All Lebanese can take justifiable pride in May Chidiac’s return to her homeland on Tuesday. Horribly maimed by a September 25, 2005, assassination attempt, the outspoken television anchorwoman serves as a fitting symbol of Lebanon’s uncanny ability to survive catastrophes that would cripple other countries. Lebanese journalists have a long and proud history of being singled out for having dared to challenge the status quo – and of refusing to be intimidated. Chidiac’s return constitutes the latest evidence that the national well will not run dry of brave and determined people who insist on standing up for what they believe to be right and don’t care what sort of feathers get ruffled in the process.
When Beirut was bullied diplomatically by Cairo in the 1960s and 1970s, Lebanese journalists spoke out against the cynics who initiated the mismatch and the cowards who acquiesced in it. When most Arab leaders stared at their shoes during Israel’s brutal 1982 onslaught, Lebanese journalists took aim at the power brokers – local, regional and global – who made the bloodletting possible. When Syria refused to accept the fact that its military and intelligence presence in Lebanon had ceased to carry benefits for either side, Lebanese journalists did their best to convey the facts of the case. All along, when Lebanon’s own rich and powerful have abused their positions by fair means or foul, Lebanese journalists have steadily chipped away at their impunity.
This is the nature of Lebanon. It is older than the anachronistic sectarian structures designed to maintain the state as a distributor of spoils rather than a pooler of resources. It is more permanent than the bouts of internal strife that periodically threaten to finish off hopes of establishing inter-communal trust. It is more functional than defeatist – and illusory – notions of finding stability in meek surrender to the interests of one’s neighbors. In short, Lebanon’s nature is to survive in spite of its own built-in weaknesses, to prosper despite the mercurial tendencies of its politics, to prevail by outlasting bigger and stronger foes.
None of this would be possible without a vibrant tradition of journalistic defiance, and that tradition can only be maintained by a society that accords appropriate value to its own existence. Lebanese of various political and religious stripes may have widely diverging visions of what their country is and absolutely incompatible ones of what it should be, but the vast majority of them agree that it is, in fact, their country. No other collective temperament could have allowed Lebanon to emerge intact after a 15-year Civil War that, by some accounts, killed 10 percent of the population.
It should come as no surprise, then, that someone like May Chidiac would not stay away. She literally gave an arm and a leg for the dignity of her country and the integrity of her profession. She represents a Lebanese spirit that laughs in the face of despair and reaches across boundaries – real or imagined – to ensure that whatever happens in, to, or because of Lebanon, no one forgets the unique nature of its people. Individuals like Chidiac make Lebanon what it is: a tiny land that stands tall in an unforgiving neighborhood because its inhabitants are too tenacious to accept any other outcome. She refused to lose, refused to be defeated. Her persistence is an inspiration for all Lebanese, and she richly deserves the thunderous welcome she received in Beirut on Tuesday.
Source: Daily Star