Quarantina (quarantine), on the outskirts of Beirut, started out during the colonization of Lebanon as French army barracks. Over the years after Lebanon’s independence, it turned into a shantytown housing about 20,000 inhabitants, most of them Muslims. Being situated on the way to Lebanon’s mountain resorts and touristic sites, the government decided to wall off the eyesore lest its shabbiness offend us, elites, and the foreign tourists! Out of sight, out of mind! There are similar shantytowns all over our globe.
As the civil war in Lebanon escalated in January of 1976, rightwing Christian militias swooped down on the area with their big Christian crosses hanging from their necks and the pictures of the Virgin Mary glued on their M16 rifles and began a rampage of murder, rape and looting that took over 600 innocent lives and led the rest of Quarantina’s humans to flee away in terror. That incident was shocking to all. Quarantina was then bulldozed and razed to oblivion. As if it never was.
In retaliation, the Muslim militias laid siege to two Christian towns, massacred 500 innocent people, ransacked and destroyed the towns as 5000 people fled to safety. By August of that year 50 to 100 people were being killed on a daily basis in the country.
To this day, I, as many others, remain convinced that the war in Lebanon was manufactured by outside forces with the help of corrupt Lebanese politicians and their thugs. We, the unarmed silent majority, paid the price.
It doesn’t take much to start a war, after all! It really doesn’t.
One day, in 1983, I was going to DC. Suddenly, at the Rosslyn Metro Station where I had to change trains, I looked down at the long escalator and I froze! I had been going up and down escalators for many years on London’s subway system. Why the fear now? The elevators weren’t working. What to do? In panic, I eventually begged the woman in the ticketing booth to hold me and help me go down. She did, the kind soul! My fear of escalators continued for about three or four years after that. And it wasn’t until many, many years later, that I finally began processing the war and all the “incidents,” as we called the horrific events. (In Ireland they called their war The Troubles.) I realized then that my internalized fears had finally begun to manifest themselves. Hence, the fear of escalators was nothing but an expression of subliminal terror! My PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) symptoms were beginning to head outward. It was the first step towards expunging them. It would be a very long process before I managed to deal with everything that my uprooting since I was five had left inside of me – the numerous political events in the years that followed, the upheavals, riots, coup d’états, protests, marches, assassinations occurring all around me and the constant state of turmoil in the region. Moreover, I was alone in Virginia. The support system that I had enjoyed in Beirut, as well as during my years in London was a protective cocoon. That aloneness was itself terrifying!
We can sit here in the Western World and choreograph wars in remote places. We can then design rationales with which to convince our populations that they are necessary. We can then shock and awe innocent people as we let loose our war arsenals on them. We can terrorize them into submission. And the more they resist the more violent will we become.
The only ones who will not suffer are the war choreographers, the politicians who give the orders. Civilians and soldiers, be they US military or other, are collateral damage. They really are of no concern to the war engineers! The maimed, the traumatized, the children, the shell-shocked, the raped are merely collateral damage! PTSD anyone? Take a damn pill! Get over it!
1 thought on “Quarantina”
Over the years I taught many students from war-torn regions – Sierra Leone, southern Sudan, El Salvador, East Turkestan, to name but a few. Their stories of uprooting, societal dissolution, and horrific atrocities all bore such similarities. Tragically, it is a tale oft repeated and, far too infrequently, there is little if any vindication, as with RIos Montt in Guatemala. What remains are those deeply scarred souls.