Two years ago, over dinner with a couple of this town’s star journalists, a friend asked me, ”Who is the one Lebanese politician you would miss when gone?” I didn’t skip a beat: “Nassib Lahoud.”
My friend’s devastating comeback was equally swift. “But poor Nassib is already dead.”
That has always been the tragedy of Lebanon. Decency here is a certain kind of death. And much of what made Nassib Lahoud so magnificent in life and yet so unpromising in politics was his decency. Remarkably, it was only one of his many handicaps as a politician. His incorruptibility, his non-sectarianism, his visceral distaste for violence, his peculiar deference to principle made him universally admired but rendered him fundamentally peripheral when it came to the hard politics of this hard place.
I often yearned for Nassib to be more passionate, feistier, wilier, louder. But I was wrong. His was the quiet method, and he loved Lebanon enough not to succumb to her ugly ways.
Of this country’s countless failings, perhaps the most ruinous is her cruel indifference towards her children. And how cruel she has always been to the likes of Nassib, and how kind and generous he was in return.
I knew Nassib and loved him. I know Lebanon, and I am so desperate to love her.
I mourn him today. But I mourn Lebanon even more for her loss.