I remember when the war first broke out, I bumped coincidentally into a friend on msn chat whom I haven't seen or chatted with since several years ago. After the niceties, he quickly asked me, "Who are you with?" I was a bit puzzled. What did he mean by that question, like I would not be with Lebanon??! I said, "I'm with Lebanon!" He replied, "But Lebanon is divided and this is the reality."
After the conversation was over, it hit me that his question was about if I was with the March 8 or the March 14 coalition. But it was so interesting to see that these sides during the war faded somehow; we were faced with different sorts of divisions.
The truth of the matter is that no matter what, the Lebanese are always forced to take sides. First it was pro-Syrian versus anti-Syrian. Of course to be anti-Syrian was always hush-hush. We could express our frustration to our closest friends, at home (but even at home we would whisper as if the walls can record every word we utter).
A couple of years before the Syrian troops left Lebanon, my family moved to work in Syria. I learned then the amount of misconception the Lebanese have towards the Syrians in general. Raja and I back at AUB organized two cultural trips to Syria; I recall how appalled many Lebanese were at the idea of organizing such trips. Interestingly enough, most of those who joined us on the trips were Lebanese expatriates and foreign students and professors. We saw the beauty and potential Syria has, how the people there are like us, and how the regime there rarely taps into the potential of the country and its people.
I was taught only then to distinguish between a regime and the people. I like Syria and because I do, I thought the Lebanese-Syrian relations would be at a disadvantage if the Syrian regime kept its stronghold on Lebanon and didn't leave it to be an independent state.
...So we took sides then and we gravitated towards the March 14 forces. Unfortunately then, not all saw eye-to-eye on this issue and we were forced to take sides.
And then this war broke out. Despite the unity that many politicians tried to forge through, frankly it was a facade. Yes, we were all united against the Israeli war machine, against the deaths and destruction, but again we did not see eye-to-eye on the politics. Then, last month, for me at least, March 8 and March 14 seized to exist as a viable division. The divisions morphed into: with the Taif State versus not with the Taif State, patriotic versus un-patriotic (or to some zionist), with Hizbullah's arms versus with Hizbullah's disarmament, and again back to pro-Syrian versus anti-Syrian.
I don't want to take sides. Lebanon entered into a dark tunnel and I simply want it back! I click on the Al-Mustaqbal daily and I read just the headlines...nothing appealing, just talk, the editorial keeps on instilling in us fear of a Syrian comeback which to me is pathetic. I click on Annahar, the same, just skim through the headlines. I click on Al-Balad, just check out the caricature.....
Nothing to say, the Lebanese are confused as never before. Perhaps I look at the Prime Minister and I appreciate his stands. I understand the difficulty in trying to bring a divided country together. He extols the resistance and asks for Lebanon's sovereignty in one breath. It's a difficult, delicate task.
I always believed in action as opposed to politicking. I wish the government can call on those Lebanese who live abroad to return to Lebanon to re-build it, but I know it's wishful thinking; there are many standing issues still unresolved. And who is to resolve them? I don't know. Is it time? Or some other factor?
The question is: Am I needed back home? The appeal of Hizbullah is that it asks its supporters to be there for it, for a cause that drives them. The figher is an engineer, is a relief worker, is a construction worker, is a doctor, a nurse, a teacher....That's what's missing in any Lebanese state plan. The Lebanese state is only good in asking those with the money to return so they could invest here and there, but what about those with just skills? Do we have a place in your plans?
I'll end with a poem I wrote during the Grapes of Wrath war back in 1996 when I was only 15, a tribute to the resistance. However, right now I believe in a resistance of a different kind, that of preserving a liberal, democratic, enlightened Lebanon, a Lebanon for all Lebanese.
(Originally in Arabic, translated to English for the blog's purpose):
The revolution is our daughter
The fighter spirit
One hand in the face of the sun
I wish I was one of them
The passing away of life after fulfilling the self
How beautiful it is...to die like that
A war against the deadly machine
Facing blood with a white heart
Why don't you do like me?
There is no goal without the land
A land I have sipped from its wine until I was drunk
Soil and blue possessing no boundaries
A well reflecting the face of history
Oh what a land!
It deserves this crazy revolution
The body disintegrates
But my soul will chose Lebanon as its end
You will attain love, beauty and wisdom.
April 19, 1996
"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."