Monday, November 18, 2019

A time to grieve: Thoughts on Alaa Abou Fakhr

Ghayath al-Rawbeh and Alaa Abou Fakhr mural - Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP
"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: [...] A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance." Ecclessiastes 3:4 - some of you might enjoy it as a song by The Byrds. I feel sad for the family of Alaa Abou Fakhr "martyr of the revolution" as he is being dubbed. The man died on October 14, being hit by a bullet as he tried to block the road to stop a military car from crossing. If he was acting as a member of the Progressive Socialist Party or as a solo element is - at this stage - irrelevant. His death became an emblem of all the things happening in Lebanon. Murals representing him popped up all over the place, his name now used and abused.
Not only was he a young man, but also a father (he died right in front of his eldest child), but he died tragically, with no prior warning. If this is not a trauma to his family then I wonder what is. Well, I know everyone tells you about the five stages of grief, that is the theoretical element. In practise, each person grieves differently.
The problem is? His funeral turned into a spectacle, the words of his young widow broadcasted on all TV screens, his son - the same one who saw him die - turned into the symbol of the "next-generation-for-whom-his-dad-died-valiantly", and the dead man himself was emptied of anything that he was (or was not) and his name now simply became "chahid el thawra" (as I said earlier "martyr of the revolution").
And I truly feel sad that his loved ones were robbed from (and denied of) their right to grieve him, personally, privately. He became everyone's "chahid" (martyr) whereas technically, he was a "fakid" (deceased). A chahid is a public property to a community in Arabic, a fakid is a dead person missed by his family. 
The reason I feel sad is that death is a process to those who experience it, not just an event. When my own father passed away, and considering he usually took a small nap prior to lunch as a habit, several days after the funeral, my mother asks me "do you want to have lunch?" to which I reply, "yes, let me just wake father to join us". So here I was, sky high IQ, a bunch of diplomas from several universities, but "forgetting" my father had passed away. 
That everyone was now milking Abou Fakhr's death is borderline pathetic. Whereas my own father was rather old, died in his own bed, surrounded by his family, Alaa Abou Fakhr was anything but those things. His death must be incredibly traumatic to his family, and yet, no one is giving them time and space to mourn him, to process his death. It has been now hijacked from them. Sharing grief with a nation, does not dilute one's own - just ask Jackie Kennedy Onasis.
And all those people now claiming him as their own, when - under normal circumstances no one would know him or care about his existence while he was alive - is, a best "strange" and at worst "evil".
I just saw a video on Instagram headlined "family of Alaa Abou Fakhr comes to Martyr's square" - the usual manifestation space which has been occupied since October 17. I don't know about them, but I got a hunch they'd rather be holed up in their home trying to gather meaning and solace for losing their loved one.
One day, and quite soon, cameras will stop rolling and his family will be confronted with silence and the much delayed process of grief will start for them. When that time comes, I wish them courage and strength.