Stories from Afar & Up Close

What goes up...

Sietske has a post up about the way things are celebrated in Lebanon: with fireworks. Beautiful fireworks, and dangerous gunfire: emptying one’s Kalashnikov (or recently: RPG) straight up into the air to celebrate (re-)election of one’s favorite politician is considered quite acceptable behavior by many. It’s one of those habits that’s amusing as long as you don’t think about the consequences, because as Sietske says: what goes up, must come down, and a bullet coming at you vertically is no less lethal than a bullet flying horizontally.

Walid tells me the story of the first time Nabih Berri was elected Speaker of Parliament, in the early years after the civil war. Celebratory gunfire erupted in the neighborhood of his school. They were playing in the recreational area during the break when suddenly a boy fell to the floor, blood all over the place. He was rushed to the hospital and the bully of the class was punished because ‘he must have hit him with something sharp’. As it turned out later, a bullet coming down had entered the boy’s body close to his neck and had ended up close to his heart.

A friend of mine told me a similar story. When the civil war was over, she and her sister went out to celebrate. So did many people – with their weapons. The sister was hit by a ‘celebratory bullet’ in her lower back and brought to the hospital; she’s still in a wheelchair.

The most famous of these tragic stories is from a wedding in the Beqaa: when the newly married couple drove off in a convertible, their friends and family were shooting in the air to celebrate. One of the bullets came down and hit the bride; she died on the spot.

I heard this last story so many times I don’t know if it’s true; but it shocks me that these incidents are not more widely reported. If there is fighting, every killed and wounded is counted; but when it’s to celebrate, we hardly ever hear of all those things that go wrong. We may pretend it’s a fun game to guess the difference between the sound of firecrackers and Kalashnikov, but maybe Maya Zankoul’s rage is more appropriate. Not sure about her solution, though…