By Natalie Haboush Khoury
I am Lebanon. I am writing to portray the truth. This is not a cry for help…..I have tried that too many times and it seems that with each request, I am devastated and let down even more. I don’t consider myself to have any true haters, only envious followers. I was once told that with success and popularity comes great heartbreak and betrayal. Whoever told me that was a wise, wise person. I was never considered a third world, uncivilized country. My children are and have always been the most successful, the most educated and the most intellectual of humankind. They succeed in whatever discipline they pursue. They make a name for themselves wherever they go. Though I had created the perfect environment for them, the satisfaction was short lived.
Being the selfless country that I am, I taught my children to welcome all individuals who didn’t have a home; refugees who were forced out of their country. I taught my children to be social and friendly. Those same individuals that we welcomed with open arms, ripped us to shreds. Add to that the leaders of the world who befriended me early on, only to discover that my friendship was to serve their own self interests. Yes, this is the harsh reality of life, but being the naive Lebanon that I am, I was oblivious to this fact and truly believed that the purpose of friendships were to empower one another and share times of success and grief together. Very quickly did I realize that my own children would abandon me and my children’s children would betray me…a spiraling effect, leading me to where I am today.
Broken. Alone. Devastated. Starving. Lifeless.
Most have left me. All have betrayed me.
I am unable to provide food, shelter, love, culture, life. They have turned me into a hopeless failure. They have clipped my wings. I tried for so long to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild….brush my shoulders off and stand back up, only to be knocked down even harder each time. They have now left me completely paralyzed.
Do you want to know the worst part? It is my own children that did this to me. Despite my attempts to teach them to remain true to themselves. Despite my attempts to raise them as leaders, leaders who believe in themselves and do unto others as they would have done unto them. Despite my attempts to carve the true values of Lebanon within their hearts. Despite these attempts and many more, they gave in. They gave in to greed. They gave in to evil. They gave in to disgrace. They gave in to dishonor.
My children allowed the selflessness that Lebanese were known for to be replaced with the world’s selfishness. My children allowed Lebanese intellectualism to be replaced with egoism. My children allowed Lebanese culture to be replaced with the haters’ barbarism. My children sold me. And, for what? What did they receive in return? They received poverty, a lack of infrastructure, an economic collapse, a loss of morale, the devastation of friendships, the lack of a future for their children, the loss of Lebanese life. So true it is that one does not realize what he has until it’s gone. I now hear my children screaming. I hear the voices of regret. I see them trying to make their way back to me. And, of course, being the Lebanon that I am, I will take them back with open arms. I will embrace them with love and compassion. But, boy do we have a long road ahead of us.
This time is different from all the other times. This time I cannot do it alone. This time I need ALL of my children, regardless of religion, race and economic status. I need them all to come together; to remember who we as Lebanese are: to remember what made Lebanon in the first place. I need them to remember why the world envied (and continues to envy) this country and its people. But, in doing so, I need them to forgive, but not forget. Because we as Lebanese forgive, but we also tend to forget too easily. We as Lebanese fight. We as Lebanese accept. We as Lebanese endure. We have a lot of enduring to do. We will need to survive starvation. We will need to grieve the loss of our loved ones. We will need to face our fears of being alone, of being poor, of being powerless. We can survive and we can overcome. We will survive and we will overcome and once this is all a part of our history, we truly will show the world that, yes, we are the greatest. But, in true Lebanese form, we will welcome all with open arms. The difference this time around however, will be that we will welcome our guests as guests and provide them with the best Lebanese experience, but that is exactly what they will be—guests. We are no longer accepting anyone into our family. Our family is just the right size and if we come together, we are all we need.
All my love,