Several days ago a pregnant 19 year-old was kidnapped by her parents. They planned to take their daughter to an abortion clinic, where they would do the obvious to the fetus - whose father was locked up in some prison.
To cut the story short, the lady eventually escaped from her parents and called 911. Policemen eventually arrived at the scene and arrested the couple, who now face the prospect of spending up to 15 years behind bars (a somewhat ironic outcome, if you ask me).
I look at this story, and my immediate reaction is a conflicted one. On the one hand, I ask: how could any son or daughter take actions that could lead to his or her parents’ imprisonment. On the other, I ask how the parents could have taken actions that would push their daughter to take such extreme measures.
I wonder what kind of reactions such a fiasco would garner in Lebanon. Actually I know the reactions: They would range from, “why didn’t the parents kill the girl when she eloped in the first place?” to “the girl should have listened to her parents and not resisted because they know what’s best for her.”
What intrigues me most though is the actual arrest of the parents – and what such an action symbolizes. Here, we have one coercive force in society (the police) thwarting the will of another coercive force (the parents, and by extension, the institution of the family). By listening to the daughter, the police ultimately took her side and protected her from her parents (who we should not forget, believed that they were doing what was best for her).
All other considerations aside, this case is one where the individual trumped the collective – where the traditional notion of “parents knowing better” or “deferral to the elderly” succumbed to the modern notions of (and accompanying) individualism.
Lebanese who so desperately wish to break free from the bonds of sectarianism need to keep this story in mind. Too many of these individuals tackle sectarianism as intellectuals, and deal with merely the abstractions of the matter. Ultimately, although such efforts are noble and based on good intensions, tackling “the problem” of sectarianism can be boiled down to simply breaking the will of parents on the most intimate of issues – and doing so confidently. Of course, it would also be nice to have the backing of a coercive element whenever the need for one arises - as it did in the case I wrote about above.