“I have a grudge against your president,” she said, though I didn’t ask her about him. “Barack Obama mentioned me in a speech. He said I was a cop. He said I slapped Mohamed Bouazizi. He’s a stupid fool for not checking. Americans are great people, but you need to do a better job of checking your information.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s why I’m here. That’s why I wanted to meet you.”…

We all change the course of events by existing in this world, but most presidents can hardly leave marks that are this big. Her own act was a small one, but it lit the fuse.

How must it feel for an ordinary person in a random little town to ignite a revolution, to be made a scapegoat by a dictatorship, to be mentioned in a speech by the president of the United States, to be arrested and jailed for what was at worst a minor infraction, to see her cynical jailer toppled in a revolt, to watch the warden of Egypt toppled in another revolt, to see the Libyan terrorist state bombed by America, to see open war break out in Syria and spill into Lebanon, and to see Mali—an African country that is not even Arab—broken in half as an aftershock of the Libya war? All because she confiscated a fruit vendor’s scale. At least Gavrilo Princip expected something to happen when he shot Ferdinand in Bosnia on the eve of the war.