I know people mean well when they tell me that they are glad that I am back in the States and am not still in Lebanon. They are trying to tell me that they care. I know this but I do not like the assumption that their good heartedness is based on: that Lebanon is dangerous and unsafe. Sure some parts are unsafe, they may have been especially unsafe this past Tuesday, but how is this different from living in certain parts of the U.S., say New Orleans for instance? Quite frankly, I felt safer in Lebanon than I have felt almost anywhere and I have done my share of traveling.
Another reason their comments make me uncomfortable is because they make me feel that Lebanon can be written off. Expressing positive feelings that I am not in a country that just had serious riots doesn't directly mean this, I know, but being able to see such political turmoil as happening elsewhere is a way to disassociate oneself from the events. Out of sight, out of mind.
When I was in Lebanon, people who may not usually have a chance to think of Lebanon were able to personalize it in some way. Now, people who know me do not have to feel connected to Lebanon anymore.
Some of my feelings of discomfort are also my own. There is a side of me that wishes I was there yesterday and today expressing solidarity and living through this difficult time too.
I know that this isn't realistic. I have a job and a life here. I am doing good work and am learning many skills so that I can continue to help others as life goes on. I can also use my resources to become more informed and to possibly even influence U.S. policies towards Lebanon and Palestine. This is what I tell myself.
And in case you follow the news, yes, the U.S. is planning to offer $770 million dollars and other countries plan to offer additional support. I just ask you to remember that many of the weapons that the Israelis used on Lebanon this summer were supplied by the U.S., that the U.S. dragged its feet this summer and let the Israelis destroy Lebanon for over a month, and that the U.S. publically supported Israel. In addition, this money will not be used to reform the Lebanese sectarian system or to decrease the disparity between those that have and those that do not. If Lebanon is ever to know longterm peace, these two things need to happen.