Across the Bay

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lee's, Fawaz's and My Lebanon

With all due respect to all my American friends, only my brother Lee Smith has managed to caputre a snapshot of Lebanon that feels like something I would've written, or liked to have written; something that I can identify with.

I have strived to maintain an analytical edge on this blog, but for the first time since this war started, I was deeply moved as I read his piece:

It is very hard to see Lebanon--the region's crowning hope, the Arab world's exception--come to this, the destruction certainly, but also the ugly foundations that the destruction has now laid bare. Walid Jumblatt, the courageous and morally nimble, aristocratic jester of the Cedar revolution is holed up in his ancestral mountain estate. Fouad Siniora, a prime minister who had the support of Lebanese across the political spectrum, all of them thanking their fate to have been blessed after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri with such a competent and clear-headed leader now clutching to the grubby clich├ęs of Hassan Nasrallah.

The Lebanese always believed that their political class was largely craven, even Michel Aoun, the patriot who returned after 14 years abroad to make a deal with Hezbollah. But there was also the youth, that unblemished segment of the population that fearlessly took to the streets to demand that Syrian troops leave their country. So maybe there's hope to be found in young Lebanon, even if right now the beautiful girls and boys who draped themselves in the red, white, and green a year and a half ago are suddenly reduced to hysterical children screaming on blogs and blaming everyone who is not Lebanese for their fate.

FOR ME ANYWAY, Lebanon is now a very small place on the map that comes down essentially to Fawaz and his ideas of Lebanon: a free, prosperous, tolerant, and peaceful state where all of its citizens would be allowed to pursue their version of the good life. Fawaz would have liked talking to Sharansky, one of his heroes. But the impossibility of such a meeting, of crossing the border for a cup of coffee, strikes me as what is tellingly sick about Lebanon. It is a country where a person who says he wants peace with his neighbor, not a peace that comes through destruction and elimination, but a real peace, such a person is considered a traitor.

Thank you, Lee, for a heartfelt, but not crass piece.