Monday, July 10, 2006

Thinking about Lebanon

I have been starting to think about my upcoming trip to Lebanon. Just starting. I have a travel agent looking for my ticket and I have called people who are going on the trip with me, all in an attempt to make the trip seem real. But still, it doesn't feel like I am truly going in three months.

Three months. Lebanon still feels years and miles away.

I think Lebanon turned into an idea for me, not a reality. For so long it seemed like a place that was out of my reach, a place I had lived as a child but that was so far away and so expensive to travel to that I would never return. Not to mention the safety issue. When my family left, neighborhoods were being shelled and people were being killed. Soon after we left, westerners began being abducted, Israel invaded, and Palestinian refugees were massacred at Sabra and Shatila.

While my friends in the U.S. could walk down a street and show me where they grew up, I could not.

And so Lebanon became a metaphor for me. I remembered driving by refugee camps on my way to the American School as a child and naively wanting to help by sweeping the streets. I remembered bullet hole ridden buildings that seemed reminiscent of coral and made sure to keep my little collection of "shells."

Lebanon also became the place where my strong beliefs developed. I remembered staring at a gun a friend of my mother's carried into our house. I do not remember if I held it but nevertheless I can remember what it felt like, heavy and cold, a tool of death. I also remember telling this friend that I did not believe in guns, that I did not believe that violence solved anything. I was no older than 13 but probably younger.

I remember how safe my friend Mansour felt with U.S. ships in the harbor and how I kept on thinking that my country was nothing but a pot stirrer, sticking its nose into everything and not making anything better.

I also remember being pissed that people were kicked out of their country. It wasn't right.

Lebanon became my impetus for almost every instinctual, appearingly illogical and inconsistent move I ever made.

It was Lebanon that caused me to study ceramics as an undergraduate and comparative literature as a graduate.

It was Lebanon that sent me to the South Texas colonias and later the returned refugee community of Nueva Union Maya in Guatemala.

Lebanon was also behind my Masters in Social Work and my work with Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and with perpetrators of domestic violence.

The country has made me stubborn and judgemental, often only seeing black and white. You are either committed to social change and have a purpose or you are not and are self serving and naive.

On the other hand, the country has also made me realize my limitations and has given me the strength to work on them, for non-violence must begin within myself.

And so, I will visit this place that has been imbued with so much influence over my life. What willl I find when I get there? Will it lose its power? Will it just become another 21st century capitalist country struggling to climb up tiers of the global economic ladder? Will it look like any other city with its glass buildings and malls?

No matter. Its time to pop the bubble and keep on moving on my path, whatever that is.

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