So I went to get a mammogram, 48 hours after election day. Everyone was still spinning from our attempt at democratically electing a parliament.
… an election we haven’t had since 2009.
… a parliament whose only unanimous agreement was to extend their stay in their seats.
This was an interesting historical moment.
… where LADE, the Lebanese Association For Democratic Elections, registered “only” 7000 violations!
… where independent candidates made valiant attempts to gain seats, but the winners looked like more of the same – or the sons-of-more-of-the-same.
So there I am with a boob flattened into that machine. And the doctor asks: Where are you from?
That’s only a half-truth, but I could only manage a half-answer in between x-rays.
Yes but… where in Lebanon?
Inhale. Exhale. Boob-squeeze. Release.
That’s precisely our problem, isn’t it? “Lebanon” isn’t enough of an answer.
The ink is still gunked on my magic-purple-voting-finger, and we are back to the same old crap.
We’ve divided this micro-country into a bazillion itty-bitty-shitty bits – and we’re still bickering about our little square of space. And each speck of the country is tied to a sect. Asking where I’m from is also asking which sect-speck I belong to.
[Where is the atheist-speck?!]
When I moved to Afghanistan in 2002, political theorists and creatures far more clever than I spoke of the “Lebanonization” of Afghanistan.
I remember thinking: Hmmm… I’m from Lebanon (Kinda. Half.). And I’m now in Afghanistan.
But I had no clue what that meant.
Basically it’s this: Afghanistan is made up of tribes and clans and ethnic groups. They were tossed into a shared space based on borders they of course did not draw, and so they had to act like a country, when in reality they had little interest in a shared space and a single nation state. Their loyalty remains with the tribe.
[We’re so famous – or infamous – we have a political framework named after us!]
And now I get it. This sounds eerily familiar. Even the fact that I had to vote in the women-only room of a Druze section was a clear indicator that we remain branded like sectarian cattle.
So – until we build a secular state we are doomed to failure. And let’s not even talk about what our religious divisions mean for women. It’s pretty obvious that the one thing all these religions agree on is that patriarchy is an awesome idea, leaving women continue to have to fight for what is rightfully theirs – political space and power and engagement at every level. Until we do this, we are super-doomed.
And let’s not talk about how we fare in terms of women’s representation in politics. Afghanistan has us beat. As does the rest of the world. We’re 183rd out of 188 countries. I don’t know how to say that without using expletives.
So, pardon me, Dr. Boob-Squishing-Person, if I do NOT humor your “where in Lebanon” questions. Besides, we both know that you can take one look at my last name and find my supposed-village, a possible-relative of mine that you know, and some story to connect us. Or to divide us. In the end it doesn’t matter. We do a fabulous job of “Lebanonizing” ourselves.
Your question was benign, but the idea behind it is that it still matters where in the country we are from. And as long as it does, we don’t really have a country, do we?!