Two weeks ago, something happened in Lebanon, again! Things started to heat up, again, leading to tensions,violence, and gunfights in the middle of Beirut. This came in addition to the economic collapse and the port explosion of last year. Scenes of the “Tayyoune incident” spread fear among citizens as they realized that a second civil war could break out any time soon. The same scenes that would make anyone pray to whatever higher power that their son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, friend is still alive, safe, and not caught in the crossfire.
This is shocking for some: have fifteen years of war from 1975 to 1990 not been enough in terms of human casualties, human capital flight, economic setback, and social tensions? Others – myself included – saw this coming as of October 17, 2019 when the protests first started.
Scrutiny of all that has been going on for the last two years leads one to reflect on a vast range wide enough to include political affiliations, the call for a change, the rise of religious and racial stereotypes all exacerbated by the misuse (not to say exploitation) of social media and news. In the end, there has to be a reason as to why the events of the past two weeks give the Lebanese people a sense of déjà vu. That is because this is how the War of Lebanon started back in 1975. The triggering event back then was a minivan full of Palestinians refugees getting ambushed and shot at in the neighborhood of Ain el Remmaneh by Lebanese Christian citizens, and this event in itself is controversial. In the morning of that same day of April 13, 1975, outside the Church of Notre Dame de la Delivrance at the predominantly Maronite inhabited district in East Beirut, half a dozen of armed Palestinians attacked a group belonging to the Kataeb Party at the front of the church where a family baptism was taking place. The event is known today as Black Sunday. Today, tensions have sparked up between political parties in Lebanon, starting with the Amal Movement and the Lebanese Forces (not to be confused with the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Army). After the tensions turned violent on Thursday, October 14, 2021, memories of what people thought were buried along with their lost loved ones resurfaced poignantly.
Such events are once-in-a-lifetime happenings, meaning that it is highly improbable that one same person could witness similar scenarios twice in the same lifetime. Unfortunately, it became quite clear since March of 2020 that such theories are fallible. People initially thought that an economic recession as serious as the 2008 financial crisis could never happen again any time soon, until the COVID-19 pandemic. Even beyond that, two massive World Wars happened within the space of 21 years (World War I ended in 1918 and World War II started in 1939), leaving little room to be considered as once-in-a-lifetime.
Very much like the situation Lebanon currently finds itself in, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria for have for the past decade been served their share of government overthrowing, revolutions, and civil wars. The commonality? We humans appear to be incapable of learning from History.
The War of Lebanon ended in 1990, with a number of political and social tensions resurfacing in those 10,452 square kilometers since then. All the damage, all the lost lives, all the loved people we buried, all the tears we shed, all the brains who have emigrated in the hopes of a better life elsewhere; and yet, the same warlords still control the country. The same leaders, along with their offsprings, still rule the country to this day and dictate people’s every single thought, word, and action. Each one of them has blood on their hands; and, ironically each points their finger at someone else for being corrupt. They cash in the people’s tax money and savings, and brainwash their followers that the real enemy is the one over there who steals their land, their money, their savings.
Despite everything happening in that country, a considerable percentage of the population keep on believing the same old lies they have been repeatedly told since 1975. We have buried so many people that we lost count, and yet the causes behind all these burials and tears and heartbreaks are still very much alive. All for men who are still willing to this day to put a bullet in their neighbour’s chest in exchange of their petty 30 pieces of silver.
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
– Aldous Huxley
The illusion that this time will be different is the guarantee that the same mistakes are about to be made, again! This is true of the wars as well as of the major “mistakes” and negligence that led to the loss of so many innocent people. The Beirut port explosion is no exception, especially when you read about the Halifax explosion in 1917, an event I got to learn about after listening to Fire And Flame by The Longest Johns.
Until we learn from history and admit our mistakes, Lebanon is a country stuck in an infernal loop.
A loop filled with tension, destruction and corruption.
This country is still fighting the same enemy. Do not get fooled by the lies spread by the news and social media.
We never got to heal as a nation from what happened to us 46 years ago.
We can start by doing that, and then we can plan the change we want to see in this country we always called a piece of Heaven left on Earth.
The first step of this long process is to speak up and make ourselves heard.
Author’s note: For clarification regarding the War of Lebanon, I will always define it as such, although every single online article classifies it as a civil war. The explanation behind this approach goes far beyond a few lines, and could even constitute an article of its own, one day.