CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
FOR ALL CLIMATES
SINCE 1759
 
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Shell Shlock

I don’t know what it was, this fascination with shell casings—of bullets or actual heavy artillery shells. I don’t know of any boy in Lebanon, myself among them, who didn’t have it. Most adults had it, too, collecting artillery shells as vases for the women or trophies for the men, collecting bullet casings as some form of macho currency. The shells’ jangle in one’s pocket or their stashed-up stacks in see-through jars showed off something, but what, if not the collection of death tools’ afterbirths? That little boy pictured here, from a photograph highlighted by the BBC’s “day in picture,” is a Lebanese boy in Tripoli (Lebanon’s Chicago, to the country’s north), gathering those casings in the ironic shadow of a Lebanese army tank and a minaret. They’ve been at it again in north Lebanon, Sunnis and Alawites, the Shiite-like sect from Syria, killing each other over political disagreements that have less heft than a drunken barroom brawl. If he’s lucky this boy will get to grow up. If he’s luckier still maybe he’ll get to leave the country and discover that any place that prizes its shell casings more than it does its children, as Lebanon tends to do (otherwise how could it let yet another generation grow up with the violence and fanaticism that clobbered the previous generation?), isn’t worth a drop of blood being spilled in its name, let alone in god’s befouled name.

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