Published on October 6th, 2016 | by Rick Robison




She was an American, smart and beautiful, and a diplomat’s wife, and she was not to be trifled with. I will call her Tanya (not her real name). This is a very true story.

Tanya drove a rather large Chevy and every Arab knows Chevys make mighty fine battering rams on the bumper-car byways of Arabia. On this particular Monday, Tanya had driven to the store with her infant daughter strapped securely into the car seat.

Parking in the lot next to the grocery store she bought what she needed. Returning to her Chevy, the diplomat’s wife found a new Mercedes sedan parked sideways directly behind her car, blocking her exit. The male driver, finding no spaces available, had merely stopped his car wherever he pleased. Tanya knew, however, that as an American Diplomat in Arabia, she commanded major wasta. Wasta means power and influence, but so much more.

In the Arab World so very much runs on high-octane wasta.

Sporting a wide open front entry and adjacent to the grocery store was a small coffee shop, the kind found throughout the Middle East and a gathering place of the local males. Pointing at the black Mercedes blocking her in Tanya called out to the men inside the open shop, asking that the Mercedes be moved. She stood in 100 degrees temperature under a blazing sun, her daughter in her arms.

The fellow who owned the Mercedes, perhaps forty-five years old, shuffled arrogantly to the door. When he saw it was only a woman—a foreign one at that—making her shrill, pushy demands, he waved her off and returned to his coffee and kafiya-clad cronies. Besides, the woman had insulted him by her aggressive approach. He would teach this vocal vixen a lesson in male honor and respect. He would make her wait.

Tanya stormed over to the cafe door, demanding that the man move his car right now. He sneered in her face, then turned his back on the woman, the supreme insult. He would finish his coffee. No diminutive nag would bring him shame by shrill female demands in front of his macho peers.

But Abdul was dealing with something he did not yet comprehend. He and Tanya were worlds apart, as well as centuries of cultural evolution, especially regarding relations between men and women. More so, Tanya was the wife of a diplomat—an American diplomat—and she knew in this circumstance she held all the cards. She had to, for too often Americans were targets in this part of the world. She could not risk being trapped without the chance to escape in her well-protected car, if the need arose. As well, as mentioned, as an American diplomat, Tanya commanded major wasta.

Quietly returning to her sturdy Chevy Malibu, she strapped her daughter into the car seat. Then, she fired up the mighty 350 V-8. The deadly machine stood crouched, the roaring power-plant’s torque flexing coiled steel muscles sideways as Tanya turned to see if the man had yet gotten the message. He hadn’t. Abdul, along with his thowb-clad friends were standing arrogantly in the cafe doorway watching with mild interest. Suddenly the Arab’s jaw dropped to his knees. He knew.

Too late, Abdul. Tanya jammed the tranny full in reverse—ramming speed—with squealing, smoking rubber masking the man’s pitiful wails, signaling the demolition derby begin. The Chevy’s rear bumper impacted the formerly flawless paint of the midnight-black Mercedes square on the passenger’s right-side door actually pushing the sedan several feet further out into the parking lot. Undaunted, she yanked it down into drive and screeched back into the parking space for another go.

The Arab, screaming now, struggled to run in his snug, white thowb, cursing the female from hell with unintelligible words of eternal derision. Courageously, the rather common Chevy mangled Germany’s finest one more time, for effect, pushing the crumpled Mercedes nearly around sideways. Her passage free, she backed out into the parking lot, pulling her car up besides the now catatonic fellow and his laughing, thoroughly entertained buddies, standing safely behind him and well out of the woman’s deadly reach.

Leaping from the trusty Chevy, Tanya was square in his face. Enraged, he lunged at her but she roared back, the lioness at the gate. “I am an American diplomat! Dammit, you touch me and you’re dead-meat, understand, buck-o?!”

The well-to-do, but thoroughly flustered fellow stopped just short of the American female pit-bull. “You—you are diplomat?” He asked, his voice trembling.

“Wrong, clown, I’m an American diplomat. And you’d better have mucho grande wasta if you touch me, understand?”

“But—but you crash—crash my car. You cannot do that!” He whined, practically crying through his drooping mustache.

“Then maybe next time you’ll get your butt in gear! It’s deadly-hot out here. I have my baby with me. You knew that. You cannot trap me like this. If you have a problem, take it up with the Embassy; but I warn you, I will tell them everything!”

The man, totally beaten and humiliated by now, stood impotently beside his snickering buddies and watched the American woman speed away. He would not contact his government and he would certainly not complain to the American Embassy. He had considerable business with key American companies, as both an agent, and a partner. He had way too much to lose, or so he believed. Perhaps instinctively, Tanya had gauged the man’s inherent weakness perfectly. The fellow’s wasta was not sufficiently powerful to risk invoking official sanction, and more so the possible loss (he believed) of some very lucrative business.

With enough profitable commercial activity, with enough cash at stake, to the prudent and the wise, honor nearly always takes a back seat. The man to fear is the man who has nothing left to lose. In the Middle East, the more money, power, and honor a man accumulates, the more vulnerable he becomes. The one who raises a fuss when he shouldn’t more often than not will find blood on the floor—his.

In the end, the indomitable Tanya teaches us all an important lesson first-hand about the Middle East: The wild-eyed, crazy with righteous hatred Arab is a myth. In this land of eternal insecurity and fear, only a fool will risk considerable wealth and power in a fit of passion or rage. The overwhelming majority of confrontations must remain superficial, and within carefully proscribed bounds. Beyond that, you enter the lethal realm wedged painfully between honor and shame, that of blood vengeance from the deadly oath that must be executed, and “to the Seventh Generation.” Beyond the security of the loud and verbal, yet in practice superficial, and trivial, lay danger, dishonor, and death. And despite popular emotive ravings about Arabs found in the American media, few actually seek a fast shuttle to heaven’s gilded gate. The man seeking suicide is almost always the man with nothing left to lose (or a young man, or woman, who has not yet learned how much he or she truly can lose).

Saving face and honor can be rationalized if necessary, and a woman’s ridicule, especially if you are not forced to look into her eyes every day to remind you, can be quickly forgotten. But lucrative business squandered in a fit of passion is a shame not so easily shouldered by most men.

Give a man a stake, with young, hungry dependents, and give him some control over his future, and you make him sane, sober, and sound.

–John Locke


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About the Author

I have a standing rule to live by…a liberty to follow my own will in all things…and never subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man—Life, liberty, and property.

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