An open letter to my Lebanese brothers and sisters (By Mohamad Bitar)

6 Jan

An open letter to my Lebanese brothers and sisters

I remember during the 18 year civil war in Lebanon, the hardship people had to go through to survive. I remember the shelters. I remember the deaths of friends. I remember the sounds of shelling. I grew up tolerating hatred, explosions, and sleepless nights. I grew up tolerating and accepting the fact that people die in vain.

As a teenager, I remember having to go East if West was being bombed and go North if the South was unsafe. I remember when the borders between East and West were unblocked, we had to spend few hours driving, stopped and harassed by check points just to attend a party in the East of Beirut. I remember going to the “safer” area to play while others were being killed on the other side.

As an adult, I was so proud of the Lebanese people and how we coped with this horrible war. We would still go out, we would still have fun. A friend died, but a day or two later we were back to our normal lives. That was the only way for us to live during the war, and to survive those devastating times.  So the myth started going global earning us the reputation that “the Lebanese know how to live”, “they party even under bombshells”, “they go on living in the worst of circumstances”, “and they are survivors!”

Quarter of a century later we still do the same!!

It has become our way of life. “Things are alright”. We are still going out, we still go to nightclubs and we are still proud!

I called a good friend of mine after the latest car explosion in Lebanon and said, “I am sorry for what is happening in Beirut, the situation is really bad.” However, his answer to me was “There is nothing wrong, it’s only a car bomb. Two hours later, people are on the streets and in the evening we had an amazing time celebrating”. It struck me that the civil war “immunity” we had developed then, still resonates until today.

What was an essential surviving technique has actually become an embedded numbing poison that allows us to accept the unnecessary loss of so many of our citizens. What was once our survival mechanism is now leading to the death of our nation.

Martyr's square during the Civil war

Martyr’s square during the Civil war

Our politicians have remained the same for the past 50 years. Some sent to prison come out even stronger, while others have become partners in every business in Lebanon. Those who hide behind their ideologies are puppets to powerful nations. The reality is our politicians and their entourages are getting richer and stronger while our Lebanon is getting weaker. The fact remains that no one cares for Lebanon. If any of the existing political parties were on the right track, we would have seen positive change by now. I don’t understand how political chairs are hereditary. I don’t understand how we accept and allow mediocre politicians to represent us.

Watching this last explosion on TV from the comfort of my home, while my 2-year-old son safely played with his toys next to me, and my six month old on my lap, I realized that nothing about Lebanon is “OK”.

It’s not ok for car bombs to go off.

It’s not ok to party when someone has died.

It’s not ok to hate each other.

It’s not ok that we have to bribe government officials to get a permit.

It’s not ok to have to give politicians shares in our businesses to be able to operate.

It’s not ok to be part of a political party yet forget about Lebanon.

It’s not ok to support politicians who are unworthy of representing Lebanon.

It’s not ok that there is no law and order.

It’s not ok that our children are not safe.

It’s not ok to have to pay the most expensive telephone bills in the world.

It’s not ok to still not have electricity or water.

It’s not ok to die in explosions.

It’s not ok to become another number in the count of casualties.

Lebanon is just not ok.

Here I would like to clarify that I have no affiliation to any political or religious group. Nor do I have the power to change things but I have a solution that is probably far fetched for Lebanon. Its far-fetched because the reality of what I have been seeing is that most Lebanese have lost their patriotic belonging to Lebanon and are so busy with the day-to-day activity in order to survive.  All of a sudden, I see that my aunt is boycotting her local grocery store (that she has shopped at for 30 years) because the owner is from a different sect.

My solution is simple but will need all of us to follow it:

Boycott all businesses that belong to these politicians and their entourage.

I refuse to go out to restaurants. I refuse to go out to nightclubs. I refuse to go to hotels. I refuse to shop at big hypermarkets and instead I will buy my groceries from the small families who are struggling to survive. I will not use our airlines. I will not get gym memberships. I will not allow the rich to become richer and the poor to get poorer. I will not watch Lebanese TV channels. I will not advertise. I will not buy a property. I will not buy a new car. I will not ski. I will not vote. I will not! I will not until I get my country back!

And so:

Businesses will start going bankrupt. The rich will start to suffer. And so “powerful” people will also come around  because their businesses are affected. Lebanon will not be able to continue without change. Our politicians will understand that we no longer believe in them and therefore do not need them.   Most importantly, a unified patriotic spirit will be born. A spirit that we will probably need to nurture for generations to come.

It’s strange to me that we have no loyalty to Lebanon. Its strange to me that we are quiet while others are destroying our country. It’s strange to me that people continue living in Lebanon with all this corruption. It’s strange to me that I have never heard a politician in Lebanon say, “This is good for Lebanon”. Its strange to me that the educated are silent. They are embedding hatred in our hearts so we can no longer see the truth.

I have been away from Lebanon for almost 11 years. I lived in Lebanon most of my life and refused to leave thinking I can make change happen. Until one day I had no choice but to leave in order to support my family. Today, I refuse to go back before I get my Lebanon back. I hope this letter is my contribution to creating change in my country. I hope that like minded people will stop to give our Country a momentary thought.. I feel responsible to express myself. I feel responsible to share my thoughts, maybe and just maybe someone will listen. My heart aches for Lebanon and our people. I live abroad and its easier for me to write those words without experiencing the hardship in Lebanon today. But i hope my words will resonate to like minded people who will also make themselves heard.

“Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking. Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another ruler with trumpetings again. Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.” Kahlil Gibran

Mohamad Bitar

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