martes, 23 de octubre de 2012

Lebanese courage

The recent events in Beirut last week left loads of us with a strange feeling in the gut.

I had never felt before the awful worry of wondering if my friends had died as collateral damage during a political assassination. I had never felt the fear of having lost someone, or maybe something (i.e. home or car). And I had never experienced the feeling of something in my everyday life suddenly being gone.

Believe me, it is not a nice feeling. It is a mix of fear, anxiety, anger and helplessness. And I am just a foreigner, with no extended family and no roots here. This was just one event, and I wasn't even there to see it. I cannot imagine what this would be like if this place was my permanent home, or this incident was only one of many.

This horrible feeling, this post-bomb feeling cannot be shaken easily. It floats like a thick fog in the streets of the lovely city I call home now. The silence is eerie. There are few people in the streets. There is tension in the air. And in the eyes of people around.

I can only start understanding how easily this feeling can turn into hatred. For those that have witnessed bombs before, this event can just be a switch to turn them immediately back on. So many memories these incidents bring back, for so many Lebanese.

I have seen many take the streets and heard reports of people demanding the leadership to step down, or to take control. I have heard stories of people being caught in the street while protesters throw stuff at their car. And I haven't even dared going  near the place where the bomb exploded. It will probably take me months to muster the courage to do that.

But Beirut lives. This morning, kids went to school. Across the street from my house, the workers showed up to the constructions site. Fruit vendors are on the street. Life goes on.

And on my Facebook, e-mail and Twitter I have seen dozens of messages from Lebanese friends asking me - and each other- if everything is OK.  One Lebanese friend offered me the help of his sisters in case I need it. My other friend's father called on my mobile, to check my husband and I are all right.

And all over I see, I read many prayers for peace, words of encouragement and kind offers to help. Restaurants and hotels offering free housing and food for those who lost their home. I have seen moving photos of those who lost loved ones, and slogans calling for strength and tolerance. I have heard leaders call for peace and order and condemning the assassination. There are far many more voices who want peace than those who want violence in this country.

People who kill, people who are willing to kill in order to control, want only one thing: to make others afraid. They want others to be so afraid that they will follow for fear of being hurt if they don't. And they use assassination as a way of saying "You mess with us, this is what happens."

But the Lebanese I see in the street today are not buying it. They are living their lives. They are being kind, loving and concerned for others. They will not give those little people that make themselves big with bombs the pleasure of seeing them scared.

I really admire that.

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