The Lebanese landmark war of fifteen years (1975 - 1990) fed books and articles, inspired slogans and headlines and was the focus of world media. To this day, the Lebanese are recognized the world over primarily for their war, cuisine and successful immigrants. Beirut became a universal synonym for division.
That’s what the world sees, but if you lived through the war, what was it to you? Was it a daily seesaw of life or death? Or was it the smell of blood that you could never shake off? The sight of bullet-ridden walls in half-standing, windowless buildings; or the stink of humidity and death in shelters where people gathered and made the best out of their worst nightmare? Maybe it’s the fleeing trips to the unknown with nothing but your tired sleepless body.
Where did you hide from the indiscriminate bombing, sniper bullets, or militia intimidations? Was it your kitchen, the dining room or that space in the back of the house that gave you the false feeling of safety just because it was dark? Who did you hug when you were scared? Did you observe the palpitation of your heart for the various sounds: The news flash on the radio, the shelling as it departs, its whizzing overhead and its landing. Do you remember the landing that brought down entire buildings nearby? The screams that ensued, the dust, the sadness, the inability to move as the skies rained on you more shells and more deafening noises of death, hate and destruction. Did your heart ever rejoice at the possibility that you could be next to get the hit so you too can get a taste of the finality of it all? Did you feel guilty or lucky that others died but not you?
What do you remember of the war? Is it how life was interrupted on a regular basis but you still carried on with classes, exams, jobs and entertainment? Or is it the time you were kidnapped and beaten unconscious because your accent did not sit well with the airheaded youth manning a checkpoint? Is it when dozens of men you know were massacred as they attended a funeral for no reason other than blinding hatred and total fog of war?
Death does not distinguish among sects, nor is a massacre more justified than another. Loss is painful and life is precious for all. At the end of those bloody fifteen years no one won and Lebanon was completely broken. While everyone rushed to live, no one paused to reflect on what had happened and the war simply hid in old archaic mentalities.
Today, we witness the same hatred, divisions, and ignorance. No matter what we think we learned from the war, it seems we have not learned anything at all!