July 21, 2006 - Evacuation Day
In a way I am ashamed to leave. I feel like I’m abandoning the Lebanese who cannot leave. But then again, already people look at me with a puzzled look and say “You still here?” I know my presence here does no one any good; in fact, I’m just one more mouth to feed in days of humanitarian disaster. Even if fighting ended today, and it shows no signs of doing so, Lebanon has been dealt a blow from which she will no doubt rise, but which has set her recovery back by several years. Perhaps physical recovery can be swiftly achieved with international aid, but the long-term damage is of another kind. Lebanon’s sons and daughters were returning after many years overseas. Now they turn away again. There is no way to live here, they say, life is just too difficult. And who can blame them? After all the years of civil war, in which every conceivable local-national-regional-global player was at some point involved, and after the recent years of struggle to throw away the yoke of foreign occupation, everything appears to be crushed in a heartbeat underneath a military boot.
The whole experience of “evacuation” is bizarre. I stopped by my off-campus apartment yesterday only to find a note from my British roommate. He’s been airlifted out of here by helicopter. Another note informs his friend to keep what he wants and sell what he doesn’t want. Windows are open, curtains are fluttering in the wind, and half of my roommate’s wardrobe is left behind, since he could only bring a small bag on the helicopter. Plants that won’t be watered, foodstuff in the fridge that will just be there until someone returns or someone new moves in; it’s just a very strange feeling you get being in an abandoned apartment. It was the first time, I’m ashamed to say, that I was gripped by a slight panic; a feeling that I would be the last one left behind. But that was only for a split second, because then I realized that millions of Lebanese have nowhere to go. They can’t get on a helicopter or a boat and leave. They are doomed to stay here and be extras in whatever horrific show Israel and Hizballah will put on. Again, I feel ashamed. I leave you now, Lebanon, with a quote from one of your greatest sons, Kahlil Gibran:
Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken. But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory, then I will come again, and with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak. Yea, I shall return with the tide, and though death may hide me, and the greater silence enfold me, yet again will I seek your understanding. And not in vain will I seek. If aught I have said is truth, that truth shall reveal itself in a clearer voice, and in words more kin to your thoughts.B'hebbak, ya Loubnan. Stay strong.