The effect of living in a Trump-free world is that we’ve been able to watch the news of the Republican primary for what it is: CNN’s first reality TV show.
TANGIER, Morocco — Inshallah (“God Willing”) is used throughout the Arabic-speaking world to demonstrate humility when talking about the future, a linguistic hedge against hubris.
In Morocco, it is often translated as “perhaps,” which, when you’re getting ready to pick up and move there, leads to confusing email exchanges such as, “The apartment will definitely be ready by the time you arrive, perhaps.”
Packing away our winter coats and skis at our home in the Pacific Northwest and getting ready to move across the Atlantic, my wife and I enjoyed the irony of adding inshallah to Donald Trump’s categorical statements this election season:
“We’ll have so much winning, you’ll get bored with winning, inshallah.”
“The wall will go up, and Mexico will start behaving, inshallah.”
We arrived in Tangier a week before Trump proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. My Facebook feed and CNN International (our only English language channel) melted down with handwringing, comparing Trump to Hitler and noting that his comments would no doubt add fuel to the Islamic State’s fires.
I did the same. In our empty apartment, I cursed the man for poisoning relations with the world, for his racism, ultimately — and selfishly, because we were afraid it would make everyone we met in this Muslim country despise us.
Of course, it’s a symptom of our own ethnocentrism and the strange spell that Donald Trump has put on the media that I assumed Moroccans would care. In fact, U.S. news here seems dominated by actual American foreign policy. On cafe televisions and the front page of newspapers, it’s football. The gossip among our new Moroccan friends focuses on corruption. Religious talk centers on spiritual security and Sufism. The king recently had laryngitis and lost his voice, so people were worried about that.
In fact, the only time that we hear anything about the Donald is in the 30 minutes of CNN that we watch each night, during which his prospects, foes and friends are invariably the lead story.
Even Moroccans in the know, such as the friend who helped us set up our apartment, a speaker of five languages with deep roots in the U.S., often don’t know who Trump is.
“It will be Hillary,” he predicts confidently, after I try to explain the Republican primary. “She knows all the back ways to power.” A critic of the current U.S. policy in the Middle East, he didn’t add inshallah.
Others, such as the teacher with whom I’m working here, have a different view. “Yes, of course I know him,” says Hussein, as he adeptly maneuvers his car through the crowded streets. “All Moroccans know who he is: the star of the television program, ‘The Apprentice.’ ” I breathe a secret sigh of relief. “He is also standing for president,” continues Hussein, “and recently made some comments about banning Muslims from America. This is fanciful, of course.”
In fact, the only tyrant with bad hair for whom Moroccans show any interest is our 6-month-old daughter, Cecily. Strangers stop me in the street to kiss her and coo at her. Her presence smooths over our clumsy attempts at darija, Moroccan Arabic, and we budget extra time for trips to the market so shoppers can pass her back and forth.
The effect of living in a Trump-free world is that we’ve been able to watch the news of the Republican primary for what it is: CNN’s first reality TV show. Filmed in a distant place, populated by outlandish and shallow characters. The protagonist shocks or delights, but only within the confines of the audience. After we turn off the set, we join families walking along Boulevard Pasteur in gathering darkness. Old men stop to congratulate us on our daughter, and women smile shyly.
And when we return home next spring? The show’s over, inshallah.