Extremism in Lebanon: Why Are You Shocked The Red Cross Was Banned From A Mosque?

Breaking news out of Lebanon today, because those are very few and scarce, but a Red Cross volunteer had his colleagues banned from entering the mosque where his family was receiving condolences for the passing of his grandmother, just because they were wearing their logo, which happens to be – well – a Cross, albeit having nothing to do with religion.

First with the story was the Facebook page “Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon,” and at thousands of Facebook shares and likes, as well as having the story picked up by various news outlets now, it has definitely gone around, as well as have people in shock and anger.

I’m here to ask the very simple question: why?

To those who are shocked, I wonder if you’ve been so disconnected from life in this country lately that you haven’t noticed the fervent rise of extremism all around you. This isn’t exclusive to a single sect or religion. Of course, some get blamed more than others because it’s more popular to do so, but it is a tangible reality everywhere and in the hearts of many people around you, including people you know.

The time for you to be shocked was years ago. It was when hearing about things such as ISIS was not common place in your news. It was when people didn’t come up with excuses here and excuses there for their religious folks of choice to come off unscathed. It was when people weren’t made to believe that their entire existence in this country depended on the existence of their religious sect. It was when the discussion of an electoral law was not only about a law that allowed people of one sect to vote for that sect’s MPs. It was when I didn’t wake up every morning to the following graffiti outside my building:

Spotted in Achrafieh

Spotted in Achrafieh

The time to be shocked, disappointed, mortified, appalled or whatever you are feeling right now is long behind us. What you can and should do now is hope this is an incident that won’t set precedence, which I think is the case. This was probably the case of a few goons with near subzero IQs and near illiterate education levels deciding to flex their Allah-given muscles, as has become quite customary around this country.

Those people won’t care about explanations that the Cross on the Red Cross’ vest is not actually Christian. They won’t care that women wearing the Hijab can enter Churches whenever they want, albeit to increasing groans, and that people wearing Crosses can enter Mosques whenever they want. No, those are the people whose existence we have loved to dismiss for so long now, toning it down until we made them irrelevant in our minds.

The truth of the matter is that as everything in this country, this too will pass. You will forget about in a couple of days as something more media-grabbing happens. You may be reminded of it by some politician down the road who wants to cash in some political coins, of course.

What I hope this transpires into is more support for the Red Cross, this truly noble organization in the country that has transcended sects and political lines and religions to help people just for the sake of humanity. You want to be mad at those who didn’t let those Red Cross volunteers in at a wake? Go donate.

Ironically, at a time when some Lebanese retards were upset the Red Cross could have entered a Mosque, the Pope was praying at the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Contrast Lebanon with the following picture. As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. I’ve probably written something close to that by now, so you get the picture.
Pope Francis is shown the Sultan Ahmet mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, by Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, during his visit to Istanbul

What’s Worse Than Lebanon’s Lawmakers Stealing Our Right To Vote

June 20th, 2017. Save the date, for it will be the time Lebanon’s current parliament extends its mandate for the third time in a row. Some people like the taste of power. Those who like power in Lebanon can’t get enough of it.

Apart from the ramifications of the extension, many of which you will probably be hearing about until elections happen in who-knows-when, here are a few observations about myself amidst this political fuckery:

  • I’m a soon-to-be 25 year old who, according to our laws and regulations, is basically equipped with full legal responsibilities and whatnot, but I’ve never – ever – voted for anything, and by the looks of it will never do.

Contrast this with my American cousins whose ages range from 20 to 26 and who have voted at least twice so far in the past 2 years alone, the last of which was yesterday. Those Americans… they fight ISIS here, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and they still manage to hold elections every other two years. Teach our politicians, why don’t you?

  • By extending its mandate till 2017, Lebanon’s lawmakers have made sure that I, along with a substantial portion of Lebanon’s youth, will never – ever – get to have a say in who becomes a parliament member.

I will immigrate and be out of the country by 2016. Ironically, I will most likely be attending (but sadly not participating) in the American presidential elections that year, but at least I’ll be able to say that the past 6 years, in which I should have witnessed, in theory, a presidential election, two parliamentary elections and municipality elections, haven’t been election-less, although I have witnessed the Syrian presidential elections on my territory; I guess the situation wasn’t bad enough for that not to happen.

Most of the people I know are against parliament’s mandate extension, and so am I. But somehow, after thinking about this for about the fifteen minutes that it deserves amidst this country’s sewage-like level of politics, I realized that the bigger travesty of this parliament’s extension is that our MPs, or all 95 of them who attended, were so full of themselves that they didn’t see anything wrong with extending their mandate for an extra two years and seven months.

The biggest and sadder travesty that occurred today is also the fact that those same parliament members who have failed to ensure quorum since that first round of presidential elections way back when, have found quorum for the sole purpose of ensuring they can fail to gather quorum for the next two years and seven months, while getting fully paid for their lack of services.

The saddest aspect of today is that there are still Lebanese out there who can’t think for themselves and who think that their politicians of choice were correct in voting the way they voted today or in not attending today’s session, as if those voting for the extension did so unpredictably and those who didn’t attend, while being in the government and making sure none of the regulations needed to make sure parliamentary elections take place are passed, have also effectively supported the extension from the get-go and were searching for the best way to go around mass Lebanese (Christians mainly) scrutiny.

Ironically fitting for Mr. Bassil and his party's MPs to "want to fight the power from inside," don't you think?

Ironically fitting for Mr. Bassil and his party’s MPs to “want to fight the power from inside,” don’t you think?

Today has also revealed exactly how silly, stupid, ridiculous and retarded this whole debacle is with the realization that there are Lebanese people who will actually be voting for parliament members in Kuwait on November 7th (this Friday) and in Sydney, Australia on November 9th (this Sunday) because, as of now, we are all still voters who are supposed to vote for parliament soon, pending the publication of today’s decision in the Official Gazette. What will the votes of those Lebanese amount to? The answer is exactly the same as all our votes: toilet paper for our MP’s behinds.

IMG_8187

But I digress. There are, believe it or not, worse things taking place today thanks to those very lawmakers that should be noted, especially today:

1 – Presidential Elections:

Get this: 97 MPs gathered in parliament today, making up more than 2/3 majority required to vote on major bills, in order to extend their mandate. Those MPs voted 95-2 on the bill in question. However, for the past 6 months, those same MPs have not only failed to gather quorum for presidential electives, many of them have actively campaigned against ensuring such a quorum. By ensuring no president is elected, those MPs have made a nice bundled argument for themselves on the necessity of another mandate extension is required to avoid that dreaded void. If you think about it, it’s a nice little Lebanese catch 22. It’s not that they’re too smart; it’s that they’ve become so accustomed at fooling everyone that they make it seem like what they do is for the best of the Lebanese population they’re busy screwing over day in, day out.

It’s okay, though, who needs a president anyway.

2 – Elections Law

When those 128MPs got to power in 2009, they all agreed that a new electoral law was a necessity to be done in those 4 years during which they would serve their country and citizens. The reality was a vacation for the first two years, a wake up call on year 3, a few months of hectic sprints in year 4, jumping from one absurd law to another more absurd law (you do remember the Orthodox proposal, of course, however long ago that seems right now) until they realized that the whole issue was too tiring and decided to postpone for themselves the first time, saying that they will use those extended 18 months to work on a new law.

How many hours have those MPs spent in those 18 months working on a new electoral law? Approximately 0.

In fact, not only is the lack of an electoral law after more than five and a half years a tragedy, but any electoral law that will arise from this parliament in question will be tailor-made to please everyone and, effectively, keep the status quo as is. Do you really think they’d agree to what’s fair if fairness meant they’d be kicked out of Nejmeh Square?

3 – What If Elections Happened On November 16th?

Let’s assume, however, that our parliament decided that the democratic process was, contrary to actuality, important. Let’s assume that they swallowed their overgrown prides and decided to campaign for our votes in about 11 days and try out for the Guinness World Record for shortest election delay ever. Now that’s something we can teach those Americans. Let me give you an example of the broad array of candidates that I could have voted for in Batroun:

2014

2014

 

The names sound familiar? That’s because you know them all. Gebran Bassil (name #2) is THE Gebran Bassil. Boutros Harb (name #4) is my current MP and the minister of telecom. Antoine Zahra (last name) is the LF-go-to-spokesperson for fiery speeches and my other MP.

Now contrast the above list with that of those who were running for elections before parliament underwent its first extension in June 2013:

2013

2013

I would advise a game of “spot the difference,” but it’d be essentially futile as there are basically none. If elections were to happen on November 16th, our tax money would be spent to make sure that those same MPs, across all Lebanese districts, get not a two year and seven months mandate that is illegal, but a four year mandate that is legal. It’s not just because they made sure we vote based on a law that preferred them, but because we are left without a choice and because the bulk of those who vote, as in the people that exist outside of Twitter and Facebook (they exist!), do not vote the same way we do. And, because who the hell are we kidding, many of us as well would vote for the same people again, just because of familiarity.

4 – They’re Working Overtime

So what has our parliament done in the 18 months of its first extension? They worked of course. Overtime. They worked to ensure that a president is not elected (read point #1). They worked to make sure that the workers’ benefits and whatnot are not voted on, that a quorum is never reached. They worked overtime to make sure that Lebanese students who presented their official exams this year never get results and end up with certificates of passing, the tales of which our parents had told us back when they were going through school during the times of the Civil War.

They worked overtime to make sure a proper bill protecting women from domestic abuse isn’t passed. What we got instead was a maimed piece of legislation, aimed to please this religious leader or that, but still managing to keep our women under the thumbs of their husbands or partners.

They worked overtime not to work on an electoral law, not to legislate a stance from the Syrian war, not to basically do anything except get paid for doing no work in overtime.

5 – The Divide Is Christian/Muslim, not M14/M8

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the past several months on the Lebanese scene is the fact that the game has changed from being a March 14 versus a March 8 game, to becoming full blown Christian blocs versus Muslim blocs over the essential issues in the country, at a time when the Christian-Muslim divide, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is at an all time high.

As Ramez Dagher, on his blog Moulahazat, put it:

What is scary here isn’t that Lebanese politicians lie and steal and deceive and postpone elections. That, we already know. What is truly scary here is that 25 years after Taef, we are starting to witness an obvious rapprochement between the Christian parties while a rivalry between the Muslim blocs and the major Christian ones is becoming more apparent by the day. Every time there’s an important law debated in parliament – Such as the electoral law or the extension law – the rift is yet again Christian/Muslim instead of M8/M14: 10 years after the creation of these alliances , it seems that they were more based on an electoral than ideological ground.

If there was one beautiful thing about the March 8 and 14 alliances, it was that they were religiously diverse. And now – with ISIS on our gates and with vacancy and dysfunction everywhere in the political establishment – is literally the worst time to lose that.

Conclusion:

Too long, didn’t read – the summary to you is as follows: Living in Lebanon is living in shit, but at least we have the biggest platter of hummus, fattouch, lemonade cup, biggest burger, longest falafel sandwich and we’ve officially wed George Clooney to one of our daughters. You’re welcome for the realization.

Can We Get Over MTV’s “Digital” Drugs?

binaural beats mtv digital drugs

Because there’s absolutely nothing newsworthy reporting in Lebanon. Because everything is peachy, happy go lucky, the birds are chirping, the economy is booming, the tourists are coming in droves. Because our news services, notably MTV, have so much air time and so little things to report about, they decide to come up with absolute horseshit to get the Lebanese public into yet another state of panic.

The latest fad: Jdid, jdid… MTV…. Digital drugs.

I saw the headlines a couple of days ago. It sounded exactly like those Upworthy Facebook links you never bother to check. I didn’t click. Then the news kept on growing, and people kept on talking, and parents kept on panicking and I’m sure the news service that “uncovered” such an abomination is proud of itself for leading the viral mania.
A quick google search shows you that such a topic has existed since 2012, but never gained traction. I wonder why that could be.

I figured 7 years of medical school, including heavy duty courses in addiction that cover substances ranging from caffeine to hardcore drugs, including psychiatry clerkships where my colleagues and I never encountered such addicts, were not enough. I’ve seen alcoholics. I’ve seen heroin addicts. I’ve seen people who smoke marijuana by the kilos. But I had never, ever, seen someone addicted to something digital, in the cloud, to an MP3 file.

So I decided to learn, because that’s what science and medicine are: an ever-evolving field where stagnation even if with immense knowledge means you fall behind quite easily, so I hit up my favorite scientific databases. How nerdy.

I tried all different combinations of “binaural beats” and “hallucination.” No results.

I tried “binaural beats,” and “addiction.” Zilch.

But here’s what binaural beats do:

  • They were discovered in 1893, which makes them ancient, and are commonly used in meditation practices.
  • They consist of two tones at slightly different frequencies (get on your high school physics stat), presented separately to the left and right ears, and are perceived by the listener as a single tone. The end result is a perceptual phenomenon known as the binaural auditory beat (get on your high school philosophy perception notes pronto).
  • Scientific research on them has shown that they can affect psychomotor performance and mood, but nothing exists yet on their hallucinogenic effect.
  • There are plenty of things out there that could cause sensations of relief, elation, happiness, affect a person’s psychomotor performance and whatnot. Your favorite songs can make you feel happy. Making love to your partner can affect your mood. Eating chocolate can relieve stress. Practicing yoga has been shown to have tangible effects on the brain.

    There are also plenty of things that haven’t been banned that can cause hallucinations. Many medications that we give at hospitals have such a thing as their side effect. If you lock someone in a room alone for a period of time, they will end up having hallucinations. All of us also get hallucinations around sleeping time. Those are called hypnagogic or hypnopompic. Perhaps they’d want to ban those too?

    What’s also been proven is the existence of a placebo effect. If you give someone a substance and tell them it should do X and Y to them, many will report having felt X and Y occurring. That substance might as well be sugar, and they wouldn’t know. Placebo studies are crucial to the introduction of any new medications to the market. They are required to assess whether that new entity you want to sell is better than what’s already out there, or better than the non-medicated form. It also means that there could be a component to those “subjective” binaural beats reports of “having their mind blown away” that doesn’t scientifically exist.

    Kudos to MTV for bypassing years and years of possible scientific research to come to conclusions that are years ahead of any possible credible scientific paper on the matter. Kudos to those experts as well, flaunting all their expertise at us, good on them for being such professionals at what they do.

    Science Journal? Meh. Nature? That’s even worse. No, MTV is the new leading reference for scientists and doctors everywhere. Now please, educate me more.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is nothing more than what happens, every other year, when a Lebanese TV station decides to re-address satanism and its association with heavy metal. You get “experts” saying that they’ve “proven” that listen to heavy metal music causes a person to deviate from holy religious norms and worship the devils. Those people will then engage in coital activities at cemeteries and commit blasphemy against churches and mosques or whatever. Of course, it’s more often than not pure and utter shit. But people panic anyway, because that’s what media feeds upon.

    I’m not saying binaural beats should be ignored, but who the hell is MTV to decide they should be banned when scientists haven’t studied them yet or have come up to conclusions on their merits, on their hallucinogenic effects, on their effects on brain matter?

    You know MTV, instead of covering such unfounded things like this, and using your power to lend credibility to scientifically unfounded crap, why don’t you give more airtime to other facets of addiction in Lebanon that are more abundant and much, much more accessible and much more scientifically proven to mess people up? Or why don’t you give more airtime to Lebanese areas that exist beyond your “live love Lebanon, let’s bring the tourists over” mantra? Trust me, that’s where the real problems in this country lie.

    How Lebanon Is Bracing Itself For Ebola

    Earlier today, my phone buzzed with a breaking news notification about a patient being investigated for Ebola at a, as of now, unnamed Beirut hospital. An hour or so later, as I had figured, the patient turned out to have malaria. But that didn’t stop people from freaking out about the disease’s possibility of invading Lebanese territory. I mean, it’s only a matter of time anyway as Ebola is the only thing, possibly, that hasn’t strutted across our borders yet.

    At an almost 30% chance of having Ebola spread to it, Lebanon is not at bay. 30% is a lot in medical terms. However, that isn’t to say that nothing is being done regarding the issue or that it’s being ignored as we’ve ignored almost every other pertinent matter that could potentially affect this country. I guess when it comes to health, people pay more attention.

    In a matter of weeks, Ebola has become something that we, as medical professionals (or soon to be medical professionals), had to keep at the forefront of our minds as we saw patients in ERs or in any other setting for that matter for patients who have fever or a constellation of indicative symptoms.

    Back in the old days, we’d start by asking about associated symptoms to try and draw a picture of a syndrome, a viral illness or any possible etiologies that made sense give the season, the condition of the patient, etc. Nowadays, we start by asking: have you had any recent travel history, sir?

    Our cut-off to rule out Ebola in someone who presented from an endemic area, few as those people are, is about 3 weeks. I’ve seen people panic that they’ve encountered someone who visited Lebanon from Nigeria 3 months ago and are currently presenting with fever. No, it doesn’t work that way.

    The Ministry of Health, in its capacities, has circulated memos to Lebanon’s hospital to educate employees, nurses and doctors about Ebola and about the proper ways to handle patients suspected with the disease. I have taken pictures of the memo in question, which you can find as follows:

    When it comes to our airports, however, the story is entirely different. Sure, there’s probably not a massive influx of Lebanese coming from West Africa, but even with the global worry regarding the virus, there’s been basically zero measures at our airport to screen passengers or attempt to keep ebola in the back of their minds, just in case, especially in passengers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. I guess there are more important airport-related issues at hand, such as fixing that A/C.

    The media, on another hand, isn’t doing a terrific job either at spreading awareness regarding the virus or educating people on it in order to decrease mass hysteria and help catch suspected cases earlier, in case they happen to be there as unlikely as that is.

    In a way, Lebanon is better prepared for Ebola than it is for any of our average crisis. Our hospitals are well equipped and can handle such cases extremely well. We have excellent equipment and doctors and, believe it or not, excellent medical management – at least at Beirut’s major hospitals that is.

    The status of Ebola and Lebanon can be summarized as follows: there are more people in Lebanon that have been attacked by MP Nicolas Fattouch than have had Ebola.

    How MP Nicolas Fattoush Proved The Irrelevance of Lebanese Citizens

    Nicolas Fattouch

    When it comes to Lebanon, there’s a lot of crazy that keeps going around. There must be something in the water. Scratch that. There’s no water for anything to be in it. So I assume it must be in the air.

    A quick round on today’s quirky news reveals MTV’s twitter account getting hacked by pro-hezbollah goons who wanted to teach the anti-hezbollah network a lesson in resistance morals. Another round of crazy in Lebanon comes in the form of what I wrote yesterday, about guards in my hometown assaulting Syrians left and right, just because. But of course, as it is natural around this country, there would be something to steal the spotlight.

    I swear, some things you just can’t make up.

    The story goes as follows:

    MP Nicolas Fattouch, of Zahle, known to be the one our government paid about 240 million dollars as compensation for shutting down his illegal quarries, was heading to the justice palace in order to file paperwork, I’m assuming yet another lawsuit.

    The clerk there, a woman named Manale Daou, respectful and helpful as she is kindly asked the parliament member to wait for his turn. As it stands, Mr. Fattouch wouldn’t have it. “I am Nicolas Fattouch,” he said to her, “a member of the Lebanese parliament. I can’t wait.”

    I guess some people are above the rules. Honestly, at this point I don’t know why any of us are even feigning shock, except the story gets better.

    “Of course sir,” Manale Daou replied, “but everyone has their turn.” So naturally, Nicolas Fattouch proceeded to quietly stand in line and wait his turn like the other desperate citizens in front of him stuck in Lebanese bureaucracy  took out his hand and proceeded to punch Manale Daou in her throat. Because she told him to effectively take a number, like a regular Lebanese citizen, like you and I are supposed to do every single day.

    The employees at the Justice Palace then intervened to get the MP off of Manale Daou’s neck. Fattouch’s bodyguards came to escort him out of the building, then LBC reported on it.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I’m sure many MPs, represented by Mr. Fattouch, view you as a Lebanese citizen: irrelevant, worthless, a nuisance, a hurdle, a throat ready to be punched, a voice ready to be squashed.

    Other MPs are doing the latter by extending their mandate for a reported two years, yet again. They’re also suing people who dare speak up against their practices, using your tax money to drag you through a Lebanese circle of legal hell. Fattoush did the former, and will walk away unscathed, untouched, and possibly congratulated by his bodyguard, his people over in Zahle for being the epitome of Lebanese “roujoule,” not standing down to that pest at the Justice Palace. Women should know their place. Lebanese people should know their places.

    In an ideal world, Manale Daou would be able to sue Mr. Fattouch for assault. And she would win. And she would throw him in jail for a few months, topped off with a hefty fine, which is only fair given the amount he was given out of our tax money for his illegal business’s demise.

    In an ideal world, other MPs would stand against their comrade and denounce his behavior. Instead of calling for their next session to be about yet another renewal of parliamentary mandate, they’d call for a session to effectively strip Mr. Fattouch off of his diplomatic immunity, making him as vulnerable to the very fragile Lebanese law as people who aren’t immune are.

    In an ideal world, what MP Fattouch did is considered political suicide. It’s an Anthony Weiner-level scandal, or even worse. At least the latter kept it digital. Mr. Fattouch would then never see the inside of parliament ever again, except on one of those tours that happen every now and then to show Lebanese citizens how beautiful the empty hall of that useless building is.

    Enough with utopian paragraphs, I suppose. In corrupt, maimed, fragmented, despicable and fragmented Lebanon, there are varying degrees of inequality. There are those who are irrelevant, who view rules as something to make everyone’s lives easier, who think there’s a beauty to order and weep at its nonexistence over here, among other things. And there are those who are above standing in line, above the law, above being called corrupt and above facing repercussions for assaulting a woman in broad daylight, at her workplace, in front of her coworkers and leaving the scene without batting an eyelid. In today’s Lebanon, the only discourse pertaining to Fattouch will go as follows: Wayn yo? Just going about my day, bro.

    You are irrelevant. Bask in the hopelessness.

    Update: Manale Daou has reportedly apologized to MP Fattoush and a judge has reconciled the two. What a shame.

    Racism, Bigotry and Anarchy: How My Hometown Is Breeding ISIS

    Welcome to Ebrine

    The sign says: welcome to Ebrine. Huddled on a bunch of hills east of Batroun, my hometown is considered as one of the area’s largest. It is Maronite by excellence. The sign could have also said welcome to Maronistan and you’d still be within realms of accuracy.

    Growing up, I never truly fit there but I liked it nonetheless. It was peaceful, serene, had amazing scenery and, at the time, I thought it provided everything that I needed. Little did I know that a whole spectrum existed beyond the realms of those 7 hills, 2000 voters and dozen Churches.

    My hometown has also lately become a hub where Syrian refugees and workers have aggregated in substantial numbers, or at least as substantial a number can be to tick off the brains of townsfolk that I had thought were kind. I was wrong.

    The argument went: “if those Syrians got slingshots, they’d be able to overtake us.” Yes, 500 Syrians with slingshots overtaking a town of about 4000 people. Because that made a whole lot of sense. So some people in my hometown, without a municipality due to political bickering, decided to devise an ingenious idea: set up guard duty, whereby men whose ages range from prepubescent to senile made sure those Syrians were kept in line, whatever it took.

    Those guards were self appointed, related to whoever felt it was his moral duty to protect the holy Christians of Ebrine from the fictive threat of Daesh looming among those dark Arab faces coming in from that desert to the East. Their duties were also entirely dependent on whatever they felt like doing. They circulated fliers, forcing shops to put them on their storefronts, to make sure that order is kept: you have to make sure the Syrians renting at your places are registered. You are not to hire Syrians to do work around the town. You are not to let those Syrians do anything that any normal human being is supposed to be able to do, because they are not worthy.

    Day X of guarding. A Syrian woman goes into labor in my hometown. It takes her husband an hour between calling this or that to be able to get his wife out of their apartment, into a car and in to the nearest hospital so she can deliver her child. One more Syrian to protect those God-fearing Christians from. What a tragedy.

    Day Y of guarding. A male Syrian worker is kept up by his employer at work beyond the 8PM curfew time for Syrians that the guards of my hometown set up for them. He complains about it because of how worried he was at the impeding hell he’d have to go through at the hands of those guards, manifesting primarily by a lovely town policeman who has been around as far as I can remember, bolstered by a support from the Frangieh household, that has seen him pull through a bunch of corruption scandals and still maintain his position. When that worker reached his home, he had the phone number of his employer at the ready, as the latter had told him to do, to ask the guards to call him. Our town’s policeman looked at that Syrian for a minute and told him: say this to your employer, slapping him across the face so hard he was left with a bruise over his left eye for the following week.

    Day Z of guarding. Another male Syrian arrived from Syria to join his family at the very welcoming town of Ebrine. That young Syrian, aged in the early 20s, didn’t know of the rules that some random self-appointed people at that town had set up. So at 9PM, on the second day of him being in Lebanon, he decided to leave his house and visit a shop at the town renowned for opening late in order to purchase groceries. He was spotted by our town’s policeman. Why are you here was not even asked. Are you not aware of the rules was not even thrown out in the air. The next thing you know, that policeman was hitting that young Syrian like his entire existence depended on it. A few minutes later, he was joined by 5 or 6 other young men from Ebrine, with all their built up testosterone, and they let that young man have it. It wasn’t until his father showed up, and saw his son being tossed around from one macho to the next that they stopped. My son isn’t aware of your rules, he told them. He’s only been here for two days, he pleaded. What a shame.

    I presume a bunch of thank yous are in order:

    THANK YOU to those guards who found it’s their Jesus-given right to protect the townspeople against the nonexistent dangers of Daesh at the heart of Maronistan. I’ve never felt safer, or at ease at Ebrine as I do now. 1984 is alive and well. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

    THANK YOU to the Qa’em Makam of Batroun for turning a blind eye to the practices of those guards and the arbitrary rules they’re setting up for everyone and the sheer immaturity with which they are governing a town that has no actual governing body. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

    THANK YOU to my hometown’s policeman, roaming around with that SUV on which “Baladiyyat Ebrine” is plastered across. I am eternally grateful to those muscles you used to beat up unknowing Syrians whose only fault was them being Syrians renting at the premises of someone you didn’t like. I am eternally grateful to you being the man that you are because if it hadn’t been for that, none of us would be safe and sound. None. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

    THANK YOU to the Frangieh household which has stuck with that policeman through thick and thin. Pistachio goes a long way round this town. Corruption? Who cares. Madness? Nobody gives a shit. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

    THANK YOU to the people of Ebrine who haven’t spoken up against the guards roaming their streets, who believe their presence is absolutely normal, who think those duties are actually protecting them and who have forgotten how it is to live under duress, under an all-seeing eye monitoring your every move. What goes around comes around, indeed. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

    THANK YOU to the Lebanese government, in all its facets, for turning a blind eye to the rising self-governance taking place across the Lebanese republic. Extending the mandate of parliament is definitely more important. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

    Some people, like those guards and that policeman, deserve Daesh. So, in frank Lebanese let me tell them: tfeh.

    How Jackie Chamoun’s Breasts “Ruined” Lebanon’s Flawless Reputation

    We are a country with a body image. Literally.

    The Lebanese candidate to the skiing segment of the Olympics, Jackie Chamoun, is making the rounds lately due to a nude photo shoot that she underwent last year. The reason her pictures are making the round this year is simply due to her becoming known subsequently to her moderate national exposure post Olympics fever.

    Naturally, in pure Lebanese fashion, what Jackie Chamoun did is being turned into a national scandal, of her disgracing our country by baring her breasts to the ice cold of Faraya and the lens of a foreign photographer.

    This is the video in question:

    Are breasts only scandalous when they’re Lebanese?

    Jackie Chamoun isn’t the first nor will she be the last Lebanese woman to take off her clothes for a camera lens. A few months ago, a reputable website in the country turned pictures of a woman named Rasha Kahil, taken back in 2008, into a matter of national importance. How dare she reveal her private parts to the entire world? Does she have no shame? Doesn’t she have in the perfect reputation of her country in mind while doing such heinous acts?

    When it comes to sex, we have a long way to go. Perhaps things are slowly changing. But there’s more to Lebanon than Beirut and its surroundings.

    Why is it that Lebanese T&A is highly susceptible of immediately becoming a scandal, of being extrapolated to a figurative matter of national identity, of becoming a national crisis? Aren’t they just breasts?

    Is it because there’s a fear that such behavior would somehow diffuse off of a computer screen? Is it because of a fear that what those women do will somehow ruin the minds of those who don’t do similarly? Or is it because what those women do does not fit with some people’s moral code of choice?

    Why is this country so in love with gossip that things are very rarely seen as they are? Why do we over-sensationalize meaningless things when we have so many other things that have inborn sensationalism?

    I can think of so many things that warrant are true scandals about this country, that warrant a discussion much, much more than Jackie Chamou’s breasts. At the top of my head, I can think of the several explosions that have taken place within the past couple of months alone and the fact that they’ve become second nature to life in this place. I can think of a TV station that figured instagramming the body parts of a suicide bomber was a good idea. I can think of the fact that we haven’t had a decently functioning government for the past year and nor will we have one for the next year, it seems. I can think of the fact that presidential elections are literally in 3 months but we’re still waiting for the savior president’s name to be “inspired” by neighboring countries. I can think of the fact that going to a mall requires you to go through more checkpoint than an airport’s border control. I can even think of the graffiti artist that was arrested only two days ago by some unknown party’s henchmen because of him being at the “wrong” place. I can even think of the many pictures of the living conditions of some Lebanese in the North that should be scandalous.

    I just need to take a look around and open my eyes to the realization that I am living in a disintegrating country to ask myself the following question: what spotless reputation is Jackie Chamoun “ruining” and why is there outrage that the Lebanese Olympic committee should have known of her past behavior?

    I’m not saying that what Jackie or Racha or any other unknown Lebanese woman whose pictures have yet to surface did is something that all women should do. I’m not saying that women whose choice of attire or of lifestyle is more conservative are backward thinking and detrimental to the cause of their gender. It’s far from the case. This isn’t about the cliche debate that naturally finds its way to pop up in such settings: veils versus nudity. How about neither?

    What this is actually about is the importance and privacy of personal beliefs and how this country views your private beliefs as entirely up for grabs. It’s about how those personal beliefs, whether they fit with yours or not, are not a matter of national importance nor are they something that should be sensationalized into a scandal when there are so many other things for us to get angry about. What this is about is, perhaps, about the importance of not being insecure in your choices – whatever those choices may be, assuming they’re within a legal context obviously – and not be ashamed of them in any way whatsoever.

    Jackie Chamoun is a beautiful and sexy woman who did absolutely nothing wrong. It’s sad that she will end up being named and shamed for something as silly as what she did. It’s sad that a few simple and sexy photographs will overshadow her professional skiing skills. It’s sad that some people’s well-rooted insecurities will overshadow and overcomplicate her choice.

    What’s even sadder is that a country in as deep a shithole as Lebanon gets up in a fit about all the wrong things when there are so many things to get up in a fit about while no one simply does. But I guess living in a lala land where we have the prerogative of turning some pictures into a scandal is better than waking up to this reality. It’s much easier to believe, it seems, that Jackie Chamoun’s breasts are singlehandedly ruining Lebanon’s spotless and flawless reputation.