I lay awake at 4am in the morning in Beirut because my heart is beating fast and I cannot contain it.
Yesterday morning I flew from New York (where I live) to Beirut (where I am from) to take part in the anti-government protests. Reports say over 2.5 million people are on the streets demanding the resignation of the government, half of the population of Lebanon, the largest protest in the history of the country.
Reports say over 2.5 million people are on the streets demanding the resignation of the government, half of the population of Lebanon, the largest protests in the history of the country.
My heart is beating fast because I’m playing back in my head the sounds of people singing the same tune: out with corruption, out with sectarianism, out with incompetence. For the first time in my lifetime, I have seen Sunnis and Shiaas, Orthodox and Catholics, Armenians, Maronites and Druze all chanting: “Everyone means Everyone”. They are demanding that every one of our leaders resign, not holding on to any prior allegiance, affiliation, or loyalty.
My heart is beating fast because I am remembering images of love I witnessed live: of young and older people being respectful to one another, of seas of red and white, of poets celebrating our country and our heritage. I am thinking of images I saw on social media of soldiers kissing grandmothers’ foreheads, of young ladies kicking bodyguards with guns, and DJs riling happy crowds of dancers.
My heart is beating fast because I am thinking of my nieces and my aunt that both witnessed more hope in front of them than they had ever seen. My nieces were proud of their country that cleaned up the streets every day after the protests. My aunt was shaken to her core by the optimism in the crowds in a country she thought was forever lost to apathy.
I saw art, memes and music remixes appear at record speed that woke me to the amount of talent we have in this country. I saw cities around the world from Sydney to London, from Lagos to New York, from Halifax to Amman flocking to the streets in the thousands to support the revolution back home.
No one saw this coming. And what we saw has been awe inspiring.
I saw some of our compatriots face fear and violence and beatings against thugs because they felt the cause was much bigger than them. I saw some of the most cynical people I know wake up with resolve and drive hours to go to the protests. I saw some of the most disengaged of my expat friends glued to their phones and laptops overseas so they wouldn’t miss a beat.
No one saw this coming. And what we saw has been awe inspiring.
But my heart is also beating fast because I am terrified. I am terrified of the morning after.
What now? Where do we put our energy? Who do we endorse? Where do we vote? Where do we sign? What organization do we give money to? What is our plan? What is our strategy to get our demands? Who is going to implement it? What happens when the government resigns? Who takes over? Who is the face of this revolution? Who are our next leaders?
What now? Where do we put our energy? Who do we endorse? Where do we vote? Where do we sign?
I am terrified that this protest will fizzle. I am afraid that people have let some steam out, got a dose of adrenaline from the camaraderie and will now go back to their lives the morning after.
Most of all I am terrified that if we don’t seize this moment to make a radical change, it will be the final blow. Our hearts cannot handle such an epic emotional failure.
For this revolution, we dug deep into our hearts to find hope after decades of apathy. We dug deep, very deep, and put our hearts on the line. We said that we were willing to forego decades of pain, of frustration, of violence, of fear, of being far from each other, of being ashamed of our country, of being powerless to change. We all entered into a contract that this was worth it, this was going to work.
If it doesn’t work, we are finished. The emotional carnage will be too large.
I am terrified that if we don’t seize this moment to make a radical change, it will be the final blow.
As far as I know no party has emerged with enough organization and clout to withstand the warlords we are fighting. There are lists of demands, but no faces to them. There are no inspiring speeches to rally to. There are no meetings to go to. There are no action plans to implement.
Today I saw multiple civic organizations cursing at each other, factions emerging, or re-emerging. In Martyr square there were multiple stages competing with each other for air space. I went from one to the other to figure out who was calling on people to join future meetings, I couldn’t find them.
We all agree on the demands:
1- Current government resigns
2- Temporary government takes control with outsized influence
3- New elections take place
I’m in. What next?
I didn’t see debates to take part in, places to sign up, candidates to talk to, tasks to take on. I am told strategic conversations are happening, where are they? How do we join them?
Some want to stay on the streets, chanting, putting pressure on the government, keeping streets closed. We need that.
Others want to organize, talk politics, identify candidates. Where do we do that?
We are up against thugs, criminals, parties with decades of experience organizing. We are many, yes, and we are loud, but we need to be ruthless. We need to be cunning, we need to rise up fast and build a machine.
Multiple independent organizations are collaborating: this is fantastic. Let’s create an umbrella organization and go. This is not the time for factions or competition. We don’t need to agree on everything. This is the time for us to quickly form an umbrella opposition group. One website, one social media account, one email list, one meeting place. And let’s blast it from the rooftops.
We need a leader, quick. But perfect is the enemy of good. They have to be clean, they have to be unaffiliated, they have to be charismatic and they have to be ruthless. But they don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be our leader for the long term, they just need to be able to pull us together for this phase.
If you are organizing, come out of the shadows. Do it in public. Call for a speech at a certain time. Point us to a website. Give us future dates to meet.
Videos of belly dancers in downtown are going viral within minutes, give us a plan, we will make it viral within seconds.
PS: If you have sources for any of the images please leave a comment so I can credit them
PS2: Since I published this post, I received hundreds of letters from fellow Lebanese who said my words resonated with them, they felt it spoke their mind and they shared my happiness and my concerns. But I also got the opportunity to hear other perspectives: namely that one of the big strengths of this movement is that is is faceless. This means the thugs in power don’t have anyone to vilify or threaten or scare. This means the movement is unstoppable.
PS3: Also since I wrote this, a number of people that wrote to me said they wanted to help. So we got together and decided the first step in unifying our movement is to unify our efforts. We launched DaleelThawra.com, a directory that consolidates all initiatives, websites, donations and campaigns both locally and internationally. Please let us know what you think and help ya make it better.