“It’s ours!” – Political discourse in Lebanon
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 10, 2008
The third anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s assassination is this Thursday, Valentine’s Day, and March 14 is holding a rally downtown to commemmorate Hariri’s death.
(March 14 is the coalition of former militia-men, businessmen of questionable corporate virtue and zu3ama that holds the majority in Lebanon’s dyspeptic government; as opposed to the minority, the coalition of former militia-men, businessmen of questionable virtue and religious leaders that represents the majority of the Lebanese population.)
Although most front-line March 14 politicians make me queasy, I usually have great respect for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a March 14’er and life-long friend of Hariri. Unlike most political figures in Lebanon, he has put serving his country ahead of feeding his ego. But I think his affection for Hariri has clouded his judgment: this weekend he declared that this February 14 will be a national holiday.
In other words, Thursday will be a day to rally not for Hariri, but for the coalition of political interests that has succeeded him. Of course, I won’t mind the day off from work – and M, who lives near downtown, has invited us for lunch on their terrace, so we can watch the rally while enjoying the comforts of chaise lounges and two fluffy Persian cats.
But I do mind the politicization of the day, and I do mind the advertising campaign that March 14 has been running to promote the rally.
The billboard below is the companion piece to one I wasn’t able to find in a photograph-able spot. That billboard says:
2005: We went out [to Martyrs’ Square downtown, where the rallies are held] and they [the Syrian army] withdrew.
The billboard below shows a photograph of Syrian soldiers leaving Lebanon in April 2005 superimposed over an image of Hariri as a martyr:
It says: 2008: Go out [to the rally in Martyrs’ Square] [so] they do not return
A bit aggressive, I think, and rather bald in its suggestion that the opposition wants to bring Syrian troops (and Syrian control more broadly) back to Lebanon.
I caught the billboard in the process of changing to the next poster – the one that really irks me:
The billboard below gets me steamed each time I see it:
The martyrs are our martyrs
The square is our square
Forget civic identity. Forget national feeling. Forget the belief that all citizens have the same right to access public space.
Since the 19th century, Martyrs’ Square (or the Place des Canons, as it was known then) has been a nexus for interaction between all Lebanese. No one owned Martyrs’ Square: it was the site for social, ethnic and religious mixing as Beirutis gathered to drink coffee in the cafes or to see a movie at Beirut’s early cinemas, or to take a tram from one part of the city to another.
I find it absolutely disgusting that this group of men, who claim to be working for Lebanon, have so little patriotism. Lebanon needs leaders who respect public space, who appreciate the value of a square whose historic function has been to bridge the gaps that separate people in this fractured country.
Shouting “mine, mine” has no place outside a kindergarten. Whether Christian or no, we are all called to be builders of men (and women). What kind of men and women are you building, March 14, with your rhetoric of possessiveness instead of sharing?