If Felix Baumgartner Was Lebanese

To break off from the morbid/depressing/overly serious posts my blog has had over the past few days, I figured I’d post a series of tweets that were collected by Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir. The tweets are jokes about scenarios where Felix Baumgartner, the man who jumped 39 km yesterday, is Lebanese.

They range from him taking tires to space to his mother giving him 100 cartons of food. You should read them in a Lebanese accent and I won’t bother translating them because the joke would be lost in the translation (for the full article, click here):

Flawless Lebanese Anti-Non Smoking Logic

To say I’m excited about a smoking ban in Lebanon would be an understatement. I remember when I got the news via twitter while at a museum in Madrid last summer. I felt the need to share with anyone who’d listen, Lebanese or not.

What I didn’t think, however, was that one year later – as the ban is starting to come into effect – I’d actually see people vehemently against it, complaining about how the law is a violation of their rights, nagging about a state that can’t but feel powerful against those who are weak.

They don’t give us electricity, they don’t give us security, they don’t give us proper transportation, they don’t give us water, they don’t give us social security, they don’t provide decent healthcare…. What gives them the right to take smoking away from me?

That is literally what I heard yesterday by more than one Lebanese smokers. The sad part? A few non-smokers agreed with them as well. I’m fairly certain they are not the only ones. Some people are already proud about smoking in places covered by the ban. I literally just saw a few doing so.
And as I’m typing this, MTV is reporting that some restaurant owners have decided to close their places in protest on the smoking ban.

Yes, let’s complain about losing money if the ban goes into effect. Then let’s close down, lose the money and tell them all: ta-daaa!

And that is my friends impeccable Lebanese logic where A, despite it having absolutely nothing to do with B, somehow becomes perfectly correlated with it.

Why would anyone mix together the issues of electricity, the arms of Hezbollah, the Mekdad military wing, burning tires and people not admitted into hospitals with a smoking ban?

I, for one, have no idea. And as I tried to explain exactly how non-sequitur this sounded, the conversation volume was raised by more than a few notches. When you don’t make sense, start shouting. Oddly enough, this reminds me of more than a few Lebanese politician. It seems to be genetic.

And then you have those “panicking” about the sector losing 2600 jobs because smokers will somehow, in another piece of flawless logic, stop going out to eat and party and drink. Of course the syndicate of Lebanese restaurant owners doesn’t really care about people losing their jobs. It cares about its business decreasing because they can’t make easy money off selling overpriced shisha.

And when you try to tell people exactly how silly that sounds, they reply that non-smokers can go to non-smoking places. Which non-smoking places are they talking about? I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. In a country like Lebanon, no business dares to be solely no smoking. And those who do are in a different league of competition. Why? Because smokers will refuse to go there. But when all restaurants are non-smoking, either the entirety of Lebanon’s smokers will become isolationists who don’t venture out of their homes as the syndicate is suggesting or the syndicate of Lebanese restaurant owners is only worried about its bottom line losing one of its sources.
I’m sure it’s the latter. They want you to think it’s the former. And to that effect, they’ve made fancy infographics and whatnot.

What their logic is obviously lacking is simply looking at countries that have enforced smoking bans and noticing how their restaurant sectors didn’t suddenly go bankrupt and didn’t suffer. People get used to it. But they don’t want change. They love the status quo where your food is served mixed with cigarette ash.

No. One simply doesn’t take smoking from Lebanese smokers peacefully. One doesn’t simply start a law with the country having any other problem whatsoever. Today they nag about the electricity. If the electricity gets fixed, they’ll nag about Beirut lacking a subway system. When/if we end up getting a subway system, they’ll nag about our lack of nuclear energy. And the excuses will keep coming.

Simply put, some smokers and restaurant owners have one thing to say to you: f*ck you and your overly sensitive lungs.

There Are No More Lebanese Prisoners in Syrian Jails

For years, some Lebanese politicians have been bombarding us with the same phrase: we have gotten word from Bashar el Assad, and his father before him, that there are no more Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails.

Some of those politicians were squarely in Bashar’s camp. Others had defected “recently” and left behind them all their non-existent dignity. But one thing these politicians have in common is that they got fed the lies of Bashar and threw them up on families seeking closure to a tragic chapter of their lives that never seemed to find its way to conclusion.

An estimated 600 Lebanese were kidnapped and thrown in Syrian jail – dead or alive, we had no way of knowing. 600 with families behind them still clinging to every bit of hope they could get of their loved ones returning alive. Boutros Khawad, Elias al Habr, Ali Abdallah… the list goes on and on.

There are no prisoners left, they said. You need to get over it, they said. You need to forget them, they said.

But how can you ask of families to forget their fathers and brothers? Well, that’s exactly what some Lebanese politicians, in their quest to kiss up to the Syrian regime, have been doing for years.

For years, these families had to withstand their sons getting turned into traitors. They had to withstand hearing their fathers bad-mouthed, turned into filth. And they couldn’t do anything about it. With each passing day, they persevered – even as their struggle was ridiculed. Even as they set up protests that were never heard.

Those families did not block roads to bring back their children. They didn’t ask citizens to wreck havoc to a nation. They suffered silently and hoped their calls would some day be answered.

With each passing day, these families lost hope too.

And then there was Yaacoub Shamoun. There was hope for those families again. And all those lies those Lebanese politicians have been spoon-feeding their followers came crumbling down around them.

There are still prisoners left, it seems.

I’m not sure if hope is the best thing for the families of those prisoners. But if there’s any time to feel ever so slightly optimistic that they could see their loved ones again, it is now. And if I could choose one good thing to come out of the Assad regime falling, it would be for these families to get closure.

It’s been a long time coming.

Jessica Ghawi, One of the Aurora – Colorado Theatre Shooting Victims, is not Lebanese

She narrowly escaped a shooting at Toronto a few months ago. But Jessica Ghawi’s fortunes were not as good this time when she was shot dead at one midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora Colorado. She is one of 14 who were killed by neuroscience PhD student James Holmes.

Jessica Ghawi, who goes by the name Jessica Redfield, is a 24 year old known sports anchor, a blogger and an active Twitter user. She was sending tweets up until the moment she sat down in the movie theatre. It was then that the room got filled with smoke, causing many of those inside to duck for cover as rounds were fired into the room.

Jessica’s friend, who was with her in the theatre, heard her scream as her lower limb received a round of bullets. He pressed on her thigh to control the bleeding but he was hit as well. He kept trying to control her bleeding until he didn’t hear her scream anymore. Jessica was gone. So he crawled out of the movie theatre and called her mother.

On the Toronto shooting that she escaped, Jessica Ghawi wrote:

“I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

Her words resonate true today. It seems the Lebanese diaspora never manages to miss a tragedy. May she rest in peace.

Update: It seems Al Jadeed was mistaken. Jessica Ghawi is of Palestinian origins according to the Lebanese Consulate in the United States. 

How Some Lebanese “Support” the Lebanese Army

Concern for the Lebanese Army… How lovely.

Let’s go show support for our armed forces then. How to do that? How else? Let’s block the road for hours upon hours and leave everyone stranded until our “support” is shown.

The army shows up soon after tires start burning to ask those supporting it to stop whatever they’re doing. The supporters get into fights with the army. This happens only in Lebanon.

If anything, the protest that spanned the highway from Jounieh to Batroun yesterday showed that those claiming they were burning tires in support for the army aren’t doing that one bit. They are advancing their own political orangy agenda.

Our Rabieh dude tells us to take it to the streets? We take it to the streets. What are we protesting again?

I have to ask those who are über-concerned about the Lebanese army today: where was this concern when Samer Hanna was shot dead on his land, in the South, by other Lebanese?

Don’t worry, it’s not a rhetorical question. I will answer it for you. Your orangy leader was busy protecting Samer Hanna’s killers and he still is so he didn’t ask you to “support” the Lebanese Army. But you’ve probably forgotten about Samer Hanna by now.

Good job. Those scary Islamists are sure more appealing to protest against.

Where was your concern when Francois el Hajj and Wissam Eid were blown up until there was nothing left of them for their families? Shouldn’t their deaths have been enough for you to also “support” the Lebanese Army?

Again, not a rhetorical question. Of course not. You were not instructed to have an adrenaline rush with their deaths. None of them so-called army supporters remember Wissam Eid and
Francois el Hajj today.

When it comes to supporting the Lebanese Army, the matter is not an auction. It’s not “Min bi zid.” It is not blocking the highway illegally and not abiding by army instructions to break up the protest. It is not stopping everyone from going home after a long work day so you can shove your inexistant army love down their throats.

You want to support the army? How about you get your sons to join it for a year of voluntary service? I’m pretty sure those people were the same people who worried nights on end about their sons going to obligatory military service back when it was instilled. How about you donate money that you made at work as a normal citizen?

Alas, I forgot this is Lebanon. Go hard or go home. Burn tires or don’t protest. Block roads or don’t do anything at all – regardless of what the cause is. Army supporter? Army hater? They are all the same mold: people who wait for a word from their corresponding leader to take it to the streets all while thinking they are doing this out of free will.

The Lebanese people are airheads. The country is brain dead. The only people who haven’t protested yet are Greenpeace. They are still waiting on green-friendly tires.

R.I.P Samer Hanna, Wissam Eid & Francois el Hajj

Dear Concerned Lebanese Citizen,

Were you this concerned when Samer Hanna got shot in his helicopter while flying over South Lebanon?

Were you this concerned when Wissam Eid and Francois el Hajj were blown up until there was nothing left of them to return to their grieving families?

Captain Wissam Eid

Dear Lebanese army,

Were you this feisty when you lost Samer Hanna, Wissam Eid & Francois el Hajj?

Were you this protective of your own when you lost those three men to three separate, equally-horrifying, assassinations?

General Francois el Hajj

Dear Lebanese political websites worried about the army,

Were you remotely concerned when your directing politicians stood in the home of one of them and defended his killers?

Were you remotely concerned with the army’s sake and all the martyrs that fell in Nahr el Bared when your allies proclaimed the camp a “red line?”

Lieutenant Samer Hanna

Dear Lebanese people hating on the army,

Where was this hate when you were begging for army protection when you were getting killed?

Where was this hate when you proclaimed the army as the only entity you want for your protection?

“Allah ye7me l jeish” 100%. Bass shou bta3mel bi 7ezbo? Shou bta3mel bel 3alam yalli ma bta3ref Allah?

The RMS Titanic and Lebanon

As many of us were going to sleep yesterday, the idea that 100 years ago, 2000 people were going through an ordeal stranded in the middle of an ocean escapes us. 100 years is surely a long time – but for many, the whole tragedy of the Titanic has become a laughable matter.

How so? It was turned by Hollywood into a movie, which later on became a common area of jokes. For many, the word Titanic nowadays is followed by the word “meh.” We fail to remember that for many, especially Lebanese, we’ve had great-grandfathers, great-uncles, aunts & family on that ship, many of whom died, either by drowning or by getting shot.

I grew up listening to the story of Daher Chedid, a man who was trying to escape the Ottomans in Lebanon only to find death at the hands of the Atlantic ice. I couldn’t escape the haunting stories of the people from Hardin, how they prayed and danced Dabke until their very last moments. The people of Kfarmishki lost 13 people on the Titanic – how could we call that funny?

A man from Zahle saved his wife and swam away, losing hope with every second of being saved. He wasn’t. Two men from Zgharta got shot for wanting to survive – they left families behind.

How could we ignore all of those stories and act as if the Titanic is one big popular event that happened, got turned into a cliche and shouldn’t be talked about?

Lebanon lost many people on the night of April 14th-15th, 1912. The least we can do is to honor their memories by telling their stories, at least on the centennial anniversary of their passing.

For many, their interest will only be transient, as is our interest in many things. And when it comes to the Titanic, although worse tragedies have happened over the years, we – as Lebanese – should feel involved because we have lost many people there. Some say as much as 93 – in a country as small as ours, at a time where the population was very little, 93 is a tragedy.

They say people truly die when they’re no longer in anyone’s memory. This is my attempt, at least briefly, to get the Lebanese of the Titanic back into people’s memory so they’d be alive on the 100th anniversary of the ship sinking.

There are many more Lebanese whose stories I couldn’t tell. Perhaps I’ll tell them later on. But for those stories that I told, I hope they made an impact – even if it’s in a small number of people.

Many asked me if those stories were correct or made up. Many asked for my sources. Many accused me of stealing them from Al Arabiya. To those I say: these stories are not exclusive to any news service. They are not written by anyone as a novel, they were not first reported by Al Arabiya and they won’t stop with a report from MTV. These stories were written with the lives of the Lebanese passengers that went on that ship, seeking a better life for themselves and their families, away from the oppression in the country.

My sources were from books I had bought back in 1998 about the tragedy, newspaper articles that I had saved over the years, as well as stories that I was personally told when I was young.

Today, most countries are holding events to remember their deaths aboard that ship. Lebanon, who lost more people than most of those countries, is not.

May the victims of the Titanic generally and the Lebanese especially rest in peace.