A MORALITY TALE, OF SORTS, FOR OUR TIME
(NB — Key illustrations for this article were clipped from a video of the aftermath of the crime cited herein, taken from a safe distance. They may not be photographically wonderful, but surely you will get the idea.)
If you plan to travel in Morocco, you might want to engage Take-No-Prisoners Leila and Mild Mannered Abdel, a matchless pair who steered my daughter Sandy and me through the perils (and many remarkable sites) of the country from Tangiers to Rabat to Marrakech.
Fearless guides in their customary, friendlier stances
Considering the fact that much of our time was spent wandering the centers of ancient towns, which feature impossibly narrow, twisty streets with racing motorcycles and plodding carts going both directions at once, not to mention bewildering thoroughfares with traffic circles but no discernible speed limits and few pedestrian crossings or other such niceties, this visitor needed a LOT of guidance and protection.
As far as I can tell, law and order in Morocco is a system unto itself. The unflappable Abdel steered our mini-van through perilous streets and around three-lane traffic circles in the absolute assurance of which lane belonged to him, though this seemed to be a decision in constant flux. I saw occasional policemen — those in Marrakech were old buddies of Abdel — but their primary occupation was to make random stops checking for expired licenses or other signs of malfeasance. Stop signs? Traffic lights? Why bother? (The king goes anywhere, anytime, anyhow he darned well pleases. We watched a few of his shiny Mercedes limos simply being warmed up by zooming up and down a wide avenue just outside of the palace.)
A quieter street; not the one near the palace
To cross a major thoroughfare (there are indeed occasional crossing lanes, but never mind) Leila simply put her head down, grabbed my hand, and plunged into the swiftly-moving traffic. It’s a sort of ongoing game of chicken between drivers and pedestrians; I am amazed by the limited number of dead bodies strewn in roadways.
In all other matters of justice (leave aside the fact that the king does whatever he darned well pleases) it seems to be a matter of swift settlement between evildoer and victim. This is possible, I believe because people don’t walk around with guns. In other words, you might beat up on one another, but you’re less likely to wind up dead — as would be the case in another country that shall remain nameless where anybody and everybody seems to be packing heat these days.
We got a first-hand glimpse of this one day in Casablanca. We were driving peacefully around the city when we passed a park filled with Moroccans of varying ages at rest or play. The latter group included a few young hooligans of a sort common to every country since time immemorial. They were amusing themselves by tossing rocks at passing cars.
They picked the wrong car. A resounding crack against our window startled us all and brought the minivan to an immediate slow-down. Before it had come to a full stop Leila was out the door and jogging toward the hooligans. They were a small group of small boys who appeared to be about 8 or 10 years old. Within moments, Leila had one of them by the shirt collar and was giving him the what-for. It was in Arabic, but what-for to young hooligans is the same in any language.
Leila delivering the opening lecture
Meanwhile, back at the van, Abdel had found a place to park. Leaving the motor running he came to our door, explained apologetically that our health and wellbeing was of his primary concern, but — with a shrug — what could he do about Leila . . . And with that he was off, walking purposefully across the park.
Abdel (left) on his way to join the discussion
The next thing we knew, mild-mannered Abdel was offering his own what-for. To make his point, he administered a whopping swat to the primary culprit. By now a crowd was gathering. Sandy and I, noting how seriously outnumbered Leila and Abdel were, briefly discussed what would happen if one of us were to climb into the driver’s seat of the van. Easy: certain death.
Abdel justice, witnessed by Leila
We learned later that among the adults who gathered around was no one admitting to the parentage of the hooligans. Had I been such, facing the wrath of Leila and Abdel I would not have admitted to it in a thousand years. Leila has rather strong opinions about hooliganism.
Gathering crowd hearing from Leila
With their points made, our two fearless guides walked back across the park to the van. It was apparently all the time they needed to calm down and return to the pleasant companions we had known before the rock hit the window. The evildoing amounted to one small but bothersome shattered spot in the window. Punishment was administered and the issue apparently settled, without bloodshed.
Now, if we could get Abdel and Leila to come to speak with the NRA . . .