“I just heard. I hope you’re okay,” is the text I sent to the people who mattered to me this past Friday, moments after I had seen a column of smoke erupt in the distance from the hospital floor I had been rounding on.
I stood in patients’ rooms, transfixed as residents inquired on those patients’ state while television screens were lit with the bodies of people who had just perished. I was angry. I’m always angry. I was sorry. I was disgusted. It was an all too familiar sensation.
“Let’s continue the round,” the chief resident told me. “But people just died,” I replied. “It’s okay, life goes on.” It had only been a few minutes.
I don’t have suicidal ideations, but I wondered that day about how it’d be to die like those poor people, a burning corpse on a careless tarmac that has seen more than its share of burning corpses. I wondered how people would react to me dying. Would they care? Would someone other than my mother and cat miss me? Would there be people secretly relieved that I had come to pass?
I saw my mother weeping by my white coffin while clutching the cold wood that hid my corpse from her as she cursed the God she deeply believed in. I saw priests of a religion I didn’t believe in chant and pray and burn incense while people who ran to the front row of my service try not to choke on the smoke. I saw my bed, forever kept as is, and my cat, sleeping next to my pillow unaware that I’d never be there again to pet her. I saw my friends trying to make sense of me not being there anymore.
And because I had died that way, I saw my demise being turned by our local media into a matter of national importance, fake-reporting and all. I saw them calling me a martyr. I saw them covering my funeral. I saw them interviewing people who barely knew me but who went on and on about my death being such a loss as they enjoyed their five minutes in the spotlight.
Then I saw my memory fade away from the collective consciousness of the people who felt touched by it somehow, remaining but a collection of moments to the people to whom I truly mattered. I saw people partying the night away, a few hundred meters from the place where I had died, unaware that I had spent my last few minutes there. I also saw another chief resident telling another medical student to continue presenting his patient because life goes on.
Life would have went on without me.
And if I could shout from beyond the grave, I’d tell whoever listened that this wasn’t the way that I saw myself dying, even though I’d get no say in that. I’d tell them I was robbed of my chance to live, of my chance to make my own name, build my own family and memories. I’d tell them that the notion of “martyr” I had been branded with due to the sake of political correctness is false. My death wouldn’t change anything. I didn’t want to die that way. I had no cause that I found worth dying for. I’d just be another plus one on a growing list of victims in a country that is getting increasingly forgetful of its people who had actually perished outside of someone’s morbid imagination.
Being a victim means there’s a country that has wronged the person who has passed. It means there’s a country that couldn’t protect them and guarantee them the simplest of rights to die in peace not in pieces. It means there are people who have killed them and who should face justice. It means that their death does not get to become yet another part of a growingly ridiculous political rhetoric that knows no end.
Victims, not martyrs. And how widely different this distinction makes things.
Today, a group of Lebanese enthusiasts have launched a Facebook page for people who are tired of surviving Lebanon of 2013, called I am NOT A Martyr. Like I’ve said before, they’re asking everyone to stop devaluating their life. They’re asking us to think about how we’d want things to change. People are posting selfies of their hopes of this country that is slowly but surely making everyone hopeless:
There are many things I’d want for my country. Some might say it’s silly or too simplistic to wish for such things in Lebanon.
I want accountability. I want rights. I want for my Northern border not to end at the Madfoun checkpoint. I want not to feel like a stranger among familiar faces. I want to say that I have lived as family surround me on my death bed.
And, perhaps more imminently: