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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.

9 comments:

  1. Glad I found your blog! Don't feel ashamed for your country, people who resort to violence exist everywhere. You should be proud of you! You are speaking your mind in a place and time where speaking your mind is dangerous. That is what hero's do, you are my hero :) Thank you!!

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    1. Cara, thank you so much for your incredibly kind words. I'm not sure I'm entirely worthy of such praise, but I so appreciate what you wrote.

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  2. our sentiments exactly... you hit it right on... lara

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  3. Outstanding story there. What occurred after? Thanks!
    Feel free to visit my web site - Smartgirl Gutscheine Oktober2012

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    1. Thanks - and we're still waiting for what's next...

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  4. I've been following your blog for a while now. I have found you to be brave and funny and upbeat and irreverent and a lot of fun to read. Now I see you saddened by senseless destruction and my heart goes out to you. Whether you stay or go, I hope you keep writing. The world needs voices like yours to remind us that there are still many things - and many people - that are beautiful and praiseworthy.

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    1. You are so very kind - thank you very much :)

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  5. This was such a touching a lovely entry Anissa... One of your best by far! I too love Lebanon despite all the horrible things you touched on in your story. There is just something about that country that people don't quite get until they have the good luck to experience it. I was really moved by what you wrote and I pray that Lebanon will prevail and one day they will have leaders worthy of ruling such a gem! -Lebanese-American living for the summers when she can visit Lebanon

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