Civil Marriage: Who Needs It!

Culture, Politics

By Farah K. Yachouhi

June 1, 2016

As wedding season approaches, flights from Beirut to Cyprus do the dance every summer. Yes, couples go there to get married and a common misconception is that only couples who belong to different religious sects go there. In fact, couples who are from the same religious sect often go there too. Why do we need civil marriage? What good is it for?

Civil marriage is more often than not regarded by the bigger portion of our society as a “fake” marriage. What is civil marriage? Why is it not looked at as a legitimate bond? Isn’t it the first step towards building a civic nation rather than an ethnic one?

In the common definition of civil marriage, it is a contract that bonds one person to the other without a religious ceremony. However, in application, it does not really abolish the possibility of having a religious ceremony along with that contract. In Lebanon, today, civil marriages are still viewed by many as illegitimate marriages because they have not been blessed by a divine entity. What if we could bypass that? Would civil marriage be more accepted? What do we need civil marriage for?

A civil marriage does not necessarily mean disregarding spiritual or religious unions. It simply paves the way to a harmonious living and a civic nation rather than an ethnic one. More importantly, it helps in transforming religious beliefs from a system we are born into to a true spiritual journey.

Religious ceremonies performed by priests or sheiks, where such a bond is rendered holy, can still take place in conjunction with a civil marriage. What the latter really does is encourage people to explore their individuality and spirituality away from dogma. It helps break the invisible yet so rigid walls we have virtually built stronger and more stubborn throughout the past few decades. Walls that have separated us as one people and still do to this day. Ethnic conflict lurks within our sleeping nation. When will this nation wake up from its nightmare? When will it realize it is asleep?

Please share this article with all your friends who, like you, are looking forward to living in a civilized Lebanon!

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2. Nation or Nationalism: Which Came First?

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Twinning Towns: A Lebanese Dream

Culture, Politics

By Farah K. Yachouhi

May 14, 2016

Nation building stands on two anchors: a shared history and a common “Dream” or philosophy as some like to call it. These two components act like the base pairs that help keep the DNA double helix in a regular helical structure. A shared history and a shared philosophy basically stabalize and bind all the other components of a nation. What is the “Lebanese Dream”? Is twinning towns or cities going to take us there?

Twinning towns is a concept that became largely popular in Europe after World War II. Many European towns and cities support the idea because it mainly fostered rebuilding broken bridges, mending mutilated relationships and restoring peace in the continent. Europe now has a union in its name that might have its disadvantages, but we can all agree that it “contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” and therefore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2012. What about Lebanon? What can we do with this concept? Is it not our dream to have peace and prosperity?

Weaker nations are highly susceptible to foreign ideological invasions and that is because they simply do not have one of their own! Stronger nations have a robust economy and a firm command over both their domestic politics and their international relations. It does not take an architect or an engineer to know that the stronger your pillars are, the stronger the structure that rises on top of them! How strong are our pillars?

We have a long way to go before twinning with foreign towns or cities, but we can definitely start by understanding more each other. How about twinning within our borders? Wouldn’t this reinforce and reconstruct a long lost national unity? We all know that some Lebanese citizens have never seen the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbeck or the limestone caves of Jeita Grotto or our beloved Cedar forest!

Wouldn’t a local twinning of towns encourage local businesses like that of farmers from the north or fishermen from the south? Wouldn’t this enhance collective security and living in an ethnically diverse country becomes more than mere coexistence? Wouldn’t it enrich our kowledge of our multi-cultural Lebanon?

All ideas count on Iza Fakkarna. Share your thoughts on this below!

 

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Martyrs’ Day Is Not a National Holiday!

Culture, History, Politics

Featured photo:

http://www.alexhoffordphotography.com/node/2189

By Farah K. Yachoui

May 6, 2016

How is the commemoration of the Lebanese martyrs not enlisted as an official national holiday? Are we losing the battle against social amnesia? This collective forgetfulness is mainly caused by either ignorance or intentionally oppressing painful memories. Sadly, in our case, ignorance is more likely to get the better of us.

Are we even aware of the reason why or how this memorial day came to exist in the first place? May 6, 1916, was the day twenty-one patriotic men lost their lives for promoting and embracing unity. All as one, they sought for reform to obtain autonomy within the declining Ottoman Empire at the time.

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Martyrs’ Square Before

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, we started to embrace a new collective memory that highlights sectarianism. Martyr’s Square has transformed drastically from an oasis of national heritage to an arid grave.

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Martyrs’ Square Today

Collective memory is a shared memory or knowledge between two or more people. It can be of actual events or of constructed stories, known as legends, told from one generation to the next. These memories are better remembered through images than through words. They are best represented in erected memorials, art and architecture. Public memory is preserved in libraries, museums and monuments or erased by their absence.

Martyrs’ Day should be a day that hosts a state ceremony during which the national flag is lowered to half-mast as a symbol of respect and mourning, giving patriotic speeches and visiting gravestones or memorial sites. It should be a day where all Lebanese citizens stop whatever they are doing and stand in silence at that specific moment in time when all traffic lights turn red and a classical instrumental version of our antheme is broadcasted across the country on national TV and on every local radio station!

It should be a day where families get together and feast at one table with their martyrs. When forgotten, they will no longer be martyrs. They will merely be dead men. A nation plagued with forgetfulness will soon dissolve into a herd of mindless creatures and empty souls. Where do you stand? Where do you feast today?

Let us know what you think. Click on leave a comment to share your ideas below or simply share it if you like it!

Thank you for reading!

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National Unity: An Automatic Response

Culture, Politics

By Farah K. Yachoui

April 23, 2016

What do politicians mean when they call for national unity? It is unclear whether the Lebanese politicians are asking the people to reunite or are lecturing themselves on creating national unity, but let us assume they are reaching out to the people and asking them to come together to reunite. It seems that our leaders do not fully understand the depth of this phenomenon and rather expect an automatic response to this demand, like shivering when a chill goes down your spine! To unite the people of a nation, they must first and foremost identify with the same national identity.

Former President of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic said, “The loss of national identity is the greatest defeat a nation can know, and it is inevitable under the contemporary form of colonization.” What is national identity? People often mistake their cultural identity for their natural identity. Sharing the language, traditional dishes, folkloric dance, national flag and anthem are all great treasures but are not enough to create a strong national identity.

Territorial, religious and cultural identities are sadly much stronger today than our national one because we simply do not affiliate with the same history. A national identity is a little more than speaking the same language and sharing the same culture. It is identifying with the same descent and history and more importantly, believing in it!

Former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher  said, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy”. A unified history is not our only hope for redemption, but it is a step closer to legitimizing our claim of being a true Lebanese nation! Studying it from a secular perspective creates a sense of pride in our Lebanese roots rather than in our religious ones.

James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, said, “the purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.” The Lebanese people are divided into three main groups – Christians, Muslims and Druze – that are in turn subdivided into two or more groups some of which are Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Protestant, Shia Islam, Sunni Islam, Alawit and Ismaili. If each of these groups identifies with a different history based on the adoption or conversion of their ancestors from one religion to the other and where they migrated from then a national unity is less likely to be formed.

When politicians call for national unity, they must be aware that what they are actually calling for is rewriting our history under one Lebanese identity. We are not born Lebanese. It is not inherent. It is learned.