Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beirut Journal Day #33: Ozymandias

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I went to Baalbek today, the site of 2nd & 3rd Century Roman ruins. They were built by the enslaved, of course. Approximately 100,000 forced laborers over a 200 year span, erecting monuments to rulers who hated them. These ruins are, I think, something to note for the American Empire. Eventually our monuments will crumble.

It is definitely beautiful there. We traveled over the Chouf Mountains and into the Bekaa Valley, into a Hezballah stronghold. It was evident that the Party (Hezb) of God (Allah) is engaged in some important social work in the region. For, once the banners on the street changed from Amal (the "other" Shia party) to Hezballah, the conditions of the road did as well. Smooth sailing on a newly paved road for miles is quite a feat here. Not dissimilar from Brooklyn, actually. I mean, imagine if a political party delivered on a promise to completely repair & maintain Atlantic Avenue! They'd have my vote, for sure!

The facts are that this party is legitimate. Rather, Legitimate. Capital L. They have seats in the government, but don't control it. The don't have any more power, officially, than any other group, and are in the minority/opposition coalition, actually. This coalition does not have "veto power" as some US congresspeople are claiming. In fact, the government as a whole has agreed that Hezballah's arms are legitimate and necessary for the nation's defense. In effect, the government has nationalized Hezballah's arms. Most people here, whether they support Hezballah or not, recognize that without them Israel would still be occupying the south, trying to control the water supply. Lebanon gets the most annual rainfall of any country in the region, and thus has a natural, geographic advantage over other countries. Hezballah ensures that this advantage can be developed to benefit the people of Lebanon.

I just mean to shed a little light on this much-maligned political party. They are not evil. I don't agree with some of their policies, for sure. I am not keen on theocracy. But I do support local resources benefiting the people of the land. And I do support a party from the poor, who supports the poor. And the Shia of Lebanon are poor. But they are not THE poorest in Lebanon, anymore. They have, in the last few years, climbed out of dire, or absolute, poverty, and now most live just above the World Bank line of $4 per day. Whereas the predominantly Christian north, equally forsaken by previous administrations, has been on a downward spiral and are now the most impoverished people in the country. In short, Hezballah is moving people in a positive direction, towards economic self-sufficiency, in the name of God.



Self Portrait

Self Portrait #2

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