Even Superheroes Aren’t Bulletproof

007 Two tables behind from the Management Specialist of the American Regional Security Office in Doha, I’m picking at my plate searching for a pint of self-confidence in my bolognese as I wait to interview Steven H. Abels, Office Manager of the U.S. Embassy in Doha.

Rewind fifteen minutes, after having fought the electrical flow of the escalators I’m bent over and out of breath at the far corner of GA5. Nevertheless, I was grateful I was able to grasp a few syllables of Abels’ speech.

“It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle”

Sitting across from the American diplomat, amongst the clatter of kitchen cutlery, I managed to make the most of this encounter by asking Mr. Abels about his journey.

“As an exchange student in high school, living in foreign countries I’ve learnt different languages of the world. As a major of International Relations I furthered my long-term interest in joining the foreign services.”

Inquisitive as I was, I tried to uncover as many of the perplex compositions that make up the everyday life of an overseas’ representative as humanly possible.

“TV shows and movies have conveyed an inaccurate impression of American politics. We don’t live life like Breaking Bad or Jake Owen. We are just normal people and our kids go to schools just like your kids.”

Without warning, Abels points towards a massive orange sack, 3 foot tall by 2 feet wide. He then dramatically pulls out a helmet and bulletproof vest made of the US Army’s universal camouflage patterns, an indication of the seriousness of his occupation and the safety measures that members of embassies must undertake.

“These [pointing towards the gear] have created communication barriers. Diplomacy needs to happen face-to-face. Trying to do it in a way so as to ensure the safety of diplomats and counselors is the challenge we still face.”

Throughout the interview I’ve sensed that being a diplomat is no laughing matter. It is not just an occupation with a payroll at the end of every month, but a responsibility towards the development of a race and the maintaining of a unified and peaceful environment.

“It is important that we are in countries working not just with the leaders but also meeting with people of respective communities, getting to know more about them while giving them a taste of what American ideals are like.”

The hard-work and dedication diplomats inject into this community so as to bring together the different patches of culture has inspired youngsters across the globe. Abels and all political leaders are our everyday superheroes, saving the day wearing neckties as their emblem and blazers as their capes.

By Shahd El Shafei
Photo By Yeon Geong