crisis-ridden Beirut, as Maria and I look anxiously toward war-stricken Armenia
and Artsakh (Karabagh), while living in a world reeling from a pandemic, while refugees
flow unabated from their impoverished and unstable homelands like tributaries of
a sorrowful river, and while second-class citizenship in “first-world”
countries hangs like a cloud of fear over people of color, we struggle to
comprehend how quickly we got mired in misery so early in this ill-fated
A hotel clad in metal sheeting, similar to what Beirut’s
banks did to guard against protestors. But this has a
message. (28 Oct. 2020 - Downtown Beirut)
They say that one should avoid speaking ill of the dead. Yet, it is impossible to avoid recounting the dead people who prepared this dish that this region is “eating” today. One of those dead people of course is Josef Stalin, who in the early 1920s tried to win the support of Turkey, as well as cut down the aspirations of the Armenians struggling to their feet after the Genocide, and perceived as a risk to the Soviets, capable of asserting themselves at some point in the future. Well, guess what? Here we are in that future, and the nightmare that Father Stalin and Beria (both Georgians, btw) cooked up for us has come true. Those two demons are peacefully decomposing, and we are struggling to exist. Their calculated act of “giving” historically Armenian regions to the rule of Turks or Turkic peoples set up the scenario that is playing out today.
those who rely on others to think for themselves (including those who play at editorial
roles), I am compelled to remind them that Stalin never gave non-Armenian lands
to Armenians; it was always the other way around. (Please, please, don’t take
my word for it; read some history for yourself to check what I’m saying.) The
Azeris got Artsakh and Nakhichevan. The Georgians got Javakhk. The Turks got
Kars and Ardahan. And Europe and the United States got their oil access.
Someone with a musical sense of
humor created a group that is
trying hard to cover up Beirut's
wounded heritage buildings before
the winter rains wreak their havoc.
(29 Oct. 2020 - Gemmayzeh, Beirut)
Oil access for the West plays such a central role in the sordid history of the Middle East, but is too often footnoted, ignored or denied. From a safe distance people (including Diasporan Armenians) shake their heads and say, “Why is there never peace in the Middle East?” Is it because Middle Easterners are wild and untamed people, unable to be as wise or developed as Europeans or Americans (or other regional allies)? Or, as history has shown, is it because the West has for at least 200 years been in a tug-of-war (emphasis on the “war”) over who will be able to benefit the most from the reserves of crude oil that regrettably exist in abundance underneath the surface of these lands? Figuratively as well as literally, oil lies under the surface of so much of the Middle East, but it is pumped out and taken away from our view, so that discussions of current events ever remain on the top layer.
was a recent interview with chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, born in Baku,
Azerbaijan SSR, to an Armenian mother. He likened Stalin’s incomprehensible and
unjustifiable assignments of Armenian territory to a chess game, which Stalin
expected to end in stalemate, since of course the USSR was going to last
forever. Stalin’s aim was also to bring Turkey to the Soviet side, but the West
moved Turkey’s piece on the chess board, granting it concession after
concession, including their promised protectorate of a Cilician Armenian
homeland. If shame existed in western culture, those countries would be hanging
their heads right now.
Lots of banners in lots of languages, expressing
hope that Lebanon will overcome its
overwhelming difficulties (29 Oct. 2020 -
But since Armenians have no natural resources for outside countries to exploit, it remains ever the pawn in these international playing boards. Realizing this fact is not defeatism but realism, and if fully comprehended can enable Armenia and Armenians to formulate their strategy – hopefully – in dealing with this “Game of Thrones”. It has brought about unprecedented unity among Armenians worldwide, though sometimes tainted by fervent devotion to one or another political party in their countries of residence. Armenians are hearing the war being waged against them in the Caucasus portrayed as a “conflict” between equal forces, a “dispute”, something that they have been going at for “a looooong time”, an action of “rebels” in a “disputed territory”, and the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure (residences, churches, hospitals, schools, museums, etc.) as either accidental or “Armenian propaganda”. Anyone with the ability and the will to think and dig deeply will see how preposterous these statements are.
for oneself is an uphill battle in this world, where people have access to so
much information – true, false, partly true, blatantly but boldly false, or too
nuanced to survive in social media feeds. My highly unscientific view ascribes
this allergy to deep thinking to the lack of a reading public. No longer do (many)
people have the appetite or patience it takes to read a book or an extended
essay. If something can’t be grabbed in a short glance as you scroll down your devices,
then it’s “very complicated”. Our reward for adjusting our human capabilities
to the least common denominator is that we have leaders and followers who are
apparently incapable of thinking of the common good, and pour their efforts
into shouting down or shaming anything or anyone who says differently. For
this, we must give ourselves the credit.
For obvious post-blast reasons, Salaam
Sweets, our favorite Arabic ice-cream shop,
moved from its original location. About the
same distance from us, thankfully.
(24 Sept. 2020 - Mar Mitr, Beirut)
|Refurbishing, refurbishing, refurbishing. One |
day I will get back into my office. (28 Oct. 2020
- Geitawi, Beirut)
Taking a walk through the broken streets of today’s Beirut brings upon me a heaviness that is difficult to describe. I noticed this early on that I am viscerally affected by what I see, and I audibly wince as I look about. It puzzled me for a while, but it made me realize that this amount of destruction displayed before your eyes draws you into the pain of others. Add this to your own pain, and you have to express it somehow. My expression is audible. And mental. There is still no credible explanation as to whom we can give the credit for the ruination of Beirut, or of Lebanon.
|LebCat 39: Pre-freshman enrollment |
in the AUB "Cat Club" is now open.
(22 Oct. 2020 - Bliss St., Beirut)