Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Massacres In Memory

Does that picture look familiar? Iraq right? Wrong. That is a building in a neighbourhood in Beirut during the civil war. Judging by the behaviour of our politicians in Lebanon and the thugs that are supporting them, a timely reminder is required.

It seems that we need a reminder of the hundreds of thousands dead and missing, the destruction of property, and the destruction of a whole way of life; a reminder that our civil war did nothing but make the warlords rich and the poor even more poorer. Perhaps a timely reminder is needed so that people remember what it was like to drive by a checkpoint never knowing whether you would make it through alive or what it was like to come home and find someone missing having been kidnapped by an opposing militia. Perhaps we all need a reminder of what it is like in a bomb shelter or of Black Saturday. Maybe we need a reminder of Tel Al Zaatar or of the Maslakh? Does the Karantina massacre sound familiar? What about the Damour massacre? Remember Sabra and Shatila? What about the lesser known massacres in the Tripoli area? A village called Rasenhach in North Lebanon was practically decimated during the war. The men and boys were lined up and slaughtered. Two of the village elders were literally buried alive. Anyone who is familiar with the Lebanese civil war should know those names and what they mean by heart. Not a single one of us young or old has not been touched in some way by the war. Regardless of the country you immigrated to, you either have been personally touched by the war or know someone who has.

Unfortunately, it has become blatantly obvious that we need to be reminded that the Lebanese Civil war was easily one of the bloodiest and cruellest civil wars in the region. The blatant disregard for civilian life, the religious ethnic cleansing of whole areas, the divisions along sectarian lines of whole areas of the country, the rise (and never fall) of warlords who were otherwise nothing and nobody. Obviously we need to be reminded of the horrors since we seem to have learned nothing and we are lining up like sheep to follow the latest warlord. On April 13th, 1975 at 1.15pm, Lebanon exploded. A single action that built on previous actions caused the whole country to go up in flames. Then as now, the people divided themselves along sectarian lines and followed their warlords.

Why bring up memories better left alone you ask? Because we obviously learned nothing from the war. Lebanon is at a serious crossroads and instead of helping it along, factions supporting different politicians are attacking each other. Nary has a day gone by without hearing about some new skirmish between one group and another. It is disgusting to anyone with a single functioning brain cell that these people are being allowed to do this. Where is the government? Where is the Darak? Where is Amn Al Aam? Did everyone just decide to take a holiday and leave the country to run itself? Where were the police when the Amal Movement and Hariri supporters went at it two weeks ago? How many arrests were made? What was done about it? Where were the police when Jumblatt’s supporters clashed with Geagea’s supporters? Better yet, where were Jumblatt and Geagea to make sure that things like this don’t happen? Absolutely none of our politicians are interested in preserving the peace and all of these “conferences” that they are holding are designed to do only two things: preserve their power and put up a façade for the people of Lebanon that they really do care about them. The truth is, if they did care, they would be willing to put a stop to all the skirmishes between their supporters and others. They would be willing to face up to what they did in the war and most importantly, they would be willing to set aside their differences and work for the good of Lebanon, not the good of their own positions and pockets.

War isn’t pretty. The image to the left is from the massacre of Sabra and Shatila but it could have been Tel Al Zaatar or Black Saturday or the Karantina. It could have been any of those places or even a place that is not written down in history because it was only a “minor” massacre. It could have been countless numbers of villages or towns. It could have been your village or town. Death does not play favourites, it is very much equal opportunity and this very well could have been any of our family members.

As we here in Canada watch our politicians in Lebanon meet and give sound bites to the media, we should be taking action. Call the Embassy in Ottawa (613 – 236 – 5825) and make your voice heard. Make your expectations known. Let the government know that we as Lebanese ex-pats no matter where we are will never return and make the country economically viable if the politicians do not straighten up. If enough of us call and make our voices heard, they will have to listen. It is vital that we here in Canada are heard and even more vital that we don’t fall into the same trap of following like lambs to the slaughter. We immigrated here for a better life away from war and death. We found that life and we should not throw it away by following the warlords back to war. We owe it to Lebanon to be true patriots, let’s do it along nationalist not sectarian lines. Lebanon needs us, let us not fail in it’s time of need.


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