LEBANON: Fear & Loathing in Lebanon

Two days after the worst bomb in 30 years rocked Lebanon, I need to travel from cialis coupon offers the hills south of Beirut back into the city. The most direct routes would skirt me near Dahiyeh, where 27 innocent people died and nearly 300 were injured when a car carrying 100 kg of explosives was detonated on Wednesday, Aug 14. Although I won’t be anywhere near the bomb blast site, my hosts are concerned about my traveling near this area controlled by Hezbollah. At first, they are concerned about driving me. Roads will be blocked and traffic will be a mess, they say. Then, they suggest I take a service (a multi-passenger van that has a set route but stops whenever flagged down) from their hillside home to Kona, and take a cab into town for $10. Then, they decide Kona is too dangerous and suggest I take a viagra cost per pill 100mg bus from a nearby town straight into Beirut. They call a friend of theirs (I’ll call her Betsy) for travel specifics. All set. Or so I thought. A few hours later, my host pokes his head into my bedroom and thunders that I can’t go at all on Friday. Too dangerous, the day is declared a national day of mourning, I shouldn’t even leave the house…Even Betsy, he says, suggests I shouldn’t do it. His wife, on the other hand, suggests a local cab driver who would know the back roads to get into town. I apologize to my hosts for putting them in this position where they feel responsible for me. And

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I understand that if something happens to me, the burden of dealing with it would fall to them. I also remind them that I didn’t get the stories they appreciate reading in my book draft by sitting in the back of a cab. In the end, we settle on the taxi. My driver is a young dad, very unhappy with Lebanon. He instructs me not to tell anyone I’m American, to lie and say I’m from Spain or prohormones and viagra Italy. ….Not to tell anyone I’m a writer, to hide my note-taking. He waits for me in town to complete my interviews and starts to drive me back. I ask him if we could get near the bomb site so I could get a photo. I don’t want to get out of the car, just drive by and take a picture. No, it’s not safe, he says, the area is controlled by Hezbollah. As an American, I’m not safe. I pull a scarf out of my purse and tie it around my head, hijab-style. He smiles and says I still look like an American. I tell him I don’t want him to do anything that would be unsafe for him, but he insists it’s about my safety. We drive for a bit. He has a heated cellphone conversation. (Conversations get heated quickly here.) He explains to me that his office says it is too dangerous for me. I know by now the place is crawling with news cameras, so I know it isn’t that “dangerous.” I ask if there’s a high place where I could look down and see the site and have it still be safe. No, he says, it’s all Hezbollah area, not safe, not safe. We drive in silence for a bit. He’s fidgeting, rubbing his goatee, tilting his head, sighing a lot. “What are you thinking?” I venture. “I’m thinking it’s too dangerous,” he says. Since that’s where we’d left it, I say nothing. “There’s a bridge,” he says suddenly, surprising me. “I don’t know if it’s open.” “Well, let’s try that.” “No, it’s not safe.” Well, shit, I think, why’d you mention it? “Well, I don’t want you to do anything that wouldn’t be safe for you. I’m not going to get out of the car, just take a photo.” “No, it’s not me, it’s not safe for you.” I’m so tired hearing what other people think is safe for me! We drive in silence again until he abruptly stops in the middle of the freeway off-ramp and says, “Well what is it?”

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He turns to me demanding, “The house or the bridge?” Stopped precariously in the middle of the traffic lane, speeding cars veering around us, now I feel unsafe! “The bridge,” I answer quickly. “Let’s see if it’s open. If it’s not, the house.” He backs up

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— on the freeway! — and steers into speeding traffic. He turns off, does a U-turn and grumbles something about this being Hezbollah area. I tell him I can’t tell the difference and ask how he knows. He mentions the yellow flags on the light poles (to me, they look like the flags announcing a new concert series that flap from Los Angeles’ streetlights) and the men wearing yellow armbands. He’s jittery. My camera is below the dash at my knees pointed up to get photos of the flags through the windshield. No flash. cheap viagra online canadian pharmacy When he barks “that’s enough,” I obey and drop my camera to the floor between my legs.

Bomb site as photographed from inside my taxi on the bridge.

Bomb site as photographed from inside my taxi on the bridge.

There are ramps leading off the road we’re on toward the bomb site. Yellow banded, armed men check cars. We head straight — toward the bridge, which is open and lined with over the counter viagra adelaide spectators. The traffic doesn’t crawl, but it does move slowly enough for me to take a few photos through the closed car window. “That’s enough,” he checks his rearview mirror and speeds on. When we’re down at the other end of the bridge and heading back toward the house in the hills, he wipes his brow and asks excitedly, “Did you get it? Did you get it?” The entire way back, he’s quite animated, insisting I call him whenever I need to go anywhere. The truth is the photo is cialis otc is no big deal — not great — doesn’t show much. But getting it was the story. The story that this strong 38-yr-old who had taken up arms against Hezbollah to protect his village in 2008 was so intimidated by them — and by the rumors, by prevailing “opinion,” by fears that may or may not have been justified. And here’s the kicker: While I was in town, I called Betsy and she asked how my bus ride was.
At Ground Zero of the blast site. Bomb tore through foot-wide concrete walls and through entire apartments blasting through the back walls.

At Ground Zero of the blast site. Bomb tore through foot-wide concrete walls and through entire apartments blasting through the back walls.

And kicker #2: A week later, I drove right into the bomb site on the back of an American’s motor scooter and got permission to take a few specific photos.
Commemoration wreath at bomb site.

Commemoration wreath at bomb site.

10 stories of buildings lining an entire city block look like this.
Broadcasting from the Bomb Site The photos I took were monitored, but I took this shot while my camera was down at my side. Just beyond the boom is a TV anchor set, lights and tripods for TV cameras for broadcasting live on al-Manara TV, Hezbollah's TV station.

Broadcasting from the Bomb Site
The photos I took were monitored, but I took this shot while my camera was down at my side. Just beyond the boom is a TV anchor set, lights and tripods for TV cameras for broadcasting live on al-Manara TV, Hezbollah’s TV station.

2 Responses to “LEBANON: Fear & Loathing in Lebanon”

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  1. Berto Wuest says:

    What’s your bottom line understanding of the middle east being such a cauldron of hatred and violence?
    My belief (based only on casual observation) is that tribal societies tend to be warlike, in order to protect or expand their resources or ideologies… and these are battles the likes of which have been going on in this area for eons between political factions – or tribes – there. Any intervention from the west will only serve to unite the tribes in their anger toward the common enemy… while doing nothing at all over the intermediate or long term to stem the hatred and violence. Regardless of how much money or warmongering the US throws at the “problem”.
    Warlike tribal societies will do what they’ve always done… and are not the least dissuaded by the so-called benefits of democracy (which doesn’t work in the US, so why should it elsewhere?).
    When and if the US ever becomes energy self-sufficient, I predict its middle eastern meddling will decline.

    • Berto, great questions, and I want to reply more thoroughly than I can right now. (Just spent an exhilarating day with Syrian teenagers — very smart, makes me hopeful! — and I want to get the footage off asap.) My quick answer is that as long as there are people profiting from conflict (e.g., making weapons — Halliburton, Bechtel, etc), and as long as those people maintain political power, there will be conflict — whether over oil, water, land, “tribes,” Israel or bobby pins, a way to foment conflict will be found. As I told the teenagers today, there’s more profit in funding war than in funding peace.

      Thanks for commenting! Keep ’em coming! I appreciate your thoughts….