The Pope Might Cancel Lebanon Trip… For Security Reasons.

The September 14-16 visit of pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon is no longer set in stone and might be canceled at any moment, as reported by Naharnet. (Source).

The reason for that? The troubling situation in Syria and whatever effect it might have on the security of Lebanon.

The last Papal visit to Lebanon was in 1997 by John Paul II. Back then, the Syrian army roamed free in most of Lebanon and the Israeli army occupied the South. However, that didn’t deter the late Pope from coming in to see his people, who had been waiting for such a visit in persecution for a long, long time.

If Pope Benedict XVI ends up canceling his trip, I’ll be disappointed because of what such a cancellation represents: the fear of a Pope for his own life, when in reality there’s no threat, more so than the lives of the people he’s supposed to be visiting.

What a Pope’s supposed to do isn’t hide away behind security pretentiousness and actually visit the congregation that doesn’t have that prerogative and who has been through ordeals upon ordeals, partly because of the faith of which he’s the current “reference.”

The sad part is the pope actually visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan back in 2009. I guess there are no security concerns in Occupied Palestine. None at all.

A Vatican high-horse is better than Lebanese hole, apparently. Truly inspiring from the Pope. I feel more Christian already.

Benetton’s New Ad Campaign “Unhate” – Ridiculous or Ingenious?

Upon checking my Facebook home feed yesterday, I was struck by pictures of men kissing. No, I’m not homophobic but yes, I was taken aback by them.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that those pictures are of world leaders kissing. The caption on the bottom right was Benetton’s logo. And then I understood: this is a marketing ploy aimed at something. But what is that “something”?

It seems Benetton is supporting the “Unhate” foundation, which according to their page, “seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance.”

While I am fully supportive of the cause, our world definitely needs more tolerance, is it really Benetton’s place to put up these ads, start the foundation and work for it?

First, I find the ads borderline offensive and somewhat ridiculous. First, the concept of “unhate” does not involve world leaders kissing each other on the lips. I see the controversy in the idea but an ad campaign revolving around activism should at least have a firm ground from which those exposed can start from. I cannot even imagine Obama hugging Chavez. Then how about them kissing?

Second, Benetton is a clothing company that does fashion. The days when my parents used to drag me there to get clothes are long over but I still remember their clothes having good quality. I mean, the raincoat my parents got me when I was five got passed down to my brothers and still exists somewhere as a memorabilia. But no matter. When a company does “fashion,” is it also in its spectrum of business to go the activism route? I hardly think so. I am not the most knowing when it comes to fashion (nor advertising) but, in my head, it makes more sense for an ad by a fashion company to make a fashion statement than for it to call for activism. The ads Benetton unleashed do not serve the former but serve the latter. However, do they even serve the latter properly?

This leads us to:

Third, no they do not because the ads are borderline irrelevant. The only traction these ads will get is via the condemning of the Vatican and the people who are shocked by these ads. Will the message be assimilated by those expose? Will they start “unhating” and “kiss” their enemies? I hardly think so. At most, those who love the ads will rave about how ingenious they are for a few days. Those offended will throw a fit and then forget about it sooner or later, simply because our attention span is really shorter than that of a fish. For a marketing campaign to remain relevant, it needs to have continuity and longevity. I do not see the Benetton campaign having either of those.

Maybe a kiss on the cheek would have been, ironically, less traitorous than a kiss on the mouth. I don’t understand how the concept of “unhate” can happen when you’re ridiculing the beliefs of two of the world’s biggest belief systems by having the Pope kiss the Sheikh of Al-Azhar. Or it could possibly be old-fashioned yours truly who believes that tolerance starts with respecting the different other. I don’t see much respect into getting a photoshopped Obama french-kissing a photoshopped Hu Jintao. But what’s worse is that many people won’t know these pictures are indeed photoshopped and will assume that the Pope in fact kissed Sheikh Al Azhar or that Angela Merkel is now having an affair with Nicolas Sarkozi. People will assume the pictures are “real” and once the ball gets rolling with “reality” there’s no stopping it.

These are the controversial ad pictures:

North Korean and South Korean presidents

Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao

Obama and Chavez

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

The Pope and Sheikh Al Azhar

 

And to make things even more absurd, the ads are not even original:

Off to France and Spain

I’ve never traveled before. Ever. Unless you count that brief two day trip I took to Damascus last December and the one before to Northern Syria in July.

Well, if you do, let me tell you this: if you don’t go to your destination in an plane, then you haven’t really “traveled.” At least that’s how I understand it to be.

But I digress.

In a few hours, I will be taking my very first airplane ride to Southern France where I will spend four days before heading out to Spain for a thirteen day excursion.

I’m definitely excited. But also quite anxious. It could be that I haven’t packed yet. I just look at the suitcase and decide there’s still time.

My stay in Spain will involve three cities: Toledo, Madrid and Sevilla. No Barcelona for me, sadly. But I guess there’s a time for everything. And with a Schengen on my passport, it’ll be easier to go there some other time.

While in Spain, I will be participating in the international Catholic Youth Day, formally known as JMJ: Journee Mondiale de la Jeunesse, which will be an opportunity for me to meet the pope – although I have low hopes about actually “meeting” him unless you consider spotting someone in a sea of a million people “meeting.”

While I’m definitely not the most religious of people, I think this will serve as an opportunity for me to meet lots of new people. Let me tell you a secret though, my group is going to miss out on most of the religion sessions and we’ll be going touring the cities we’re in. Awesome, right?

France should be great as well. I’m not doing the cliche France trip of going to Paris and staying there for the whole vacation, which I honestly would have loved to do – there’s just something about Paris, right? My French stay will give me an opportunity to practice my dying French skills. Yes, AUB, I blame you.

A woman in my travel group is of Argentinian origins and she was giving us Spanish lessons the other day in order to get around in Spain. Apparently the people who speak something other than Spanish are rare over there. Who would’ve thought? Needless to say, only one sentence got stuck in my head. And no, it’s not good morning or good evening.

“No habla espagnol, habla inglese?” will be my motto for the upcoming two weeks. I’m sure you can deduce what it means quite easily.

As for now, I’ll leave you and hope you come to read the posts that I’ve written and scheduled to be posted. There will be a book reviews, a short story split in seven parts, among other things… And if I get the chance to tell you how my French and Spanish adventures are going, well, why not, I guess.