Accidental Sectarian

Answering “we’re in West Beirut” to a question of location was my mistake. I hadn’t really meant the war-sense of the word but when you grow up hearing about areas being in West Beirut and other areas being in East Beirut, the terminology sticks. 

For the person who heard me, however, I was another one of those – the people whose heads are transfixed with their own region, their own bubble, dismissing everything else in the process. I tried to explain that I didn’t mean it that way. No amount of speech could change things.

Today, a few months after that incidence, I sat reflecting on it and only one conclusion presented itself to me.

It’s not the cliche line about how the war hasn’t really ended yet. It’s not the even more-cliche line about remembering and not repeating: “tenzeker w ma ten3ad.”

I am a person who, like many people from my demographic criteria, is in a dilemma of pride and blame. I cannot not be proud of where I’m from or the houses, families and regions that built me. But there’s also a tinge of blame for those houses and regions and people that I cannot shake off. I am caught between Christian pride and Christian blame. And I think others are caught between Muslim pride and Muslim blame as well – in the sociological aspect of the notion, of course.

But the truth of the matter is that I have no idea what actually happened during those 15 years. I keep hearing about how some politicians were vicious warlords back then who killed people mercilessly or about MPs standing on checkpoints as military men. I keep hearing about those battles whose names keep getting thrown around, as I nod without having a clue what’s being discussed.

Does anyone really know what happened during the civil war, even those who actually lived it? Of course, they would never admit the answer is no. Everyone I know considers their side of the story as scripture. I’m sure the other side of the country has a different story which they take as scripture as well. And both sides get offended if you insinuate they may not know the whole story.

When the current ruling class of the country, most of which was the class leading the civil war, throws around war-era jabs at each other when the going gets tough, what can you expect from all the regular folk who considered those politicians their reference during Lebanon’s civil war?

How could we actually be called to learn from the civil war when those who ran the battles and the politics of the war haven’t sat down and discussed what happened between 1975 or earlier and 1990 to agree on what  needs to be learned in the first place?

We cannot rewrite the history that hasn’t even been written yet.

Until a time when the notion of west and east Beirut becomes purely geographical, I am, like the majority of Lebanese today, an accidental sectarian of the conditions in which I was brought up, of those hidden green lines that exist between regions and people and of the rubble we’re still sifting through 23 years later.

2 thoughts on “Accidental Sectarian

  1. I agree with what you said and especially: “We cannot rewrite the history that hasn’t even been written yet.”…. Very true… That is exactly why I don’t follow local politics and i think it’s a waste of time unfortunately!



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