Tuesday, January 25, 2011

27 January

A recent irony for our blog has been that at the point where people would expect us to have so much to say, we have very little to say.  The first reason is practical.  We’re busy putting together essays for the end of our semester, so that’s not terribly interesting, and we also hope to save money for our travels to other countries, so we would not be seeing much of Lebanon at this time anyway.  Secondly, things are extremely complicated here.  Everybody we talk to has their perspective on why things are happening the way they are and the motivations of all of the players, domestically and internationally, concerning the future of the country.  As outsiders, we have learned the importance of suspending our judgment and our perspectives to allow ourselves to be open and observant to what is going on.  The fact of the matter is that there are no clear-cut good guys or bad guys, no clear-cut storyline that can describe the situation here.  The only way that we can appropriately approach the situation is distantly, critically, and prayerfully.  We do know that things have been calm in our neighborhood, we read the news everyday, and we ask lots of questions.  That seems to be best for now as we wrap up our classes and prepare for a vacation to Egypt and Jordan.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

13 January

If you’re still checking this blog, you really are a champ!  I know it has been forever since we’ve made a post.  We returned to the states during Christmas, which was marvelous, but we are back in Beirut now. 

Before launching into anything else, I suppose I should address the recent news coming from Lebanon.  Yes, the government has collapsed, but this is not as dire as it might sound.  In a parliamentary system, it is possible for a cabinet coalition to fall apart, but the government itself is still in-tact.  Please do not picture a state of anarchy, with people taking to the streets waving flags and rifles; the PM, president, government offices, and military are still firmly in place.  The task now falls to the president to re-from the coalition, which could take months.  For example, Belgium also has a parliamentary system and have been “without a government” for 8 months now.  The collapse creates a power vacuum and means that no new decisions or legislation will happen.  In truth, this has been the state of affairs in Lebanon for several months anyway owing to a complete stalemate between the two blocs.

At the center of the debate stands the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has been commissioned to investigate the 2005 death of Lebanon’s popular PM, Rafiq Hariri.  Hizbullah deems the entire enterprise a tool of the US and Lebanon’s southern neighbor and has demanded that the PM and president’s party end all Lebanese funding to the UN and rescind the Lebanese judges from the court.  Recognizing the unwillingness of the PM to take those actions and after several months of stalemate and attempted intervention by the Saudis and Syrians, last night the pro-Hizbullah bloc withdrew from the government.

For now, all is very stable and the newspapers are no more alarmist than normal.  I have spoken with several Lebanese professors at the school who assure me that nothing will happen imminently; all sides want peace for now.  I do believe this will hold for at least some time.  So we wait.  It is like standing on the corniche during January: the sun is shining down on you, but out to sea, you can see the steely gray clouds gathering as the thunder rumbles.  As with the weather here, you never know if the storm will dissolve or hit the city; there is an equal chance of both.