I don’t think words can convey the degree of disgust I feel. I left home this morning at 8:30 am. Usually I make it in half an hour, one hour tops, if there is a traffic jam. The “highway” in Lebanon is as follows: there are two sides, one going, one coming, depending where you look at it from, of course. And you can make a turn from one side to the other at certain places. Now there was no traffic in the direction that I was heading, but I happened to have a small but important business to take care of, and to get there I needed to actually make a turn. But lucky as I am, the army had set up a checkpoint. And I wish it were a “logical” checkpoint; but I was expecting too much, I guess! Logic? What’s that. It was a one-lane checkpoint. On the highway. A one-lane checkpoint on a 5-lane highway. Yes. Welcome to Lebanon. Actually, they were checking each and every car!!!! On the highway. At rush hour, when everyone was on his/her way to work. I had to make the turn, so I did. I got stuck in traffic for – literally – an hour, trying to “push” my way through the jam (tedfeesh). At last I arrived to the place I was supposed to exit the highway, which was like a 100 metres away from the place I had made the turn at… No, I am not kidding. I really am not. Anyway, I took care of business and then I headed for university. Now to actually go to university from where I was, I had to get back on the highway, actually pass the checkpoint, make a turn back to the other side, and then go straight from there. I decided there was no way I would do that, unless I wanted to be stuck there until 4 pm (I know a number of people who were stuck in traffic for – LITERALLY – 5 hours). So I thought I would take the “inner” roads all the way to the city centre. Proved to be a better choice, of course, but still not good enough!!! Anyone sane enough would have decided to just park there and wait until they removed the checkpoints, if they ever did. But I could not have done that, as I had to be at work before 1 pm… I got stuck in one street for an hour and a half, although it was technically going in the opposite direction. Not one car moved for 45 minutes. That is by no means an exaggeration. I just turned off the car and sat there. Sat there and cursed this f*cking government, the f*cking army, the f*cking interior minister, the f*cking stupidity of the people who seem to be willing to put up with all this for the sake of keeping their favourite sectarian leaders and warlords in power. I am simply disgusted. More at the people than at the leaders. I am disgusted at this country, at this mentality. I am usually very patient, but I believe there are limits to patience. But it seems that the Lebanese people have crossed the thin line between extreme patience and extreme stupidity. I turned on the radio at 11:15, and they said these were “tadabeer amniyya 3adiyya” (regular security measures)…. Then they talked about the protest that was to take place in ‘Awkar, where the United States of Imperialism embassy is located, at 12 pm, regarding the American role in the Jericho prison raid. Before listening to the radio I thought it was one of those “close the road because the convoy of a politician is going to pass” cases, but that was too huge to be about that, and so I (rightly) dismissed it. The whole thing seemed to be aiming at preventing protestors from reaching ‘Awkar. But there is, I believe, a more sinister aim behind this. Punishing the people. As simple as that. Punish the people so that they would curse not the government and army, which claim to be taking those measures to ‘protect’ them (from whom? the army should think about protecting the Lebanese from the continuous Israeli violations, but it just loves to flex its muscles on Lebanese civilians), but the people who have called for and organized the protest. From my experience, this is actually a very common technique, and most of the time it works. More than anything, it is psychological warfare; more accurately, it is psychological torture, since it is one-sided. Ironically, there was a talk today, organized by “Al-tajammo’ al-yasaree men ajl al-taghyeer” (the leftist collective for change), which addressed the topic “The Rise of the Police State”. Too bad I couldn’t make it.
But the highlight of my day was actually the following: At last I made it out of the traffic jam at around 11:30 am. I had just entered the downtown area. A black BMW makes a turn and appears in front of me. Fine, no problem with that. It goes on for a few metres slowly. I wait patiently. There are no cars in front of him, and the street has only two lanes, one of which he has occupied. I honk once, he slows down even more. I honk again, he comes to a complete stop. By this time I was out of my wits. I honked for 5 minutes non-stop. He would not drive!!! He just stopped there!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you imagine this??? Luckily I had someone with me, who tried to calm me down, because otherwise I would’ve turned off the car, gone out, and punched him in the face. I am sure I would have done that. I despise rude and inconsiderate people. But this guy was just beyond any definition of rude or inconsiderate. He was one of those egotistic, the-road-is-mine-and-I-can-stop-anywhere-at-any-time-and-you-can’t-do-shit-about-it people. The guy did not move. The people behind me were honking too. But nope, he would not move. Sometimes I wish I had a junkyard car, so that I would just drive it into the back of such dumbasses’ cars. And so after 5 minutes of honking, I changed my lane, and as I went past him, he made a “what the f*ck do you want?” gesture with his hand. Now if anyone’s brain should be studied, it is not Einstein’s.
But from now on I will honk for one of the favourite (not my favourite) warlords; that ought to make people happy and moving on the roads. Ja’ja and Aoun have their own honk tunes, although Ja’ja might change it to better be able to compete with Aoun… And I think Junblatt is in the process of composing one. I heard he has been inspired by his latest visit to Washington. Sa’adeddine of the Hariri clan already has one. Guess which. Yeah, the famous “money money money” song. Berri and Hassan Nasrallah are still competing over whose tune would be used by the Shi’ites, and the competition is so strong that they actually forgot how their tunes went. And the Armenians have one ready, “Bank Ottoman”. Actually, on the occasion of the “hiwar” (dialogue), I might have to perform all tunes one after the other, although it would still be problematic, as people would draw all the wrong conclusions from my priority list… Remember the saying that goes something like: “you can neither walk in front of him nor behind him”. In other words, whatever you do, some people will always find something wrong with it. In any case, welcome to the new, liberated Lebanon. Where ministers take their orders from ‘Awkar. On second thoughts, maybe the best way out of the honktunes dilemma is to just honk “the star-spangled banner”. In celebration of the addition of a new star (well, technically planet) in the orbit.