I’ve been trying to convince my friends and family back in the US that the images they have of Beirut are so flawed, sensationalist, and distorted. When they said ‘war’ I said ‘beach,’ when they said “guns” I said “so what” when they said “danger” I said “you’re in more danger on the streets of LA.” Is that so true anymore?
The past few months stirred up turmoil but it wasn’t tangible — at least to me, a foreigner in my cozy Mar Mikhael apartment. But my arguments lost a lot of their validity four days ago when a car bomb exploded in the middle of a bustling neighborhood 15 mins walking distance from my house.The car bomb was a successful political assassination killing not only the Internal Security general but also up to three civilians.
Social Media: Your Door to Information and Your Constant Criticizer
I was in my bedroom stretching while Matias and Jorgen were in the living room working. I saw the windows shake, but thought it was thunder. The incessant construction overpowered any sounds of a bomb only one kilometer away. But less than five minutes later Jorgen was getting a flurry of information on Twitter saying a bomb had gone off in Sassine. Minutes passed and a downpour of information — text, pictures, videos — rushed in. I was panicked, a British couple and our very close friends live there. I texted one of them to make sure they were ok.
Other than that all we could do was sit glued to Twitter watching developments unfold. At the same time people started to get in virtual Twitter fights about what was going on. It was so bizaare. Between news of injured people and pictures of destruction there would be these angry 140-character rants. Some people cursed all of Lebanon. Others started insulting each other for not going out immediately and donating blood. Other people were pissed off at the Lebanese diasporans who could only watch from afar. Seriously, it was starting to get vicious. I just imagined all these people sitting at their computers angrily typing insults at each other as the rest of the country silently sat watching the news on TV.
These twitter bitchings did inspire me though. I packed up the 2famous boys and we climbed the hill to the local hospital to donate blood. We arrived in front of the hospital where there were already news teams, workers, and other people milling outside. I asked where I needed to go to donate blood. A guy who seemed to be in charge told me they didn’t need any more blood. Yep, nope, no more donations today, you can sign up for when we need blood another time.
I was a bit confused. All these people on Facebook and Twitter were blindly SCREAMING, DEMANDING even, that we all go out and give blood just to find out there was no more blood needed. Even after I came home I saw them still angrily pressuring all the assholes to give blood (at the hospital I was just at) despite the fact that it wasn’t in demand.
Beirut, War, Parties…Not So Much
That was a Friday. Since Beirut’s image is so tied up with war you hear alot of what people have to say about it. And that war image is always accompanied by a partying image. Countless people can recount to you their stories of epic parties during the war days. Orgies, drugs, lawlessness, fun. One bar in Gemmayze is famous for having always been packed during the 2006 war. Naturally, we thought this would be our chance to see what they mean. We emerged onto the streets that Friday night to find a ghost town.
We went to our local take-away bar where the air was thick with a complete lack of energy. Expats sat slowly sipping beer. Maybe the first day after a terrorist attack is slower, we thought. Maybe that’s the day that everyone hangs out with their families. Well, since we’re expats our worried parents are thousands of miles away. What else can we do but band together at the bar?
Sunday, two days after, was my birthday. In the evening I coerced about 7 people to go out and sing karaoke with me. We walked across Beirut passing all the “Drink and Sing” places we knew. None were open. In the busiest bar street of Beirut, one bold bar stood open in addition to the popular 2006 war bar, of course.
Here We Are Now
Now we read the news to see what new things have come up. One day it’s the army throwing tear gas in a central district protest, other days like today, the news is that the army has rounded up 100 suspects and clashes in Tripoli rage on.
When I go back to social media I just see so many people who don’t want war, violence, or hate. One thing that is certain is the uncertainty of what will or will not happen next. And although we are all hoping for the best, that’s all I can end with now.