An Iowa Girl in the Hashemite's Kingdom

July 24, 2017

"Yes, but it is best with the king."

 

I asked her to repeat herself, not out of disrespect, but because my APUSH indoctrinated inner nationalist assumed I had misheard. My أستاذة (teacher) was now also confused. Once again, the six Americans in Karak classroom had stumbled upon cultural divide.

 

It started with the word حكم (to rule). A vocabulary word without context, without connecting words to integrate it into conversation, only takes up brain space, a scarce commodity for language students everywhere. To avoid this plight, we asked our teacher her opinions on the king: King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein. All I heard was positive, and this seems to be the trend for the average Jordanian. Once again, my American brain was struggling for comprehension. In America, you do not have to move outside your peripheral vision to find someone ready with two bad cents to give about the president.

 

The king of Jordan isn't powerless either. Not just a face, a tribute to tradition, the king can appoint, and dismiss, senators, the Prime Minister, and even his own heir. Playing at unbiased researcher, I took to the internet to find a flaw in the perfect monarchial facade. What I found were fears, for the direction the system is headed rather than its current state. In early May of 2016, the Jordanian constitution was ratified to increase the king's executive power. The king can now make key appointments (senators, generals, prime ministers, the like) without any form of nomination process. The idea of balanced powers is hanging by a thread, and some fear that it is Parliament that has become the pretty face of the political system.

 

How could a nation be so supportive of singular rule? This is the country that banned political parties back in 1963 (All but the Arab National Union, but even that couldn't live through the 70s.). Jordan is a nation afraid of factionalism. Modern Jordan has been consolidated into 12 محافظات (governates), but its history is nomadic. Trying to estimate the modern native population, I asked my teacher how many tribes still lived in Jordan.

 

"كثيىر." (A lot.)

 

Many believe that the only way to keep tribes, and their courts, accountable is through a powerful monarch. I am in no place to tell them they are wrong. I believe full participation in Jordanian politics requires a little more than three weeks residence (and 16 years of age). No matter how much my starred and striped inner-self has searched, I have found no tangible difference in life under monarchy. There are still official looking ministries, regulated food service, and gaudy political posters adorning every bare road sign.

 

I have now researched the Jordanian political system for an approximate 3.5 hours. A few thoughts: 1) You can find absolutely any assumption-validating opinion on the internet, so use this as a secondary resource. For whatever reason, personal accounts turn up far more food for thought. 2) I challenge you to find a perfect political system. Is it implementable? I thought not. Do not assume every monarchy, or democracy for that matter, is the same. Find the historical context for political creation. 3) Nations evoke pride. Forget population size or GDP or latest elected candidate, I have yet to meet a person that has nothing good to say about their place of origin. Ask around (Personal accounts, remember.). There is always joy to be found.

 

 

 

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