A century ago, famed Lebanese poet Gebran Khalil Gebran wrote, “You have your Lebanon and I have my Lebanon.” His words still ring true, as seemingly two Lebanons have emerged.
One is the old Lebanon—still living in its shadowy past, where the nation is split among populations, geographies, sects and classes. With senseless wars and irresponsible famines, it is the Lebanon that cannot take care of its own. It is the very same one in which a handful of leaders control its destiny, government is deaf, corruption is rampant, people have no rights, lawlessness and injustice prevail, the environment is abused and resources are scarce. It is a Lebanon without infrastructure, public school, or opportunities, which cries everyday as more of its sons and daughters leave its shores. It is one in which empty pride cloaks a lack of dignity, and meaningless materialism fills hollow souls. It is an absurd Lebanon, living on a fictitious past, borrowed time and a baseless future. It is the Lebanon with ample leaders but no leadership, with power seekers aplenty but no sense of duty or responsibility. It is a Lebanon where politics is the purview of a select few, democracy is bought and sold to the highest bidder, the state is indifferent and the citizen has been left with no sense of national identity or belonging. It is the Lebanon whose mothers have been left to lament the absence of their sons and whose fathers weep at the frustrations of their daughters. The old Lebanon lacks empathy, love, hope or imagination.
Then there is the new Lebanon. It is the one with concerned citizens involved in every nook and cranny of the country, treating one another like sister and brother. It is the Lebanon of the one flag and national anthem. It is the very one that has recognized and reconciled with the mistakes of the past, striving to move forward towards equality and justice. It is the Lebanon in which the citizen holds dear a Bill of Rights, reigning in a tampered constitution. The new Lebanon helps those in need first, offering gender equality and protecting individual freedoms, while safeguarding the environment and the country’s heritage.
Indeed, the new Lebanon is one in which the people choose their leaders and not the other way around. It is one in which the public servants are proud to serve, where projects are implemented without corruption, and where everyone appreciates the state because it offers them excellent education, health and transportation.
It is the Lebanon of regional empowerment, giving everyone in the nation an equal opportunity, while protecting them. It is the Lebanon, which seeks no ill will towards anyone, proudly welcoming every well-intentioned to its shores, while globally fostering the industry of its good people and the fruits of their labor. The new Lebanon is that of love, respect, creativity and hope.
Hence, Lebanon is now witnessing an immigration of an unusual sort—one not of the accustomed geographic nature, but a rather different dimension. You see, brave citizens are crossing the Rubicon and immigrating from the old Lebanon to the new Lebanon, projecting themselves to a future where truth, dignity, justice and common identity prevail.
Yes, at this time in its history, we find that there are two Lebanons—the old Lebanon housing the corrupt, fearful and misguided and the new Lebanon that has captured the free, the spirited and the visionary. But old Lebanon is fighting back against an inevitable tide even while it’s crumbling. Those in the new Lebanon can see it, but how to explain to their brothers and sisters to leave their sink hole and join them? How to convince them that even though they love them as their own and extend their hand, they cannot allow themselves to be pulled into the old abyss of expired ideas, false calculations and fear of change?
And so, they pray. They pray that all those stuck down in old Lebanon will see the light and join them, for deep inside they don’t want to see two Lebanons anymore. They want to see only one for all its citizens—the new Lebanon.