Friday, November 24, 2006

Mourning - a six-course feast

While one continent partakes in one of its most excessive holidays of the year, spending days in the kitchen for a meal that will likely be consumed in minutes, one-fourth the population of a tiny Arab nation across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean pours into the streets of its capitol, pressed tightly around the Place des Martyrs, waving the national flag and Phalangist party flags, singing tribute for an entire day to the young Minister of Industry, assassinated on Tuesday.

Contrary to the impressions cast by the nerve-wracked BBC reporters Live on the scene, the crowd was quite civil, the procession organized, and after a suitable period of public mourning, speeches, and other rituals of death, the crowds just amiably went home. I almost got the impression that the media wanted the demonstration to devolve into chaos, the streets to fill with rage, and riots to push this country another step closer to the Civil War that only the Lebanese themselves seem to believe is a last resort. But it didn't come to that, and by Thursday evening, as Americans were just waking to the aromas of chestnut stuffing and pumpkin pie spice, a few pubs in Gemayzee had even opened their doors and people began to meander the streets again. In fact, we even made a brief appearance at an art opening tonight, again at Espace SD, for a Lebanese videographer/photographer who, until the July war, had been living in France for many years. As his father slipped further into the toxic nest of cancer cells, he returned home to see, and eventually bury him, and he's since stayed. Tonight, he presented a collection of photographs, eerily orange, all distorted via pixillation, and each of burnings building or collapsing, or smoke obscuring the pain and horror going on within it.

Already, I am tired of images of war. not bored with them, but physically and emotionally tired. And I wasn't even here in July, nor, like Wael, have I spent the first 16 years of my life numbing myself to shots fired in the night, sniper fire in the streets, and a never-ending list of dead, maimed, disappeared, or departed.

Today gave me hope. As the international community almost eagerly awaited the collapse, suggesting that all the nation needs is two more Ministry resignations or assassinations before the government must fall, I had hope in Lebanon, despite her many aliments. Today, the mourners came in relative peace, and left as they came, and Nasrallah's demonstrators will wait for another day.

There is nothing quite like viewing the news form other sources, and Lebanon's local English-language paper, The Daily Star is quite excellent, and well worth its 100% advertisement-free price tag of US$1.60 for about 12 pages of nothing but news, presented from the perspectives of each of the most dominant religious sects in Lebanon. And, contrary to UK and USA opinion, I've found Al-Jazeera's English-language web page reports some poignant less-covered stories while offering an interesting perspective of how the Arab world interprets international news.

No comments: