“This Is the Year”

January 21st, 2010

It is a new year and predictions of an impending spring or summer war with Israel are swirling, as is customary at the dawn of a bright new year for us veterans of war, pessimists, newbies, and conspiracy theorists here in Lebanon. The predictions are not restricted to hearsay, but also formal discussion.  Each peaceful new year brings fresh and increased money, backpackers, longings from the diaspora, multi-apartment building complexes, memories, pubs, dancing limbs, plans and commensurately an increased paranoia that the house of cards will fall and splay. This year, people swear about an impending war, as if for the first time: “I never believe it, but I think this is the year.”

Has the Lebanese-Israeli-Iran politics/news changed much in the last few years? I mean, I quit reading Lebanese news regularly after the tent city came down in 2008. But every time I take a gander, it seems like I just took a bathroom break and came back; I can keep up with the news like one keeps up with Days of Our Lives: same characters, who are at each others’ throats, have come back from the dead or from prison, or are cheating on their partners! Iran continues its nuclear technology campaign; Hizbollah continues to expand its capabilities; the Lebanese government…whatever. Of course, the script is loaded with new dialogue and suspense-building rhetoric! Nasrallah threatens that if Lebanon or Iran is attacked, the retaliation will “change the face of the Middle East region.” And supposedly, June 2010 is the deadline for Israel’s patience with Iran. Meanwhile, Lebanon has been told on several occasions and in so many ways by Israel that next time they’re bothered, all of Lebanon will pay – for their support and tolerance of the Party of God.

In July 2006, during the 33-day war between Israel and Lebanon, I was in Chicago. I was teaching by day and working at a Middle Eastern restaurant/night club by night. Through the haze of shisha smoke, I watched people dance to “Raje3, raje3 yit3amar, raje3 Libnan…” while it was being bombed away in real life. And people came up and offered their condolences or told me how their family was from Bint Jbail where the intense bombing occurred. The music bang- banged in my head. I would come home in the wee hours and turn on CNN, which showed footage of frenzied anchormen in Israeli scenes of people wheeled into emergency vehicles. And the rest was aerial views of Lebanon going up in smoke. I wasn’t the only one who cried from a distance for our country. I believe that the war of July 2006 was not preceded with the paranoia that has persisted since. Whereas that war was “restrained” to targeting infrastructure and Hizbollah, the next promises less restraint. Yes, there are reasons to worry.

But while the separate parties broadcast their defenses, our individual defense strategies kick up like party shoes. Whether we claim “This is the year” or “No way, that’s what everyone says every year,” the reality is that it’s very possible that we may soon be sitting under an assault that surpasses July 2006 or inside a regional war that may actually change the face of the region. And change the face of our lives as we know them. And which no doubt, a la Pat Robertson, The Party of God or/and the Israelis (depending on who comes out on top), will surely attribute it to GOD’s divine will. This is what we’re dealing with…

Will this year be the year? I hope it’s never the year. We are a people, a land. We are people in a beautiful land with families and homes and history and lives. With breakfast, bike rides, and tetas. And people say “This is the year” like it’s normal! Like everyone is used to it!  And so do you get it when I say I’ve become the typical Leb because despite the grim possibilities and the fear-mongering and the U.S. terror list and the wagging ragging fingers, I’ll be hitting Dany’s tonight and maybe head over to Walima for a tango dance…

One Response to ““This Is the Year””

  1. Hady Abi Abdallah says:

    “With breakfast, bike rides, and tetas” :)

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