The Miserable Maronites of Lebanon

Today is the day when Maronites across Lebanon get a surge of pride on the memory of St. Maroun, the sect’s founder.

Throughout the day, if you were “lucky” enough to come from Lebanon’s bible belt and have a lot of deeply religious friends, you’ll be swamped with Facebook statuses and pictures to glorify the day. Many celebratory dinners will be held across the country as well. It is one of those occasions.

This is the day for Maronites across Lebanon to feel empowered and self-sufficient and whatever floats their boat when it comes to self glorification.

The truth, however, is that today – February 9th, 2013 – as Lebanon’s Maronites rise to a fake glory on the day of their founder, they couldn’t be more wretched.

I’ll start with yours truly.

I was born in a Maronite family whose dose of religiousness grew as I grew. I dabbled with religion. Sometimes I grew into it, more often than not I grew out of it. My lack of ignorance when it comes to what the sect box on my ID contains led many to label me as a Christian extremist. I didn’t mind it.

But today, the only thing Maronite about me is probably what’s written next to my name on the voters list. It’s not about lack of faith. It’s not about atheism. It’s about a state of utter disgust with the social aspect that “my” sect has become and what it has made me, by default, in the process.

Today, Maronites in the country are forced to live in fear. I don’t think our fears are in any way justified. Do you know what’s the only reason that justifies us living in fear? It’s because Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea said we should be afraid.

The former told us we should panic from the impeding rise of Islamists in Syria and behold, Maronites across the land started gearing up for the apocalypse.

The latter has shoved the threat of Hezbollah’s weapons down our throats, making it a constant fixture in our daily lives, that the only thing we see as we go about our lives normally now is weapons. Illegal weapons everywhere.

Whenever our major “Maronite” politicians tell us to do something, we do it. Not because we want to – but because there’s an inherent conviction among the majority of Maronites that those leaders know best. Our critical thinking capacities are not just dismal, they are becoming non-existent.

Case in point? The electoral law. How many Maronites support the Orthodox Gathering Law? I suppose they are a lot. Are those Maronites truly convinced by the law? I doubt but they don’t know they’re not really convinced.

All they know is that their political reference came out in support of the law and gave them a set of arguments for them to wrap their heads around. Fast forward a few days later and the whole idea is now sitting comfortably in their brains, equipped with a full arsenal of conviction as if it was there for months. And then try to tell them otherwise. Try to ask any Maronite today about which law they see best and their answer will be what their politician of choice told you. Go on, try it.

We are a people that has become so weak that we can’t even stand up to the horrendous and absolute lack of qualification that flow from every single “Maronite” politician today.

Today, the road leading up to the main villages of my district has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. I wrote about it before (link) and observed an interesting reaction regarding the issue. The LF’ers blamed Gebran Bassil for the road. The Aounists blamed the district’s two MPs. Both LF’ers and Aounists are joined by the fact that their cars are getting screwed whenever they want to drive on that road – but they can’t even get together to get it fixed because God forbid their holy politician of choice be the one to blame.

What’s worse is that we are more than utterly convinced that those politicians are sacred.

Try to tell a Aounist that Gebran Bassil or Michel Aoun are not the people that Jesus meant when He said “whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Try to tell a Lebanese Forces supporter that the “hakim” is not the saint they want him to be or that the Lebanese Forces are slacking off with how they’re handling things, letting themselves be dragged into quarrels revolving around those epic never-ending Christian rights.

Maronites have now been convinced that those “Christian rights” that our heads have been drilled with are truly what our politicians are after. The idea that “Christian rights” is simply a pre-electoral ploy to get our Maronite blood boiling before we go vote didn’t cross anyone’s mind. If our politicians are truly concerned for our rights, then why haven’t they done something about it already? If our politicians are truly convinced about the army, then why do all their statements drip with unprecedented hypocrisy? If our politicians truly care about our well-being in this country then why haven’t they actually done anything to improve it?

The answer is quite simple: because we have the memory span of a fish. If they don’t do it a few months before the elections, we won’t remember come the time to vote.

We get carried away with useless rhetoric of people who couldn’t care less about our interests and eventually transform that rhetoric, in our heads, to scripture. Try to tell a Maronite in Lebanon today that their rights are of having hospitals and schools, not about commanding the country again, and you might as well have committed some form of higher treason. Try to tell a Maronite in Lebanon that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t feel threatened at every waking moment of your life and you might as well have been committed to an asylum. Try to tell a Maronite in Lebanon today that those big bad Muslims are not really out there to get us at every kink in the road and you will get inundated with a slew of swear words against their “prophet.”

And while a lot of Lebanon is trying to go past the civil war mentality, many Maronites still live in it. Many are even proud of it. If you, as a Maronite, were born after the end of the civil war then your opinion is irrelevant. Their “struggle” during the civil war makes them experts and it turns you into a non-sensical nobody. They fail to see how living in 1975 when it’s 2013 is not only pathological, it’s also sickening. They fail to see that using the civil war to attempt to score points when it’s been over for 23 years is not only not healthy but downright despicable. They live in the past and revel in the fact that they do so.

So between living in constant fear, pretending as if we actually have political free will and getting swept away with dreams of a Maronite utopia, we have become a people that are beyond miserable at life in Lebanon. How many of us as Maronites will have the guts to actually stick it to all our politicians who are actively terrorizing us come election day? Not many. How many actually see those politicians as such? Well, considering I’ve been exposed to people who are voting for certain politicians because they “asked about them” during one of their electoral visits, I daresay I wouldn’t be going on a limb if I said not many. How many of us won’t be happy when, one day after the election’s results are out, our politician of choice proclaims to represent the Christians – especially Maronites – of Lebanon?

The reality is that with how we are being forced and forcing ourselves to live, our standards have gone down dramatically. Our religious extremism is rising exponentially and we can even fathom justifying it. We cling to the glories of days that are past in order to feel relevant in the present. We gloat about the president having to be Maronite by law because it gives us some form of security. We hyperventilate in joy whenever someone tells us they believe Maronites are the reason Lebanon exists. We pretend as if nothing is absolutely wrong in our communities, in our mentalities. We pretend as if all the blame is to be put on everyone else because they are the root of all problems in this country.

This is your yearly dose of a reality check.

My angry rant is also easily applicable to other sects in Lebanon. Because everyone is miserable. However, the moment someone from outside any sect criticizes it, people get offended. Even those who claim not to be sectarian. My prerogative, as a Maronite, is that I get to criticize how my sect has become, at least socially, all I want. And if this angers you, then I’m more than glad I hit a nerve.

Happy St. Maroun day.

9 thoughts on “The Miserable Maronites of Lebanon

  1. Mediocre rant to say the least.

    The maronites idolize Aoun and Geagea? No, some maronites do. According to stats more than a third of them are neither FPMers, nor LFers. And this doesn’t mean that FPMers and LFers are to be categorically rejected, not all of them are crazy radicals (just like supporters of other political parties are not all crazy radicals either). So that means that your rant does not apply to a big chunk of maronites, maybe as big as half of them, and yet you seem to blast them all in your post, and this is supposed to be ok because you are a Maronite. No it’s not.
    Do they feel threatened? Doesn’t every minority is this part of the world feel threatened? I don’t just mean religious minorities (whether maronites, copts, Shiites, Iraqi Christians, Bahais etc.), but also ethnic minorities (even those among them that are Muslim Sunnis, like the kurds for exp) because the people of this part of the world do not exactly have a history of tolerance. The slightest (religious, ethnic, political, sexual…) divergence is not tolerated, and yet you blame those among the minorities that dare to feel threatened, despite all the intolerance they are faced with.

    Maronites have made a lot of mistakes throughout their history, just like everybody else around them. They also have a lot to be proud of, first and foremost pushing for the creation of this country. But it’s been almost a quarter of a century they are not in charge anymore. Others are, and they are failing miserably, just like the maronites failed post-independence. But at least, the maronites are not responsible of the current failure because they are not in charge anymore. And no they are not miserable, they don’t live in fear and they are not weak. They have a long history of resistance. But they, and many others as well, do feel threatened. Every day that passes reinforces and justifies that feeling.

    Sorry if I was rude. But since I’m not a maronite myself, I felt I could defend them without passing as a maronite-extremist.


    • In 2009, the Maronite vote was split almost equally between both camps in the country and even then you had this “one third” that you speak of which doesn’t idolize any of them. The fact of the matter is that between Geagea and Aoun is where the majority of Maronites fall politically. The other fact of the matter is that even with that one third taken into consideration, that poll which I believe you’re referring to suggests that Geagea and Aoun have about 50% between them.
      Now if you consider that the third will vote for either of those parties’ candidates then it’s, by default, included in my rant. Yes, not everyone who belongs to the parties I mentioned is radical because my points are not about crazy radicals. It’s not about those Maronites who believe in establishing Maronistan. It’s about those who get taken away with whatever Geagea and Aoun say, who can’t muster the courage to stand up to any of our politicians’ lack of qualifications and who pretend it’s all okay. No it’s not. And as a Maronite, it is my right to pinpoint that. Every single point in this rant touches on Maronites. Whether someone encompasses them all or not is not the point – these points touch a nerve with the majority, hence why my rant is valid.

      So now that we’ve established that my rant encompasses more than 50% of my lovely sect, we proceed to point #2.

      Seeing as Lebanon is a country of minorities, no Maronites should not feel threatened. The minority type that you’ve mentioned is one that should feel threatened all the time. Seeing as a year or so ago, this fear was pretty much non-existent among Maronites, your categorization does not apply here. I’ll take it even further. Your categorization of minorities in the region does not encompass the Lebanese population. The minorities you speak of, ideally not present in Lebanon, are suffering because the regimes in their countries have persecuted them for years and years, leading them to leave. How is the current political regime in the country persecuting Maronites exactly?
      If we were having this discussion during the Syrian occupation of the country, I would have been the first one to say there’s a threat to our existence as is evidence by the policies that the Syrian regime enforced back then over here. But this does not apply today. Divergence is not tolerated in other countries but it is what Lebanon is based on. What applies in those other countries does not necessarily apply here and it surely does not apply to a group that arguably constitutes of the country’s main demographics, on par – numbers-wise – with those Sunnis and Shia that are believed to pose a threat to our existence as well. Returning to the poll you mentioned, more than 50% of Christians, and seeing as Maronites are the majority I would assume the % applies by extension, are happy but afraid for the future. This fear isn’t – surprise surprise – because Islamists will rise in Syria or because they feel that they are threatened in their own country. But more than 70% cited economic reasons for their fear. Our politicians’ rhetoric is to hide those economic woes from us and try to shove other type of “threats” down our throats – and it resonates.

      Yes, Maronites have had a good hand at establishing the country as I’ve pointed out before in different other blog posts. But living in the glories of the past when the present isn’t exactly bright is the point I was trying to make which you seem to have completely overlooked. I didn’t say it’s bad to be proud that we had a hand in establishing the country. I said it’s bad to pretend, as many do, that it’s enough today. What’s bad is that many Maronites, and you’d actually know this if they were next to the only people you encountered on daily basis, still live in the civil war and still use civil war arguments to score points against each other.
      When you say that Maronites are threatened, you are inherently inferring that they live in fear. So which is it? Are they threatened or are they not? Do they live in fear or do they not? And no, Maronites have a hand in what’s happening in the country today politically. Aren’t the politicians I mentioned, which as we’ve established, represent the majority, currently part of the political spectrum that’s creating the situation we live in?

      Don’t worry, you were not rude.


  2. Hello. You know I absolutely enjoy reading your thoughts and opinions. I look forward to them on a regular basis. I’m sure I have made that clear on several occasions.

    In regards to this post: I read it the when it was posted. And since you have posted it dare I say it hasn’t left my mind. One minute it angers me and one minute I understand why you may be disillusioned. But I still haven’t been able to make peace with the post. (I’m sure my level of peace with the post itself is the farthest from your mind but …)

    You know I live in the States. Half of my family (the Maronite side) lives in Baskinta. The other half also from Lebanon but not Maronite. I consider Baskinta to be a Bible Belt city, at least from my perspective. Lol my significant other is from Baskinta and also Maronite and deeply religious. He just moved to the States 3 years ago so for me he is still fresh off the boat. We spend our evenings solely discussing Lebanese politics and watching Lebanese tv (I won’t mention which news or propaganda we choose to watch) we are in daily contact with family back in the “Maronite village”.

    All that being said, I will simply tell you the areas that disturbed me with your post. It really happened before I even opened the link to read your post. “This is about Lebanon’s wretched Maronites”. Wretched? That word is bound to automatically turn off a reader prior to even reading your post with an open heart and mind. In a way you are setting the tone to want to make individuals angry.

    Second, it bothers me that you would choose to speak this way about a certain group of people on such a particular religious holiday as this. Luckily I was not swamped with self-glorification or posts or calls regarding this day. My significant other mentioned it in the evening. The next day he called his mother and acknowledged the holiday. No big dinners. No honking of car horns. No glorification of any kind at least from my family and friends that I know of specifically in Baskinta. And what is wrong with celebrating this particular holiday? Nothing.

    I think the problem is separating the religion from the politicians/politics. I personally think that the politicians of “ALL” the religious groups have taken the religion hostage. Some groups issue fatwas and others use minority status to control by fear. I can tell you that many people I know, Maronites, either did not vote or absolutely despise both leaders of the Maronite political machines. That doesn’t mean that all Maronites are living in some kind of utopia they have created in their mind. What do you exactly expect them to do? Revolution? Find and breed new people to put into politics? If so, then all the political parties need the revamping. I always kid and say: ya reit we can get rid of all these politicians and bring in fresh minds. So many of them have been in the public for way too long. So, I wish we could have more than simply a symbolic Maronite president.

    Does this mean that the fear is unjustified? No way. Fear is justified. They are a minority. And history and the region is enough of an example to justify the fears of many. Whether proper avenue is taken to address the fears is a different question.

    So I am coming to you not so much from a political perspective or politicl argument. I’m not interested in discussing the electoral law controversy or the terrible roads or any other issues like the airport being hijacked whenever a group sees fit, or groups blocking proper investigations of killings etc. I’m more concerned with the use of words such as wretched or miserable. (I understand you wrote the disclaimer at the end stating that everyone is miserable and since you are Maronite you have the privilege of judging your kind)

    For me, I think that your generalization is uncalled for. I think that your dismissive nature of this group of people is straddling the offensive side. All the parties in Lebanon need a major overhaul. But I could never say that X party is wretched and miserable. Listen, I will be the first person to tell you that some Maronites are this or that and my other half of my family has plenty to say about them, but wretched and miserable isn’t one of them.

    Unfortunately, at the present time ALL parties are not ready to separate religion from politics. I see that simply from laws that come up and immediately religious groups come up and hijack the political process so as to make sure the respective politicians vote the way that favors their religion. That is the casualty of all parties/religions involved.

    Anyway, I appreciate you letting me share this lengthy reply to your post.

    As always, I look forward to your next post and I expect that you will be writing one about the Grammys airing tonight. I thought of you when I saw Carrie Underwood. I know that you are a huge fan of hers.

    Take care, Marie



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