The importance of founding dates in the life of the peoples
With a little delay, involuntary (but better late than never), I wanted to be back on the second, moving and impressive, ceremony of the commemoration of September 1, 1920, at the Grand Serail. A country preparing a national memorial and societal assessment must carry out its implementation on a triple level: political, economic and, of course, cultural. The three being interactive, essential and closely interrelated, identity concern must inevitably consider these three complementary pillars on which rests the equilibrium of any community. A country cannot live nor even survive in times of crisis except through its identity and its culture. We have multiple daily examples of this. The most important is that members of the same community gather around the same founding dates, a single well-defined content, the same lived experience, internalized and shared.
Recently, the centenary commemoration of the Great War (1914-1918), those of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing and the dramatic liberation of Paris and the tragic liberation of Warsaw (1944) reminded us how many people gave their lives to enable their culture and identity to survive and continue forward. Every human society structures and builds itself in its culture and denying that culture can cause extremely violent reactions, oriented to oneself or to others. The culture of hate and rejection, while archaic, inhumane, and unquestionably reprehensible and condemnable, is a cry for alarm and moral distress. A human society, like an individual, cannot live without recognition, without markers and without self-esteem.
Mrs. Bahia Hariri’s initiative is pioneer and inspired. This is, in my opinion, the smartest policy initiative proposed in Lebanon for decades. Giving a frame of reference to the Lebanese project for all communities, from 1920, is the real way forward to give the country its legitimacy and its raison d’être from its baseline data, its modern multi-communal state origin in its existing internationally recognized borders. Meanwhile, the current major political leaders of the Maronite community divided on itself, wear themselves out with fierce infighting and quarrels, driven by personal ambitions and deliberately creating a crippling or even fatal void, at the head of the state. The right candidate for President of the Republic is the one who feels himself (or herself) the depositary of the project initially brought on behalf of all Lebanese by the founding father. Mrs. Bahia Hariri, from the powerful and visionary father figure of the patriarch Hoayek, just restored on behalf of a majority from all Lebanese communities, the genesis and the specificity of this project in Lebanon as a country of group and individual freedoms. Any President who will be elected should have this commemoration project a priority (which theoretically, will crown his (or her) six-year term in 2020). Any Prime Minister or Speaker of the House, present or future, should have this target date in perspective because it allows to celebrate the centenary of the proclamation of Greater Lebanon and to affirm the continuity of the Lebanese project. At the initiative of Mrs. Hariri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam did well to host at the Grand Serail this second ceremony, after that of last year, on the same date of September 1st by President Michel Sleiman at the Beiteddine palace, built by Emir Bashir II (1789-1840) and official summer residence of the head of state. We need a rational and emotional continuity in the history of a country. It is not to honour the individuals, but to acknowledge a collective approach that could gather all Lebanese if they collectively re-identify with the project brought by the emblematic figure of the patriarch Hoayek on behalf and to the benefit of all Lebanese nearly a century ago. The Lebanese house must be rebuilt from the inside. It cannot be except by returning to the initial project, establishing after the fall of the Ottoman Empire this Lebanese entity who tried since despite all the civil and uncivil wars to maintain, for the common good of all, a space for dialogue, modernity, friendliness, openness and mutual enrichment. This culture almost a century old in its current form, inherited from several generations, and influenced by all communities, has drawn a unique experience in the East and should be strengthened in its bases and priorities.
This Lebanese experience should be accompanied by the political and cultural worlds that bring the values of creativity and innovation of Lebanon. Natural resources should be preserved and managed, but the cultural riches forge themselves in the blood and flesh and carve themselves in the memory of the people, to join the human heritage in its diversity and universality.