Around the same time Obama was making his American promise, and Hizbullah shooting down an antiquated Lebanese army helicopter, I was being sworn in as an American citizen. As I pledged allegiance to the US flag, feeling the weight of the moment, a Hizbullah member was killing a servant of the Lebanese flag.
This got me thinking. Is there such as thing as a Lebanese pledge?
There is something that Lebanese soldiers yell at the time of their graduation. There is the national anthem, which we memorized in school. But there is no real pledge of allegiance in Lebanon-- at least nothing that could put to shame the actions of Hizbullah and other parties claiming their own brand of patriotism. Lebanon is indeed without the sense of belonging that could propel the son of an immigrant to becoming the next president. We get generals made presidents. Militias forming their own security zones, in a way not dissimilar to how other, albeit less armed parties, think they own certain towns and neighborhoods.
Those who dare make national pledges are killed, and their words are gone with them.
They say Lebanon is a message. A message for whom? Where and who are the recipients? And who, outside the “borders” of the Lebanese nation, really cares about messages steeped in hypocrisy, self-aggrandizement, and an inability to be free of sectarian and regional shackles? What good is a message that does not seem to pay heed to the fundamental rights of those on the inside? There are hundreds of thousands of potential good citizens in the country. Some will never get the chance to prove their loyalty towards their nation. Many are forbidden from even becoming citizens. Who, other than this blogger, is sick and tired of overstated fears to naturalize Palestinians, many of whom would probably make better citizens than most? Who does not think that this fear is as bad as not giving expats the right to vote?
They say Lebanon is a refuge for oppressed sects. At what point in this nation’s history will Lebanese be allowed to look forward, quit this insecure shelter mentality and dream of creating something that could deliver prosperity to all?
The first thing I did after becoming a US citizen was register to vote. When I left Lebanon, I knew I would never be able to vote again. Immigrants, because of the old shelter mentality, lose their right to vote upon boarding the plane. That’s fine if you intend to renounce your citizenship. But if you don’t, and even if you don’t intend on acquiring another country’s citizenship, and despite the strong feelings that tie you to your homeland, you are punished for dreaming of getting your people out of their sectarian swamp, to live life as it should be, not as it was decreed in some founder’s tired imagination.
There’s probably a complicated explanation for why Lebanon is what it is, and why it can never be what we want it to be. Unfortunately, there is also an explanation for why people like me end up pursuing freedom and opportunity elsewhere. That’s not to say I am turning my back on Lebanon, although the temptation to do so is strong, and growing. What it will mean, as far as this blog is concerned, is a direction that will respect the pledge I just made. Unlike some who take things for granted, I intend to honor the oath I just took, just as I pursue the greater promise for myself, and my children.