Tonight I caught a tiny glimpse of the anger that the masses might express here in Lebanon. Tonight’s confluence of national forces in the main squares of downtown Beirut were complemented by spontaneous action in the neighborhoods.
Gift in hand, a great dinner invitation from a host and hostess who live in Dahye, and looking foreward to a wonderful home cooked meal, I found myself in a taxi with a driver patiently, and kindly doing his utmost to maneuver the side streets of various neighborhoods to avoid a huge demonstration on one of the main highways between Dahye and downtown. Suddenly he pulled a political photo from under a pile of papers on the dash board and placed it on top, face-up, as we passed small cliques of men and teenagers, some holding wooden sticks as weapons. I could feel the hair stand up on my arms and I wondered why I was feeling that. I though, oh, the masses must be frightening when they rise. But it turned out to be a photo of Hariri and we were passing through bits of neighborhoods sympathetic to Signora. The men looked and felt threatening and their subtle body language had telegraphed their threatening message clearly.
Suddenly the taxi driver flipped the photo face down and put a book over it as we approached other neighborhoods of Dahye where larger crowds of men and boys were calling out that the neighborhood belongs to Nassrallah. The driver backed up for the third or fourth time and did not even try to approach them. There were over 100 men in the street completely blocking it. I had the urge to ask them to let us through but the driver was extremely circumspect. We ran into similar groups mostly smaller but at regular intervals.
At that point, I called my host to ask him to help the driver find his way. Instead he instructed the taxi driver to take me back to where he had picked me up. He then told me that things were looking nasty and offered apologies about the unfortunate circumstances preventing him and his wife hosting me for dinner.
I asked the driver which political leader the photo-poster was of, and he said Hariri, and then he declared questioningly how come I did not see him slip it out the window. he said he did not want a photo to bring an end to his life. We then went through a few more thickets of men sympathetic to Signora and finally arrived in Hamra.
A few hours later, news arrived via friends who were returning from the great convergence that two men had been killed via having their thoughts cut by two thugs sympathetic to Signora, and later yet we heard of more of small events of provocation and at least one other killing of a demonstrator. Hezbollah did its best to calm the situation and urged its people not to respond. It was also reported that the demonstrators had made an attempt to attack the parliament building on hearing the news of the murders of the two young men in Dahye, but demo security stopped them.
It had been hard, earlier that evening, to get a cab to take me where I wanted to go and now I understood why. I had been standing in Hamra, an upper middle class neighborhood, asking to be taken to Autostrad Al Shaheed Hani Nasrallah, the martyred son of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, and the ‘serveece’ drivers had all been saying ‘no’ or simply driving by without answer. One had politely told me it was too difficult. Finally for a price I had landed, to my great fortune, this wonderful driver, a veteran taxi driver of over 35 years. By the time he brought me back to exactly where he had picked me up he had had enough for the night and was going straight home.