I am sick to the death of flags. I don't care who is waving which flag, it gives me a bloody headache. There's nothing "civilized" about waving a flag, a term I've noticed many Lebanese use as a synonym for "the rule of law".
Late one night Maya and I visited our local cornerstore, which is run by two very old Armenian ladies. The younger of the two, struck up a conversation and asked us where we were from. Maya responded, "Palestine". The little old lady gasped in terror; perhaps she hasn't seen a Palestinian in her neck of the woods since the Qarantina massacre of 1976. Her eyes widened and she looked like she was going to hit the burglar alarm. "But... but, you must have another passport, too, no?" To which Maya, the master of short and sweet answers, responded flatly, "No." The old lady was at a loss for words, until Maya reassured her that she had lived abroad, in Spain. The lady breathed a sigh of relief. "How is it there? Aren't they much more civilized and educated than us?" Maya responded, "No" again and then took a deep breath. Counting on her fingers, she relayed that the Spaniards were "more violent, more dirty, more disrespectful, more uneducated" than Arabs. The old lady stared in amazement. "Really? But I thought all Europeans were... you know..." "No," Maya responded again. End of conversation. As we left the store, I asked Maya if this was true about the Spaniards. "Of course not," she said matter-of-factly.
An-Nahar and the pro-government have borrowed "the war on Christmas"-theme from American rightwing hysterics. Every day a different neighbor in Achrafiye complains that we won't have Christmas if Hezbollah continues to camp out in downtown Beirut. What the "divine victory" isn't to Santa's liking? One minute the opposition's bid to overthrow the government is too festive; the next minute, it's not festive enough for Jesus' birthday. I noticed today that businesses are opening again in the lower half of downtown Beirut.
I spent three hours in a cab sunday trying to cross town from Achrafiye to Hamra during the opposition rally. That's three hours of driving further and further south, in order to go ever so slightly west and then being forced to head back east to Achrafiye to try the same route again. The road leading downtown was packed with protesters all the way to Tayoune. The cab driver, a Hariri supporter from Tripoli, honked enthusiastically for the throngs of protesters surrounding our car. The other passenger, a Shia from a prominent family with plucked eyebrows and bleached white teeth, an aspiring popstar, kept us entertained by crooning Celine Dion songs. He cursed the protesters for being "uncivilized" and "dirty". I insisted we get out and walk, but Maya maintained that our "fate" was sealed with the driver and additional passenger, and so instead she shouted out of the window at the soldiers blocking the road that this was unacceptable, much to everyone's amusement. "I've never seen so many happy Shia," Maya remarked. We spoke at length about the Shia tradition of martyrdom and suffering, unjustice and persecution, and how the Shia are having a good time for the first time in 1400 years.
Saniora, Jumblatt & co. have warned that the opposition is staging a "coup" to overthrow the government. In my estimation the real coup is an aesthetic one. They have hi-jacked the March 14th look with all those Lebanese flags, the carnival-like atmosphere, their declarations of "unity" and "one Lebanon". Al Manar now runs a clip depicting workers sporting Rafiq Hariri's favorite headwear, the yellow construction helmet. It only seems more bizarre when you see a "counter rally" in support of the government staged in Tripoli with participants waving the same flag. The average age of the Tripoli rally participants was nine; Future TV zoomed in close to conceal the actual size of the gathering. They have all kinds of visual manipulation techniques, where they shoot the same crowd of 20 people from different angles.
Today is the first anniversary of Gebran Tueni's assassination. David Ignatius, a columnist with the Washington Post, attended an event in Beirut in Tueni's honor and Thomas Friedman put in his two cents via a pre-recorded televised address.
"Ignatius said 'Tueni and An-Nahar remind us that journalism is about telling the truth, even when others want you to be silent,' said American syndicated columnist David Ignatius.
'Courageous words' from prominent figures such as Tueni, 'are not bought cheap,' Ignatius added."I wish those old farts would just go away. An-Nahar has not been the voice of "truth", or balance for that matter, in many years. Like Friedman, Ignatius lived in Beirut in the early 1980s, when he still considered himself a "progressive" or whatever. He has since gone over to the dark side. And if you consider Friedman a good columnist, then you are illiterate. A critic once wrote, "Reading Friedman is fascinating–the same way that it’s fascinating to watch a zoo gorilla make mounds out of its own feces." Read the entire hilarious review.
We now refer to the frequent gatherings of the black-clad Christian widows of deceased leaders as "the wives' club". May Chidiac always looks a bit awkward at these events, a party crasher of sorts; the perpetual mistress with her bloated silicone lips and trashy attire.
I wonder if the wives gather in the bathroom to re-apply lipstick and gossip about her. Word has it she was Samir Geagea's mistress throughout the civil war and that he dumped her to marry a pretty village girl, Sti rida. How interconnected and incestuous. I had no idea.
A demonstration under the banner, "Ana misch ma hadda" (I'm not with anyone) is scheduled for Thursday at 4.30pm in Hamra. It is in opposition to both March 14th and March 8th/December 1st, because the former sucks and the latter does not tackle the issues of confessionalism, and social and economic justice. Rather the opposition furthers sectarian politics, despite its parading of Sunni supporters. Yes, the opposition is a rather promiscuous assortment of parties who are vying for a bigger piece of the pie, and are wasting our time if this is all for a "national unity government." Are they all going to sit back down at the table and continue like before until the next crisis arises?