Polarization in Lebanese politics can be disturbing. Lebanon has yet to prove that polarization in politics can remain peaceful, co-opted by the democratic mechanisms of the Parliament, the highest democratic authority. History has shown us that polarization has led to destruction, to failure, to lawlessness, and to chaos. That is why I sit watching the story of our history unfold with my hand on my heart.
Last year around that time, polarization in U.S. politics was at its highest. In November 2004, the U.S. was divided literally into two camps, Democratic versus Republican. The race was heated; people sat to watch every single Presidential and Vice-Presidential debate. Rumors and rumors of scandals were rampant, political money was dumped everywhere possible. Come election day, President Bush won. I could swear that blood was rushing up my head that day; polarization yes was at its highest. But the difference between the American common man and me was that life continued and it was business-as-usual past 2:00PM, when Kerry read out loud his concession speech. No one went up to arms; life continued…and for those who have lost, they promised each other that they’d work harder the next time around, harder on the local level in preparation of winning a base for the upcoming Presidential elections. I said to myself: “Those Americans are patient; they’ll wait another four years…”
Polarization in America works; recent history has shown it. But in Lebanon, no! And we are yet to see the story unfolding.
I cannot but allude to Kerry and Bush when I think of Aoun and the Christian Opposition. I found out that anywhere in the world, the common man is thirsty for simplicity. Aoun, wearing his orange polo, his white hair, his simple, unsophisticated rhetoric appeals to the common man. He’s clear; the common man wants the black and white….just like Bush, Aoun could have been the guy next door whom many would have a cup of coffee with sharing small talk in a “soubhiyye.”
This simplicity, this black and white is exactly what the sophisticated, educated amongst us dislike, what many cosmopolitan Americans disliked about Bush. We know that issues are always in shades of grey. We thirst for complicated, sophisticated, smart political assessments and moves. We hold politicians accountable for what they say, opening up our history books to double-check on the facts, researching and fact-checking, analyzing and breaking down words and statements….
But who ends up voting in our country??? Half of us doing the fact-checking are NOT in Lebanon!!! We can enlighten ourselves as much as we can about the facts, about the intentions, about the consequences, but at the end of the day, we’re not there; we are voiceless! Even the journalists who do a great job of disseminating information about the intentions, consequences, and facts are not widely read…I remember reading two years ago that only 3% of the Lebanese read newspapers. The Lebanese rely on the TV, just like the Americans rely on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC for their news needs. At least here in the U.S. people have the internet to get their news.
My “activist” friend from the Democratic Party is leaving the cosmopolitan D.C and heading to the Deep South; she is armed with a strategy to appeal to the devout Christian base that has been loyal to the Republican camp. She is aware that the Democrats have done a bad job at appealing to a base that tips the balance in any election race. She believes that this is the place to start regaining a lost race; that’s the heart of the battle.
Let yesterday’s election race in Lebanon be filed under the “lessons learned” and marked as “to be reviewed soon for devising new strategies.”
I watch the story of our history unfold and I vow not to sit watching and commenting any longer. If yesterday’s elections achieved anything, it is indeed the polarization that pushes those on the sidelines to take action. But let us work together to ensure that the definition of “taking action” in our country is a far outcry from carrying arms to fight the brother, but rather by using our heads and leveraging our energy for positive action.
"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."