Quick Thought to Amuse and Edify

Recently, I’ve been doing research on Syria in the 1970s and ‘80s.  I’ve come across a number of jokes and thought I would share a few of my favorites:

In central Damascus, a bright red BMW crashes into a taxi.  The taxi driver stumbles out of his wrecked car, runs towards the BMW, and starts cursing the driver.  The BMW’s windows are tinted, though, so he can’t see inside.  The BMW’s window opens slightly and a woman’s hand sticks out a business card with a phone number on it.  Later, the taxi driver calls the number on the card.  A man answers.  The taxi driver shouts, “You bastard, I have to work for my money.”  The man on the end of the phone waits for the driver to finish, then asks, “Do you know who you’re talking to?”  The driver says no.  The man says, “This is Hafez al-Assad [the leader of Syria at the time].”  The taxi driver says, “Do you know who you’re talking to?”  Assad says no.  The taxi driver says, “Thank God!” and hangs up.”

Hafez Assad is driving through central Damascus and sees a large group of Syrians outside the US consulate.  He tells his driver to stop, then pushes through the crowd and demands to see the US consul.  He asks what all the people are doing there.  The consul tells him that they all want visas to come to America.  Assad think for a minute, then says, “Give me a visa too; I want to go to America.”  So the consul gives him a visa.  Assad then leaves the consulate and sees that all the people disappeared.  He asks one of the few remaining bystanders what happened.  The other guy says, “When they found out you were leaving, they all decided to stay.”

A Syrian soldier and an Israeli soldier meet on the border.  The Israeli soldier says, “In my country, we have electricity and running water.”  The Syrian replies, “Yes, but in my country, we have Assad.” [In addition to being the surname of the ruling family, “assad” is also the Arabic word for lion].  The Israeli soldier doesn’t know what to say.  A few weeks later, the two meet again.  The Israeli soldier says, “Now we have an assad [lion] too.”  The Syrian soldier replies, “Well, soon you won’t have electricity and running water.”

George H.W. Bush, Francois Mitterrand, and Hafez Assad all die.  Bush asks God, “When will my people be developed?”  God replies, “After 50 years.”  Bush begins to cry.  Mitterrand asks God, “When will my people be developed?”  God answers, “After 100 years.”  Mitterrand begins to cry.  Assad asks God, “When will the Arabs be developed?”  God starts to cry.”

[These jokes are all borrowed from Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria by Lisa Wedeen.]

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