Lebanon: The Country that Broke my Heart
By: Kariem Akl

Those of us who have been to Lebanon know how beautiful that country side is. Mother Nature blessed Lebanon with rivers, mountains, valleys, and cedar trees. Lebanon is the only Middle Eastern nation without a desert, and one of few without oil resources. Lebanon has a biblical flavor; after all, Lebanon is mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament, an assurance from the higher power that no matter what, Lebanon will survive any attempts to remove it from the face of the earth.

Make no mistake about it, the magnetic pull of Lebanon was and continues to be great. To claim that Lebanon is simply another country is an understatement. Lebanon is more than a country; it is a State of Mind. It is not the Cedar trees numbering less than 500 that make it special, it is the symbolism of the Cedars of Lebanon.

Lebanon as a State of Mind is an illusion, nostalgic in mysterious ways to its natives, a special place; yet when you analyze its parts, a different story emerges. With all its natural beauty, we find little relationship to its ugly parts. By ugly parts, I am referring to its history. And for those of us who have short term memories, I will only focus my analysis on the events of the last century or so.

Lebanon was one of the early adopters of the diverse community concept, a home to many regional minorities. Challenged with tolerance for its colorful and religious communities, Lebanon is also home to many Kurds, Armenians, and Palestinians. No offense to the Greeks, but the concept of democracy may very well have originated in Lebanon.

Dating back to the Khalil Gibran era, most immigrants left Lebanon with a broken heart. They were angry at their government, whether the government admitted its dys-functionalities or denied them. The immigrants recognized that the business of governing in Lebanon was never done very well. Even today, the government of Lebanon has not figured out a way to unite its people and bring about true peace and prosperity. Furthermore, it has completely lost touch with its largest group, the Diaspora. Sure we have embassies around the world, but that’s to be expected. With a headcount of approximately nine (9) million, the Diaspora is three times larger than the current population of Lebanon. In terms of proportionate numbers, that is the largest immigrant community in the world, equivalent to 3.6 billion Chinese and 900 million Americans living outside of their native countries.

The governments of Lebanon, both past and present, have failed to provide the necessary protection for their own people to stay in Lebanon. There are no incentives to live in Lebanon anymore. You cannot talk about politics or religion in public. God forbid if you openly talk about Syria or Israel.

Simply put, the government requires a complete overhaul. Nothing that was tried in the past had a lasting effect. What we have had in the form of pilot programs or quick fixes were short lived; what we need are permanent solutions, new ideas, new concepts, and definitely new blood to run the show. The future Lebanese government I envision is one that is for ALL the people, by ALL the people and of ALL the people. This includes the Diaspora, as the Diaspora has been and will be vital in shaping Lebanon’s future. So, the future Lebanese Government must not under estimate the Power of the Diaspora, but rather respect its bargaining power, unlimited potential, influence and global reach.

Yet, even with all the Heart Breaks, we still yearn the land, its people, its music, its culture, its food and its air. It is a constant craving for all of us. Most of us define their relationship with Lebanon as a love-hate relationship: We love the land and its symbolism, but we resent the government and all that it stands for.

We hope that some day soon, a Lebanese government can represent the real aspirations of the people of Lebanon, not the Syrian, Iranian or other foreign interests. We hope that some day soon the government can end the people’s suffering. We hope that someday soon, a real government can un-break our hearts.

Various Lebanese immigrant communities, including Lebanese American, Lebanese Canadian, Lebanese Australian and others have stepped up their lobbying efforts within the last few years to expose the silent suffering of our people by the Syrian and Lebanese regimes. This has been made possible by the greatest equalizer, the "World Wide Web" or the "Internet" as we know it. We acknowledge that in order to make the world care about us we must take our cause to them. Let us face it, Lebanon is a small fish in a large sea, and unless we demand the much-needed attention we deserve, we will never get it. And since our own government does not care about our own well being and does not have the courage to voice its people’s aspirations under the Syrian occupation, we must let the conscious and humane governments of the World know that we need their help, especially the American and the European Union nations, for the sake of humanity, preserving freedom and the protection of weak nations. Now that our just cause has been brought to their attention, we hope that they can deliver a positive change, because by not responding they will be indirectly promoting the behaviors of the same regimes they are opposed to in Iraq, North Korea, and elsewhere.