Inde-penance day

I woke up this morning to the sound of drums and our national anthem being bellowed through loudspeakers. I had completely forgotten our independence day was coming up, why would I remember such an event anyway? What are we independent from?
In 1943 the French mandate was ended after 23 years of ruling. I remember my grandfather telling me the story of when they all left, a glorious day to some, but not to him. On 22nd November 1943, a young man was found roaming the streets of Beirut with a huge French flag fluttering over his shoulder; my grandpa had always been a rebel – well most of my family is unconventional, so there’s nothing really surprising about it – but what he did next took courage. In front of all his bewildered neighbors, he climbed onto the building’s roof and planted the French flag screaming: “you have just ruined the country!” Well he said something like that in Arabic anyway.
The French colonial occupation bothered the Lebanese patriots for it deprived them from claiming the land as their own, from governing it the way they saw fit. Today, 72 years later, most of those patriots are deceased, and I’m sure if they had witnessed the evolution of the country, they died biting their lip…hard.
During the detested mandate, Lebanon was a prosperous land, one of life and calm order, however disturbing the truth really was; the people still weren’t occupied of their own volition, for who the hell would choose such a masochistic dole? So fed up, we were freed, and slowly but surely, it all went downhill. It is a sad fact that most of my compatriots wish they had the French passport, I (shamefully?) do too, and many have gone out of their way to leave this “free” place we all desperately try to call home sweet home. Bittersweet home is a closer reality to our lives here.
Some will say “look at what happened to Paris last week, what difference would it have made?” Unfortunately, the difference lies elsewhere; it isn’t which country was bombed or where this or that isolated incident occurs; the glitch is flagrant on days when our cities are safe from terrorists, it’s in our garbage crisis, our electricity cuts, our lack of decent hospitalisation and retirement plans…the difference is everywhere. The French government, no matter how flawed it can be, still remembers its role; the people first and foremost. Our governments have failed us, we have failed our country, and although we pride ourselves in our ability to live through every horrible situation we’ve ever been put through, our lives here aren’t examples of health; our country is sick and the marching bands could keep celebrating till dawn, they still wouldn’t be celebrating anything substantial.
I sigh deeply as I type these words, as I notice we deem occupation more blissful than heroically-claimed freedom. The French mandate was ill-fated, but our present doesn’t feel much brighter; we took out a poisoned needle and stuck a contaminated syringe in its place.
So happy independence day Lebanon, whatever that means, and cheers to the day we’ll be independent from our vain victories.


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