Thursday, May 8, 2008

A working class hero is something to be

After yesterday’s Grey Wednesday which saw little action, only a few wounded and none killed, it seems that any optimism of a peaceful solution of the conflict between the government and the opposition is misplaced. The whole day, a constant flow of news came in about yet another road closed and yet another clash between Sunnis and Shiites.

Was it out of frustration of the meager participation yesterday that today saw a continuation of the road blocks using burning tires? Was it the announced speech of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah who most likely wanted to speak to a country on the brink of destruction? Is it true that Hezbollah was not amused by the supposedly Syrian-inspired refusal of the Labor Union to cancel the demonstration yesterday?

It certainly seemed quite calculated of Nasrallah to speak a day after the national strike. Waiting one day gave him time to adjust his speech according to the latest developments. However, the lackluster interest yesterday must have posed a problem: how to come across as a strong leader when yesterday showed that he could hardly motivate his supporters, including Aoun’s, to block roads?

Something had to be done and extending the road blocks for one more day was perhaps the only option left open to him. That would show the government that Hezbollah is a party to reckon with…not that anyone doubted this already. But having only one day of “national chaos” wouldn’t impress anyone. Even more so since it was actually limited to certain Shiite areas in Beirut and not even close to last year’s Black Tuesday event. What if he would instruct his followers to keep on blocking the roads, including the airport? That would surely send a message home.

And so we witnessed another day of road blocks annoying the few motorists who had dared to leave their premises. Most people simply stayed home and watched TV to follow the news, anxiously waiting for the speech of Nasrallah.

He started with explaining the importance for Hezbollah of having its own communication system via landlines. Cell phones are easily intercepted and using the public lines would offer the Israeli and American agents within the government an excellent opportunity for wiretapping. The way he went into technical detail almost felt like attending college all over again.

Bottom line was that those private lines are extremely important and that the baddies in the government even offered to exchange the Hezbollah network in return for breaking up the tents in Downtown: if Hezbollah would remove Tent City, it could keep their phone lines. He sounded hurt and insulted by this proposal, but all he accomplished was to sound like “Nasrallah in Wonderland” looking full amazement at the world around him.

However, what became crystal clear is that he didn’t want to back down from his original demands: to keep the private network and to maintain the head of the airport security. Unlike last year when he came on TV and urged his followers to put down their weapons and to go home, this time around he was raising the stakes even higher.

According to Nasrallah, the government has declared war on the opposition by demanding the head of airport security to be transferred and to end the private communication lines. He seemed to relish in this declaration stating that he was more than ready to step up to the plate. In reaction to questions from journalists after, he clarified that conform earlier promises, Hezbollah would never raise their weapons against fellow Lebanese…unless it was to defend its own weapons. Quit a loophole there.

It was striking to see a very confident, relaxed Nasrallah. He was smiling a lot, cackling at comments from journalists and he seemed to enjoy himself all throughout his press conference. This was in stark contrast with some of his previous speeches that showed a tense, solemn Nasrallah.

What we saw today was a man who had made up his mind and felt good about it. A working class hero is something to be. Like John Lennon once sang: "you got to learn how to smile as you kill". Despite all his smiling, his speech was filled with dangerous implications and promises. I couldn’t help but thinking that he knew something the rest of us didn’t.

Only an hour later, Saad Hariri went on TV to give a speech of his own and, of course, to respond to Nasrallah’s TV appearance. If only our beloved leaders would talk to each other directly instead of via TV! Hariri called upon Nasrallah directly to stop the violent clashes, calling him by his name many times during his speech. Now let’s hope Hariri’s call for a peaceful solution will not be in vain.