Whatever Happened to Mo?

He was from Syria, a bright, energetic young man running his own small business buying and selling knives. I first met him shortly after 911 when I did a small legal matter for him. We went to the courthouse one morning and I felt absurdly protective, ready to scold any redneck who tried to hassle Mo (short, of course, for Mohammed). Nothing happened and we finished his court appearance quickly.

We became casual friends and talked several times over the next handful of years. Mo was an interesting mix of Western and Middle Eastern values. I loved talking to him; in the stultifying uniformity of east Tennessee its a treat to talk fairly freely with some from a different culture. The only subject we were guarded about with each other was Israel. I suspect his attitude was much harsher than he’d admit to me. For some odd reason, I also pulled my punches on the subject. Whatever my own concerns with Israeli policies, it seemed improper to voice them to someone who might be anti-semitic or worse and who was a citizen of a nation which had been at war with the Jewish state on at least three occasions.

He came in one day and told me the FBI wanted to talk with him. The news set off alarms in my ACLU loving brain. While he did have some “tax issues” with his business, I doubted the FBI would be interested. Of course I feared for him. Probably because I wanted a fairly large fee he elected to use some lawyer who was a friend of a friend and wouldn’t charge him a fee.

I never heard from Mo again. Its been several years since our last contact. I hope he is just pissed at me for wanting a hefty chunk of his money to deal with the FBI. I hope he’s out there somewhere making good money selling fancy knives here or in Syria and cussin’ me as a greedy lawyer. That’s what I hope. I don’t want to consider the alternative…

I still think about Mo often. He once gave me a gift for my wife, an elegant little wooden box; he had brought it back from one of his trips to visit his family in Damascus. She found his gift delightful and still it sits on one of the end tables in our living room. When he brought the box by my office we talked about Damascus and his mother, a traditional Syrian woman, who was not pleased her son remained in America and had not yet married a proper Syrian girl.

He’s been particularly on my mind since the uprisings in the Middle East. Is he one of the Syrian protesters? A prisoner (or worse)? Of course the romantic liberal in me wants to imagine him on the ramparts, a brave young man determined to end the tyranny in his homeland.

Mostly I just hope, wherever he is, he’s alright…


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