From Today’s Headlines: The Tragicomedy of Lebanon

With the flurry of events of the past 24 hours, my only pair of hands unable to type out all the ideas, the amazement, the frustration and laughter inspired by the latest developments, I thought I’d still try to put it all together in a couple of words.

This is a short list, by no means exhaustive nor thoroughly developed, of what I have been trying to digest all day long. If you really want to hear more, contact your next-to-kin (I bet they have a lot more to say than what you think), Google it (as in the verb google) or drop me a line, I will be more than happy to elaborate.

1. The Orthodox Law: There are already rumors that American satirical magazine The Onion is suing Lebanon “for unfair competition practices and for making its headlines look totally reasonable.” To top it all off, we’ll have six more members of parliament if the law is adopted. You thought 128 thieves (for the most part) were not enough… And if you thought Lebanon couldn’t get more sectarian, I welcome you to the world of the Orthodox Law. My mother would never be able to vote for me if I were to run, nor would I be able to vote for my friend (because he is competent and ‘clean’) or respectable politician regardless of his/her sect (if those still exist) if this passes. You see, I am a Lebanese, I live with people of different confessions, befriend people of different confessions, party with people of different confessions, and dream of a Lebanese Lebanon – not a Sunni Lebanon, Orthodox Lebanon, Greek Catholic Lebanon or Druze Lebanon – with people of different confessions too. That will all go to waste. I do not think that people who believe there are loopholes to be exploited from within towards a better Lebanon are fully aware of what it would take to change this system, if and when it is institutionalized.

2. Union Coordination Committee (UCC): Every time head of the UCC Hanna Gharib and his partner in arms Nehmeh Mahfoud, the head of the Association of Private Schools Teachers, take to the streets, like they did today, I fear. Their passion is so intense, their frustration unquantifiable, I can almost see their veins bursting out of my TV screen.

Hanna Gharib and Nehmeh Mahfoud. Source: The Daily Star, Mohammad Azakir
Hanna Gharib and Nehmeh Mahfoud.
Source: The Daily Star- Mohammad Azakir

They say it as it is, as the government is lying to their faces, PM Mikati bluffing straight in front of their noses. I do not believe there has been anybody quite close to their commitment and determination in the labor community since Elias Abou Rizk in the 1990s, and probably even more. I truly respect Gharib and Mahfoud (I fear for their health sometimes) and what they are doing, for those that truly have no voice in this country (and they are very many) and it truly touches my heart every time I see them. These men are heroes.

3. Hezballah and Syria: I am not quite sure what is happening on this front. I do know however, what will happen if alleged attacks from Hezballah into Syria escalate, and the Syrian opposition decides to retaliate. I can also imagine what will happen given that a lot of our border areas with Syria are mixed areas, already filled with historically abandoned and poverty-stricken Lebanese families, now joined by thousands of Syrians refugees themselves. Then again, the government does have policy of disassociation, which calls on Lebanon to disassociate itself from the Syrian developments. I guess this doesn’t apply to the Party of God.

4. Aoun & the Gulf: I’m sure nobody is surprised by anything Gen. Michel Aoun says anymore, he almost has a poetic license to shout as loud as he wants, be as outrageous as he can be, and nobody thinks twice about it. However, whether you support him or not, he is a free man, and can say whatever he wants even of a foreign country. After his comments on the failed revolution in Bahrain, the Lebanese government ran to clean up the “mess,” while the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) complained, almost blackmailed the Lebanese government into doing something or else Lebanese expats would suffer. But can we really blame corrupt autocratic kingdoms for not understanding the concept of freedom of speech? Remind me, when are those petrodollars going to run out?

5. Civil Marriage: Last but not least, after several ups and downs on this issue, it seems like the Minister of Interior will finally sign on the civil marriage contract of now renown Khouloud and Nidal, becoming the first ever civil marriage to be celebrated on Lebanese soil. There remains the need for a civil status law to govern such contracts, lest we subcontract Cypriot or Turkish legislation for this purpose instead. People joke that all those travel agencies organizing ‘civil marriage packages’ aren’t very happy… I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a lobby to discourage its legalization.

But now I wonder, if the Orthodox Law were to pass, who would Khouloud and Nidal vote for during the elections?

4 Replies to “From Today’s Headlines: The Tragicomedy of Lebanon”

  1. At least someone else shares the same concerns and fears that I am having on a daily basis, while people around me tell me ” why are you so pessimistic?” or el balad bi 2alf kheir!! Lebanon is a ticking bomb right now, and we have very dark days ahead of us.

    1. Thanks Rayane. I too get the “always pessimistic” criticism, but the way I see it, we need to continue shedding light on what afflicts our country the most, and there are many things, and make people aware so that they are in a position to demand change. We know the good things about this place, which have led many of us to stay/come back to Lebanon in the first place, but need to push people out of their denial to realize that Lebanon could be even better…

  2. Dear Marina it is always a pleasue for me to read you articles. Hope Lebanese will soon wake up to reality. Awaiting to read you more and more.

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