Thursday, November 23, 2006

Everything is changed

So, it's official. The Beirut Marathon (Beirut Marathon) organized by Zena's mother, is officially "postponed until further notice." Today was the scheduled opening ceremony, with 3 more days of events until the actual race on the 26th. The country is plagued by much preparation, something to look forward to, and then yet another political disaster steals its momentum, casts it aside to be left, forgotten, or to re-emerge feebly to little enthusiasm. Last summer was forecast to be Lebanon's most successful summer since the end of the civil war, and tourism was expected to be at an all-time high. Zena spent two years working on a project to bring women's art into the sight-glass of Lebanon, and produced a stunning full-color collection of the pieces into a book (Shutabka Ya Mara) only to have the war complete destroy the momentum and derail the opening. After ceasefire, who could care less about art? She watched her effort, dream, and the hopes of so many new artists slip further into isolation.

"They need to just get rid of the marathon."
"But I love the marathon. It is one time when thousands of Lebanese from all the religions come together for 3 or 4 hours, as just Lebanese, not Muslims, not Christians, not Druze, but just to enjoy the day."
"Yes, and the next day, they go back to killing each other."
"Don't be that way. The marathon is a beautiful thing."
"I know. Your wife ran it in her wedding dress."

This is a conversation I overheard the other day, and in so many ways it emphasizes the struggle this nation will endure for quite some time to come. My own goal, to help develop a national oil spill contingency plan to prepare Lebanon in the event that another disaster like Jieh occurs, has been hindered by the kind of resignation I heard in the woman who spoke above. Even as I tried to glean facility information from the Ministry of Environment, its head of Oil Spill Operations and Coordination Center (OSOCC) bristled, "What do I care about oil on the beaches? Cleaning the beach won't feed my son!" Or even more poignantly, why rebuild when someone will simply bomb it all over again...What can I say to this, when I have never had to pull bodies from a bombed building or watch fires rage through my entire city? Although I cannot ignore the future for the plagues of today, I was momentarily silenced.

Sometimes it does seem futile, but I remind myself that anyone can give up and break a system that's already fragile. It takes those who are truly useful, committed, and ambitious, the people who care about more than just their own personal gain and their immediate family's future, to rebuild a community and move it toward a sustainable future.

Which is why Dr. Jaradi and I have discussed a possible program to educate local communities and small tribes in bird capture, treatment, and cleaning, in the event of another oil spill. Dr. Jaradi has already been working with the fishermen of Tripoli, and with the few oiled birds they've encountered, sharing his methods on how to properly care for them. Because there are many ravages of war, and the innocent cross genus/species and geographic barriers. "My time is always free of charge for the birds," Dr. Jaradi emphasizes. "Because if not I, who else will do it?"

Indeed, who? Well, so far, I can name a hefty fistful, those who were out on the beaches, with little gear and no support but family and friends, who despite the bombing overhead and their own government's demands that they cease and desist, spent the hottest days of summer cleaning up their own beaches, watching in tears as the black slick stained the cerulean waters they swam in their childhood. The folks I've been working with at Green Line, particularly Wael and Nina, never seem to give up, and cannot lay down and let the nation's iniquity derail the possibility of a clean, safe, beautiful Lebanon where art enriches the soul, the history of man is embedded in the roots of each remaining cedar, and Lebanese can breathe deeply the rich beauty of their land.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It became apparent to me in reading this that only those that could envision a future (different from what the present is) could participate in sustainable building activities.

It is a fine line, being able to see that possibility. A place I have, at times found myself, unable to get to - luckily for only short periods of time.

- MrTwistoff