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Overwhelming Cocktail of Emotions in Lebanon

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Overwhelming Cocktail of Emotions in Lebanon
Friday, 8 June, 2007 @ 4:04 PM

By Tina Wolfe
Ya Libnan Volunteer
Beirut - The rush of emotions that a visitor, a humble observer feels in Lebanon these days are incoherent...

Impotence, while listening to Ashraf’s trembling voice, a local NGO Naba’a volunteer and “Right to Play” employee, pleading for help for the children lacking food and water at the Palestinian Nahr-al Bared camp in northern Tripoli on May 20. Amazement, that in spite of the power cut, he’s managed to ingeniously charge his mobile phone – his only virtual thread to the outside world - using a car battery.

Disappointment, at the thought that all of Naba’s well intentioned capacity building, vocational and recreational activities with Palestinian kids in its recreational center - which keeps them off the streets, or from being recruited as potential radical militants - a place where they feel motivated and inspired, challenged to tap into their creative, artistic and intellectual talents, where they learn about their rights, and where they receive the individualized attention that is sometimes lacking from parents too burdened with daily survival or shared love with multiple siblings – is jeopardized and stifled because now they require basic emergency needs – food, water, hygiene items, mattresses, medicines, etc.

Frustration, because even though a majority of the camp’s residents have fled in fear, far from the bombs, sniper shooters and the undetermined number of lifeless bodies decomposing in the cramped narrow streets, opens a number of unknowns – when will the many times displaced be able to return home? And if an estimated 1/3 of their homes bear gaping holes thanks to Lebanese army artillery or riddled with bullets from Fatah al Islam shooters, can they be reconstructed in a durable manner like they were before, or will they be provided with temporary measures – tin roofs, tents, latrines? And for those who have modest businesses – food depots, clothes stores, or car repair shops – will their equipment and supplies remain intact and un-looted?

Anguish, at the thought that young Samira and Ahmad, who were making such progress and had so much potential in computers and languages, may suffer from post-traumatic syndromes – nightmares, wetting their beds, attention deficit disorders, like many children, victims of war – and be forced to exorcise their demons through art therapy exercises whereby instead of using aquarelles to depict sunny skies and deep blue sea waters dotted with colorful boats on white cardboard paper, they will sketch blackened houses, bombs, guns and bloody relatives.

Frivolous craving, because one avoids or hesitates to visit her favorite artisan workshops in Achrafieh, souvenir curio shops in Hamra, or drowning her sorrows at Torino, her favorite crowded nightcap bar in the normally bustling, now quiet, neighborhood of Gemmayzeh, because of the constant threat of anonymous killer bombs.

Admiration, at the resilience of the Lebanese who, even if their country is hostage to terrorist acts, oppressed by an engorged political crisis, and still licking its wounds from last summer’s war with Israel, go about their daily routines with an enviable discipline, courage and sense of humor, despite all uncertainty.

Overwhelmed, by the massive information overload available on print. Analyze this: in today’s Internet, mobile phone and TV dominated world, Lebanon prints 14 daily newspapers (including a French and English edition), as many weeklies and monthlies focusing on current events and economics for an estimated 4 million people; more publications per capita than any other city I know.

Expectation, after 11 pm every night as I lounge in my balcony overlooking the Antelias, Doura and Beirut port bays, binoculars in hand like a hyperactive child, trying to spot the next bomb blast across the horizon.

Humiliated, at having to be frisked, searched or tickled by a metal detector every time I enter a department store, suspected of being a suicide bomber.

Annoyed, because the persistence of cloudy skies, tornado like rusty winds and rainfall, uncharacteristic for this time of year, could be an impact of global warming or, as many pessimists suspect, caused by the lasting effects of plutonium, uranium and radioactive chemicals still lingering in air and soil from last year’s war.

Fascinated, by the idolization attributed to Rafik Hariri and other political or guerilla martyrs in the form of posters, Christmas trees or banners across neighborhoods, towns and regions, that change according to the dominant ethnic group; by the witty and controversial billboard campaign messages engineered by pro-government and opposition factions and by the “I don’t fear death, only my mother’s tears” or “May Allah (God) protect you” Koranic-type messages scribbled in the back of colorful vegetable or livestock lorries.

Incompetence, because as I zap the multiple TV channels to grasp the news sound bites– each flavored with their political party or coalition biased rhetoric - I cannot understand a word and require simultaneous translation.

Confused, by the power of multi-colored political despots and vengeful clans; by conspiracy theories against regional powers at play; by the influence of religious leaders over state affairs; by the absence of civil society, or a middle class, and by the dearth of a unified Lebanese voice.

Concerned, that theories of partition, cantonalism and secularism, toyed with as possible solutions to bring peace and stability to this complex nation of an 18 confessional strong co-existing populace, may end up as the only options or a disastrous experiment to achieve peace in Lebanon.

Anger, because the lust for life, perfect balance –between work and the dolce vita - that Lebanese profess, is squashed by perennial conflicts.

Sadness, at the thought that Lebanon is suffering massive brain drain of its youngest and brightest, who massively flee to the Gulf, Europe or the US in search of jobs, education opportunities and security, escaping from militia wars, political turmoil and their inability to live day to day, to plan beyond tomorrow, because attempting to do otherwise, to envision any kind of future life plans in this republic, is impossible, a utopia.

Hope, that this country, which seduces natives and foreigners alike with its colorful and plentiful cuisine, its honey doused sweets, its zesty nuts, its Bekaa spirits, its touristy resorts, its symbolic towering Cedars, its creamy sand beaches and rugged coves, its multi-confessional fabric and it’s boundless generosity, will not be vaporized, dismembered along sectarian preferences, or turned into a retirement home for expat Lebanese.
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