Every once in a while someone comes along and coins a memorable term that captures the essence of a crisis. Yesterday, Amin Gemayel gave us "Cold Civil War".
A cold civil war is exactly what is happening in Lebanon today. It is mostly felt in "mixed" environments.
In offices, for example, you can't avoid the sense of "otherness" emanating from the person sitting in the next cubicle. In gatherings, family or otherwise, entire conversations change if someone in the crowd is from the other camp. A rich lexicon of euphemisms has flourished, where you say "Southerner" when what you really mean to say is "Shiaa" and by extension "Northerner" replaces "Sunni".
"Those Syrian Iranian Scumbags" change into "The Opposition" and "Those Zionist American Traitors" become "The Pro-Government loyalists". Among Christians, "Those Aounist Traitors" and "Those War mongering LF Militias" both magically transform into "Our brothers in the other camp".
The fact is: We can't stand each other. We try to hide it but we secretly wish the other never existed.We can't have a real civil war because memories of the previous one are still too vivid. But at the same time, our aspirations, goals and objectives are just too conflicting.
We won't fight each other. We won't make nice. We're stuck at the brink of "mutually assured destruction". It is indeed a cold war. A Cold Civil war.
(This article originally appeared in The Beirut Spring)