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Thursday, December 15, 2005

All martyrs, no heroes

Lebanon has plenty of martyrs, but do we have any heroes? Are we a culture that draws strength from martyrs?


1 a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion 2 a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle 3 VICTIM; especially : a great or constant sufferer


1 a a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b: an illustrious warrior c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d: one that shows great courage

2 a the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work

3 an object of extreme admiration and devotion


I feel sincerely sorry for Gebran Tueyni’s friends and family and hope the terrorist cowards who killed him will be apprehended and hung high.

BUT the guy wasn’t Lebanon’s Mahatma Ghandi or the journalistic Emile Zola of the Neocon/new Middle-East whatever that means…Even if, post-mortem, Beirut's baklava salesmen and other amateur eulogists are turning him into the (backward/Bedouin/Baathist/bad/boo…) Ayyyrab world’s intellectual beacon of light, a “martyr” who went through the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of “liberty”, no less!

The reality is less bright, for Tueyni was just another subsidized Saudi stooge working for his Tex-Aviv paymasters: this “disinterested independent journalist” went from praising his “dear fiend General Ariel Sharon” (1982), to describing “General Ghazi Canaan as a real expert in Lebanese issues” (1993), to presenting “His Highness King Fahd as the greatest Arab Islamic leader of the past 100 years” (1998)

tw. Wahhâbi: a member of a fanatical Islamist sect founded in Arabia in the 18th century and revived by ibn-Saud in the 20th century

Collaborationism: the advocacy or practice of collaboration with the enemy
You make an interesting distinction.

I agree with your assessment. It's interesting that I didn't even think of the word "hero" while writing my post.

We have symbols. We have martyrs. But heroes?

Then again, are there really any heroes left in the world? Aren't Americans the main people who identify their own as heroes these days: John McCain, John Kerry, other men who served in the military?
As late as September 10, 2001, there was near unamimous agreement that the concept of "hero" in American society had either disappeared or, worse, had become obsolete. Very few people believed that such a thing existed any more. The discussions in the press following the fall of the twin towers was the first time in many years that I had heard that word applied to anybody as much as it was used to describe the firefighters and police that died in those buildings doing their jobs. The point is this - heroes do not exist in and of themselves; they are created by those who observe, comment on, and follow them. They are manifestly part of our imaginations, so yes, they do exist, and they will exist.
Kais, I have been arguing privately the excellent point that you have brought up.
As February approaches I am concerned that the efforts at the deification of Harriri are going to create a momentum that will be unstoppable. It is crucial that we remain unwavering in seeking the truth to what happened but it is equally important to be true to history. From where I sit, the assassination of Mr Harriri was the trigger for the events that have occured since his murder and it is important not to reright history in order to make it appear that the Cedar revolution has occured in an effort to actualize his vision of freedom, liberty and democracy. Let us assume that The Syrian regime had decided not to renew the mandate for president Emile Lahoud then in that case it would follow that the discord between Assad and Harriri would have been avoided and another appointee would have become president. If that course had taken place then Lebanon would have continued its superficial existense under Syrian tutelage and the blessings of all our traditional political leaders. Actually one can posit that Samir Kasir, May Chidiak and Gebran Tueini were much more unwavering in their support of independence.

Mythical figures that are larger than life are important for any society but we should be very careful in our choice of such candidates as to set standards that will withstand the test of time.
This is an elementary discussion that is closely linked to the dichotomy and fragmentation of the country. There is no consensus on anything and as such there is no consensus on national heroes. Someone's hero is someone else's butcher (Bechir Gemayel, Kamal Jumblatt, Nabih Berri, Camille Chamoun, etc.).

Hariri, Kassir, Tueni, Chidyak are the closest thing we have gotten to national heros. Even those figures are controversial within the fringes of each group that consitute this country.
I'm glad you brought this up Kais.

Before this last assassination, I would have sided with Ghassan and would have argued against the historical revisionism that is happening in Hariri's case, but now, I wonder if we really do need some mythological figure, which Hariri is on the way to become, in order to be able to rally behind. Most historical hero's weren't that "great" in real life and did terrible things, but they grew into myths. Is it so bad we allow the same to happen?
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