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What’s Happening in Lebanon?

By: Sarah Ansari

Early in the morning last week, I opened up Instagram to mindlessly scroll through memes and came across a recording of a Tik Tok video. The girl in it smiled, looking as though she were about to break into song. She just made her way outside when something on the horizon caught her attention. Her eyes widened for a brief moment before she turned and ran back into the house. Her formerly amiable expression contorted to one of fear as she screamed. 

The explosion in Beirut, caught live. 

Lebanon has been caught in the crossfires of humanitarian, political, and economic crises, and to protestors, the explosion is yet another sign of governmental neglect and corruption. The ammonium nitrate that caused the explosion had been impounded as cargo back in 2013, and although worries were voiced about the safety of the chemicals, no action was taken by officials to address the concerns. Blame for the tragedy was passed around, with no one wanting to bear the brunt of responsibility(*1).

In the streets, the righteous anger of protestors steeped to an inferno. Security forces were sent to quell the protests, and videos circling online display an excessive use of force– particularly tear gas and rubber bullets– by the dispatched units (*2). The brutality used by security forces on protestors displays the intention of the government to silence rather than to listen.

But how could a government not expect retaliation from its people when it boasts a 25% unemployment rate, pervasive poverty, a trash crisis, lack of clean drinking water, and unreliable power? All these issues existed before the worldwide spread of the coronavirus and have only been aggravated since. The devaluation of the Lebanese pound and poorly-dealt with wildfires only fueled the growing resentment for the government(*3). Meanwhile, the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics prevented any decisive maneuvers to address the people’s concerns. 

With eighteen religious groups dividing power based on their population, and the inability to make any “major decisions [..] without the consent of all major religious communities, even the election losers”(*4), the political atmosphere within Lebanon remains stagnant and prone to the decay which it is and has been experiencing. Think of the deadlocks that can come with a divided Congress in the U.S., but multiply the discordant parties by nine. Without major reforms to the political system, the troubles in Lebanon will continue to grow, since the government will spend more time debating than fixing the issues. However, to bring about changes to the distribution of power and to hold officials accountable for their actions, the same officials have to agree to the reforms, something which they have had little incentive to do until recently (*5).

Following the explosion in Beirut, calls for the prime minister, Hassan Diab’s, resignation multiplied, and finally culminated in the resignation of himself and his cabinet on Monday, August 10. In an interview with npr (*6), blogger Gino Raidy discussed the incompetence the Lebanese government displayed following the blast, and noted that “the people […] took charge of the search and rescue, the relief effort, fundraising, and campaigning”. In other words, the resignation of the current officials places Lebanon in the same state they were in before; reforms and other efforts (humanitarian, environmental, etc.) are spearheaded by the people, rather than their representatives. 

Raidy does mention the near-certainty of widespread reform now that the government has been dismantled, although if foreign aid gets funneled through the officials, funds will likely go directly into their pockets, rather than to rebuilding and rehousing efforts. Because of this, the humanitarian aid offered to Lebanon comes on the condition that definitive reforms are made to combat the issues discussed earlier (*7). With the stage set for the reconstruction of the Lebanese government, the actions taken now, at this tipping point, will decide the country’s future.

If you wish to send aid to Lebanon, make sure to donate to the Lebanese Red Cross. Various people from Lebanon have said online that it is the most reliable organization to ensure humanitarian aid goes directly to the people.

SOURCES/FOOTNOTES:

This article acts primarily as a simplified overview of what’s happening in Lebanon for people who are unfamiliar with the crises. For further reading into the cited issues, I recommend reading through these articles, which discuss the issues in more depth.

  1. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/07/899776352/beiruts-explosion-looks-like-an-accident-and-a-sign-of-the-country-s-collapse
  2. https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/lebanon-protests
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53390108
  4. https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-02-22/why-lebanese-politics-are-so-messed
  5. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/lebanon-pm-hassan-diab-resigns-anger-beirut-blast-200810135202076.html
  6. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/10/901064416/lebanese-government-resigns-in-response-to-protests-over-explosion-in-beirut
  7. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-security-blast/change-needed-in-lebanon-after-beirut-blast-says-german-foreign-minister-idUSKCN258189
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Oh, The Irony

By: Flora Oliveira

“My body my choice,” a statement institutionally oppressed women use when fighting for their bodily autonomy, has recently been engulfed into the bigoted riots against the shelter in place orders. Twitter has wonderfully given name to the delinquent white women at the forefront of this idiotic engulfment of ‘my body my choice.” The names for these white supremacist troglodytes range from Karens to Susans to Beckys. The KKKarens all over the US have unironically displayed why the phrase “my body, my choice” is important in the times of COVID. Those most vulnerable to the disease have not only seriously questioned the state of mind of the KKKarens but have also been very vocal that the “my body, my choice” movement applies to not wanting to be viciously infected with COVID. Especially not when it’s due to another person’s delusional interpretation of systematic oppression. 

Even before COVID KKKarens compromised the health of Black and Brown people through gentrification, racial profiling, and who can forget their role in colonialism? So what do we do now? We surely cannot let these women run around invading stores without masks, rioting in big groups, or collaborating with anti-vaxxers right? But the truth is, the only time the state steps in is when the advocates are Black, Brown, or of the working class. 

So why do they understand the use of “my body, my choice” only when it’s convenient? Aside from being the most skilled of appropriators, white women do not acknowledge their privilege. Acknowledgment of privilege could be the solution to saving generations of minorities. Privilege is like superglue, no one wants to be caught with it plastered all over their bodies, but once it’s on, you can’t ever get it off. Just to be extra clear, in this case, the superglue is you blinding whiteness, you don’t want it, but we’d love to see you try to rip it off. 

 The fault is not all that of white women, though. America’s systems were created directly through the use of white supremacy. Moving from a country and colonizing other humans is not excusable because God came to you in a wet dream. Do not get me wrong here, God isn’t the problem, it’s your idealization that God has specifically given you, and ancestors a free pass to murder indigenous, Black, and Brown people. And also the way yall used missions to trap, murder, and subdue minorities too. 

Through centuries of continued violence, Asians, Black folk, Latinx communities, and now Hispanics have all been at the forefront of violence and entrapment. Who hasn’t? The answer: white people. Once again, the reason for that goes back to colonization. Your far removed ancestors are not deities, they are not Wiccan goddesses, they are not souls of those once oppressed. Your American ancestors were either Konfederates, in the KKK, or like you, are still, directly complicit in white supremacy. This is why you’ve continuously been granted a free pass, even when your meaningless, and outright delinquent filled riots against the shelter in place piss everyone off. 

You don’t get shot down while running in your neighborhood (Ahmaud Arbery), you don’t get framed, manipulated, or imprisoned for a rape you didn’t commit when you were 14-15 (Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and 16-year-old Korey Wise), you don’t face capital punishment for smoking pot (literally any Black person ever), you don’t get “accidentally” murdered by police or SWAT while you sleep in your own home (Aiyana Jones and Breonna Taylor). You don’t get killed for being trans while Black  (Tony McDaid). You don’t get killed for a “counterfeit” 20 dollar bill (George Floyd). You don’t suffer at the hands of ICE or racist doctors.

 You, as a white privileged person, don’t suffer for just being a minority. That whiteness grants you the privilege to not suffer when you approach police armed with an automatic weapon all in the name of protesting shelter in place. That whiteness grants you tear gas-free, brutality free, and most of all, a murder free time when expressing your 1st amendment right. 

Go ahead, continue “enhancing” your natural beauty by filling your lips, ass, and hips, placing in weaves, spreading that thick layer of melatonin imitating spray, and using AAVE but at the end of the night remember who can take it all off and who can’t. Now to close with the wise words of Angela Davis: To all you white “freedom fighters”, “in a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist, we must be anti-racist.”