It took only a few hours before the public played witness to the shameless attempts of Lebanese politicians to exploit the Achrafieh tragedy on Friday for personal gain and power haggling.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri took to the airwaves and immediately pointed the blame at Syria. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called on Jumblatt’s ministers to resign from the government. March 14 called for a “day of rage” and for the cabinet to resign. Their collective effort was so incredibly vitriolic and impulsive, that the captain of crazy himself, Michel Aoun, somehow managed to offer the most rational sound bite of them all: “Previous experiences have taught us to be cautious before launching any accusations, this is why I will not accuse anyone before the investigation ends.”
They didn’t know the facts, they didn’t *need* to know the facts; they just knew that the head of the ISF had been killed and that it was the opportune time to plaster their political agendas across the TV like personal advertisements. These are entertainers, not politicians; and they are behaving in exactly the right way to garner the most recognition and attention.
I can think of nothing more disgusting than square-pegging the Achrafieh tragedy into a pre-formed agenda to score cheap political points at the expense of innocent people’s memories and lives. It is perfectly appropriate, in the wake of a tragedy, to make a reasoned argument about what caused the event and to offer practical ways to prevent it in the future. There is a place for political analysis; but not finger pointing. There is a place for due process and justice, but not blind hate-mongering.
This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core. Political leaders, whether currently in power or not, have a moral responsibility to speak in such a way that civility prevails. We have a social responsibility as citizens to view the rhetoric from any side of the political divide with critical ears and eyes. And as for the media: Where are the names, the stories and the details telling us more about the innocent lives lost in Friday’s bombing? The local press has so far shown an almost complete neglect for the fringe movements (such as the Achrafieh For All group) which are spearheading productive, valuable and positive efforts to respond to the devastation of the Achrafieh explosion. Ordinary people are just as deserving of respect, admiration and attention as Wissam al-Hassan, if not more.
Given the violent history and openly violent language of Lebanon’s leaders from across the political spectrum, we must demand as citizens that those with more rational voices who want to change what we have for the better, be heard. And we must put an end to these two very toxic and erroneous beliefs which continue to sow deep divisions among us: that people who disagree with you are somehow less human than you, and that the people who disagree with you are not simply wrong or misguided, but instead bent on destroying this country from within. These two ideas have led us to a diseased sort of disposition: a distinct lack of empathy, the kind we witnessed on Sunday when protesters capped off Hassan’s funeral and paid their respects by violently running at the Grand Serail with sticks and stones to call for PM Mikati’s removal.
Politicians cannot continue to insist that they hold no responsibility for this kind of ugliness. Both March 14 and March 8 leaders pander to their bases by continuing to use inflammatory metaphors and language. Cut the political bullshit. This is a real tragedy.
It is only when the majority of the people in this country wake up and accept that the current leadership – in all its forms and parties – is only interested in claiming personal, strategic and political victory at the expense of the Lebanese people, that we will together to find real solutions to our problems.
Each and everyone one of us must demand reasonable national debate and disagreement. But most importantly, we must demand peace, civility and compassion.