November 22, 1943 – a day on which I was still not born, and yet we celebrate every year as Lebanese.
For 23 years, the French imposed a mandate over our land. In 1943 the Lebanese president, prime minister and cabinet members were arrested by the French for amending the constitution in a way that it abolished articles referring to the mandate. After international pressure, the prisoners were released on the day which is now celebrated as our Independence Day.
Is Lebanon independent? Yes, it is. Is it self-governed? Yes, it is. Is it subject to control by others? No, it is not. I am not talking about the indirect control imposed by the international powers. I am not talking about the invisible pressure which drives Lebanese politics. I am talking about Lebanon’s sovereignty as an independent country on a map with set boundaries.
On this occasion, I can’t but bring up Palestine. Yes, we are taught not to compare ourselves to others. However, this is one of the few exceptions. Five years after we gained our official independence, our sister nation, Palestine was stripped of hers. Ever since 1948, the Palestinians have been fighting for not only their land, but for their right to an identity. They are screaming out loud for the international community to acknowledge their legitimacy as Palestinians in order for them to have the freedom to speak up for civil rights.
The reason I brought up the Palestinian struggle is because I want to encourage the Lebanese to not take their independence for granted. Yes, we have problems. Yes, we are not living in Utopia. Yes, our politics is very unstable. But, we are independent. We don’t live in a country controlled by armed forces of another entity.
Disregarding our flaws as a country, we need to remember to stop sometimes and just be grateful for the freedoms and rights we have acquired as Lebanese. The Palestinians don’t enjoy the privileges and luxuries we have such as the right to a home and the right to dignity. So, on this occasion, I call upon all Lebanese to just stop complaining for a bit.
I want us all to truly be grateful for the current state we live in as Lebanese, and for all those souls who died while fighting to gain and maintain Lebanon’s independence. And, it is on this day, more than any other day, that we need to forget our differences. We are Lebanese.
We’re only good at imitating and attributing successes to the West. Well, here’s something I admire in the United States. If you ask any of its citizens “what are you?” he would reply “American” not Californian or Texan or whatever. That is what we are missing here in Lebanon; nationalism, patriotism. We learn the anthem by heart, and we know our flag. But, ask us about our identity, and we manage to include religion.
Just like we were able to abolish the French mandate, at least in paper, I do hope that we will be able to abolish sectarianism likewise. Whether we are aware of it or not, our sectarianism is overshadowing the whole point behind the long battle which was fought for our Lebanese independence.
Happy 69th Independence Day to Lebanon!