Refusing to Give Up on Lebanon

When I first began drafting this post, I had the sudden urge to bring my ideas to life by drawing comparisons.

The two things I had in mind? A stuffed Minnie Mouse doll and my country, Lebanon.

At this point, you’re probably going to ask, what on Earth has possessed me to find anything in common between a child’s toy and an entire country. You might wonder if I’m a lunatic or if I’m running out of blogging ideas.

Beirut, Lebanon, Home, Buildings, Country
Yes, I am in my right mind comparing this to a cartoon character

Personally, the similarities couldn’t be any clearer.

I’ve had the doll for almost 19 years. Normal wear-and-tear, as well as the angst-filled teenage years, has left some visible marks. “She” has lost the bow and the trimming on her dress, the stuffing is always on the verge of falling out, the black felt material has faded, and God, how much dust does that thing collect!

Replace normal wear-and-tear with a 15 year long civil war and its repercussions, and you get Lebanon, a country that is always on the verge of falling apart, but thankfully still managing to hold it together, if ever so barely. 

During one gathering in Maastricht, the group was engaged in conversation about politics and the state of the world, mostly comparing the Netherlands to our respective countries. So I turned to a Dutch acquaintance and said, “You know, I’m not really jealous of you guys. Your lives are boring.”

While I can’t exactly remember the reaction that followed or how that conversation continued, I still stand by my opinion. At least when it comes to the post-World War II generation.

Maastricht, Meuse, River, Land, Dutch, Netherlands, River
Beautiful, idyllic, and sometimes boring, Maastricht

Their lives are boring because they will never experience the frustrations of constant power cut, the joys of having more than an hour of constant electricity, staying up late into the night (if the electricity is there of course)  to download quota-free, or getting into the shower after a long day only to find there is no hot water.

They have probably never asked themselves the questions of “Will I have university/school/work tomorrow?” or “Now what will happen?”  or “Are we headed for another civil war?”  following a national incident, but found themselves concocting various jokes because life goes on . Nor have they been accustomed to differentiating between fireworks and gunshots.

Lebanon, Museum, War, Building, Bullet, Holes
Will this constantly be our claim to fame? Are we going to forever rehash our past?

But the Lebanese have.

And you expect this generation, whose parents grew up surrounded by war, to have it differently. But we don’t. We’re constantly fighting for something, against something, to fill the voids that have denied us the right to live like the rest of the world. You can’t even plan for a week ahead without drawing up a billion contingency plans.

This gets frustrating and demoralizing when you go to another country and see how they live and what they have.

When you hear and visit museums about the atrocities of World War II and how it struck the people, and you look at the people now, you see how much they’ve moved forward. How many wars and incidents is it going to take for us Lebanese to realize that instead of tearing that little bit of fabric that holds us together, we should do whatever it takes to stitch everything again?

The Reichstag in Berlin, Germany, where a fire struck in 1933, giving the Nazis more power, now stands majestically

I don’t even want to get started on the whole “brain-drain” situation. As someone who has studied long and hard and can call herself a qualified professional, I do not want to be congratulated on finding a job in the Arab Gulf or on getting a visa. This is not something to be proud of.

I want to work for my country, within its geographical borders, and I aspire to accomplish things, as many others do, as a Lebanese national living in Lebanon.

It absolutely kills me when I see Facebook friends claiming successful people as “our” own, when these people have probably never even been anywhere near the Lebanese territories. Why does that same level of success seem to evade people who have lived their whole lives in their home country?

Lebanon, Village, Mountain, View, Scenery, World
This is the Lebanon I want the world to see- even greener, because it’s possible

I’m sure many of you, like me, share the frustration that we are always portrayed in the media as always being ready to break out into  war, and yet paradoxically, still are obsessed with Botox and cosmetic surgery, designer labels, and showing off at the fanciest nightclubs. While this is one facet of the Lebanese society, it is not what the majority of us aspire to leave as our legacy- especially when we always go back to boasting about authors like Khalil Gibran and singers like Fairuz, or our culinary excellence.

Much like the Minnie doll that I refuse to give up, I refuse to give up on Lebanon. It  is fragile and weak, yes, but it is home. It is where I have done my growing up and learned about the world, and in my heart of hearts, I still believe that I went abroad for a year to learn how to make Lebanon a better place.

With many friends and relatives making the first steps towards building families, I wonder what sort of country will we have ready to hand over to the next generation. Will these kids grow up as part of the massive Lebanese diaspora, longing to know more about their origins and home country? Will they be forced to live between two countries, an arrangement that redefines a nuclear family?  Or will they grow up, longing for the day a foreign country grants them a visa, so they can turn their backs and never come back?

It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen- and that can only happen if we don’t give up.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. A wonderful and inspiring post. With belief and determination like yours a bright future for Lebanon can and will be created

  2. Tina says:

    I’ll take boring over no water, electricity, chaotic and uncivilized barbarians. After a while you just get sick of the “excitement” of “ma fi kahraba” (not that it was exciting in the first place, just non-boring).

    1. TK says:

      I thought the sarcasm was implied- at least with regard to these particular points 🙂 Who in their right mind would be happy about the way things currently are?!

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