Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Different World

Today is the one year anniversary of the capture of Saddam. Not much said about on the news. Yawn, yeah, big deal.

When I recently purchased a new automobile, the salesman of my deal was a top seller at the dealership. He was very friendly and chatty, as successful salespeople are and he seemed to feel comfortable telling his stories to my husband and me. I suppose his tension faded a bit as he learned of my husband's travels in the part of the world from where he came.

The salesman, when asked his original home, said he was from the holy land. He was Palestinian and his family lived in Gaza after being run out of Iraq due to survival concerns as Saddam took over the country.

This man said he has 7 children. Some are from a previous marriage. His first wife was not a "good wife" as he put it, so his mother chose another woman for him. He is, as it turns out, a big believer in arranged marriage.

He also told us he butchers his own lamb as he doesn't really trust the butchers who claim to butcher according to the Muslim laws.

I learned of this belief of arranged marriage when he mentioned he would be traveling to Jordan toward the end of December. Oh, visiting friends and family, I asked? Well, some, but the main purpose of the visit was to find a wife for his eldest son.


What's good for the father is good for the son.

The son is 24 years old, owns his own condo, and wants a "good wife". He wants his father to handle it for him.

It struck me at the time how odd this conversation was for me, as an American woman, with no frame of reference of these traditions. The old feminist in me automatically rises in contempt over terms like "good wife". Yet, the son found comfort and strength from this tradition.

Seems to me this is a good example with the problem we, as Americans, have with relating to life in the middle east, even in the year 2006. In many ways, they remain in a different time, a different century.

When we lived in Lafayette, and I was helping open a Childrens Museum, a young mother who we could always count on to help us with fundraisers suddenly was widowed. She was in her early 30's and had 3 young children, the youngest two children were twins only a year old. She and her husband were of middle eastern descent. The husband's family was full of men. The husband had no sisters but 3 or 4 brothers. I remember talking to another woman at the museum about what a tragedy it was. I wondered outloud how she would survive raising the children on her own, as she like us was a stay at home mom. I inquired if the friend knew if she at least had life insurance money coming to help, since my friend's husband was the couple's financial advisor. My friend didn't have an answer. Then she said something I thought back to while speaking to my salesman. She said, don't worry for her, the brothers will take care of her.

What? She said it is traditional for the husband's family to take care of the widow and help raise the children. They simply take over for the deceased husband. As the husband was first generation American, the old ways were still common within this family and their community of friends and relatives.

It's a different world.


srp said...

Do you wonder what happened to the man's first wife? The one who was not a "good wife"?

Anonymous said...

I don't have many feminist bones in my body. I'm all for arranged marriages and the families taking care of each other like that! LOL.

Beverly said...

That really is in the Old Testament, I believe. Interesting.