To The Lebanese Parents Celebrating Their Children Passing Brevet With Gunfire

Brevet

Dear Lebanese parents that couldn’t believe their son or daughter passed their brevet exam so they figured the best way to celebrate, in between the ten kilos of baclava consumed, was to fire a few rounds of M249 up in the air,

Yes, your child is special. I mean, how could your child not be special if he or she passed 9th grade and will continue to high school? In Neanderthal times, that’s akin to your child being ready for marriage or leading a life of his own! Yes, your child is unique, him and the other 75% of applicants that presented this year’s exam and passed.

Were you firing rounds up in the air because you couldn’t believe your child passed? You do know that doesn’t really reflect confidence on your part for your child’s capacities? I bet your child is going to grow up into such a terrific young man or woman knowing that his parents never truly believed in him or her and were utterly dumbfounded, a few AK4 rounds-dumbfounded to be exact, that they passed an exam that 3 out of 4 of those who take it actually pass it. If more information is needed, let me refer you to some good psychologists who will work on mending your child’s traumatized psyche from having his own flesh and blood not remotely believe he managed to pass an exam.

But how does this whole celebratory gunfire thing work exactly? I mean, you people seem to do it at every corner. Your child passes an exam, you bring out the riffles. Your politician goes on air, you bring out the machine guns. You manage to pass stools after a serious bout of hemorrhoids, you bring out the guns. Is there an algorithm you follow to delineate the mechanism behind this enigma?

Is it two rounds, for instance, for a simple pass grade? Three rounds in case all those “rachat points” were used as an “allahou akbar zamatna” hail Mary of sorts? What about those coveted “mentions” that were all the rave back in my old days? Did he or she get “bien” or “tres bien?” Did you fire thirteen rounds instead of six because your child got 230 instead of 196 points? I’m a doctor here who is more confused by the way your brain works regarding this, than by the diseases I have to address on daily basis.

Now tell me, what if your bullets end up killing someone? Is it okay because “fida hal brevet?” Or is it also okay because if God didn’t want him dead, he wouldn’t have died anyway? How do you convince yourself that your summer rains of shells are totally fine, wholly acceptable and utterly, irrevocably awesome to do?

Or maybe, just maybe, if you were a parent who felt the need to celebrate, for instance, their child passing an exam as stupid as a brevet exam, then you shouldn’t be a parent to being with? Maybe it’s the perpetuation of those genes that have a big contributory factor to why this country is a hell-hole, one round at a time?

I have so many questions that I hope you answer. Until then, see you in world war 3 next June when your other child graduates from kindergarten.

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When Adel Karam Makes Fun Of A 63 Year Old Man Presenting His Brevet Exams

Some people have no shame.

One of the biggest pieces of international news yesterday, if you disregard those of war, famine and horrors for a few seconds, was the beautiful story of Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport. She is a 102 year old pediatrician, and we’re talking about her because she just became the world’s oldest person to receive a PhD. Back in 1938, the Nazis banned her from doing her dissertation for being part Jewish. The years passed and Mrs. Syllm-Rapoport sought out the degree that escaped her because of racist laws. She finally got it, and look how happy she is:

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Of course, there are some parts of the world – like where we live, for example – where such news wouldn’t be so cheerful and worth the celebration.

A few days ago, pictures of a 63 year old man presenting his brevet exams surfaced on social media.

The man was identified as Abdallah Taleb, from Marjeaayoun in the South. In 1967, Abdallah had to leave his hometown in order to work with his brother before moving to Saudi Arabia later on. He never got his brevet degree then. Following the liberation of the South, Abdallah came back with his family of two and settled down in his hometown. He became the “mokhtar,” opened a real estate office, but he never forgot that he still never had a degree, which is why he enrolled in school this year to try and catch up to his education and be able to present his brevet degree.

Wonderful story, right?

Well, that didn’t stop Adel Karam and his esteemed show “Hayda Haki” from making fun of Abdallah. Watch the video:

Quite disgusting.

All around the world, people who seek education are respected. Their accomplishments are celebrated, especially when they do so at an age when society had already told them off. Except, of course, when you have people like Adel Karam who see such a man’s quest as yet another moment for comic relief on his TV show.

“Mesh bakkir?” he asked Mr. Taleb. “Isn’t your retirement time soon?” He continued because the first joke clearly didn’t bring the message home. “Will you try and go for a high school degree, too?”

“Do you think he’ll pass?” He snickers. “He should have done the exam last year… everyone passed.”

 

Yes, Adel Karam, bring the humor. Bring the sheer brilliance of your insane comedy skills.

Yes, make fun of a man whose only fault was to have a dream of having a degree, regardless of how simple it is.

Yes, use that man as material to fill time on your insanely funny TV show.

Yes, there is CLEARLY something weird and funny about a man who, years after he’s supposed to, is trying to get the education that this beautiful country took away from him. Is there any better joke than that?

Shame on the audience there that laughed on his joke. I hope you have 1% of the determination Abdallah Taleb has when you’re his age to seek out what your life’s circumstances had robbed you and not be brought down by people like Adel Karam telling you it’s all futile, pointing their fingers in your face and snickering at you for even trying.

Shame on MTV for allowing such garbage to fill its airways, not that I’m surprised anyway.

The ironic thing is that Abdallah Taleb already answered those who wondered what’s the point of doing this so close to retirement age. His answer? “They force retirement on you and it turns you into a shell. I want to give another idea of people who reach retirement age, that it’s okay to still have ambition and act out on it.”

Clearly, ambition and acting out on such ambition is only allowed to comedians who want to emulate Jon Stewart.

I hope that when Adel Karam is 63 and remembers a life-long dream of his that he doesn’t get someone like him to tell him “mesh bakkir?”

Pity the nation that makes fun of its people who seek an education. Pity the people who find getting an education is something to make fun of.

Tfeh.

 

Harry Potter and I

It all started in July 2000 for me. I was a carefree ten year old who thought reading was more into the realms of punishment. So it was with carelessness that I listened to a conversation about some books called Harry Potter by some British woman between my dad and his brother.

My American cousin, Kristen, was reading the fourth book in the series at the time. Her dad suggested she’d give the books to me but we both vehemently refused: I because the 4th book was bigger than a dictionary and her because these were her books.

Flash forward a whole year and it’s December 2001, soon after the release of the first movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, the original title). My aunt takes my brothers, cousins and I to the movies to watch it and I get mesmerized. I thought the movie was enchanting, the story was captivating. And for a 12 year old, the idea that a movie like that actually had sequels was something that was just awesome. There’s actually a continuation to the story!

Then Harry Potter went into the back of my mind for the following six months. In June 2002, my uncle arrived from the U.S. with a paperback version of the first 3 books. So even though I still dreaded the idea of reading, I found myself enthralled with the first book, of which I had already watched the movie. While my friends were doing their oral final exams back in 7th grade, I was busy reading in class. Soon enough, I started the second book, with a sense of pride that I was now ahead of the movies. I took a hiatus in the middle of the second book before finishing the whole thing in one day on July 19th, 2002. I remember the day because it was the night before St. Elias’ day and my mom was shouting at me, holding the book while sitting on the swing on our front porch. The third book followed soon after. I finished reading Prisoner of Azkaban a few days later. I remember I was sitting kneeling by the bed when it was done. Come end of July, I was done with all Harry Potter books that I had in my possession.

And now I wanted more. But I waited a few months before starting the fourth book. Christmas break 2002. My best friend at the time, Celine, gave me a French copy of her Goblet of Fire book and even though I hated reading French novels, Harry Potter’s French version managed to captivate me as well. On Christmas eve, my uncle got me a bunch of gifts, one of which was the English version of Goblet of Fire. I picked up with that where I had arrived in the French version and as my good friend Paul Gadalla, a great person who started reading the Harry Potter books because of me, said: “the ending of this book was insane!” and he’s a 25 year old Political Science major. Where does that leave a poor 13 year old’s heart?

In late January 2003, my uncle informed me that the upcoming fifth book would be released on June 21st. And so my first wait with everyone who had caught up with the books started. I started to discover fan sites where people shared their ideas and I was fascinated with those ideas. I discovered that the title was Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix and I saw a blue cover with floating candles that gave me no idea whatsoever about the content.

Leading up to the book’s release, Time magazine did a J.K. Rowling expose about her life prior to Harry Potter and her preparations for the upcoming book release. My copy of the magazine is worn out from the many times that I read that article. But I still have it.

And so Order of the Phoenix was released. It was over 800 pages, with more than a quarter of a million words. The book is not many people’s favorite but I really like it. It represented a sense of Harry growing up to assume his fifteen year old self, his first kiss and above all, revelations about his past that were not known before.

And then my two year wait for Half-Blood Prince, book 6, started. Apparently, JK Rowling does these massive book launch interviews where she discusses many details with fans without giving too much away. So I had those details printed to make sense of what awaited me. To say I was off mark again would be an understatement. After all, guessing with things regarding Harry Potter is not a very easy thing to accomplish. The sixth book was released and I got it on launch day, getting a free mug with it as well. I finished it in two days and it left me devastated that I had two wait two years before the story ends. It was also the most grim part of the tale so far. It was a book about death, souls, memories and the importance of friends in times of darkness. But did I want it to end? I sure did. I hated not being in the know.

J.K. Rowling had revealed that books sixth and seven would have one story arc but be two different books. Everyone I knew was on their toes for the final book. The amount of anticipation was insane. It was probably the most securely kept book ever. Massive prints were prepared for the huge opening day expectations. And to say those expectations were met would be a vast understatement. It sold over 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release on July 21, 2007 in the U.S. alone.

The final book was relentless. It had no dull moments. It was mesmerizing, captivating. It played with your emotions like a slinky and you loved it for that. Anyone who asks me what’s your favorite book would get this answer from me: Deathly Hallows. Sure, it’s not philosophy or some immensely mature book that you expect a 21 year old to like. Some would say that it’s mentally degrading of me to say that is my favorite book. But what is the definition of favorite? It’s the book that 4 years later, while your little brother is reading and asking you questions, still gives you goosebumps when you remember specific passages from it. It’s the book that you can read over and over again and go on the same roller coaster ride you jumped on the first time you read it. And it’s such a gripping book that it took me one day to finish it. It was done by 6 am on July 22nd, 2007. Yes, I only got a few hours of sleep.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking at my little brother Joseph finishing the Harry Potter books with the final pages of Deathly Hallow‘s epilogue remaining, a few hours before the Lebanese premiere of the final Harry Potter movie.
It makes me proud to see my brother read all the books and could think about reading other books subsequently, because Harry Potter has shown him the joy of reading.
It also makes me proud that the movie we are going to watch tomorrow has such rave reviews that top critics are calling it “wonderful, epic and grand.”

You see, our stories with Harry Potter are very much alike and yet very different. we’ve all started reading differently and we’ve all obsessed over the books to varying degrees but we’ve all entered this magical world and never wanted to leave. It’s not that our reality was bad, it’s just that the world of J.K. Rowling’s imagination is so pure and vast and beautiful that you feel like being there, even as a “muggle”, doesn’t mean you’re intruding. And it doesn’t even make you different. After all, the last four Harry Potter books each set the record for most books sold in 24 hours, with each new book breaking the record set by the previous one, a testament of the people who wanted to escape to that world as soon as its doors opened anew.

Upon finishing the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling was asked: “how do you want to be remembered?”
Her answer is something that I keep in my head till this day because it should be a life mantra for many. She said: “As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

And it’s precisely that which is the biggest lesson that the Harry Potter series presented to us through its flawed and vulnerable hero: a story about the importance of aiming high in life and not being afraid to fall. J.K. Rowling was on welfare before the idea of the books popped into her head almost complete while waiting for a train.
While I know that creativity is defined as divergent thinking that, when simmering, allows you to come up with novel ideas, her personal struggle and story is also a testament that you can pull through the hardships of life.

At 10:00 pm, later today, I would have finished watching the final Harry Potter movie. The tagline for the movie is “It All Ends.”
For us, that tagline has a double meaning. You might say that it also signals your childhood ending. But whenever you look at the Harry Potter books, you can’t help but remember the days when you were reading them. Sweet memories and reminiscing… Either way, your childhood lies within you. But like Harry you have to eventually grow up and keep those memories with you. Just look at this post and the amount of memories in it. Who knew I remembered the exact date I finished Chamber of Secrets or in what body position I finished reading Prisoner of Azkaban or how I had read of Goblet of Fire or the Time magazine with the J.K. Rowling article?

They say we’re the Facebook generation. I beg to differ. We are the Harry Potter generation because these books will be what our grandchildren’s children will remember our years by. Until then, “all was well.” Excuse me as I go put my Harry Potter book that my brother just finished in its proper place in the bookcase.