The Lebanon I Love Is Dying–James Zogby

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      And yet, my wife and I often recalled an unsettling undercurrent we had experienced in our conversations with those whom we met. We had become concerned listening to the subtle ways some Christians had spoken dismissively about Muslims, or Muslims about Christians, or the distrust or resentment some Lebanese and Palestinians exhibited toward one another. It reminded us of simmering racial tensions in the US. And when I heard Lebanese from one village disparage their fellow Lebanese from a neighboring village, I thought of the legendary Hatfield-McCoy feud that defined conflict in US mountain country.

      I wrote a paper a few years later in which I tried to unravel what had been bothering me. Lebanon was a country that was modern on the surface, but its forward path was hamstrung by a political system that fueled traditional feuds born of sectarian, tribal, and regional divisions. And so I wasn’t surprised when Lebanon erupted in civil war a few years later and these tensions exploded into full view—with devastating results for the people and the country.

      I went back to Lebanon a few times during its long war with itself. Each time, as the plane crossed the Mediterranean and approached Beirut, my heart would skip a beat. I saw the glorious city of white, with its orange tiled roofs, against the blue sea, with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. And I would think, “It’s alright,” only to have this notion shattered once on the ground.

      What couldn’t be seen from the air, became all too clear traveling through the city: bullet-hole pock-marked buildings, armed men (and boys) everywhere, and checkpoints separating all parts of the city. Once glorious and prosperous Hamra had lost its luster. Its walls were papered with pictures of dead young men and bearded, dour-faced religious leaders. The eastern side of the city fared somewhat better but was choking under the weight of congestion. Here too, signs of war were ever-present. Up in the mountains, village life continued. It was like a refuge from the conflict raging below.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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