A break down of the respondents into the following categories would be revealing:
- socio-economic status
- residence (urban/rural, geographic region - Jabal Aamel, Bekaa, Mt. Lebanon, etc...)
Dear Rami/Zeina/George/Fatima/etc... what does the Lebanese state mean to you? Not the Lebanese identity... not Lebanese food or history... not Lebanon's political elite ... none of these. I just want to know how you perceive the Lebanese state.
- First and foremost, do you believe a state exists at all?
- If yes, what do you perceive the role(s) of the state to be? Prioritize, if you can.
- Do you personally benefit from any service(s) that only the state can offer? Please list them.
- What services do you receive from non-state actors/institutions that you believe the state can deliver?
- has sent lawyers to represent detained citizens;
- hosts concerts and exhibitions featuring Jordanian artists;
- flies journalists and opinion makers to Jordan in the interest of encouraging a more nuanced view of the country;
The question is: what happens to a Lebanese student who gets into a little fracas with a Syrian in George Washington University, and is detained by the police? Let's assume he does not have family in the country. Does this individual call the Lebanese embassy? And if so, will the embassy have the resources to assist him? I wonder.
Lebanon's civil society is vibrant with activity, and offers a ton of services to Lebanese individuals. For example, I am very aware that the Maronite Church's role over here in the US is paramount to the community. It brings Maronites together every Sunday, and provides a platform through which social events may be organized and launched, among other services. The problem with this arrangement, of course, is that it is an inherently sectarian one.
No one is saying that the Maronite Church should not play its role within the Maronite community... however, this role should be complemented with that played by a more inclusive institution. One that fosters a national identity as opposed to a sectarian one. It is here where the embassy can come in an do its part.
Hariri's, Fleihan's, Kassir's and Tueni's deaths brought all of us here in the DC - Baltimore area, together. For example, the first time I stepped into a Maronite church was during a commemoration of the late Hariri, that the Church graciously organized for all Lebanese. However, the man is not going to die again. And even if someone of his calliber was brutally murdered today, I doubt it would foster the same kind of response.
In short, there is at least one role that the Lebanese state can play for the Diaspora through its embassies. That role could, at a minimum, help bring the different communities that constitute the Diaspora, together. It is a meager role - especially considering the failure of the state in most of its fundamental functions back home. But who knows? Maybe the first baby steps (overseas, of all places) could prove to be successful precedents regarding the State's role back home. For all our private initiative and ingenuity, there is no question regarding the utility of an effective state. We need it. We have to help realize it.