What to believe in?

Wow. It’s been over a month since I’ve written anything on this blog – especially when I said I was going to get back into it. I confess I really haven’t had the will do much of anything except for sitting around and thinking so hard and stressing myself out so much that I went and caused myself to re-activate the Chicken Pox in the form of Shingles. It’s just be happy, happy, joy, joy, since I’ve been home in this Great Nation of America. Apparently today is National Coming Out Day – or something like that – I really have no idea. But the point is apparently to recognize the struggle of those around the world who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and support them in the face of an ever increasing level of bigotry, hate, and fear against these people, like myself, who are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This was really the original purpose of this blog – when I re-evaluated it after months of not writing anything in Beirut. This place is a forum and a pulpit from which to expose those issues that affect peoples lives. To try to make things that are wrong with the world somehow right. Though I confess over the past few weeks I’ve just wanted to throw the towel in and say that the world isn’t worth one good man trying to do at least something small to change things. And it’s sad. How are you supposed to believe in something – a person or a principle – if its been so undermined by so many things that it is no longer there anymore? It’s like trying to hold up water that’s not contained by anything.

It’s honestly funny. Or perhaps ironic. Looking back at my own experience having to hide and conceal who I was throughout highschool. 5 years doesn’t seem like that long, but it really is in a sense. I barely remember any of it. Though I certainly remember walking home one day from school and someone yelling “Fag” at me driving past in a truck. I wanted to crouch down on the ground and fire a heat-seeking missile at them, if I had had one on me at the time.  After I left, it did get better – which seems to be the new tagline: It does get better. After I left that small town and went to college out of state I was free to do whatever I wanted. To become myself. Who I am now. And since then I really have been a much happier person. Though to be fair the college where I went was in itself its own isolated community – and not just politically in terms of being blue. It was a safe place. Safe to be whoever you wanted to be for the most part. And that’s a wonderful thing until you get outside into the world and realize that there are very few places like that. Liberal, socially progressive cities where people smoke pot and aren’t so uptight about men who like other men. I mean what’s the big deal right? How have we moved so far from the Ancients, who largely seemed to have everything right with the exception of slavery. We like to think we are sooo much more advanced in how we think and what not. We don’t have the savagery of the colosseum or the barbaric invasions that wiped out whole civilizations. Wait, do we? Are we really so much better? With the atom bomb and media networks that broadcast hate to the world on a 24/7 news schedule? I mean fuck. We’ve honestly probably made the world an even worse place with our desire to slap labels on to everything, good or bad. It’s ridiculous honestly. Collectively, we’re just a bunch of losers. We haven’t done shit. At least in ancient times the world was somewhat less populated, because now our problems are even more real, even more magnified when we witness the destruction they cause. And this isn’t just about America.

Honestly, it really takes having lived in two places to recognize how lucky we really are. Sure our economy is crap, right now, and our foreign policy sucks as well. And the institutions we created to build a better world haven’t worked as well as we thought and in some instances we continue to use them only to advance our own interests. But hey, we’re free right? We have liberty right? Maybe. And maybe not. It’s a choice honestly. There are plenty of American’s that have sold both of those and just let Fox News and Sarah Palin speak for them, without even raising a finger to question the ridiculousness those spawn of Satan spout. An isolated, closed version of America. A perversion of the American dream. But you know – these things – principles – whatever you want to call them – freedom – liberty – they’re not just exclusive to our Founding Documents – the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The idea that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights is a philosophy. And I’m damn proud to say we were the first to put it on paper. But the fact is that it belongs to everybody. It is in no way exclusive to this country. And it in no way should be. Even if you grow up in a place as far away as Lebanon, you still have a choice. You can still fight for those things – to preserve that last inch that is your dignity, your integrity. You can still fight to be treated equally – even if the law says otherwise. But laws are meant to be changed and broken. Constitutions are meant to be re-written. They are living documents. One of my favorite Jefferson lines is “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.” But not just them. It is up to individuals to make a change. To continue to nurture the grow of that tree. All the Gemayzeh trees might be gone now from Beirut, but that does not mean they are not still needed in spirit. Someone’s got to keep alive the memory of a once great city (even though I think it still is).

I’m not sure how the Gemayzeh tree has anything to do with civil rights movements in the Middle East, but the point is that, well, of all the cities in the region that one has the most promise. I mean, God, all the stories I hear from older Lebanese people speak of a place that was the cultural melting pot of the Middle East. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all lived right on top of each other. Intermarriage between religions wasn’t such a big deal – and of course there was an attitude of unbridled economic prosperity. Perhaps its a fantasy though. Maybe I’ve become a believer in it too. I’m not even Lebanese. But everyone talks about it – how great Lebanon used to be. How amazing Beirut used to be before the Civil War and then other powers that came in and fucked everything up. That’s not to say that others don’t deserve some of the blame, whether it be the Americans, the Syrians, or the Israelis. But the thing is – if you ask yourself what probably made Beirut that great during its history – why the memory of it is almost a mythology now – it would have to be the people that lived there at the time. The spirit that inhabited those people. And as much as I see Lebanese who’ve clearly become disillusioned with the way things are now and want to leave the place so badly to get out – I cannot deny that even being a foreigner living there and barely having scratched the surface, you can tell that its still there underneath. Things can and do happen that might seem inexplicable or unexplainable. But they do – even if they might just have the appearance of being made of paper-mache and funded by the West.

Tell me how people wouldn’t be better off if there wasn’t a gay rights foundation like Helem – even if it is small and is the only one that exists in the country. I honestly regret having not participated in it at all – mostly at the request of the person I was seeing who I think feared any sort of negative recognition that an association with that movement might bring. It’s a sad, sorry story for people over there, who don’t realize that they do have a choice as individuals. That it is up to them to come to their friends and family and say ‘This is who I am.’ Despite the enormous consequences in a place like Lebanon. But it has to happen at some point. It’s inevitable. Change is the only constant. And people shouldn’t be afraid. Because at the end of the day, no matter where you are, you still have that inch. Your dignity and integrity. And nobody can take that away from you unless you give it away. Unless you succumb to fear. So don’t. It’s your choice.


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