1 in 900: My first teach-in session

Nov. 15, 2020, 9:16 p.m.
In my first teaching session with Stanford Women In Politics (SWIP), I was given a platform to speak my mind and bring awareness to the injustices in Lebanese politics.

As I reviewed my presentation, I stared at the various pictures I assembled. They illustrated remnants of shattered hope, happiness buried under the rubble as well as bits and pieces of Beirut, my warmest home, where I felt cold for the first time on the night of Aug. 4. The pictures spoke a language that appealed to the heart, unheard words of pain and grief crafted into bleeding wounds, unfinished stitches and unexpressed tears.

It was unfathomably challenging to revisit that day, the one when life’s glass shattered on the floor, leaving me with nothing but pieces to collect. I took a deep breath as I felt the metaphorical rubble amassing in the pit of my stomach. As I reread the numbers of injured, dead, misplaced and unfound, I abandoned a part of myself, as the remaining part of myself was a cracked piece that was clinging to the frail light.

300,000 people lost their homes, the living room where they used to spend time with family and friends. 300,000 lost their cherished photographs and belongings. 300,000 were forbidden from their own property. 300,000 spent the night wandering a ghost town, or sleeping in a stranger’s bed, wondering when they would feel the warmth of their own sheets again.

I came back to my senses as the Zoom icon appeared on my screen and the members of SWIP made their appearances. I began presenting my work, legs shaking under the wooden desk, while a pit of anguish combusted in me. I unleashed it in reasonable doses as I highlighted the emergency in my suffocated country.

Fraud, embezzlement and suppression of liberty are a cornerstone of Lebanese politics. The people of Lebanon yearn for leaders who fight for their rights, rather than lining their pockets with the money citizens have spent a lifetime earning. Unfortunately, the obscene corruption of politicians and hyperinflation has resulted in the government’s failure to fulfill even the basic rights of many citizens. When the Lebanese citizens thought that the worst had passed, their financial abilities and health security devalued further in the wake of 2020’s destruction.

Many citizens are still blinded by their nepotist political party and continue to vote for unqualified leaders who are at the heart of displacement and chaos in the government, thinking that they would fulfill their responsibilities and materialize their words. Other citizens, in this “democratic” society, are constantly peer pressured and looked down on, should they choose other less “preferred” candidates. I spoke for 30 minutes, sharing information about the Blast, the October Revolution and its tremendous impact.

For the first time in a while, I felt safe speaking out about my country, my personal experience and all the physical and emotional damage in between. This close-knit community fostered my courage and strength to virtually speak in front of people who weren’t necessarily aware of Beirut’s situation and its gravity. I never felt more relieved and moved at the same time, for I was emotionally strolling the demolished streets of Ashrafieh and Mar Mikhail all over again, standing next to the Starbucks coffee shop in Beirut where I left my childhood and my old life greatly bruised by the explosion. The inner darkness was unleashed into some kind of light, by putting words to my deepest feelings of loss and void.

Today, more than ever, it is important to embrace our scars and make peace with our struggles, but never with those who murdered our brothers and sisters. We should talk about nepotism, talk about injustice, talk about the evil grip of tyranny and despotism.

Today more than ever, it is crucial to recognize that we are not invincible, that resilience is a continuous fight, but not a constant victory. That putting words on wounds is not just a sign of vulnerability, but the epitome of empowerment and strength. That the courage to revisit the darkest moments is a blessing, for this power originates from the weakest journeys.

The suffering will not end; the stitches will still be the reminder of a Tuesday afternoon that destroyed everything. The silence will still be frightening, but the will to stand up and push through will unceasingly prevail.

Stand up and talk about Lebanon.

Contact Tiffany Saade at tiff24 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Tiffany Saade is a staff writer in the news and The Grind sections. She is a freshman from Beirut, Lebanon and will probably major in Political Science in the Justice and Law main track with a double minor in International Relations and Human Rights with an interest in Creative Writing. She enjoys riding her yellow bike and singing out loud on Stanford campus! Contact her at thegrind 'at' stanforddaily.com for additional optimistic conversations about the future, and for some much needed light!

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