Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Change Lebanon can believe in?

The locale had all the feeling of a youth hostel or a Bohemian coffee shop - yellow walls, pastels, a Buddha mask on the wall, red couches, mismatched chairs, low lighting to give the imperfections perfect character. And youth - the buzz, the desperate energy of a generation longing for change.

As an American, I can't say the gathering was unlike those during the early Obama campaign, when young Americans gathered in places not unlike Club 43 in Gemeyzeh with a tenacious grip on hope and an insatiable thirst for change.

Skin was shiny, the point just before sweat, the sticky air of Beirut invading the crowded room, and impromptu fans of paper pushed the only air around. Nobody minded the heat, for this was a moment. This was freedom. This was an opportunity for voices to be heard by a representative of their government. A question answered, a dozen more hands, an endless supply of questions asked not for answers, but just to be heard, hands reaching to the fruits of humanity, a hunger for a real country, a real democracy, a real freedom.

Ziad Baroud is not Barack Obama. But what he brings to the youth of this country is the same, a ripple in the sea of failed policies of the establishment. As Minister of Interior in charge of elections and security, he has already brought about real reform - reform to electoral laws, reform to the way the security forces function, and reform to the attitudes of a new generation. Perhaps the last is the most important.

Minister Baroud was at Club 43 to talk about electoral reform as part of the Naam Lil Hiwar weekly dialogue series that takes place in various venues every Monday in Beirut. Naam lil hiwar means "Yes to dialogue" in Arabic. The organization believes:
We, as citizens have a role and responsibility, to actively participate in setting and defining the citizenship attitudes and democratic behavior, and in the creation of the governance system we want for our country...

Na-am Lil Hiwar has successfully created an open space for dialogue by holding Hiwar sessions in Beirut for over two years and tackling a wide spectrum of political, social, and cultural issues.

Open spaces for dialogue in different regions of Lebanon - where youth can discuss a wide spectrum of political, social, and cultural issues - are needed as a communication channel.
Naam Lil Hiwar communicates the times and places of its dialogue sessions through its group page on Facebook. Thus far, the group has 403 members and has held 74 past events.

The energy in the room last week as the Minister spoke was electrifying. There is nothing more inspiring than watching a new generation push to better their country, nothing more fundamental to democracy than public participation at the grassroots level, nothing more promising for the future than seeing the political will for change.

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