Stop praising us for our resilience

Why Lebanon is fed up with bearing up

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

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Does resilience just mean putting up with crap you shouldn’t have to?

That’s what I’m left wondering after my conversation this week with my friend Lynn Chouman, a Lebanese journalist and expat. Perhaps more than any other country, Lebanon epitomizes the dumpster fire that is 2020. In the past year, the Lebanese have put up with the pandemic like the rest of us, but also economic collapse, political chaos, massive protests, actual fires and a devastating explosion that unsubtly manifested the corruption and incompetence they’ve had to deal with for years. And somehow they get up in the morning and get on with their day.

Resilience is a national trait the Lebanese take pride in, Lynn told me, but the younger generation is starting to resent the word. Why should they have to be so resilient? And when does resilience become resignation, giving up on demanding better? “I don’t want to be strong,” Lynn told me. “I just want to fix things so it doesn’t happen anymore.”

And yet, she’d go back. The country may push its children away — there are more Lebanese living outside the country than in — it also keeps calling them home. When Lynn sang the siren song of Beirut,  I too found myself dreaming of a life there. Belonging, she said, is simply having a good story in your mind about a place, and Lebanon tells a beautiful one. She got me thinking: we global citizens do belong. We’re just listening to many stories.

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They beat me to it

✈️ I’ve been promising you for weeks an episode on whether international travel restrictions actually work against covid. I find it reassuring that The New York Times put five reporters on the same story and still doesn’t have a straight answer. Their piece is worth a read, even if the dek* overpromises. I’m still looking into it, and it’s fascinating. The episode is coming in October, I swear. Spoiler alert: it’s very hard to know.

Le syndrome du grand coquelicot

🇫🇷 That’s tall poppy syndrome for you, Anglos. This week on my French podcast La V.F. I discuss the situation of stranded Australians and why their countrymen don’t seem all that bothered. You can also catch up on why Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing meant so much to the American left. Throughout October, I’ll be running explainers en français on the logistics of the US elections: how Americans vote (it’s unusual), how their votes are counted (it’s confusing), why the institutions are more conservative than the population (it’s federalism), postal votes, ID requirements, taxation without representation, voter suppression and more. All the nitty gritty that makes outsiders looking in go 🤨

ICYMI

💔 I’m writing twice this week but only because my previous episode was late. I’m inching back to my midweek schedule. Do not miss the previous episode, the first in the Borderlives series in the bustle. Janet Matta is preparing to pack up her family and career and leave the United States. We talked about what got her to that point and how she thinks about the future. One of my favorite conversations yet. If you want to feature on Borderlives — conversations with global citizens about their experiences, identities and what home even means — reach out. In your message, tell me a bit more about who you are, why your global experience is unique and what topics you’d want to get into. Thanks to all who have already reached out and my apologies if it takes me a little while to get back to all.


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Isabelle Roughol

Journalist. Founder & host of Borderline. Former international editor of LinkedIn, foreign editor at Le Figaro, reporter at The Cambodia Daily. Global soul, messy accent.


Find the podcast & listen now

Find the podcast & listen now