(In the winter of 2010, deep within the confines of Gelman Library at The George Washington University, I was studying late into the night to make up for yet another four-month stint of procrastination – I believe the kids call these things “semesters.” Never mind that I was a law student and Gelman was undergraduate turf. Never mind that I was shamelessly listening to Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home.” And never mind that all these GW ladies were out in their patented (Or is it trademarked? Or copyrighted? Damn, a lawyer should know this.) “Sugar Swirl”-stamped pants.
That night, a piece of reading got me to writing.
You know how it goes… International human rights law leads to tangential reading; tangential reading brings you the case of South Africa; the case of South Africa, while compelling, reminds you how much you love Rugby League (not Union, you twats!); thoughts of League lead you to watch Youtube clips of Aussies, Saffers, and Lebos clubbing each other; clips of great hits and brawls remind you that you’re cooped up in a Burgundyesque “glass cage of emotion.” Then, suddenly, you’re watching Invictus for the millionth time! Of course, Invictus closes the circle by reminding you that neither Morgan Freeman nor apartheid is a joke and that you probably should start reading again.
And that’s when I wrote “Confessions for a New Lebanon,” a list of twenty-five truths to commemorate my twenty-fifth birthday. Now a dusty ol’ twenty-six, I’ve decided to add a confession a year until I croak. Or until I develop carpel tunnel syndrome. Whichever comes first, right? Anyways, with a few minor edits, I’ve kept the original confessions and just tacked one to the bottom. Humor aside, I wish more folks would do this – even in laughter, you’ll find out quite a bit about yourself when you write shit down.
Yalla, hope you enjoy!)
A central part of post-apartheid South Africa’s journey in from the wilderness involved the creation of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” a non-judicial body empowered to bear witness to and remedy the crimes of the preceding era. Because of Lebanon’s blanket amnesty measures, which have held strong despite less-than-equitable implementation, such an open process of reconciliation seems doubtful.
Perhaps that’s for the best, considering that more than twenty years have passed since the end of the Lebanese Civil War. But in the interest of transparency, and as a step towards a better tomorrow, it might be useful if all the Lebanese folks offered up a list of confessions:
Here’s my list (U.S. law enforcement officials, I only note that all these confessions relate to sentiments, actions, and omissions that occurred in the Republic of Lebanon.):
- I did not take a driving test to obtain my Lebanese license;
- I have driven dangerously – too fast, too drunk, too angry – and have allowed others to do the same;
- I have (probably) insulted you in traffic;
- I have repeatedly taken the Lord’s name in vain, and have also:
- Taken your Lord’s name in vain;
- Cursed your “family;”
- Cursed your “village;”
- Cursed “the road that leads to your village;”
- Cursed “your ancestors;”
- Cursed “your harem;”
- Cursed “the ‘person’ who gave you your driver’s license;”
- And so on and so forth (I’m from Zahle, give me a break);
- I voted blank during all student elections, except for one, at the American University of Beirut:
- (Note 1: I still resent some of my friends’ blatant political jockeying.);
- (Note 2: To the attractive young lady of my sophomore year, your smiles and sass did not actually convince me to vote for anyone. I did appreciate the attention, however, and thank you for that. Stay classy.);
- I occasionally enjoy electronic music (it took about 10 years in Beirut, but it’s happened);
- I have not visited my family as often as I should;
- I believe Hizbullah should be disarmed, and do not share its vision for Lebanon;
- I believe the Future Movement has botched things up time and again, and must learn to accept criticism of the late former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his son, current Prime Minister Saad Hariri;
- I believe Walid Jumblatt is a man of many regrets, but probably does not regret enough;
- I believe Lebanon’s various Christian parties are stuck in the past, have no present, and fear the future;
- I do not believe money should be spent on a “National Dialogue” that is nothing but a glorified sham;
- I do not believe that secularism is a cure for Lebanon, but I’m not sure there is one;
- I would kill to defend my country, village, family, and friends, but sometimes question whether I am willing to die;
- Women often annoy me;
- I fail to understand how Lebanese men wish to enjoy their twenties, but insist on marrying virgins;
- I unabashedly support the hummus war between Lebanon and Israel (food fights never killed anyone. That said, I think we can all agree that Lebanese hummus is better!);
- I do not like baba ghannoush and think falafel are overrated;
- I have never partied at BO18 (see Confession #7);
- I have judged Francophone Lebanese based on the mere hint of their voice;
- I never focused in French class, but still list French as a language on my resume;
- I immersed myself in Arabic by listening to Melhem Barakat, my father’s Zahle twang, and my mother’s refined Beiruti accent, all of which explains my failure to communicate with 99.7% of the general public (98.6%? 89.7%? What’s the Tyrant Standard Vote these days?);
- I love watching Don’t Mess With the Zohan.;
- I do not like being called an “Arab,” but I do not know how to navigate, sail a boat, write without vowels, work with glass, or dye cloth purple. As such, “Phoenician” doesn’t exactly fit either. If you insist on a label, “Lebanese” will do just fine. Fill in the blanks as you see fit;
- I wonder, sometimes, whether Lebanon is worth the pain;
- I openly and notoriously drank a beer in Sidon, Lebanon, last year.
Put a pen to paper. I’m sure your list will have a lot in common with this one, but if not… “You have your Lebanon, and I have mine.”