When I hear or read what some people say about Lebanon, I can’t help but think: what a great place, I need to move there! But then I realize that I already live in Lebanon and it’s nothing like the country they’re describing. But maybe there’s another Lebanon I’ve never heard of. Hidden somewhere, in some unknown part of the world. So I started searching.
Green mountains and valleys, lush forests, clear streams, rivers and lakes, eternal virginal snow, amazing beaches and creeks, Lebanon is a “piece of the sky” – ot3it sama – as the poet sang. People are kind and generous, smart, friendly and fun. Or so I’ve been told. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t want to move to such an amazing place?
Strangely, this Lebanon looks nothing like the one I’ve been living in.
In my Lebanon, mountains are devoured by concrete. Valleys and forests have been turned into garbage dumps. Streams, rivers and lakes have more to do with arsenic than fresh water. The seashore is polluted beyond pollution. And the people, well, they’re a bunch of arrogant dumbasses, selfish and egocentric, always ready to jump at each other’s throat. “Ot3it khara” would be a more accurate description.
So where’s this heavenly Lebanon, everyone’s been so adamantly talking about? It can’t just be an illusion. It must exist somewhere on this planet.
I started searching for it, and I discovered many places called “Lebanon”. Not in any unknown part of the world, but in the United States. From Tennessee to Pennsylvania, from Ohio to Oregon, from New Hampshire to New Jersey, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Kansas, I found many Lebanon throughout the land of the free.
The first picture I came across was a sign claiming that Lebanon is the center of the USA. Which is not so different from my Lebanon, where people think it’s the center of the universe. So I kept looking.
In Missouri, today’s Lebanon, as orderly as it seems, doesn’t look like the green heaven we’ve all heard so much about.
In other states, Lebanon was founded in the 19th century, when my Lebanon was still called Syria. So maybe it was one of them. But then again, after searching further, none allowed you to ski and swim on the same day.
In Illinois, it somehow felt exactly like the Lebanon I know.
Ultimately, I realized that this ideal Lebanon doesn’t in fact exist. Perhaps it does in a galaxy far far way, but not here, not on Earth. Nevertheless, it’s a great fantasy, a legend of sorts, not so different from Atlantis or honesty in politics.
So I’ve decided that from now on, I would give in to such fantasy, and with every delusional post I’d share on social media, I would happily add #livelovelalaland.
© Claude El Khal, 2016