This is the first of a number of episodes on my interactions with the Lebanese Common Man while I was back home.
Kamal Salibi once wrote in "House of Many Mansions" about our society's different tribal particularlisms. In his view, Sunni particularism was known as Arab nationalism; Greek Orthodox particularism was pan-Syrianism; and Maronite particularism was what he called Lebanism.
I say my particularism is Lebanism. Therefore, Maronites no longer own this sort of particularism. We have been born in different times than our parents'. In our times there was no Jamal Abdel Nasser, no Ottoman rule, no French mandate. We were born to bear witness to a country wrecked by a civil war. We learned in the school of life that sectarianism and ideology equal death and estrangement.
When I was 8 or 9, I recall being made fun of in school because I didn't have a President, because our country was drowning then in anarchy. And whoever was laughing at me were fellow Arab children. I grew to love my country, Lebanon being an end in itself.
While I claim that my generation's particularism is Lebanism, I found myself astounded by a competing view of Lebanism, that of a fellow I met aboard the airplane that was taking me back to my Lebanon.
His notion of Lebanism is outright fear and disgust from Islamic religiousity. Not that I'm an advocate of religious fanaticism, but Lebanon is home for more than a dozen sects, and I was raised to coexist with and appreciate the diversity.
He was a person who has lived in Nigeria since the late '80s, has married an African, wishes to raise his children outside of Lebanon indefinitely, and claims that Lebanon will never change, that it's a hopeless case. Interestingly, however, he recently returned to Lebanon to hlep in the Aoun-Franjieh electoral campaign. I asked why he suddenly cared about Lebanon and he said that he was helping Franjieh win the elections as he is the sole service provider in his town where his parents still reside.
He kept on telling me that he's not sectarian, but continued spewing hate words towards non-Christians. I was unnerved, because my notion of Lebanism is different, a notion free of sectarianism, free of hate, free of fear, and free of militancy. He thinks that Israel is closer to us than Syria and that those in power (Hariris) have exchanged Syrian tutelage for Saudi.
I sat thinking about what I have in common with this fellow Lebanese...he has rejected me before knowing who I am. I kept on assuring him that there are a handful of Lebanese, like me, who think far beyond sectarianism, far beyond pan-something ideologies that transcend Lebanon as a permanent country in its own right. He succumbed reluctantly and said that he hopes my optimism would prevail and be translated into reality, but he has bet against progress for Lebanon...
It's funny, but long before, the Lebanese fought amongst each other because some wanted Lebanon to be part of an Arab nation as a final home, or a Syrian nation. I think I will fight to have Lebanon never divided, Lebanon that country that never had a chance at ruling itself in its own self. Now that many Muslims on the popular level have finally bought into this mantra (Lebanon-an end in itself), would some other sects in Lebanon start calling for Federalism?....
"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."