Marchand Chronicles: LebanonThe Righteous Shall Flourish
The Marchand Chronicles
April 25, 2005
Last week I finally visited Lebanon. To tell the truth, I found it kind of . . . dull. It was oddly quiet and strangely peaceful. There were no horrific remnants of violence and no signs that anybody else in the world really cared about them.
I speak, of course, of Lebanon, Indiana.
Lebanon, Indiana is a half-hour's drive from Indianapolis northwest on Interstate 65. This puts it at about a 140-mile trip from Marchron World Headquarters, which can be done on less than half a tank of gas. As opposed to the country of Lebanon, which is more than 6000 miles and no less than three connecting flights away. Obviously, considering my budget, staying in-state was the way to go.
I was hoping Lebanon, Indiana would, given the linguistic tie, have established a relationship with the Middle Eastern country, or perhaps some sort of cultural liaison, so that I could, in effect, visit the budding Cedar democracy by proxy.
Instead, the whole place looked like it just fell out of a John Cougar Mellencamp music video.
This is not to say that I didn't enjoy my brief stay; Lebanon's motto is "The Friendly City" and I did have a splendid time. But I went to find some similarities, something to compare to the country of Lebanon and found no obvious connections.
People have lived in the nation of Lebanon since the beginning of civilization. It was founded by the Phoenicians, who used its central location and Mediterranean coastline as the foundation for its trading culture. Lebanon, Indiana was founded in 1830 by two enterprising Indianapolis land speculators, one of whom, George L. Kinnard, was the surveyor for Marion County (Indianapolis). He guaranteed his fledgling city's viability by ensuring that the exploratory road between Indianapolis and Lafayette jogged slightly to the east, right through his land. Kinnard and his partner, James Perry Drake, also, essentially, assured that Lebanon would be the influential seat of Boone County by trading more than one-third of their land to the county for its use. So — central location and trade: check. No coastline in Lebanon, Indiana, though.
Because of its diverse demographics and rich history, Lebanon, specifically Beirut, is a vibrant cultural center. In contrast, the population of Lebanon, Indiana is nearly 98% white, and the most happening place appeared to be the Wal-Mart, though an ice cream stand did attract some attention on a warm late afternoon.
And of course, the reality of daily life in the Lebanons are much different. The Cedar Revolution, although not attracting as much attention as the first heady moments, is still ongoing. Through international pressure, but mostly due to the determination of the Lebanese people, Syria recently completed its military withdrawal from Lebanon. The last step, although not particularly fascinating, is a political withdrawal. With that in mind, the Lebanese protestors, who still occupy Martyr's Square in Beirut, and have ever since the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, have now focused their attention on demanding open elections on May 29. To that end, they are calling for the government to follow election law and announce the elections one month in advance, on April 29. The Tent City demonstrators have erected a large electronic sign counting down the number of days until the deadline. As of this writing, it's 4.
To the Lebanese, the threat of violence, whether from pro-Syrian factions of their own people, agents from Syria, or terrorist groups like Hezbollah, is a daily reality. Rafiq Hariri was killed by a car bomb, and several more have gone off since his assassination on February 14.
However, in Lebanon, Indiana, the most danger anyone lives with is the technically-illegal Texas Hold'em game on Sunday nights at Johnny's Spirits & Munchies on South Street (I lost $20). The most pressing political issue is the attempted bill that would finally bring Daylight Savings Time to the state of Indiana.
Despite all the differences between Lebanon and Lebanon, Indiana, there's not a person in Lebanon that wouldn't trade their lives, mostly filled with war and strife, for a quiet life like the one led in the Hoosier State. But they don't want to — and shouldn't have to — move to America to experience it.
Or, as the Pulse Of Freedom blog, set up live at Martyr's Square, puts it: "This is our country: the country that we live in, grew up in, studied in, dreamed in, fell in and out of love in . . . This is the country we are proud to represent and whose essence we carry with us, in our blood."
There is actually one real connection I could find between the Lebanons: the small Indiana town was given its name when one of the city's first commissioners called to mind Lebanon's cedar trees, which are an often-mentioned Biblical image and, of course, is Lebanon's national symbol to this day, and said, "The name of this town shall be Lebanon."
It's perhaps symbolic of the differences between them that that commissioner was looking at hickory trees, not cedars.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. — Psalm 92:12