I try to maintain hope for this country. I really do. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to remain hopeful when you’re constantly reminded of what’s wrong with this place, especially when said problem includes two colliding masses of people from two prominent political blocs chanting slogans and insulting one another. Typical of Lebanon, many would say, which is true-it’s no secret that sectarian-flavored politics is the law of the land and that it pretty much dominates everyday life. But what about the nation’s pride and joy, its beacon of knowledge and enlightenment-the world-renowned and esteemed American University of Beirut? Surely this bastion of the enlightened is worthy of the title of the country’s last hope, right?
Well, that’s the impression everyone has, unless they would happen to visit the campus during election season. AUB is by-and-large a microcosm of Lebanese society that, from my experience as a student there, is pretty much in its own little bubble, gently floating amongst the fumes of rot and madness of Lebanon, and almost impervious to outside interference. Or so you would think. These past couple of weeks have played host to the annual student council elections, which, as I’ve mentioned, are pretty much dominated by sectarian politics like everything else here. Each year, the pro-west March 14 bloc locks horns with its opponents in the anti-west March 8 bloc in order to further their agendas through representation in student life. Each year it’s the same old routine of name-calling, white-washing, faulty advertisement and hollow promises we just can’t seem to escape from. Just today, both blocs took a break from campaigning and advertising (March 8 was handing out free pizza, and who am I to say no?) and came nose-to-nose with each other just so they could exchange insults in a typical, childish manner known endemic to Lebanon. This to me revealed their true intentions: to make sure the other camp doesn’t win-never mind the needs of the students. Of course, the independent Secular Club found itself in the middle of the confrontation, but they took part in some name-calling of their own, which honestly was in better taste and was fitting of their hive-minded counterparts.
Okay, maybe my bias against sectarianism and its adherents has probably overridden my need to be unbiased, but I honestly have a very low tolerance for stupidity and acts of it, especially on a wide scale such as this. As I no longer study at AUB I don’t have much of a say in the elections anymore, not that I ever cared enough to have a say. But to anyone reading this who’s still in AUB and is thinking about voting, I will tell you what anyone with a properly-functioning brain in that university will tell you: vote independent, or vote blank. Were it me, I would go back in time to prevent myself from making the mistake of voting for voting’s sake. True, it should be a duty of anyone who belongs to an institution-national, educational, etc…-to vote, but blank ballots showing up in the box entails that people are of something wrong with the system and want it fixed. I therefore place more weight on people voting blank. But I say there’s no (or less, depending on your cynicism) harm in voting independent.
Y’all take care now