the Kataeb slogan (love your country? love no other country) is still on my mind.
what does it actually mean to love one’s country?
one of my students today said he absolutely would not care if there were no more fish in the sea. literally, he wouldn’t care. other than human beings, the only other animal he cares about is his own dog. In other words, all the other animals – in Lebanon and beyond – can go extinct, and he simply does not care. but I’m sure were we to ask him if he loves his country Lebanon, he’d say yes.
earlier, a few weeks ago, after I expressed my opinion on the dominant US political system, a colleague said ‘love it or leave it. Love the country as it is, or leave it.’ He then spoke at length that his same views apply to Lebanon and not simply the US. If one were to move to Lebanon, he said, one should either accept the system as it is and love it, or leave.
so, what is this love?
what is love itself?
many months ago, many many months ago, a friend of mine told me clearly that I was behaving badly. I was being too irritable. cool it, she said. at that moment, she was also telling me she cares enough about me, about our friendship, to risk a bit of discomfort.
another dear friend of mine has been pestering me, harassing me, reminding me constantly to devote time in my life to reaching towards my dream. her support is unbelievable. every time she asks me if i’m writing, she’s saying also, i love you.
and there are so many other moments.
my sister-in-law spending time and attention to make sure that her son (and now she’s doing the same with her daughter (yes, i have a nephew and a niece!)) are eating healthy and not merely eating calories. that’s love.
another friend teaching his children (adorable girl and boy, for the curious) to share their toys with their friends. that’s love.
it is so much more than simply sharing the good times together.
so, how does that love apply to a country?
what does it mean to love a country?
In Lebanon, we’re fond of saying ‘we love the land’ and ‘we’re tied to the land.’ Or – more specifically – our songs are fond of saying that. so, loving the land… shouldn’t that entail caring for the land, caring for the soil, the plants, the birds, the animals, the air? shouldn’t loving “bahr lubnan” entail caring for the fish, the coasts, the waters?
and, does loving one’s country entail loving the people that are also affiliated/tied to the land? and, if so, what does it mean to love the people? shouldn’t it entail working to get social services available to all, to empower people, to work towards an egalitarian society? and shouldn’t loving the people entail also loving the children that are to come? and, if so, shouldn’t it thus entail working towards a sustainable society?
but what if our country, when we were born into it or when we immigrated to it or when we returned to it, what about if our country professed and implemented values that go counter to our own? what about if our country had a system that did not demonstrate love of the people? do we then “love it or leave it”? or do we work to change it?
i go back to those moments of love in my own life. my friend who showed me the wrong in my actions. my friend who supported me (and still does) so that i change. my sister-in-law who takes the time — she takes the time – to provide the best. my friend-the-father who instills values in his children so that they grow to become good people, aware of the needs and desires of others and solely focused on themselves.
can we love our country like that?
and, if we do, then we can’t only love our country.