Rest in Peace Lebanon’s March 14th

My name is Elie Fares. I will soon be 23 years old. I am a Lebanese citizen. I also happen to be born into a Maronite family. My registry number is 44. I vote in Ebrine, in the Batroun Caza.

I remember prior to 2005 when a friend asked me in class: “enta 3awne aw ouwwatje?”

I looked at him blankly. Both those words were foreign to me. I didn’t know what “3awne” or “ouwwatje” meant. So I just shrugged and said neither. Why didn’t I know what “3awne” or “ouwwatje” meant? Because we never discussed such things in my household. The only thing that got transiently mentioned among my parents was the need for the Syrian army to leave from my hometown back then. And that was my only political truth back then. Get the Syrians out of my country.

Up until 2005, I never believed in anything political. I never thought I’d be interested in politics. I remember getting the news of February 14th while my school bus drove me home. I looked at the driver worryingly: what would this mean to my country?

I didn’t like Rafic Hariri. He had been with the Syrians for way too long. But I had come to appreciate him switching sides over the past previous months and the hope I saw in my parents’ faces as they spoke about voting for the “opposition” in the upcoming elections, hoping to change things.

I watched the news like every other Lebanese. I saw hundreds of thousands go down to Hariri’s funeral. I saw the youth of Lebanon run to the streets every week. I saw the army trying to stop them from gathering. I saw people sit down in Martyr’s Square to fight for a freedom my country longed for. I saw more than a million Lebanese fill the streets of Beirut on March 14th 2005. I felt my heart fill with joy as I hugged two of my friends who happened to be of opposite political affiliations (one is ouwwatje, the other is 3awne). I felt on top of the world. I felt like I could change things. I felt empowered. I felt proud to be Lebanese – and nothing, to me back then, could change that.

The following day in an Arabic class at school we started discussing what happened with our teacher. My entire class had gone down to the protest. One of the two friends I hugged told the professor that the country seems to be heading in the right direction for the first time in a long time. Everyone was united in one cause – there was a “minority” which didn’t agree.

Our teacher said similar sentiments had surfaced before in the public but were short-living. My friend shrugged his words off. My teacher was right. The 2005 elections rolled around and I found myself taking sides. I decided then to become a supporter of the “ouwwet.” My friend was “3awne.” My parents, like so many other Christians that year, voted for Aoun. I had never seen my mom that resilient about voting for someone except perhaps when she voted the opposite way in 2009. I actually feel proud of that moment too – the fact that I came into my own political opinion independently of my parents, even opposing them. Therefore, I feel offended whenever someone infers that my political opinion was instilled in me by my parents due to excessive repetition.

The people, though, were not united anymore. My friends and I became on opposite sides. And years started passing as the divide grew bigger. The July 2006 war happened and we took sides then. Following the July 2006 war, March 8 set camp in downtown and I looked upon them in disgust. They were the “bajam” hurting our economy, damaging our reputation, working against the country I wanted to build. Their sit-in lasted two years during which my hate towards them grew. And my friends stopped talking to each other. But March 14th fought onwards, or so I thought, until a few months into 2008, the country’s real crisis began.

The May 2008 events happened and we also took sides. I was an AUB student who was forced to stop going to class for two weeks. I remember braving the protests on their very first day and going to classes, which were supposedly going to be held. My chemistry class had eight people. Our Jordanian teacher gave us a lecture about the importance of our country. That lecture was probably the most memorable one in my entire three years at AUB.

Starting with 2005, politicians got assassinated and innocent people got killed and we took sides. And with each March 14 politician dying, my resolve to support them grew stronger. How could anyone not see that they were the only ones being targeted? How could anyone not see exactly how wrong it was to support those “others” who were not suffering because of their love for the country?

The 2009 elections rolled by I had so many quarrels with family members because they wanted to vote for “the others.” I had heated debates with elderly people who reverted to civil war times in their talk, telling me I was “too young” to understand. But we won and I felt happy. I felt like we could now, possibly, take the country forward.

But then it started going down hill. Forming the government took such a long time. But I blamed Bassil and his father in law for not seeing the disgrace of his son in law’s loss in my region. The government eventually got formed but it wasn’t effectively ruling. It was all color by number – let us get the wheels of the country to move as smoothly as possible without damaging the very fragile equilibrium of sects that we so proudly paraded around to show our diversity as a nation. I started blaming Hezbollah for being armed and for not letting us rule. I blamed Aoun for spinning faster than a weather vane. I blamed Aounists for being so hateful to Geagea that they couldn’t see the many problems in their leader of choice.

And I saw March 14th start to go downhill but I still had hope that one day things might change again. I saw them make mistakes but I always deflected the criticism that March 8 people ran at me with: “Shut up, you’ve done much worse.” And to me, that was the absolute truth. They were ones to talk – ruining my country with their love for Iran and Syria, two countries that I despised.

So on March 13th 2011, I braved the cold of the snowstorm that had just subsided and figured it was divine intervention that the weather was that good when it was snowing the day before and I went down to Downtown Beirut to protest my right as a citizen to live. I went down in hope that being present there would reinvigorate the political movement I staunchly supported. I went in hope that being there would get the politicians I supported to man up and know that they have people who support them and who want them to take back the country from those who stole it by the force of their black shirts. I went down and felt proud doing so. But it was all in vain.

Nothing changed after that. The country only went further downhill. I continued believing that March 14th was the lesser of the two evils, the less hypocritical bunch out of the two, the saner one. But as I saw radical Islamists become part of their base supporters, I began to wonder where was the youth that was the heart of March 14? Was it replaced by bearded men who were enabled by some of March 14th’s politicians to enact out agendas that they were too cowardly to do?

I saw those politicians start leaving the country one by one, fearing for their lives. And I was here, struggling through everyday life because I did not matter. I was nothing more than an irrelevant individual compared to them. I still am. But I still convinced myself that it wasn’t all too bad. Our current problems were all to be blamed on the one-sided government that was making our lives hell with its inaptitude. I wasn’t getting neither electricity nor water in the heart of a capital that was losing its identity to foreigners who only visited it a few months per year. I was reaching the realization that my prospects in the country were as limited as they can get. I got to the realization that Lebanon is not the country I wanted to live in. I was broken.

I went to France. I saw how it is for people to truly live without worrying about the meaningless things that cause anxiety in us in Lebanon. I lived the life that I could have been living if my country hadn’t been such a mess, if my politicians truly cared about making my country better, if my country hadn’t been in the fancy geographical location we always brag about, if my country hadn’t been this chaotic mix of segregated people who had absolutely nothing in common among them except the ID card that they believe ties them together.

But I carried on with life because that’s what you do. I went to classes, working to leave one day to a place that would appreciate what I had to offer. And then Wissam Al Hassan got assassinated.

March 14th immediate reaction was to call for the government to collapse and to blame the prime minister. And I started wondering what good would that do. March 14th called on people to start going to Martyr’s Square to protest. They had no plan except to get the people there. I expressed my concern with the matter only to have their followers barrage me about living in high towers, behind a computer, blogging, while the country burned. I was used to getting criticism from both parts of the spectrum as I criticized parties in both (yes, even though I am politically affiliated, I still managed to criticize my party.) March 14th then called on their supporters to come down to Downtown Beirut in order to turn the funeral of Wissam Al Hassan into a national event for their rejuvenation. I refused to go. They had no plan. They didn’t know what they were doing except to get the people worked up. They only wanted Mikati to resign. They couldn’t answer the simple three-word question: And after that?

The funeral was supposedly a Lebanese matter. Few were the Lebanese flags there. There were Brazilian flags, some from Bangladesh and others from Uzbekistan. I failed to see the relevance. But the majority of flags there were of the Syrian revolution. The only thing Lebanese about the funeral were the people and the location. Its heart was entirely not there. The heart of it was not the man who was about to be buried.

As I watched the funeral on TV and saw Wissam Al Hassan’s boys weep their father, I felt sorry for what they were going through. What should have been a personal matter to them became a national event. What should have been Al Hassan’s family taking their time with what remained of their father became a televised event as politicians worked the crowds that were beyond angry. Then those people that were supposedly attending a funeral decided to turn Downtown Beirut into mayhem as some irrelevant journalist became relevant when he was given a loud voice.

I looked as people from the party I supported attacked barricades and fought to get to the Grand Serail. In order to do what? I had no idea. I looked in disgust as the funeral of a respectable man suddenly became a national circus. I looked in disgust as the politicians of March 14th turned the last memory of a man whom they were milking politically into what I was seeing in front of me. Then their supporters started using the same rhetoric that I had used before to justify what was happening. And those excuses didn’t work with my conscience anymore. It doesn’t mean we should do the heinous stuff that took place just because they excel at them. This is not how you build anything, let alone a country.

There was no justification for what happened. March 8 have done worse is not a justification – but I still refuse to see a March 8 person criticize what happened. They’re ones to talk.

March 14th became a hypocritical movement. It became a movement that I didn’t want to be associated with. It’s no longer a movement that wants to build a country. It’s no longer a movement I feel as comfortable voting for as I did a couple of days ago. It’s no longer a movement of youth that make me feel proud, it’s that of youth that make me feel nauseous. It’s no longer a movement of people who got to believe in it on their own accord, but that of people who either grew up hearing their parents ramble on about it or people who support it out of pure sectarian principles. It’s no longer a movement that can drive Lebanon out of its stillbirth. It’s no longer a movement that can make Lebanon a free country by design as opposed to the free result of a lucky break in a neighboring country. March 14th is no longer there. It is a shell of what it used to be. The dream of it is dead. March 14th is dead. And this is its obituary.

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39 thoughts on “Rest in Peace Lebanon’s March 14th

  1. March 14 and March 8 are actually two faces of the same coin. One of them might seem like the lesser of two evils, but when push comes to shove, they both end up acting exactly the same way.

    If we want real change, we have to look completely elsewhere.
    I have put my hope and free time with the “Take Back Parliament” campaign, we can’t expect those same people to give us a better alternative we have to start working on one ourselves.

    http://vote2013.org/%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%AD%D9%86%D8%9F/

    Reply
    • With all respect, The butcher and the butchered cannot be two faces of the same coin.
      Grow up. Man up and take a side. Cut this (oh to hell with all of them) crap just because you don’t have enough political education to see what’s going on.

      Reply
      • Simon, you realize that using loaded emotional term such as butchered and butcher is what kids do when they have no real political arguments?

        March 14 voted for Berry as head of parliament the first occasion they got majority. Please go out of your way to explain how the “butchered” voting for the “butcher” is the most natural thing to do for people with enough political education like yourself. Or maybe you were still in your early twenties filled with idealism and too blind to notice how fucked up that move was.

        They would both do whatever it takes, no mater how bad for the country, to gain some political points.

        Some of us saw through their political opportunism back then and knew it was a recipe for disaster… some of us today… some of you tomorrow and some of you never.

        But by all means vote for the same people in every election maybe *this time* you’ll get a different result, hehehe.

        Reply
  2. I am loosing direction. i never was very polarized but my political vote went to FPM. Last saturday i watched a documentary on AlJAdeed TV, about the Lebanon and Syria, i really felt disgusted with aoun and geagea, like two kids fighting stupidly, the facts may be the same , but i saw it in a new light

    the first truth i realised:

    both are stupid, dragging us into war while they could have resolved the issue peacefully.
    both are liars
    we are stupid for not questioning and being critical
    we are living a lie, but i dont yet know the truth.

    Reply
  3. I am loosing direction. i never was very polarized but my political vote went to FPM. Last saturday i watched a documentary on AlJAdeed TV, about the Lebanon and Syria, i really felt disgusted with aoun and geagea, like two kids fighting stupidly, the facts may be the same , but i saw it in a new light

    the first truth i realised:

    both are stupid, dragging us into war while they could have resolved the issue peacefully.
    both are liars
    we are stupid for not questioning and being critical
    we are living a lie, but i dont yet know the truth.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: How Three Words Destroyed a Political Comeback « Moulahazat | A Lebanese Political Blog

  5. I come from a house where politics is only rarely a topic of discussion. True, my father was the “activist” that he was back during the civil war, and true that his main motive was something that he truly believed in, fought for, and still does (regardless of the fact that the people that fought along his side once, now fight for an opposite cause/camp), but still, politics was never an interest of mine. I used to ridicule my family members for supporting either of the two disgraceful camps.

    I did have a certain belief that my country should be a strong one; a country run by the Lebanese people, their representatives and their political leaders, and not by international intelligence (whatever country the word “international” might imply). For that reason alone, I supported the ideas – never the people – of the March 14 blocks. It’s such a disappointment to see the dream crumble to the ground…. burn into dust…. dead.

    Very nicely worded Elie.

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading Firas,

      I am a staunch supporter of one of the two camps and I used to get into fights with people like you who’d ridicule me for supporting a camp over the other.

      Reply
  6. You’re on a roll. This is one of the most honest things I’ve read recently, hats off. Your story resonates with me as well. I was just like you, but perhaps from a more politicized household. But I still managed to form my own political opinion. And I’m deeply disappointed by what the sacrifices of all the martyrs of M14 turned into: a sharada, a lie… A “freakshow” as you said.
    But one thing to be said, this is nothing compared to what M8 have done.

    Reply
  7. They need to go back to basics, they need to crack down on the Islamists among them. They need to speak to the youth of Lebanon with messages that are sane, not shit like the stuff that Koteich a**hole said yesterday.
    It’s a testament to how low they’ve sunk when they’re working on making such a man an MP next year just because he’s shi3e. Disgusting!

    Reply
  8. I’m sorry Elie, but I felt this piece of writing is a tad on the naive and simplistic side.
    I hear the same rhetoric from 17 year olds that think they have everything figured out politically.

    I wonder where we would have been be without 14th of march. Stuck on the bottom of Syrian / Iranian boot, that’s where.

    Give the 14th of March a break.

    The Hezb / Syrian intelligence apparatus have been hunting us like rabbits since 2004, and the “other” side (FPM, etc.) either acts stupid, treats us like simpletons accusing Israel and spewing out retarded convoluted arguments, or endorses the invasion of Beirut with their “holy” arsenal of weapons. But death to 14th of March if a 5-min violence outbreak is shown by anger-filled audience, even if it was quickly curtailed by their leaderships. Why the double standards?

    We have been acting out of care for this country for too long, turning the other cheek and refusing violence for too long, and it only encouraged further insolence from the 8th of Marchers.

    People are full of anger. Let’s leave what happened at that. It’s not as if 14th of March have a magic stick or crystal ball that allows them to make instantaneous decisions. That man that was murdered (not a “funeral” like you put it) was killed because he exposed the diabolical plans being put by the Syrian dictator and his Lebanese cronies. Didn’t hear anything from you at that.

    When Rafic El-Hariri was killed, had we acted in a calculated way, the Syrian regime would still have held us with an iron grip.

    We are done negotiating with a bunch of killers and their endorsers (regardless of their political affiliation). The kind of people that called May Chidiac unfit for running for elections because she would fill “HALF A CHAIR”. As if their physical terrorism wasn’t enough.

    You feel the other side is so much greener, well be our guest. Let’s cut the crap, to each his own country. We’ll meet in 20 years and see who chose the shorter stick.

    Reply
    • “But death to 14th of March if a 5-min violence outbreak is shown by anger-filled audience, even if it was quickly curtailed by their leaderships. ”

      14 March died when Lahoud was allowed to serve his whole term. Their incompetence has been on display ever since.

      You’re not getting the point. It’s not this side or that. It’s a 3rd side of people who are fed up with the 14 March leadership and wishes to be represented by more competent people who aren’t just looking forward for the next elections, but want to actually build a country.

      Reply
      • 14th did make mistakes. The way I see it, they were naive thinking that by giving concessions they can drag the other side out of their entrenchment vis-a-vis Iran and Syria.
        Like they say in Arabic, always acting as “Emm el Sabe” (mother of the child) (read the eponymous story from the Old Testament if you don’t know its gist).

        But what they didn’t know is that they were dealing with professionals in the art of lies, deception, and dogmatism.

        And when they finally said no more concessions, everyone goes up in arms against them.

        Reply
    • Wow, this was a xenophobic heap of cow dung. I’m torn between replying to it and printing it on toilet paper. Divide the country? That’s your solution? It’s funny how you even have the nerve to go around telling other people they don’t have “enough political education to know what’s going on”. There are armed forces affiliated with both 14 and 8 March crawling around the city.
      I won’t even dignify this with a proper response. I’ll just say this: You and the people who think the way you do are the reason there are armed men in the streets as we speak. Those of us who think it is imperative to take sides simply because the people on the fence are “not man enough” should probably find some other, less destructive (and maybe even less cowardly) way to compensate for their missing testicles. I suggest you retreat to a corner and continue thinking about the “magic stick and crystal balls” you mentioned earlier.

      Reply
      • Yet another one misses the point.
        By manning up, I did not mean to carry arms. In fact, can you name me one 14th of March politician who pushed the followers to armed conflict?

        By manning up, I meant manning up to the murderous bunch, Syria, Hezb and their cronies.

        If we wanted to be armed, trust me, by know you would have known. No photoshopped images needed.

        Reply
      • I can’t see what’s wrong in wanting to secede from a party of people that have radically different view of Lebanon from the way we see it, who committed endless crimes against our populace and our politicians, who are armed to the teeth and impose their rules for the political game by placing a smoking gun on the negotiation table, and who have no shame declaring their military support for 2 bloody dictatorships, on the expense of their country.

        When plates start flying every day, sometimes a divorce is better than forced co-existence.

        Reply
    • > You feel the other side is so much greener, well be our guest.

      Can you please show us where he said the grass on the March 8 side is greener?

      I wonder if you really have comprehension problems and you can’t understand what he is saying, or you understand but your best argument is to put words in his mouth that he did not say.

      Reply
    • Hey Simon,

      You know what’s ironic? It’s that I’ve had 10 year olds say the same thing you said on Monday. I guess simplicity and naivety are in the eye of the reader.

      I didn’t discredit the accomplishments of M14 as my piece has made it clear. I am/was/whatever their supporter since before the movement started. But they have reached a place where I cannot fathom supporting them without being a hypocrite who absolutely hates what they’re doing.

      Sure, the people are angry. Does that in any way justify what’s happening? Maybe to you, surely not to me. I’ve written about the double standards before but enough is enough. The people beddo yendabb ba2a houwe w 7asabo yalli bidall 7eme.

      The Hezb is assassinating people, perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn’t. And I went down to the streets on March 13th, 2011 to protest that. What good did that do?

      Also I have no idea how you concluded from my piece that I said M8 is better. Perhaps a re-read is in order.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  9. Sometimes you have to vote for the crook, not the fascist … don’t lose hope Elie ! Without March 14, Hezbollah will turn Lebanon into an Iranian shield !!!!!!! YOU will not let Lebanon become an Iranian base !

    Reply
    • It’s not up to me to let Lebanon be an Iranian base. And no, I’d rather not settle with voting to be honest – I want to vote for a good choice, not a choice of lesser evils.

      Reply
  10. Elie, I really like your story. It only tells what an independent logical person you are and I really hope we can all have a brain like yours that analyzes events on its own, of what we really think is right for our country, and what is being used for political matters.
    I also strongly agree that comparing to March 8 is not a way to justify what is happening, although I have to point out that you did use it in one of your comments above by saying march 8 did worse. Let’s try to open our hearts for those in march 8 who are also fed up of their politicians like you, and look for the points where we could agree on. You might find more points in common than people praising 14 march right now. I can tell because I am one of them.

    Reply
    • Hey Ghina,
      Thank you for reading.

      I used the analogy to say that even though M8 has done worse, I refuse to use that as a justification to what M14 did in any way whatsoever.
      I’m sure I can find people who are sick of their correspondent political leaders from all spectrums – but seeing those who aren’t is discouraging.

      Reply
  11. It took you too long to discover the truth …congratulations..! Do you still think that your other compatriots are “Bajam” ? But fortunately with better brains…

    Reply
  12. Hello, Elie. I read what you wrote very carefully.

    I’ll tell you my story: I was in the Syrian Social National Party – el hezb el awmi, arguably the worst party of all in 14’s eyes šŸ™‚ Well, I went through what you went through, except on the other side. I would see my party’s mistakes but would still think that the others are much worse. Long story put short, I left the party (and the hope of any political party achieving anything) altogether.

    But, I learnt something very interesting in the meanwhile. I learnt that thousands of years ago, a middle-eastern king, an ancestor of Jesus Christ, had given the following advice: “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, to whom no salvation belongs.” (Psalm 146:4). I also found it very interesting to read what one of Jesus’ followers, Saint John, once saw a vision that revealed to him that “Satan was misleading the entire Earth” (Revelation 12:9). That same vision also specifically mentioned that “expressions inspired by demons would go forth to the *kings* of the entire inhabited earth” (Revelation 16:14). All of this corroborated with what I read in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, where an exchange between Satan and Jesus Christ himself revealed that all of Earth’s governments, their power and their glory, was in Satan’s hands, and that he was the one giving them to whomever he wanted.

    Now I don’t know if you believe in the Bible or not šŸ™‚ I didn’t at the time (I was born a Muslim, but I was more of an agnostic at the time – I got disappointed by religions before getting disappointed with politics!). But reading several verses that actually didn’t contradict each other, and that gave a clear, realistic description of the situation stirred up my interest. I made some research and was delighted at what I learnt. Most importantly, I learnt that what I had been reading was true (for ex, that John really did receive a vision from God), and I learnt about the main theme of the Bible: the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). The same Kingdom in the “Our Father” prayer – “li ya’ti Malakoutak”. The Kingdom of God, which is not really explained by the churches today, but which is the only true solution to all the problems of Mankind.

    I would love to share the reason behind the hope that I today have. Of course I would also love to have your point of view. Please feel free to drop a line in reply to this message, or directly in my inbox, alainalameddine@gmail.com.

    By the way, good job at expressing yourself in this post of yours – I relate to what you wrote, and I admire the introspective efforts as well. Ya3tik el 3ayfe šŸ™‚

    Alain

    Reply
  13. It was never a movement that wanted to build a country. It was never a movement of people who got to believe in it on their own accord. It was never a movement that could make Lebanon a free country.
    They would steal our money and feed us to the geese. They would flee to Europe, never come back, and grandly make up for their fees . They would bark, and howl, and stir the masses that would follow. Gladly they would offer their souls to the devil. None of them even cares. All they wish for is wealth and chairs. Iran, America, Syria, Arabia, it’s all the same. The blind fools in our mirrors are the only ones to blame. People, youths, Please! Break out of this attic! For Lebanon needs a third republic.

    It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Fares.

    Reply

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