Unlike most political scientists, I am not a fanatic about voting. I think the phrase “civic duty” is utterly hollow, a claim which once nearly earned me a punch in the nose from a fellow academic. But this year my failure to vote is entirely accidental. I am on my way to the Middle East, and will be in Syria on election day. I didn’t think about the timing of the election when I bought my plane ticket, and by the time I did it was too late to get an absentee ballot. Once again I find myself missing Oregon’s supremely sensible vote-by-mail system (elections there are 100% mail-in ballots), which would have allowed me to not have to think about the logistics of voting. Still, I think the republic will struggle through without my suffrage.
This is my second trip to the Middle East. I went to Syria and the UAE in 2008. I’ll be returning to those countries, and may be briefly going to Lebanon and Jordan as well. The purpose this time is to make contacts for a future May Term course that would take students to those countries, where–ideally–they would get their lectures not from me but from local university professors. Making those contacts is proving hard, though. Hopefully things will work out once I’m on the ground. If not, I’ll have extra time to play tourist. But frankly, I’ve been there and done that. It’s not that playing tourist a second time in Syria isn’t worth doing, but I want to stretch beyond that and make significant contacts that will allow me to learn more and have real connections in the region.
Fortunately, the paucity of wide-spread wireless services means the Middle East is chock-full of internet cafes. I’ll post interesting tid-bits (or tit-bits, as the English would vulgarly have it), if and when I have any. And perhaps this time I’ll manage to go downhill skiing in Dubai.