Saturday, April 13, 2024

And now we are commemorating the war again...

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

In case you have been living under a rock, Lebanon is having a... challenging week (yes, again). You can go elsewhere for all the details. Suffice to say the Christian quarters seem to feel targeted again. Interestingly, what's with the engrained paranoia they have (I say they and not we as I feel un-paranoid) they are taking aim in their revenge on every moving entity that seems to be Syrian - haphazardly, without discrimination.

Kind reminder: when the Syrian forces entered Lebanon, Christians (read that Phalangists) welcomed them by throwing rice on them on the Nahr El Kalb tunnel. But memory - as with politics - is very fickle. And painting everyone with large (as in very large) brushstrokes only makes things worse. Maybe, just maybe, we should go micro rather than macro. Look at Hussam. He comes and cleans my house every fortnight. He has three kids. Works 5 different jobs to pay his rent, send his children to school, and put food on the table. When Easter came about 2 weeks ago he sent me a whatsapp greeting along with - not an Easter bunny photo or anything - but a proper Religious imagery (note that he was fasting for Ramadan at the time!).

And yet here we are again. Stereotyping and putting everything and everyone under a large parasol - neither Hussam nor Ibtissam (whom I met as a lovely vendor in a store) nor Manar were the perpetrators of the tragic events that occurred in Lebanon recently (with all my respect for the late Pascal Suleiman and my understanding that his abduction and killing were indeed very unacceptable). 

And now what? Are we still on the Ain El Roumaneh bus? Are we still passengers in that journey to nowhere? Did we not learn anything? I have a deep feeling we did not. And of course, economic issues do nothing but exacerbate this - in times of political and economic downturns people turn to what they know. And tribalism in all its shapes is what Lebanese know.

Above, in the imagery is the license plate of the Fargo Ain El Roumaneh bus which ignited - or rather was the final straw that ignited - the war in Lebanon on April 13, 1975. I do hope we are wiser at this point because certainly we are older.