Monday, September 17, 2007

Que les anciens morts fassent place aux nouveaux morts

"Que les anciens morts fassent place aux nouveaux morts" (May the old dead make way for the newer ones), is the name of a short story by Milan Kundera (Not sure but most likely from "Risible loves"), and is exactly the way I would summarize this frenzy of celebrating the dead that's been sweeping Lebanon since 2005. Political figures get confused with warlords and with youngsters dying on the road.... The amalgam is sadly "risible" (to use Kundera's qualifier), and it was no more apparent than when slain minister Pierre Gemayel was shot to death. Overnight, the billboards that were hanged to celebrate the other "martyrs" (And what is called the living martyrs, ie those whose lives were targetted but did not die - namely TV personality May Chidiac, Minister Marwan Hamade, and Minister Elias Murr), were plastered with photos of Gemayel eclipsing thus their death.
But lately, three commemorations caught my attention, they were so low key and almost one offs (Only the first photo from top did I see it two places) that they seemed almost appologetic that their own "dead" was competing with more prominent figures. The two images below, evidently amateurish photocopies of some home photos, as well as the one on top, celebrate the passing of - respectively - an officer and a first adjunct in the army who died while combatting Moslem extremist "Fatah Al Islam" in the North of Lebanon. But it is the humility of the execution and the limitation in the distribution of the "relic" that struck me - there were no militants of a political party to plaster faces all over town, there were no megabudgets to take every billboard on the road, rather, it was a private celebration of an army man who died defending his land.
As I saw these personal celebrations, I could not but remember the "hymn of the martyr" which we learned while being trained as military officers, of the beautiful hymn the words "they have died, so that we may live; and they have did their duty, so that we may prevail."
And prevail we shall.
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