BEIRUT: November 22, Any Year
You’ve been deceased for 30 years, but I’m hoping one day a time machine would deliver this urgent message. I pray it gets to you before you join the demonstration against the French mandate, 75 years ago. As we celebrate this day with the mandatory national anthem playing twenty times a day when we make a phone call, I can’t help but wonder if we’d be better off had you and your compatriots stayed home that day.
We would now be EU citizens, like our lucky Cypriot neighbors, 200 kilometers away, carrying a passport that allows unfettered access to 174 countries, instead of 37 countries, many of which only an aspiring terrorist would visit. At least our passport would not be six times the price.
We would not have a garbage crisis today. We would have 24-hour electricity. We would have running, potable water in our homes. We would have proper sewage systems that don’t dump waste around us ... or in the sea where we swim ... in between bouts of pretentious bronzage, while we conveniently ignore the stench. We could throw toilet paper in the lavatory without clogging the pipes. We would have paved roads, without giant potholes, and with functioning light-posts that are on at night, instead of day. We would have traffic lights ... and people would actually stop. We would have cars give way to pedestrians crossing on zebra walkways. There would be no noise pollution through honking of cars as a mode of cursing or announcing one’s existence. There would be no pollution, period.
We would politely wait our turn in a queue instead of trying to “nitzeka.” In a two-lane road, if traffic slows, we would not create a third lane, and then a fourth lane, clogging up both ways. We could obtain an official document quickly, because our taxes already paid the salary of the guy working on it, not because we had to bribe him to do his job. We would park on the street not on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians and forcing them to walk dangerously among cars. We would have Carnival Cruise ships in front of our shores, not ugly electric generator ships or military frigates.
There would be no governmental and extra-governmental armed checkpoints ... and if there ever were, we would be surprised ... and then outraged, at this invasion of our privacy.
We would have a robust public transportation system, with underground trains, electric buses, trams, and rail systems linking the whole country. We would not have monopolies, like the cell phone industry and electricity generators, making us pay some of the highest communication and energy costs in the world. We would not have a debt to GDP ratio putting us in the worst three countries in the world, with nothing to show for it. We would have proper zoning rules that prevent haphazard construction from Akoura to Anjar, destroying the natural forestry, including our national symbol, the cedar tree. When the cedar trees become extinct, Jiddo, would our flag just be red and white?
We would not be converting our majestic mountains to kissarat, digging them up, and carting them off for easy profit — literally wiping them off the map. We would have zoning rules outside big cities that only allow houses with gardens, while building skyscrapers in Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon.
We would not have swaths of land outside the control of the central government. We would not have had an Israeli invasion in 1978, 1982, and 2006. We would not have had a Syrian occupation for thirty years ... oops, I mean “wisaya.” We would not have an armed chunk of the Lebanese population under a flimsy pretext ... with its own foreign policy, independent from the central government, interfering in the affairs of other states.
We would not be branded at birth like sheep, with a religion and sect that limits our aspirations, ambitions, and government posts that we can attain. We would not have the same shepherds and their incompetent, despotic descendants continuing to rule, exploit, and rob the country. We would no longer follow them, and when we did, we would hold them accountable.
There would be no wasta.
We would no longer strive to build the world’s largest Hummus plate or giant Manoucheh, and excitedly call the Guinness Book of Records. We would no longer have to analyze Shakira’s or Paul Anka’s ethnicity to get a “tartoucheh” of pride in our superior DNA.
We would have free medical care. A retirement plan for every citizen funded in Euros, not Monopoly money, which people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s will never see. Free education. Free healthcare. No flooding every time it rains, while we have to buy water for our houses ... or shower in brown sludge.
We would not have an epidemic brain drain to any country that will accept us ... or get ourselves born there because our prescient mother flew somewhere in her 9th month to exploit a citizenship loophole.
We would no longer have tears rolling down our cheeks as we listen to Fairouz singing “Bhibbak ya Lubnan” in a Las Vegas concert. We would no longer believe Wadih el Safi when he croons “We are staying here in our mountain” as he repeatedly points his non-Oud-playing finger at the ground below him ... on the Champs-Élysées.
We would not need the help of the President of France to host our prime minister when he’s exiled after a misunderstanding with the Wisaya ... or to release him when someone decides to Hotel California his a##. We would not need France’s help to go begging for money in various conferences to save us from a financial demise of our own making.
We would not have chronic traffic jams aggravated by a week of parade rehearsals, sealed off from the general public, with only VIP dignitaries invited — some of whom, the same ones who ran the country into the ground after inheriting the Paris of the Middle East from the Paris of Europe.
We would not be celebrating an Independence Day earned by only one martyr. You heard right. Just one. Hassan Abdel Sater, from the village of Laat, five kilometers outside Baalbek, whom nobody’s heard of today ... while the Algerians earned their independence with a million martyrs ... which can only mean that the French were all too happy to leave. We would simply visit Abdel Sater’s daughter, Zainab, and give her our sincere condolences.
So please, Jiddo, when you get this letter, stay the f### home and do not demonstrate against the French.
Signed: Your grandson, from the future.
Dan Azzi is a regular contributor to Annahar. He has recently been invited to be an Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow at Harvard University, a program for senior executives to leverage their experience and apply it to a problem with social impact. Dan’s research focus at Harvard will be economic and political reform in a hypothetical small country riddled with corruption and negligence. Previously, he was the Chairman and CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Lebanon
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