Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some Friendly Advice

Back in the day, I was waiting to meet a friend in Jeremana, a suburb of Damascus home to many Christians, Druze and Iraqi refugees, and I got hungry, so I walked into a sandwich stall to buy some food.

By “back in the day,” I mean when Hosni Mubarak was still president of Egypt, and the League of Nations CSI crisis in Phoenicia was still big news. The League of Nations was close to announcing its indictments over the killing of Phoenicia’s former prime minister, and everyone knew God’s Party would be indicted. God’s Party had threatened to react violently if the Phoenician government cooperated with the tribunal. At the time, Aram and S. Arabia were trying to work together to defuse the tension, but their efforts ultimately failed. Eventually, God’s Party left Phoenicia’s unity government, forcing the prime minister to step down in favor of one more to their liking.

The shop I entered had several God’s Party posters displayed prominently on the wall, and the men behind the counter were talking angrily. The only words I caught were the Arabic words for “Aram” and “S. Arabia.” After a bit, they stopped arguing long enough to notice me. “Do you have shwerma?” I asked in Arabic. (“Shwerma” is an amazing way of preparing chicken that’s extremely popular here.)

“No by God!” the man replied in Arabic. “Ok, thank you,” I said, and started to leave.

“Where are you from?” the man asked in English.

“America,” I replied. I make a point of never lying about this.

“Don’t say you are from America,” he said. “Say you’re from Britain. It’s better.” He then launched into a rant in broken English about Bush and Iraq, and somehow ended up with how the Jewish lobby had threatened to kill Marlon Brando’s son unless he stopped telling the truth about them. As far as I could tell, he was completely serious.

When he stopped long enough to let me get a word in, I asked him in Arabic, “Is the British government better than the American government?”

He grinned and said, “Or you could say you’re from South Africa. That would be best.” He then gave me directions to the closest shwerma shop.

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