Sunday, December 06, 2009

Beirut Journal Day #29: The Chouf


Kentucky Fried Chouf: A Haiku

Fires ignite night skies
singed cedars keep secrets from
Old Colonel Sanders

I went to the Chouf Mountains last night, and spent the day up there today. It's one of Lebanon's shining attractions, with the largest Cedar reserve, Beiteddine Castle and some stunning views down the valley. Beirut to the west, Damascus over the ridge to the east.

The Chouf district stretches in a crescent from the Saida, on the coast south of Beirut to the northeast. It's known to be the most diverse, & harmonious of Lebanon's districts. After the wars, and in particular The War of the Mountains, it seems that people have put their differences aside, and now unite against foreign intervention, specifically from Syria and Israel.

Of all the groups up in the mountains, the Druze stand out the most. Member of Parliament Walid Jumblatt, son of Kemal who was assassinated by the Syrians in the 80's, is the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, and the Druze leader. He's a pretty interesting person. He renamed Beit Eddine Castle (built in the late 18th Century by Emir Bashir, an Ottoman ruler)to "The Palace of the People." On Sundays, if he's in his home, the people line up around the block to bring him petitions--domestic disputes and service-related things, presumably--and he tries to solve their problems.

But, after the beauty of the mountains, and the persistence of the cedars, the thing that stands out to me the most is the Kentucky Fried Chicken. That monument to good ole Dixieland fried food. KFC, investor in private prisons. Testament to the arrival of a community to the global community.

I actually got really depressed seeing it. Then angry. This is what the People get after 15 years of war. This, multinational fried chicken chain store, is the real point of war.

Niketown in Ho Chi Minh City.

Starbucks in every corner of the globe.

As Kevin Young asks, in his poem "Negative,"

is this what we've wanted
and waited for

No, it's not.

But, it's what we get.

From Beirut.


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