A homeland could be one’s birthplace or where one’s roots have been put down. It could also be the place where one’s ancestors have settled for centuries. Homeland is a place of safety, warmth and prosperity. A place to start a family, raise children or establish thriving businesses. A homeland is a place of service through good citizenship; where one serves the country, the community or the neighborhood. A homeland holds a place for hope; a hope for a better future generations to follow.
Now enough with the definitions. Let’s look at this homeland we call Lebanon. So we were born here, raised here, some of us probably immigrated during the late 1970’s, 1980’s, early 1990’s or after 2005 because wars, assassinations and bombings just never seem to end here, do they? Maybe some of the Lebanese didn’t leave, not because they’re patriotic or anything but because they never got the chance to experience the expatriate life. Maybe some never left because they truly believed this country had something to offer besides all the misery. They had hope that one day the pre-civil war Lebanon would somehow be resurrected, tourists would be flooding again, news reports and documentaries about Lebanon’s magical beauty and hospitality would be aired on global TV networks, tabbouleh, kibbeh and hummus would be iconic dishes on every menu of every restaurant on the planet, confidence in our banking and economic system would be regained, and faith in a united Lebanon would be restored.
I was one of those believers. Those six years of my life spent in the Gulf have strengthened this faith as I longed for my family, friends, bustling streets, and stormy winters. I could never feel at home as an expatriate no matter how hard I tried. I would never buy a home there or make any long-term investments for my children. Eventually I’d be back, I said. Sooner than later, I’d be back “home” again. My circumstances speeded up my return. I knew things would never be easy as I found myself forced to take care of two children on my own. But that was ok, I’d be “home” at least, I said. I knew every street like the palm of my hand. I could finally communicate with people who spoke my dialect without having to talk awkwardly or mispronounce words. I’d re-establish my old friendships and realize old dreams. Or so I thought.
The reality of this fragmented aching country slapped me in the face. Although I’d felt all those changes every time I’d visit during the summer or winter breaks, living those changes day by day is some sort of torture. The kind of torture you’d never think someone who always believed in Lebanon so much she practically had to live on anti-depressants and anti-spasmodic medications while she lived away would ever deserve. Yes, I believed Lebanon would heal, just like I would when I’d come back. Although I’ve pretty much adjusted to the low living standards, just like everyone else, Lebanon didn’t get any better. It just kept getting worse and worse. The situation can be very much summed up in one word that describes yet another unaddressed crisis on the government’s long list of shortcomings….zbeleh (garbage). Trash, garbage, rubbish whatever you want to name it, that’s what you’ll find on our streets, that’s what you’ll also find in our media, our economy, government, parliament, departments, systems. We are literally DROWNING in trash like never before. As our filthy curbs keep piling up with trash bags and waste products, intense feelings of frustration and rage are piling up inside our hearts. We, the people, are simply fed up. FED UP with power cuts, political conflicts, sectarianism, judicial fails, procrastinations, neglect, empty promises, lies, just fed up with everything in this country basically.
Calling Lebanon a country would only be just if it was headed by a President and had fair elections, if the whole sectarian system was annihilated and all deputies, ministers and people in power were held accountable for all the fraud and depravity that’s been plaguing every single square meter of this land. The people are just fed up with the low security level and the alarmingly high crime rate. How can “home” be so unsafe, so unbearable? I honestly never had more regrets in my life than I have today for not staying abroad longer. What on earth was I thinking?! Now you might say I’m the ungrateful child who only likes an air-conditioned home stocked with good healthy food and powered by 24-hour electricity. But what if I told you that it’s my RIGHT to receive such facilities and I would be underprivileged if I’m denied any of these services? What if I told you that with the insanely high electricity, phone, water and service bills, I’m entitled to living a comfortable life? But would I ever live comfortably if I keep wishing for change and not being a part of it? Not likely.
I’d like to think news about Lebanon’s revival would make international headlines one day. And I’d really like to believe in Lebanon like I always have. But unless the roots of corruption are eradicated, no project that would bring peace and happiness to this land would ever see the light.
I’d like to think of Lebanon as my homeland again, as right now it’s only my birthplace. What I’d really like most of all is for this birthplace to offer me a dignified and peaceful death if it insists on denying me a dignified and peaceful life.