It amazes me how those of us who like to think of ourselves (or present ourselves) as above sectarianism, never the less, cannot seem to escape from the sectarian pull or grip. Very few bloggers blog as Maronites, Sunna, Shi’a, Druze, Orthodox or as representatives of other sects. Most of us wrap the Lebanese flag around ourselves and suggest to each other that our voices are those of independent free-thinkers, who are able to transcend our sectarian folds and reach out to one-another as Lebanese. Yet, although we refuse to identify ourselves as sectarian partisans, openly promoting the interests of our respective leaders (we are obviously above such behavior), we consistently appear to carry the banners of the causes adopted by those very men. As such, we as individuals sum up to not much more, in an intellectual sense, than those high school drop-outs who make a living as bullies and thugs, roaming the streets to enforce the wills of their respective patrons.
Every one of us ought to remember that one of the main tasks of a politician is to define the boundaries of, and lay out the details of what constitutes “appropriate” political discourse. Therefore, we, as Lebanese do not need to come out and scream: “Druze Power!” or “Shi’a Power!” or articulate similar overt sectarian gestures. Fortunately/Unfortunately (however way you wish to see it), much more subtle means of practicing sectarianism exists; one of which being, acquiescence to the boundaries and rules of political discourse set by our sectarian leaders – all we effectively do is translate their words to English.
To give a very obvious example, a battle between two discourses exists in Lebanon today: one that asserts that the last war was a catastrophe for Lebanon, and another that characterizes it as an unprecedented victory. The level of consistency whereby bloggers of certain sects (and I know quite a few, including, of course, myself) took the side of their particular sectarian leader was frightening. This reality begs the following question:
Are we Lebanese Citizens who, like shoppers in a competitive market, have the power and judgment to choose among the different discourses displayed to us? Or are we, unbeknownst to ourselves, partisans who merely justify and promote the discourses of leaders based on sectarian kinship?
I think that bloggers need to step back, take a moment, and answer these questions. For ultimately, doing so will help us realize whether we are merely peddlers or Citizens.
In answering those questions, I suggest asking another: What is it that I would like Lebanon to be, or to look like in the near (and not-so-near future)? I need to know what it is I want, and therefore, what it is I expect before I can judge politicians and their discourse. Inevitably, we all have our unique answers because we are all different – but I doubt the differences are enough to justify the dramatically polarizing (and sometimes, unnatural) political choices we have made.