21 June 2016

Martyrs Never Die: Travels through South Lebanon

Excerpts from the Warscapes e-book available from Amazon

"When Amelia and I arrived to Lebanon in September 2006, having hitchhiked through Syria from Turkey, travel times in the diminutive and normally breakneck-speed nation had been prolonged considerably thanks to missing bridges and other bombed-out infrastructure. Our initial journey from north to south entailed various rides. One was from an Italian businessman in an Alfa Romeo who wanted to know if we were any of the following:
1. UN personnel.
2. CIA agents.
3. Stupid.

Next, a middle-aged Lebanese man with Jesus stickers plastered across the car ceiling wanted to know if we were missionaries. He invited us to his home just outside Beirut, where his family force-fed us French fries and fried fish while exclaiming theatrically over the dangers allegedly posed to regional peace by Hezbollah’s arsenal of Katyushas. . . .

Now, ten years later, I was back in south Lebanon for another hitchhiking trip—partly to relive the good old days, partly to gauge whether at thirty-three years of age I still had it in me. Mostly, though, I wanted to survey the changes Lebanon’s landscape had undergone over the past decade, physical and otherwise. While the “mushroom” of public support for Hezbollah has undoubtedly receded in light of events in Syria, Western and allied media reports of comprehensive dissatisfaction with the party—and of mass desertions by Hezbollah fighters—are willfully misleading. What’s more, many of the countries up in arms over Hezbollah’s participation in the conflict next door have themselves been actively involved in fanning the Syrian flames.

Returning to Lebanon in February 2016 for a weeklong expedition, I was under no illusions that hitchhiking somehow grants one access to the precise dynamics of societies, but I suspected one could sometimes learn more as a wanderer than as a journalist. . . ."