If anyone is interested in what is going on in the Middle East, Al Jazeera International’s TV channel has as good of a coverage as you can find, says me. I discovered them a few years ago when I wanted news during the Burma uprising, and CNN and BBC weren’t cutting it. During Egypt, too, it shone.
Now Libya’s dictatorship is on fire, and I was watching a Saudi channel showing Muammar Gaddafi’s speech live. I had some Syrians tell me what he was saying and it was interesting enough, but I went to a fruit seller who had Al Jazeera on and they were showing a split screen with him on one side (maybe reciting poetry, as he did at one point) and the reaction to his words on the other: people hurling their shoes at a projection of Gaddafi on a wall.
Have you ever heard Gaddafi speak? It’s almost as jarring as hearing David Beckham’s mousey voice the first time. He barks, rambles, gesticulates, he has awkward pauses, he fidgets with his clothes constantly. You can’t take your eyes off him.
Have you ever seen Gaddafi? It’s a unique face. It looks like it has too much skin, highlighted by his flabby lips and a perfect, evil-looking, pencil-thin moustache. Plus, he’s completely off his rocker. All this together, even if I can’t understand more than three words, I’m mesmerized. I’m going to miss him.
It would all be funny if he was crazy in a harmless, bumbling way, but I really dread what he has already reported to have done: bombed his own people. He is a scorched earth kind of dictator; I can’t imagine him in exile and thus can’t imagine it ending well.
I came back to the hostel and the TV was on here, too. One of the travelers came to the front desk and asked the guy, “What is the situation here in Syria?” She was going to continue, but I saw the front desk guy freeze up a little and I stepped in: “You are putting him in an uncomfortable position,” I told her.
She said, “I just wanted to ask someone who lives here—”
I cut her off. There was a local person whom I had never seen before in the lobby, and I tried to nip it in the bud. “But there are no consequences for you.”
Her friend said, “There could be listening devices and someone could hear us?”
Now everyone was uncomfortable and I shooed ourselves out.
It’s otherwise deceiving to portray myself as being wise or shrewd, but in these situations I have had experience and I know to never be the one to bring the subject up.
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