Monday, May 10, 2010

World Cup Fever in Lebanon - it's an illness

I'm not much of a soccer fan. I mean, I played in high school and did some coaching, so it's not like I don't like the sport. It's just that I don't follow it. That being said, I do get excited for the World Cup. Last World Cup I watched the US lose to Ghana in the middle of Times Square. I remember going downstairs to the hotel bar at lunch to watch games with work colleagues and going to the Lucky Bar in DC to watch a couple of games.

But I am disturbed by what I find here in Beirut. World Cup flags are everywhere - every store sells World Cup merchandise, and it seems one out of five cars has a flag flying from its window. It's quite strange that people would be flying the flags of other countries like this. I mean, it's one thing to say you favor France or Italy because they have good players. It's another thing to detail your entire car with Brazil-related pictures, unless, of course, you are Brazilian. But when you're from a small dysfunctional country like Lebanon with no decent professional soccer league and you have no hope in hell of ever getting into the World Cup, what do you do? Cling to the role of the conquered you've played for nearly your entire existence by embracing the neo-imperialist flags of capitalism? While Lebanese people spout off their diatribes about the Evil West(TM), they've been suckered into one of the largest capitalist events in the world.

What's even more disturbing to me is the fact that of all the flags for sale, you can't find a single Stars and Stripes. I tell you what, that pisses me off more than anything I've experienced in this country. (Also notice the Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden masks in the window.) It's not America's fault they can't get along with each other. I'm tired of America being blamed for all the world's problems. We have our problems yes and we are aggressive, and when I'm in the US, I am very vocal and critical about these problems, so it's strange for me to have to defend my country in a way that mimics the America First crowd. But come on. America isn't the one keeping the Shia on the lower rungs of the food chain. America isn't the one preventing Palestinians from being able to work and live outside of concentration camps in Lebanon. We aren't the ones who created the culture of corruption and nepotism that keeps Lebanon from developing into a fully functional democracy. And we don't tolerate swastikas.

It took all I had not to egg this car sitting under my balcony. I had an egg in my hand. I thought of leaving a note on the window saying something like "$#@! you, you nazi scum." Well, at least the thought of doing it made me feel a little better about having to see that thing every day.

Racists are cowards, the lowest of the low, mangy stray dogs who rummage in the garbage bins of human existence, and racism is sadly a part of Lebanese national culture. Mein Kampf is not only readily available in the bookstores of Beirut, but it is proudly displayed in the windows of the shops. Hitler, who is responsible for the death of 50-70 million people because he waged World War II, is a hero to many Lebanese. Please, please don't glorify this demon.

Does Israel suck? Yes, yes it does. The State of Israel is one of the world's most evil regimes, right up there with the Iranian nutjobs and the North Korean psychopath. But pointing fingers and wallowing in self-pity and hatred has never changed the world except for the worse. Until the Lebanese people stop tolerating swastikas and other forms of hatred, conflict will be a regular visitor to the country. Man up, Lebanon! Show some courage! Seek peace!

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