So I finally got around to watching this. I’ve been meaning to watch it for at least 2 years haha. But I finally popped in the DVD from Netflix last night and sat down to watch it. I had been putting it off, perhaps because I was scared of hearing or seeing anything that had anything even remotely to do with Lebanon. And at first, when the film started playing and I heard Arabic being spoken in the Lebanese dialect… I was overcome with a mixture of sadness and peace at the same time. The language is almost second-nature to me now… after 10 months there. I can’t describe it. I still can’t understand some of the words and expressions… but everything is so familiar, like I had lived there all my life. I sat on my bed watching the film on the eve of Lebanon’s Independence day, wishing I could be there for the celebrations.
The film was particularly good… without going into a review of the plot I want to describe how much I enjoyed one of the character roles. The main character Malik is a narcoleptic with Sleep Apnea Sickness or something… and he falls asleep driving in Beirut (I don’t know how anyone could ever do this!) in addition to sleeping in random places around Beirut, on the Corniche etc. He has a girlfriend who he loves but she won’t talk to him and keeps running away from him. He wears contacts which he removes at periodic moments throughout the film as if seeking to see Beirut in a new way. I remember someone very close to me telling me how they used to do precisely the same thing. Wearing glasses his whole life he told me he used to remove them to see things differently. I wish he hadn’t begun to see me differently. In a different light.
I don’t know what it is about this country. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t go back. Not only was I apparently hit by Cupid’s arrow… but there was a name of a country and a city inscribed on that arrow as it pierced the deepest regions of my heart. Even just reading the latest developments about Hariri’s Tribunal is slightly painful. I can’t put myself aside when I read news about Lebanon anymore. I can’t think objectively. I have no allegiance to any particular political movement in the country or any particular people. I’m genuinely fascinated by everyone… and there is so much left to experience. But I’ll readily admit that I’m scared to go back. And it’s not just the fear of seeing the person I loved… there’s much more. It’s not an easy place to live. Scarcely a day goes by where I don’t talk to a Lebanese person who is dying just to get out… while I am desperately seeking a way back in. I don’t know why. It’s the little things I miss. The cats at AUB. Driving past the Mosque and the statue in Downtown. Reading the graffiti in Arabic on the alleyways of Hamra. The endless noise of the city. I honestly find myself missing the Call to Prayer somedays. And the relentless noise of traffic. I miss wandering the Corniche and eating corn from a stand. I guess I’m just feeling a little nostalgic today.
What’s it worth though? I’ve found lately its brought me more peace just to not think about it. To pretend the heart I left there doesn’t even exist. I don’t want to see it, hear it, smell it, or touch it. But I know its there. I suppose that’s enough for me. Perhaps thats why I’ve been shirking writing about current political developments in the Middle East, especially those regarding Lebanon. But I just have this feeling… I can run, forever. I could keep running all my life. I could go to Patagonia in South America or maybe even the Caribbean and have a house like Ian Fleming. I’m sure it’s just gorgeous in either one of those locations. And there are plenty of places all around the globe I could go. And I do still want to visit many places. But I can’t help feeling that Lebanon will forever be there, lurking in the back of my mind. So much so that I can never really run away from it. So much so that I know one day I’ll be forced to go back and confront things there as I left them, having left Beirut on extraordinarily negative terms. But I suppose things will resolve themselves eventually. I just don’t know how my soul could take any sort of conflict there. I honestly don’t give a damn about my personal safety. Perhaps that’s a bit of a reckless statement, but being American I can always leave and return to my life here and that is something I’m grateful for. But I don’t think it would be easy to watch a country I’ve fallen in love with be torn apart by internecine warfare. Have you seen Hotel Rwanda? Sure genocide is probably (hopefully) out of the picture, but internecine warfare is internecine warfare. It’s devastating all the same.
And I’m not trying to be one those people who thinks Lebanon is about to collapse any second. Watching the media one might think Lebanon could go to war any day. It won’t. But that’s no reason to ignore the fact that it really is a dry tinderbox. All it needs is the right people, events, and circumstances to all coincide and drop the flaming match and the whole place will go up in flames. That’s how close to the edge it is. And that fact should neither be understated nor overstated. It is what it is. It remains the reality that Lebanon has known historically for a long time.
Anyway, I guess I’ve said what I want to say, on this 67th Anniversary of the founding of the Lebanese Republic. I’m obviously not even Lebanese. But its a nice feeling, that as an American I can adopt other national causes and feel passionate about something that I may never have been born into. Maybe I’m in error. I wish I could recount how many people have told me just to suck it up and move on. Yep. That’s always the best solution, just think that shit happens in life and there’s nothing you can do to control it. Just give up. It’s probably for the best anyway. Nobody wants your help. Nobody cares what you do. Love dies and people move on. Yeah, well, if you say that then I just have two words for you. Fuck you. Seriously. As much as I like to listen to people, I’ve found listening to myself to be more informative than listening to people that really have little idea of what they’re talking about. Its strange to feel that I could have more in common with a stationary statue in Martyr’s Square than a person. I’ve always liked statuary for some reason. Maybe its the grandioseness of it. Or something more. Maybe its the idea behind it. That people shouldn’t sell themselves out to whatever sentimental trends currently dominate the discourse of culture or society. That people should look beyond that. Is that too much to ask of ourselves? Is it too much to expect of others the preservation of that inch… looks like its time to quote Valerie’s Letter again.
In 1976 I stopped pretending and took a girl called Christine home to meet my parents. A week later I enrolled at drama college. My mother said I broke her heart.
But it was my integrity that was important. Is that so selfish? It sells for so little, but it’s all we have left in this place. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free.
Anyway. Happy Independence Day Lebanon.