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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Government Falls

In just a few short weeks, three major events have grabbed my attention. The terrorist attacks on a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt. The shootings at a political rally in Tucson, Arizona. And, most recently, the collapse of the Lebanese government. In one way or another, each event felt close. The attacks in Alexandria because Nicole and I happened to be in Cairo at the time. The shootings in Tucson because Nicole and I used to live there and still have friends in Arizona. And of course the fall of the current Lebanese administration because we live in Lebanon. I wish I had something profound to say but I don't. Each event humbles me as I see people continue to live their lives despite unrest. Each event reminds me that while sometimes 'government' (forgive me for using this abstraction in such a monolithic way) lifts people up and promotes justice, other times politics alienates and hinders.

U.S. President Obama gave a great speech yesterday. I wish my internet connection was good enough to stream his talk, but even reading the transcripts proved a moving experience.

In the meantime, the Lebanese government has fallen. What does this mean? I got a few worried messages yesterday, as the headlines hit the international press. So far, all is peaceful in Beirut, lham'dilah. This is a "political development," not a "security development." In fact, you might call it political theater, staged to coincide with a meeting between the Lebanese Prime Minister (constitutionally a Sunni, and part of the western- and Saudi-backed coalition of parties) and President Obama. Eleven members of the Prime Minister's cabinet (mostly part of the Hezbolah-backed coalition of "opposition" parties) stepped down, thereby causing a constitutional crisis. A new cabinet, and likely a new Prime Minister, must now be agreed upon by the powerful sects in the country. This represents a change in leadershipand is a sign of instability but, once again, has not resulted in any kind of public demonstrations as of yet. Some people here feel tense, but many feel unaffected. Nicole and I attended a book club discussion at a cafe near our apartment last night, and some joked about the developments while most took it in stride. Instability is part of life here. Right now, peace is too, and we are all hoping that remains true.

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