By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The day we met he was wearing a crisp business suit. He told me he graduated from Mississippi State in 1972 with a civil engineering degree, worked for state highway departments, worked in Kuwait and other countries for 11 years, then came back to the United States so his kids could go to college here.
He is 60 years old. His daughter has completed a doctorate at Baylor, and his son has finished a master's degree at UTA. I asked him how his dealings with Dallas City Hall compare with his experiences with other governments around the world.
Jamal-Eddine paused, gathering his thoughts. "I tell you honestly, there is nothing like the United States. This is a place of democracy. This is a place where you live in freedom and with a free spirit. That is why I chose the United States since the beginning, since 1969."
Part of what he likes about this country is that he is free to fight City Hall. "I don't like to be illegal. I'm very tough with that. I like everything to be legal. And when I find something wrong, I fight. I can fight severely to get the right things. That's why I came to the United States and gained my citizenship. I love it. And even if there is something wrong here, still, it is the top of the world.
"What I gave my son and my daughter, my little daughter, I believe no place in the earth can give them that fast what they have here. To own a house and have a living and all that in the old country, you need 300 years."
He leads me outside on the balcony so we can take in the late-afternoon view. As far as the eye can see, plastic bags glisten like blisters on endless vacant lots. In the distance an army of silhouetted homeless move slowly over the broken horizon. At our feet on Jamal-Eddine's fenced parking lot, in defiance of his many warning signs, whores and drug dealers pull in and out of the busy lot in shiny SUVs, glowering up at us while they chug their 40-ounces.
He says none of them lives here. And I do observe that none of them sticks around longer than the five to 10 minutes it takes them to finish a deal.
He stands at the rail and lifts both arms. "If I have an island with all this sea around me, how I'm going to stop the sea?"
Then he turns to me and says, "You know, in South Dallas, I really don't think we are in the United States. We are somewhere like Guatemala."
That would explain the government.