I was taking a look at older posts I had written when I was still a recent returnee to the country.
It is unsettling for me to admit to myself that I had not returned to Beirut with a neutral self. In fact, I had returned to Beirut with extra enthusiasm and energy to try and make it somehow part of who I am. I wanted it to be more than “a city I was born in but feel nothing special towards”.
Three years later today, I still don’t feel anything special towards it nor towards any other city in the world.
My “complicated relationship” with Beirut has given me a lot of awareness. First of all, it encouraged me to take up any (and every) opportunity to travel out of it. These experiences are always good to get to know cities in various countries around the world. The more cities you get to know, the more you discover that, “Guess what? They’re all the same.” They all have good parts and bad parts, they all have thieves and filthy rich people and those who are neither this nor that, they all have good people and they all have hypocrites walking their streets day and night, they all have rather safe districts and rather scary neighborhoods.
“And guess what? It’s okay.” This is humanity. Nobody said life was going to be a nice and fair ride. It will never be. Get over it.
When you want to give a certain city the evil eye and walk around pointing fingers, you will be able to do that wherever you are. Pick Paris, New York, Beirut, Reykjavik, Toronto, or any city you name. The cities that won’t belong to this list are the exceptions (if there are any!)
The truth is that we have to give it to the people of Beirut. They have been to hell and they may still be trying to recover from that journey. Journeys take time. People need love, they need patience and they need a lot of FAITH to make it through such journeys. Faith in that patience pays, in that a better future is possible, in that good deeds pay most of the time, and in that one day things will be better for real. And just like in a film script, they need to be ready to do whatever it takes them in order to get to their goal.
The failure of generation after generation in rebuilding Beirut is no excuse for any of the generations.
“But guess what?”
We have not failed. The future for us (today) is better than our present (yesterday). And the future for the young generations (tomorrow) can also be better than their present (today).
My friends and classmates were all born during the civil war. Our country and our cities -Beirut specifically- handed us blow after blow. We might not be the best children for Beirut & Lebanon, we might not be able to tolerate it as much as our parents and grandparents do/did, we might not be very enthusiastic to give back to a place that hurt us so much. Yet, here we are. Giving back. We give back with broken hearts, with faded hope, with less faith in the country perhaps, but we still try.
To recover from war is not something people should do on an individual basis only. Recovering from war is a generational process. DENIAL has not been serving us well for the past two decades. The wounds have to be exposed. The past has to be unveiled. We need to know in order to move forward. We need to know how ugly was the road behind, so that we can see how good the road is now. And we also need to look around and see how green the grass is on the other side, so that we don’t ever stop and think, “We’re in a much better place than before.”
We need to keep the wheels of faith and hope in this country moving. Today quickly becomes yesterday in our age and tomorrow is already here.