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Monday, October 22, 2012

My Beautiful Lebanon

On Friday morning, I posted a new blog entry trashing the show 'Homeland' for its inaccurate portrayal of Beirut as a backwards shantytown. An hour later, a bomb went off in Ashrafieh, killing the head of Lebanon's intelligence unit and several others, and wounding over a hundred. Beirut didn't look like a slum, it looked like a war zone. Again, the media surrounded this tiny, little corner of the world and broadcast images of a crumbling, violent nation. I felt great sadness for the people affected by this tragedy. I was also embarrassed for my country... yet again.

I still stand by what I wrote: Lebanon is beautiful. The mountains are indeed glorious, the capital a sparkling metropolis with a thriving nightlife and beautiful, luxurious shopping districts. The skyline is magnificent, the views and food spectacular. It's just the people that are the problem. Stupid, ignorant, sectarian, religiously fanatical morons that really, deep down, don't give a damn about their country, caring more about corrupt religious and political figures than the land they call home. If Little Bo Peep lived here, she'd have no problem finding her sheep.

I moved to Lebanon, leaving my family behind in the US. I was 21 and full of optimism, enthusiasm and passion for this broken country. Hamra was full of mom-and-pop shops; Gemaizeh and Monot were mostly residential; the downtown wasn't fully rebuilt yet and there was no ABC or City Mall, or any mall for that matter. There was no Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti, American Eagle Outfitters or Gap. There was no Starbucks or Coffee Beanery. I had no internet at home and had to go to the computer lab at the American University of Beirut to send an email. But I loved Lebanon.

In 2005, the prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb. We were all enraged at his death, well 1.5 million of us anyway, and I went to every protest. On March 14, 2005, I walked from my office near Hotel Dieu to Downtown to topple the government. Our office was multi-religious, so all factions - Christian, Muslim and Druze - marched side-by-side. The major roads were closed, which is why we had to walk. We didn't care. We were full of hope. And I still loved Lebanon.

Unfortunately, the efforts of those 1.5 million people didn't amount to much. In 2006, we were stuck in another war, this time I was evacuated with my family. It was a very painful experience. But when the war was over a month later, I was eager to get back. I still loved Lebanon.

A year after that, the army was engaged in a bitter war against terrorists in the Naher el Bared refugee camp. We supported our troops and prayed for a quick resolution. We lost over 167 good men but at least we were united for a change. I still loved Lebanon.

A year after that, internal factions were at war with each other. Beirut was seized by gunmen wearing masks. They closed off roads and tried to inflict terror on the people. Our building was in the crossfires of one battle, and a few stray bullets shattered the glass of our neighbor's apartment. We went to the mountains to escape the gunfire. We stayed for a week and I longed to get back down to Beirut when peace was restored. I still loved Lebanon.

From 2005-2008, there were many assassinations of key political people and those not in politics but brave enough to speak the truth. It's sad to say, but we got used to the bombings and everyday wondered, who will they get next. But like the rest of the Lebanese sick of the politics, religious hypocrisy and violence, we went about our daily lives as best we could. I still loved Lebanon.

In 2009, the same factions were at it again. We watched from home as Lebanese were shooting at each other, snipers on building tops targeting fellow countrymen because of religion and politics and just plain stupidity. Why are you doing this, a journalist asked, because our leader told us to be here, was the empty and pointless reply. When things calmed, I was happy to get back to my life. I still loved Lebanon.

But now, in 2012, I've had enough. I went to pay my respects yesterday to a man who was killed for simply doing his job and doing it right. I thought as I watched the coffins go by that I hope all the politicians and religious leaders that brought Lebanon to this point are happy now - whatever their color, red, green, yellow, blue or orange, they have managed to paint our whole world black.

I'm not sure if I can be here anymore to witness your destruction, but I still love you, my beautiful Lebanon.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why 'Homeland' Sucks

The real Hamra Street
So I was a big fan of the show 'Homeland' on Showtime last season. I was so happy that the show won like a million Emmy's because of how good I thought it was. Then I started watching season two. OMG, what a disappointment. It only took the first episode to turn me off completely. Showing Beirut as some sort of slum was not only inaccurate but just oh so wrong.

Since when does every woman on Hamra Street sport a headscarf, and an unfashionable one at that? The wardrobe of the supposed Lebanese women looked like they were bought from 1960s Bums R Us, and Yes, We Are Terrorists for the guys. And the cars… the cars! Oh my! They were pre-civil war era wrecks! As if... please, we have more Porsche Cayennes per capita than any other city on earth (or at least, it feels that way).

Okay, so the country has many, many problems. This is not paradise, and we have a lot of political instability that I will not get into. But hello, we know how to dress and don't all walk around carrying AK47s. Believe it or not, we Lebanese prefer designer handbags and fancy cars to shot guns when it comes to accessories. 

It's so disappointing that one of my favorite shows had to resort to cliched stereotypes to get ratings. Just a little bit of research, or one search on Google images, would've given them some insight into how the real Lebanon looks. But no, instead we get shots that were actually filmed in the slums of Israel passing for Beirut.

I guess having gun-weilding terrorists roaming around Hamra Street appearing as an everyday occurrence is much more sellable if Beirut looks more like a set from 'Slumdog Millionaire.' I walk down Hamra all the time, and the only upsetting thing I ran into recently was the LL500 hike in the cost of my Starbucks coffee!

It would be great if the Lebanese joined in some sort of campaign to counter the offensive portrayal of our country on this show. I know we have bigger things to worry about, but still, that doesn't mean we should stay quiet about this. Yesterday, I read an article that the Lebanese government is planning on suing the producers of 'Homeland.' The tourism minister is apparently outraged by the image of a terrorist-filled Beirut. But I'm sure he's not going to do anything about it.

I can just imagine the conversation he had about the issue:
Minister: That show 'Homeland' sucks. Let's sue them.
Aide: Are you sure you want to do something that will benefit the country without any personal benefit for yourself?
Minister: You mean I won't get anything?
Aide: No, this will purely be an act for the better of Lebanon.
Minister: Oh, forget it then.

Hey, just because our government probably won't do anything about it, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't. I sent in a complaint to Showtime, and I encourage all of you to do the same. Let's take a stand for once. Click on the link below and DO SOMETHING!