Lebanon separates those who love each other…
Slowly, noiselessly. There have always been political differences and family feuds, not to mention difficult circumstances that have dragged on for many years. It’s not just the war that broke out in 1975 or the various migrations to Latin America, but rather the perennial economic, social and political situation that has led young and old alike to leave for France, Australia, Canada, Britain, Dubai, the United States – anywhere the grass seems greener.
Lebanon separates those who love each other: Parents from their sons, a brother from his sister, a husband from his wife, cousins, nephews. Every family has at least one member living abroad; an expat who we only see once or twice a year, in the best case scenario, because they’re too far and the travel is too expensive. There are people who went to study to get a Master’s degree and never came back. We wouldn’t have let them, anyway. What for? Such farewells are generally imposed on the person leaving by their loved ones because nothing is going well here. Coming back home, for the most part, is no longer an option.
Our lives are no longer the same. We grow up separated. We grow old away from one another. We speak other languages. And we are grateful for technology, like Facetime, that lets us see our mother’s wrinkles and our nephew’s first tooth. This nephew, he is almost virtual, except for the few hours we spend with him every time we come back to Beirut. On our visits for the holidays we have lunch at Entrecote between parties and visits to aunts and cousins. Once a year. We only see each other once a year.
Lebanon separates those who love each other, and it couldn’t care less. It doesn’t care about the sorrow that we endure when our loved ones head to the airport or about the fact that we can no longer stand goodbyes. We can never know if it is a farewell for a short while or if years will go by.
Lebanon doesn’t care about our children’s future because it already neglects their present. It doesn’t care about the hours their parents spent in the past waiting for a phone line to open so they could call those who were fortunate enough to be in exile during the fucking war. It doesn’t care about the parents and grandparents with whom we were unable to spend Christmases and the celebrations at the end of Eid.
Some of us came back because we felt guilty or because we believed in a future with a brighter horizon. But that horizon has darkened. Many who bet on the post-war reconstruction have left. Some have stayed. It is their turn to be seperated from those they love. They made a life in Lebanon, and now their children are making their lives in other countries.
We get married. We start a family. We have children, and we raise them. We cradle them. We tuck them in bed, and we teach them to walk, talk and eat. We comfort and support them. We push them to get an education; to go further, and this is what they end up doing. They go far away, and we ask them to stay there. Their river is now the Seine. Their district is the 15th Arrondissement of Paris, and their corniche is the Atlantic coast. Their rooms in Lebanon are empty all year long, waiting for them to come back for a week or two. After they visit, their rooms, with walls still covered in yellowing posters from their teenage years, become empty again.
Between Skype calls, we miss their socks being scattered across the living room floor where they used to lounge with their friends who have also left – all but one foolhardy friend who, when we see them from time to time, evokes nostalgia for our sons or brothers.
We could’ve grown old sitting with our friends on the benches at the corniche and taken walks with our respective children. Alas, we won’t. Lebanon separates those who love each other and will continue to do so more and more. Month after month, we see friends leave after closing shop and selling their homes. We see our children grow and know they will leave soon too. This is one of the greatest crimes committed by our leaders. They pollute our country, rob us of resources and force our children to leave.
(This article was originally published in French on the 19th of January)