Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bombing pattern

The blogosphere makes it possible to see patterns in new ways. In searching for blog posts about the conflict in Lebanon, I came across the Lebanese Political Journal, a group blog published in Beirut. LPJ is one of those blogs that has its Site Meter open to the public. This sharp spike is what I saw when I opened the screen showing visits in the last month. You'll note that traffic had been running at a couple hundred visitors a day until July 12, when it doubled. Four days later it had reached about 9,000. It's not hard to imagine what happened.

You might call it a bombing pattern, or rather, the pattern made by an entire bombing campaign waged this last week against Israel's northern neighbor. And when you zoom in on the human stories behind the pattern, it's heartbreaking -- senseless death and destruction, real human beings indelibly changed and traumatized.

The blog was started little more than a year ago by Lebanese students who apparently have family and friends in the U.S., moderate liberals trying to build bridges to Israel, and working to lessen the influence of Syria and Hezbollah in the complex political life of Lebanon. The blog demonstrates, heartbreakingly, how the first thing smashed in a war is the safe place to stand in the middle of the road. You're lucky if you can make it to a bomb shelter.

Read this blog. It's one thing to experience war through the eyes of journalists, no matter how brave, not to mention pundits pontificating from thousands of miles away. It's something else to get the view from the ground of people living through it. These are the kinds of stories that, in the past, we would read in people's memoirs years after the fact. Today we sweat it out live, as events unfold.

Here's Lebanese Lady in a post titled "Leaving."
I feel guilty that I'm lucky enough to be able to leave and start my life in a safe and booming country, while my friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family have to live through this. Is the true Lebanese the one that is born, lives, and dies on his/ her soil? I tell myself that I need to travel because someone has to come help reconstruct Lebanon later on.... Half of me is being torn out of here. Ironically, it is also a half moon tonight.

Let me give you some personal anecdotes:
- Mohammad, my neighbor's driver: Drove 10 hours through dustiest mountain roads to reach his family in the south. He arrives to find that his mother was killed on the first day of the raid. His eyes are black sockets...

-Mazen: left his house in Beirut to go to the mountains. He has just heard that refugees from dahyi have broken into it and are squatting there.

- Dina: A recent university graduate. I remember how bright her eyes were when she told me she had just got her first job, how she talked about having her whole future in front of her, in this great company. Having worked for a week, Dina is now at home, all the time. Nobody is working anymore...

- Fred: Fred went through 4 interviews to get his current job in a multinational company. He was set to start on August 1st. He was supposed to sign his contract tomorrow.... The company is in shipping. (updates: all ports are under seige, and Tyre, Sidon, and Beirut Port have all been shelled, the lighthouse too.)

- Mayssa: a classmate of mine from a month ago. she lives in dahyi. The last we have heard of her is that she was in a shelter there. (update: Dahyi has been bombed every single night the past five days.. Dahyi has been annihilated)

These are just stories on the surface... Dig just a bit deeper, and you will just get a glimpse of the real destruction going on here. And it will continue, long after I have left in a couple of hours.
Like Lebanese Lady, the other bloggers are also leaving (which is probably one reason for the decline in the number of visitors). But before they left, they documented what it feels like to have a war sweep over you out of the clear blue -- nobody had predicted or expected this mess -- and completely tear apart your life, in posts like these that correlate with the dates on the chart:

July 12: Is It War?
July 13: 3:36am Israeli Planes Over Beirut
July 14: Airport Terminal Hit
July 15: Becoming a Refugee and To Everyone Who Thinks Israel's Campaign Is Just Fine and Dandy
July 19: Situation Will Get Worse When Americans Are Gone

These are just a few of the posts that chronicle the last week. Take some time to visit. And then go back to the earlier time when the blog was just another little blog with just a few hundred hits a day and nobody had any idea of what lay just ahead. It's haunting.

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