On Civil Rights Tourism

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“Cyprus is close,” Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad al-Machnouk said in a recent televised interview, referring to the island that Lebanese citizens still have to seek out as a refuge in case they wish to marry under civil rather than religious law. Though legal in Lebanon now, the implementation of civil marriage is still being delayed by the Ministry of Interior for no publicly-stated reason. Instead, Mr. al-Machnouk asked the Lebanese people to obtain one of their simplest, most basic civil rights, the right to marriage, outside their own country.

This amounts to a public declaration of this country’s retarded state. Lebanon, as a sum of ruling bodies and resulting legislation, leading up to its current identity, must have missed the point of being a nation. The point is to facilitate a dignified infrastructure, not an obstacle race. I don’t understand how Mr. al-Machnouk found this “solution” reasonable enough to propose.

A civil right is an individual’s entitlement to equal, free, and non-discriminatory treatment within their country of residence. Civil rights ensure the physical and mental integrity of a people, their life and safety; protection from discrimination on the basis of their race, gender, color, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or disability. Civil rights also govern individual rights such as privacy, freedom of thought, speech, religion, the press, assembly, and movement.

Minister al-Machnouk chose an interesting way of clarifying our quality of life in Lebanon. Maybe, following his lead, each of our ministers could let us know what they can and can’t do to redefine the meaning of our Lebanese nationality. This would answer what has basically been our lifelong question, which if phrased like an infomercial would sound a bit like, “What could a Lebanese passport do for you?”

Nothing.

To enjoy the right to live in peace, for example, the Lebanese people might consider a move to Iceland, Denmark, Austria, or New Zealand, the most peaceful countries in the world according to the Global Peace Index. They could definitely settle for a choice safer than Lebanon. An effective security plan for our country, however, is out of the question. Reform, too; so, if we’re going to continue not even trying to fix our current situation, I propose setting a brochure on “civil rights tourism” as a high priority in parliamentary debate.

After recent health inspections, lead by Minister of Health Wael Abou Faour, proving that food items sold to the Lebanese consumer are predominantly rotten or contaminated, the Lebanese citizen would like to know which countries he or she could visit for a sewage-free diet. Where could the Lebanese people go for a continuous electricity supply to their homes? Where should they go for proper internet and telecommunication services? Where can they go for affordable rent and respectful employment? These are all civil rights. There are a lot of questions about these rights, which, if answered forthrightly, could lead to a beautiful and functional Lebanese life outside Lebanon.

The Lebanese people have already been writing this morbid brochure in a vernacular manner with their own sweat and blood. They leave their country to exercise their civil rights. They leave to get married. They leave to give birth, and to endow their children with a citizenship that will give them more respect than that of their parents. The Lebanese people leave Lebanon to work and to be free, and their interior minister has the audacity to rub it in their face like that’s a normal procedure — like it qualifies as a development plan.

Internationally, being Lebanese allows you to travel to 32 countries without needing a visa. Locally, you don’t get much and your politicians tell you very clearly that it’s not getting any better. Every time I think about it, this makes even less sense. “Cyprus is close” is a game-changer. Before this pronouncement, it was nice to think that there was some real effort underway to make Lebanon a better place. After “Cyprus is close,” there can be no illusions. It amounts to a dismissal of Lebanese sovereignty. Al-Machnouk’s statement is so absurd that it might be considered the first step to an avant-garde redefinition of nationality.

Maybe we are on to something big. Maybe, as our Phoenician ancestors “discovered” the color purple, we would make our own substantial contributions to humanity. With the ubiquity of the global village and international connectivity, maybe our definition of locally-amputated citizenship is actually the future. Maybe those three words, which we thought declared the end of Lebanese sovereignty, actually announced the future: a groundless global citizen that gets a free education in Germany, marries in Cyprus, gives birth in Canada, works in the Gulf and comes back to Lebanon in the summer to remember why they left in the first place. Only time will tell.

Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist living in Beirut

Comments

It's true: is the writer a bit naive on purpose?
But I found an answer to my joke question, what if a Shia and a Christian in Lebanon have a baby, what sect is it and does it get a guaranteed seat in Parliament (Article 24 of the Constitution assigning half of Parliament to Christians)? The answer is, it's illegal.
No, I've thought it over, and I like this essay, a nice gentle way to propose that law and legitimacy are the basis of national life. Racism, enacted in the National Pact and now Article 24, destroys the rule of law. Law is where you go when you want things to be done in a reasonable way despite the pressure from the mob. And you can tell the difference between a mob and a popular uprising, such as that which drove the neo-colonialists out of China, in that a mob works for the rich and a popular uprising works for the poor. The swath of color revolutions--latest victim: Egypt--are the West's device for keeping mobs in power.
So it's a choice between a mob and the rule of law. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said in the Frank case, you can't have a trial when the mob is standing right there in the courtroom.
Which reminds me to mention some more civil rights tourism: the so-called special tribunal supposedly trying the Hariri case. I'd say the two words "special court" cannot be used together. It sounds too much like, "We already know what this court is going to find."
So civil rights tourism works in both directions: you must leave Lebanon to find some civil rights, and these foreign tourists come to Lebanon to deprive you of some civil rights.

* The MP's rather than the voters elect the President ...
* In July 2014 ...
* Michael Aousn proposed a popular presidential election ..
* The votes get to choose ...
* The offiial response from the Lebanese political arena was ...

" Constitutional amendments regarding important & fundamental issues require a calm atmosphere, free of tensions & the exceptional circumstances we are liveing," the statement said " Such changes take time & the country now need a new president as soon as possible."

The political arena is in SELF- PRESERVATION & SELF-SERVE MODE.
These people love their lives & the adrenalin from the power force that they are, is coursing through their veins like a heroin hit.
So, are you surprised that the policies enacted by this lot of freeloading parasites, will reflect tyranical pocession & control of freedom & human rights of the people of Lebanon (?)
I knowthat you are a little bit more savvy than that.
For what it's worth - they won't be around for much longer.
"For the times they are a changing"

Excellent.

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