I love and dread summer both for many reasons … I dislike the heat, but enjoy afternoons at the beach with the sun beating down on my skin, turning it into my favorite shade of golden brown. I am frustrated with the ridiculous traffic caused by the influx of tourists during the summer season, but am very happy to get to see family and friends who have crossed oceans to be in our lives for a short amount of time. The loud fireworks that set off the Jounieh International Festival, every year without fail, clearly visible and much more audible from our terrace, cause me to start even though I have learned to expect them. But I am more than thankful for the concerts and music festivals that take place every summer and allow me to dance with abandon (which is saying something, I am very self-conscious and self-aware).
Another thing that rubs me the wrong way is this: In my line of work, and previously because of the international student body at my university, I have come into contact and become friends with many Westerners, some of whom are dear friends and continue to visit long after they have left. Mostly, it is around this time that they begin to say goodbye, whether it is just for the summer or because they have decided to move back home or move to a different place. Yet, this is not exactly why summertime feels uncomfortable for me because of them. It is because, for whatever reason, when June and July rolls around, the exasperated tweets and FB status updates about everything they dislike about Lebanon suddenly have to be sent out for everyone to be an awkward witness to.
It is not that their complaints are not legitimate. Yes, Beirut is heavily polluted. Yes, we have little green spaces within the city. Yes, cab drivers can be very obnoxious. Yes, women are treated like second-class citizens. Yes, there is a huge problem when it comes to racist policies keeping migrant workers from gaining access to services and getting their rights. There is so much work that needs to be done, and there are many people working to create positive change, but change doesn’t take place overnight.
What bothers me is that they have the luxury to voice those complaints. They have chosen to come here, and they will choose to leave again. That is their right, but it is also their privilege. Not everyone has the resources or the opportunities to leave, and not everyone wants to leave. Some of us wish to stay here for a very long time, and do the hard work of creating a beautiful life for ourselves and around us. Constantly voiced complaints are disheartening, however true they are.
Again, I am not calling for people to refrain from voicing their concerns. What is troubling, however, is that people who have made, or will make, very little commitment to building a life here seem to feel entitled to comment and critique a culture and a nation they are not planning on being invested in, or cause change in, in the long run. Perhaps I am being unfair by expecting people to exercise caution and mindfulness before they speak. Lord knows if that was requested of me, I would be indignant. But I also wonder if the friends of which I speak know how redundant they have become to me, how their voices have been strung together into one loud voice of condemnation.
I don’t have the luxury of being negative.
Lebanon, here’s to a lovely summer.