Saturday, January 19, 2008

Model Beirut Recital

When I think about the fine modern people trying to run the world... Well, something must be done about it. Something must be done right now, about the fine modern people trying to run the world. We're whistling in the dark. I'm whispering for a friend. Whistling in the dark again.

(This is not fiction.)

I love Lebanon. I look at photos, or hear my Lebanese buddies reminiscing, and I want to get to know it. But then I always get to thinking about how easy it is for people to start killing their neighbors. A Christian friend of mine is loudly proud of his small role in the civil war, and I swear he gets a tear of joy in his eye from time to time when he remembers his killing days.

But he shares these reminiscences in mixed company: with Lebanese and Yemeni Muslim and Lebanese and Chaldean (Iraqi) Christian immigrants. They've been in the US a long time and have gone through many of the same experiences. They're friends, though politics and religion often leave them regarding each other with an uneasy but more or less good-humored incredulity. In this particular circle, I haven't seen old angers simmer back to life as I have among Serbs and Albanians who are acquaintances in the New World, but it makes me wonder at how the human brain can switch contexts so entirely.

I don't doubt that Tony would gladly pick up a gun again; he's joked (with a seriousness behind his humor) about it from time to time. And I don't understand how you can go out to lunch with people from the same groups you resent that much. But I can't understand what their formative years were like, either. So I listen to them talk, and break bread with them, and think about this civilization thing.

And we all fall down in a model Beirut recital, in that modern Beirut again.

Here's the original, with profane Lebanese intro by a military man Cale met somewhere. ("Beirut, you're a whore and I spit on you.") Here's the 2006 fragment from the Circus Live DVD.

1 comment:

Sakhalin said...

There is a particularly good live version of Beirut that you can download here:
http://www.eggcityradio.com/?m=200711
Just in case you wanted to know. It's in the third file.