The Everlasting Question

Honestly, I started writing this post a few days ago hoping it would be ready by Independence Day but after today’s events, it feels more appropriate to post immediately. That, and I’m not a fan of celebrating after tragedy.

It seems that whenever a disaster occurs in our country, the youth is divided in their reactions based on where they stand in the daunting question: should I leave/stay/return-to Lebanon? This is normal considering how many issues we deal with on a regular basis besides the tragic things that also plague our unstable state. Maya Zankoul’s comic teased it but the problem is not just how we react but how we react to each other’s reactions.

The scenarios are split between the 4:
1) Lives abroad and doesn’t want to return
Many of our peers live abroad because of jobs, higher education, or family. They have set up a life in another country that provides for them; it is possible that the ties that once connected them to Lebanon are gone. Maybe they have found someone special in this other land. Maybe they’re starting a family of their own. Maybe they’re happy there, maybe they’re not. Either way, these people have created a new bubble that they call home and would prefer not to return to a place that is constantly rebuilding after another wave of destruction. It’s not betrayal, it’s just part of moving on and deciding what works best for you at that moment.
Usually, this group is defensive when confronted about their decision to stay abroad. They shouldn’t have to be because some of their arguments are valid. The confrontation from others comes from frustration and a smidge of jealousy – we’re aware that living abroad has its perks and we’re aware that living in Lebanon can be too much of a daily battle. Having said that, for those abroad who have a “good riddance” attitude about Lebanon – you are the true one’s betraying your country. You can live abroad but you don’t need to hate on those who don’t or assume you know better because you left.
2) Lives abroad but wants to return 
A large percentage of our peers live abroad for the same reasons as those above but still have a yearning to be here. They stay abroad because the opportunities are better, the pay is higher, the future is brighter. However, they wish they could have that at home – in their mom’s kitchen and not just at Christmas time. They may have also built a life in this other land but it feels fleeting and temporary. The relationships they form with others are merely for the sake of company- guilt eats at them because these “roots” they make are too superficial. If they could be offered the same financial/educational package and come home, they would.
Usually, this group is very patriotic and heartbroken when events like today’s occur. I understand that it is tempting to say “you’re not here, you don’t get it,” but it is also difficult to feel helpless when those you love are/could be in danger. Don’t be angry with them for being abroad or rob them of their legitimate worry. If horrible things happen, they will weep just like you will regardless of where their geolocation tags them.
3) Lives in Lebanon but wants to leave
Another large bulk of youth are those who want to leave. This group want to do so for the reasons above too but they have hurdles in the way. Visas, money, no employment prospects abroad- who knows.
Usually, this group is quick to express their desire of greener pastures especially during times of distress. Besides the fact that no one enjoys acts of terror, there is nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself and we can all agree that Lebanon is to blame for its own brain drain. There just isn’t enough to go around for the ambitious, creative, and talented population. However, if this population does choose emigration as their game-plan, I hope that they will not resent their country for it. If the red dirt could talk, I think it would beg you to stay and save it or, at least, come back when you feel you have the power to make a difference.
4) Lives in Lebanon and wants to stay 

I feel this is the smallest group of them all. They are here and they are trying. It’s that simple.

Usually, this group is criticized by others for sticking around. It is as if choosing to stay is done out of naivety when, in reality, it is about more than nightlife, manoushe, and tawlet at Falamanki. It’s about building their career, family, and ultimately, their life in their country.

Nasri from Our Man in Beirut said it best: “On a personal level, away from the newswires, it is absolutely terrifying how desensitized to violence everyone around me (including myself) seems to be, judging by our reaction to this, which is more rational sadness for the dead, concern and worry than pure emotional fear.” It is true, perhaps we have lost a bit of our humanity after enduring so many heartaches but the rational sadness is the only defense mechanism that hasn’t failed us yet. Carrying on after an explosion is not a crime. As long as they’re not complaining that other’s misfortunes inconvenience them, no one should feel guilty about fighting back by living.

It seems that a fifth scenario is forming, splitting from the 4th and rising from the ashes: those that live in Lebanon and want to stay but are losing ground. They find it more and more challenging to justify – to others but mostly to themselves- why they choose to remain in a volatile place when there is so much at stake. Why wait until the unthinkable happens?
Like Robert Fisk said, “Lebanon is like a Rolls Royce with square wheels…it has a lot that’s worthy of praise but it doesn’t run so well.” Don’t judge your fellow Lebanese for why they stay or go. They have to do what’s right for them. With that said, in whatever context, don’t turn your back on your country either. We have to do what’s right for it. It’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re from.

May the victims of the Bir Hassan explosions of Nov 19, 2013 rest in peace. God be with their families and loved ones.
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2 thoughts on “The Everlasting Question

  1. Pingback: 70 Jahre unabhängiger Libanon: die Räder bleiben eckig - alsharq.de

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