Political Partying

If politics is said to run in Lebanese blood and party is said to be among the things they do best, shouldn’t political parties be the next best thing the Lebanese can do?

Until recently, Lebanon could easily claim to be the only democracy in the Arab world. Granted, a democracy with its own definitions, its own idiosyncrasies, where everyone gets a piece of the pie. A system containing most ingredients for a democracy, but so unique it sometimes raises the question of whether it is a democracy at all.

And then there are the parties. Political partiesthat is. Which also happen to be so unique they not only raise the question as to whether they are political parties at all, but leave no doubt they are part politics, part party but never political party. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that as many other things I don’t believe in, I don’t believe in Lebanese political parties.

Delving deep into most of them, dissecting their processes and analyzing what they purportedly stand for, will lead to the conclusion that they are not what they profess to be. For all intents and purposes, they are personality cults lacking any ideological foundation to ensure sustainability. For all intents and purposes, they are a decayed inheritance of a bloody bygone era that should have no place as we build a better place for new generations. For all intents and purposes, one needs not even delve that deep to discover their shallowness, their names uncover what they are…. or are not.

For how come those who speak of Amal (Arabic for hope) give me the greatest sense of despair? When will they set the reigns of power free, the one they’ve taken hostage for so many years, infecting it with corruption and pettiness? How come those who speak of Freedom and Patriotism are often dictatorial and possessive, patriotic in their stances of years gone by against occupation and injustice, being selective in their stances on justice and human rights today? When will they realize that their allies are those who stand against the very same Reform and Change they hold so dear?

And what about the future, how can a country build a Future by destroying its past, both mentally and physically? When will they realize that politics is greater than one person and not everything can be bought, not everyone has a price? How come I wasn’t taught that Allah has a Hezb (Arabic for party) on earth, whose criticism is also considered heresy, whose vocation is sacred? When will they realize that there cannot be two Lebanon’s in one small geographical area and that you cannot sway people to your side through fear? How come a seemingly centrist party is a battalion (English for Kataeb), modeled after fascist parties of the 1930s? When will they realize that in a motto of God, Nation, and Family, the focus may well be on family but not on one family in itself?

How can Forces be the only way to pave a solution to our problems when it has proven to be as futile as it sounds? When will they realize that religion, whichever religion, cannot be used to build a nation so heterogeneous, so diverse? How can feudalism be Progressive and looting be Socialist? When will they realize that sometimes, even in politics, it pays to stick to ones guns and have a semblance of solid convictions? How can a party that is both Syrian, Social and National, not recognize the viability of the only country in which it has been allowed to survive? When will they realize that in spite of their ideology, they have maintained nothing but the Syrian part of what they stand for, bearing no resemblance to the way they were envisioned to exist?

And when politics couldn’t get any more simple, any more trivialized, political parties are easily melted into our current bipolar political landscape of March 8 and March 14. How can a country worth its name allow itself to define its politics in relation to a stance towards a foreign country? Between those who praised Syria on March 8, 2005 and those who attacked it at the top of their lungs on March 14, 2005 (granted, some had been doing just that for years at great risk). And yes, it may come as a surprise to many, but Syria happens to be a foreign country.

Someone recently noted that Lebanese political parties should simply reinvent themselves, get new names and move on. But would adopting business and marketing techniques save us from the destruction all of these parties have had and continue to exert on our national political fabric?

The alternative is in our hands, if only we dare, if only we care… If we only dare to say no to these people, these parties, that have led to our physical and psychological destruction. If we only care for this nation that is more than parties and rooftops, more than a shelter for those seeking refuge, when its people cannot find dignity and peace of mind in their own land.

The legendary Fairuz once sang about names, how difficult to choose them, how much thought goes into them. Names are only words. And what do words have to do with it, she said, our eyes are our names…

…but when all is said and done, regardless of what they call themselves, regardless of what we have grown accustomed to call them, their names are names, only words. When all is said and done, our eyes are our names, and their actions are their real names. When all is said and done, will they ever be able to look us in the eye, and tell us their real names…

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