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‘Wisdom behind the Wheel,’ Recalled



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Last June, I did a little Corner note — actually, a biggish one — on a conversation I had with a cabbie in Texas. I said that journalists must never, ever write about their conversations with cabbies. It’s the worst cliché in the world. I also said I didn’t care — which I don’t.

This cabbie was from Tunisia, and as I remarked, “he ought to teach in Middle East Studies departments — or at least lecture.”

Let me quote a bit more from that post: “Of his native country, he said, ‘They say they have stability, but how can you have real stability without freedom and democracy? Their stability is just a dictator, who will be replaced by another dictator.’”

Then there’s this: “He finds our political system kind of a miracle: ‘When a president’s term is up, he has to leave. He has to get out. If he tries to stay, the police or the military will come throw him out. He can’t just hang on to power for as long as he wants.’ It’s amazing what we, as Americans, can take for granted. Rotation in office is not a universal principle.”

One more, please: “America, he says, has an independent judiciary, and legislatures, and executive branches. In Tunisia — as in most places — it’s all one. The cab driver thinks that the separation of powers is a miracle. Again, amazing what we take for granted.”

Would kind of like to talk to that cabbie today. He is sounder than many well-paid analysts in think tanks, and governments.



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