asserting herself.
The man’s face suddenly changed and he started speaking Arabic to her. As it turns out, he was born in Egypt and lived there as a child. He asked her where, in “Misr,” she was from, and she said Cairo. He, as it turns out, had been born in Alexandria.
From that point forward, I faded into the background because the language shifted to Arabic. At one point, he asked her what her religion was and she said Islam. He then called himself a “Yehudi,” which means “Jew,” and explained that this fact had played an important role in why his family left North Africa. He shared some stories about how they had been victims of religious persecution under President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Hearing these personal accounts saddened my wife.
We ended up talking until his three students showed up. They were sweet girls. Before they arrived, we found plenty to laugh about—the irony of an Egyptian Muslim and Jew meeting at the same table in a Starbucks at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in San Antonio. We were reminded how small the world really is and how big it is too. And how much we have in common despite our superficial differences.
I have a tendency to go on and on when I blog, but I want to be short and to the point on this one. I am an American man who couldn’t be prouder to be married to an émigré from Egypt, an African country and one of those places the “President”—I don’t find him one bit presidential so I’m required to use quotation marks—recently besmirched by referring to them as “shitholes.”
I am proud because my wife is kind, honest, hardworking, creative, and generous, just to name a few of her positive attributes. I find it ironic that a day after the “President” belittled those who’ve come here from other places, my wife completed the paperwork needed to start her own sole proprietorship, a home baker business she’s calling “ZooZoo’s Sweet Treats.” She owned and operated such an enterprise in Egypt and did very well, mostly because she is an artist in the kitchen and a skilled entrepreneur. I expect that she’ll be a smash here as well.
By the way, has the “President” seen this country in its entirety? There are places in these United States that could use a little enrichment and beautification.
Why, one wonders, did Trump choose the term shitholes? He could have referred to locales in Africa and such as “beautiful places,” but he didn’t. He used such a descriptor because he thinks of large swaths of everywhere else as the “Third World” which equates to “third-rate.” (Unfortunately, this whole “first-world-versus-third-world way of thinking is widely held in America.) Those from the Third World are thought to be third-rate because they are poor and backward, which says a lot about what Americans put value on. Such a way of looking at the world fails to take into account the fact that many in the Third World are actually first-rate when it comes to their spiritual development and the like.