Once upon a time, there existed in a far away place, a wilderness so pure and dense that it was deemed impervious even to evil. Its overgrown boundary of holy cedar forests and longwinded luminescent seashore severed it from hostile civilizations and made it a haven for persecuted souls seeking refuge in its saintly terrains. Though nature was very kind to them, the people in return were unkind to it, and even more to each other. Carrying the burdens of their past persecution, they seethed with resentment and fear of one another. But even in the holiest of lands, resentment breeds resentment, and time was shown that there was no recess holy enough, nor any place sublime enough that could claim exemption from the fierceness of these peoples who had pledged their blood against one another. Their competitive vengeance under the guise of self-preservation and domination overpowered any form of kinship they could have for one another or for their haven. The imperviousness of the land was thus eventually destroyed at the hands of its combative tribal inhabitants, and the geological fault lines of holy waterways and forest watersheds were replaced with the human front lines of battleways and bloodshed. The count is sixteen front lines, one for every confession carrying one selfish idea of a fantasy nation in which the inhabitants’ social contract shall bow down to a sectarian order put in place to quell the fears and compulsions of its terrified and self-absorbed contending tribes. This land is Lebanon, my country.
And so it became our curse: pluralism. The fear of being dominated by the ‘foreign other’ coupled with the proactive haste of wanting to dominate that foreign other drove the Lebanese minorities to the front line against each other over and over again across decades. But despite the constant conflict, every community in this land remained a minority; pragmatic and bold but distrustful and distrusting, working and turning against one another at the drop of a hat, as they all believe that their continued existence and ultimate fate depends upon their own determination and resources and upon usurping the rights of all their compatriot factions… Resultantly, a strong, central government for the entire country was never able to emerge in the history of Lebanon, but instead, disjoined strong tribal leaders empowered by their religious men, who benefit from mutually reinforcing positions, ruled the country and their respective peoples with fear. Fear of the other.
Perhaps no territory in the wide extent of this region can furnish a livelier picture of how long the cruelty and fierceness of human warfare can last. Resentment has always governed this nation, and bred more resentment across belligerent generations for that is the human condition’s cycle of violence.
But here is my point on this Independence Day of November 22nd: pluralism is a curse in our nation only if we choose to remain selfish with our nation. You cannot deserve to live a dignified livelihood in this land until you learn how to share this land with your compatriots. Our history is the empirical proof that resistance, resentment and vengeance have no place in finding dignity, nor in achieving nation-building. Every faction makes fiery speeches accusing other factions of trampling their dignity, كرامتنا!”، يصيحون”, but understand this: you will never be able to live in dignity as long as you wish to deprive any of your compatriots of that same dignity… Once we understand this as a nation, once we truly grasp the importance of dignifying all our compatriots no matter how different their beliefs are, only then will we come to terms with the real meaning of “independence”… For as long as we carry fear and resentment for our fellow citizens, we will never be independent of anything.
Here’s to hoping that we one day may truly celebrate a real day of independence of Lebanon.