Above All

th (2)Over the last several years, Lebanon has witnessed a return of many of its old leaders who had vanished after the civil war to their positions of power. Aoun came back from exile, Geagea was released from prison and began guiding the Lebanese Forces (now that’s a name) again, and others, who had remained quiet for a while, began raising their ugly voices as all these corrupt, chauvinistic men began manipulating the population, yet again.

Yet again, we have a crisis when the time comes to choose a Lebanese president. Every time, we experience a political vacuum when the “leaders” can’t decide on a single name, and the country kind of goes on hold. It’s not only a practical problem that we face in these situations: it’s a symbolic problem. It’s an image problem. One that we’re willing to tolerate, the way we tolerate so much else.

The way we tolerate these political leaders, actually. It’s so common, in Lebanon, to criticize them. We write songs about them, we say that they are corrupt,  that they abuse the population, that they cause most of our problems, we even make apps to mock them. But make no mistake: when someone says that, they mean the others. They probably think they support someone who’s above it all.

Someone who’s above us all. The leader, in Lebanon, is a man with a God complex. A man who thinks his role is to guide, to protect, to solve others’ problems. Well, this is the good interpretation. But hear this: the good interpretation isn’t even good enough. Why do you need someone like that to protect you? Why does someone like Farid El Khazen have to step in when a criminal murders a young man? Political leaders, zu3ama, are who they are because of the people. People voted for them, people support them, go to them regularly for all kinds of reasons, most of which have to do with corruption. You go to them when you need a longer arm that can grab something out of reach for you. Many of these situations are due to the inherent deficiencies in our government. Impossible hurdles find themselves between you and so many important things you need to do. These hurdles are the product of this culture, and people need to survive, so they do what they do to get over them. But it’s a vicious circle: the more you support these  men, the more legitimacy you invest in them, the more corrupt this government will be, the more dis-functional the system will be, the more violent disagreements will be, the more unstable your life will be, and the more you will need them.

The more “crises” we will have, like the presidential one. Because each and every single one of these macho power-hungry freaks wants to outdo all the others. They are a part of our social fabric and have always been, they are the residue of our feudal system. Turning this tide around will take decades. But I’m going to move past the fact that these leaders are a problem, a cancer in our society, I’m going to accept that one has to work them into any equation that addresses the near future of our country. But consider this.

If you care about Lebanon, if you care about politics, if you care enough to invest your energy into this, if you attend political rallies, if you like to voice your opinion about these things: you can’t support most of these leaders. I don’t care how good Geagea’s ideas are, or how much you agree with Aoun’s party’s approaches, or Frangieh’s, or the Gemayels… You have to consider one thing: each and every one of these guys has blood on his hands. They’ve all participated in the civil war. For me, for that simple fact and that fact alone: they’re all illegitimate.

When you talk about Geagea’s political ideas to someone who disagrees with them, they don’t necessarily disagree with the ideasDo you know how many people Geagea’s militias have killed? Or Aoun’s army? Or any of these people? Every single person in Lebanon knows someone who was killed in the war, because of the decisions made by these same leaders.

It doesn’t matter how good their ideas are. They are illegitimate. You can’t build a country, you can’t build a democratic political system, you can’t even build a dialogue when you put on the table the name of someone who has directly killed someone else’s children, brothers, sisters, parents, friends! Forget the fact that we haven’t judged these people for what they did. They’re a shameful part of our past. We need to deal with it, and put it away. We can’t allow them back on the platform. We can’t let them take the reigns again.

We need new people. We need young, men and women, who can present new ideas, and who can show a clean record for themselves, who have never killed anyone, or who have never spoken poorly about any other human being based on their religion, their gender, their sexual orientation, or whose za3im’s ego they flatter.

We need young leaders who respect other humans, who respect all Lebanese people, and we need to stand behind them, behind their ideas, and honestly… honestly hope they don’t get assassinated.

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