The other day, I was thinking that this has been the longest stint I’ve had in Beirut in the last 2 years. Personal trips and business flights had me in and out of Lebanon a lot. People used to say that that is why living here was bearable. I had the breaks needed to cope. It was the opposite though. Only after I started traveling more did it get harder and harder for me to stay.
This week has shown me a side of my country that has left me uneasy. I feel the violence that occurred on Saturday was a blessing in disguise. Although people were assaulted and violated, we were shown where we stand in the eyes of “our leaders.” The Lebanese public demanded basic rights and were met with force. The government brought on the same response that every action they’ve done leads to: bringing the people to tears, only this time it was via tear gas and brutality rather than frustration and disappointment.
Had the demonstration remained civil and truly peaceful, the woes of the protesters may not have reached the rest of the public at home and abroad. Escalation and injustice attracts international media attention and creates necessary pressure on those responsible.
I admit that I was not there on the 22nd. I was discouraged, time after time, feeling that our efforts were wasted and heading in an unclear direction. And I will also admit, hearing about the water cannons made me fear for my own safety. After seeing my friends fall, my fellow citizens take hits – I was relieved that I was safe at home and repulsed by how they were treated. I had given up. That didn’t last very long though; sitting behind screens felt wrong and their fire rekindled mine. My dad and I decided to join the protesters earlier this afternoon before the shit hit the fan again. Seeing the crowd slowly grow as the hours passed is the kind of thing that needs to be felt so the public knows their voice matters, that maybe they’re not powerless. I’m not a fan of movements that ask for the fall of the government and do not propose plans; we need strategy. With that said, I am an advocate of supporting the community that shows what Lebanon is really about.
Unfortunately, it got dangerous after we left and my spirits are sinking again. The test now will be when the demands of daily life return. What worries me is what happens next. Did we just need a weekend to vent? What is our long-term plan to avoid repeating the same mistakes? How do we ensure that we will have new leaders that will respect our existence and represent the public instead of their own interests? Will the fall of our broken system really improve this situation? Things need to change. If not now, then when?
My expat friends abroad have made me feel like I’m one of the last guardians still here, still trying to build a future in dysfunctional purgatory. This coming Saturday, however, I’m leaving you Beirut. I will be back but I don’t know if I’ll stick around once I’ve had a taste of a stable nurturing environment that will feed my hunger for more. I’m choosing the same path that many before me have: to invest in myself first so that I can invest in my country more effectively later on. I need to do this. If not now, then when?
I hope that the bond that unified us against corruption doesn’t buckle, I hope that our media stays objective, and I hope that we maintain our stance with dignity. Lebanon, I don’t know how to love you anymore but I don’t know how to stop. I haven’t left yet but all I ask of you while I’m gone is that you be smart, be strong, and be good.