A morbid year

2016. Mentioning it is already a horror story, but the way it is ending for me is truly worth making a film out of.

This year started with Bowie’s death, then Alan Rickman’s, followed by Harper Lee, Umberto Ecco, young Anton Yelchin, Mohammad Ali, Prince, Pete Burns, Paul Kantner, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gloria de Haven, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Carrie Fisher then her talented mother Debbie Reynolds a day later! These deaths and so many more make for the saddest obituary, but hey, 2016 wasn’t satisfied with taking people away, it also added to the madness by making Donald Trump president, and in parallel giving Lebanon its own orange head of state. Wait, we’re not done yet! Exploding phones, Brexit… this year is watching us, amused by the mayhem, eating popcorn while we look right, left, up and within for answers nobody can give.

Well, if only that was it for me. I had one of the most stressful years leading to meds being prescribed so I can digest all the chaos, my father was hit by a water cistern as he was crossing the road, I snapped my back and had to walk like the hunchback of Notre Dame for over a week swallowing pill after pill searching to relieve more than my swollen muscles. However, nothing compares to the joke of an ending this year had in reserve for us. Hearing the news of my mother’s cousin passing a few days ago, then my former school principal’s whom I loved – her being a long time family friend – I verbally challenged this last week to test my nerves and surprise me further, and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday morning, we were informed that my dad’s cousin on his mother’s side had died. Preparing ourselves psychologically for yet another funeral, the phone rings. On the other end is my brother explaining he had just been informed that my father’s cousin from the paternal side has been dead for 4 days in his house, and since he had no immediate family, the authorities were waiting to find relatives to take care of the usual procedures. Naturally, us being the closest in Lebanon, we were asked to go into the house where – insert nervous laugh here – the corpse still lies, sign papers, make an official inventory of his belongings with the probably overpowering stench of our cousin’s decaying body, then arrange for his funeral.

So 2016, for your last day of existence I withdraw my challenge, you’ve won, now will you please go on vacation and never return? I’m no longer a fan of surprises.

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Beirut, this is not the end.

What saddens me most today is everyone’s reactions to the preliminary results of the municipality elections polls. All I’ve been seeing since last night’s scandalous pictures and videos is negative and defeatist posts on how Beirut’s future is now plunged in a gloomy pool of uncertainty and how our city is doomed and done with. Has the wind of change rushed elsewhere because of one (possible) loss?

The results may have been tampered with and Beirut Madinati’s support may have been spat on by chaos-loving imbeciles, but that doesn’t change the fact that everyone’s support is requested and the city’s still in dire need of everyone’s help no matter the idiotic income of yesterday’s voting mess. We all knew the probability of Beirut Madinati not making it was high, the dream was too grand for a country so used to betrayal and conservative foolishness. As a big part of the population strives to keep things ludicrously the same even after watching their beloved country crumble more and more with time, there’s an even bigger part that dreams of making a difference, a huge chunk of people who dream of more than the undefining mess we have been reduced to. Where are those people, those dreaming spirits, those optimists that only seem to surface when others take the lead, when others venture in complicated manoeuvres in their place? Why does everyone go into hiding when their voice can summon so much good? Beirut Madinati started as a group of determined individuals with enough hope to sell those who had stopped believing things could change, and they succeeded in challenging the status quo of our sinking ship. If they could scare them all into cheating so openly, then why can’t we all rise against them once more, and once more after that, and as many times as it takes to make a difference and get our ship sailing steadily and proud once again?

Defeat doesn’t suit you, Beirut. Defeat doesn’t define you. You have risen time and time again, and even though you’re weary and exhausted from all your failed attempts, there is no limit to hope, and as long as everyone keeps their faith in a brighter future, nothing will kill our dreams, not even their defective money-craving souls. Beirut will rise once more, brighter than ever.

I dip, you dip, we all dip for change

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Today I voted. I usually abhor the simple idea of politics, but today wasn’t about politics for me, it was about my city, the one I grew up in, the city I walked around a million times, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes reluctantly, but it is still where I’m from, and that was what drove me to dress and dip half my thumb in stubborn purple ink.

First of all, it was probably a bad idea to wear white with all the ink my clumsy self had to keep from my clothes. On a more serious note, as I said a few lines earlier, I have often looked at my city in a negative way, almost disgusted by what it has managed to become compared to what it used to be; maybe that’s the problem. No, that is exactly the problem. Beirut is my city and I should love it, I should cheer for it, and most importantly, we should all stop whining about the current situation and the many years Beirut has been condemned to endure with no improvement to its situation and shake things up. Well, obviously, we don’t all have solutions or the right voice to fix things, but a group of people, with the mindset many of us have been lacking, decided to take matters into their own hands and push through the black hole that is our hand-me-down municipality to give us all a chance to see things change, to hope, and to stop repeating the same bloody mistake of re-electing incompetent self -loving individuals. Things can change, but only if we allow them to, and only if we work towards improvement. There is no such thing as not loving one’s city, even if elsewhere seems nicer, even if the city has done you harm or anything that would make you not care for it; each city should be respected and loved if just in remembrance of those who once made it great, ¬†of all those who on a daily basis still strive to make things better, in honor of a land that hosted us even though we managed to sabotage it daily with our unconscious neglect. Beirut rose 7 times, Beirut survived several wars and countless idiots, and that alone should push us all to care enough to fix it, give it a chance to become once again a city to be proud of.

I voted today, because I have undying hope in my heart that some day soon, the city I keep trying to run away from… will have me running back to it.

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.