Thursday, October 2, 2008
For the past 3 days, my neighborhood has been invaded by kids carrying guns, all styles of guns: there's the ubiquitous AK47 (a household favorite), silver pump action 12-gauge shot guns, M16's and even tiny Uzis, specially designed for summer shorts. The armed children patrol the street and give each others orders on the fake Motorola talkie-walkies. Sometimes, they engage each others: they take fighting stances, move cautiously from car to car, then roll across the street and light explosive devices that shake our windows. This is when I go out onto the balcony and shout at them, but without much effect. They continue shooting at each other, using real ammo, special spherical bullets that give you bruises.
It is the Eid el Fitr, a celebration of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Muslim countries. The tradition is that kids are given toys and light fireworks. This year, there are more toy guns than in any other year, and the kids must have been receiving serious street fighting training, because they look and act as if they just walked out of Playstation II. Or of the latest street battles of May 2008, in which Opposition and Loyalists forces fought each other over the control of Beirut.
The area in which I live was a battleground last May. The same kids who are now playing war with realistic weaponry witnessed it all. They looked and learned. They studied the moves on the cable TV action channels, practiced virtually on their computer game stations, and are now honing their skills through field practice. I saw the same scene everywhere I have been in Beirut, in both Loyalists and Opposition neighborhoods. I also saw the same guns-toting kids playing the same games in the villages of the South I visited yesterday.
Q: What do Lebanese children dream of?
A: An upgrade.
Go build a peace culture with that.