Stories from Afar & Up Close

Getting lost without political guidance

It’s like Spring cleaning, but in October: on order of the Minister of Interior, no more political posters and banners are allowed in Beirut. No longer the 6 meter high face of the dead politician Hariri watching the sun rise on the Corniche, no longer the little green flags with the red and white Amal sign flying across the street from lamppost to lamppost or the Hollywood rendition of their chief. No more red SSNP graffiti, no more light blue Moustaqbal ribbons either. We can actually see walls and trees and traffic signs, now that the stern and smiling faces of innumerable men, dead and alive, no longer decorate (soil) public space. See the difference?

Building WITH Imam Sadr Building WITHOUT Imam Sadr

I’m not really sure if it is done to make space for new posters and pictures in the name of the upcoming election campaigns, or to bring a much needed halt to the visual claiming of urban territories by politicians and supporters alike. However, walking around in my neighborhood is no longer an assault on my senses – aside from the honking and screaming, it is almost calm and relaxing, like watching TV without commercials.

But politics are part and parcel of daily life in Lebanon, so even the simple act of removing political posters and murals has some practical repercussions: A friend who just moved to the neighborhood told everyone who wanted to visit her ‘just keep going straight on that road until you see the wall with the big Haraket Amal sign painted on it, then turn left.’ After the cleaning she promptly got lost herself, not recognizing that bright white wall on the corner of her street…