It’s never easy to read your own nation’s history. I enjoy reading the history of other nations. I love English, Russian, German, Chinese history.
I can read it and enjoy it, judge it objectively, explore it without prejudice. With my own country, the experience is very different. I’m uncomfortable as I read because I can identify with different actors at different times, I can understand the choices they made and rationalise the decisions they took. If I were born in an earlier time, I would have been making those decisions myself, been under the same pressure, felt the same fears.
The story of my country, Lebanon, and my people, the Maronites, is a story dominated by heroism, tragedy and folly. The 20th century which began so triumphantly, ended so tragically. The loss of considerable power, foreign occupation, mass emigration and most tragically, the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. It’s hard not to see yourself in that, almost as compensation for having been lucky enough to miss the horror; living comfortably in a new country, with peace, stability and affluence.
I never expected the British philosopher Roger Scruton to have written a book about the conflict and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Written in his signature clear wit, Scruton takes Western media outlets to task, especially the likes Robert Fisk, for their misleading reporting, and displays a surprising depth of knowledge on how this notoriously intricate country works. The book was published in 1987, when the conflict was not yet at an end, but in many ways the damage to the power of the Christians and to the economic, social and political union of Lebanon was complete. The outside powers, Syria, Iran and Israel had crumbled the country, each for their own strategic end, and as Scruton solemnly declares, the main victims of this strategy were the Christians. Lebanon truly was and remains a nation held hostage.