Issue 5: The Political City

Rima Rantisi | Editor’s Note

“…it’s always a stranger who lifts and lowers our heft in the beginning. And in the end.”

Life Breaks In, Mary Cappello

My son receives his American passport on the same day Donald Trump becomes president of the free world. He receives his Lebanese identity card too; he will vote in Beirut and the U.S. someday. Just the week before, a man who scared off thousands of Lebanese into immigration in the late 80’s became Lebanon’s president twenty-five years later. Garbage burns still. The scent seeps through our windows late into the night, into years beyond us. In the morning, we cannot get to work on time as car wheels roll, stop, roll, stop and blood rushes. (Why is everyone SO RUDE? we scream into metal and glass. We want guns.) It is expected that the water tank will empty before day’s end, the faucet drying before dinner. We can replace both water and electricity by calling men who deliver water and electricity and have no trouble keeping their jobs. We cannot replace our architecture or history because when demolished and built over, we quickly forget what was there. Men with prestigious jobs shake hands and then stuff them into their pockets as they dance on plots of our land. What can we do? There is so much work, and life, to take care of. We dream of green space, clean sand, clear water, air – air that we can swallow deep into our guts, without hesitation. We dream of a home, of not living in tents or swamp. We dream: mama, baba, I want to be an artist, a writer, a builder. Okay, I will aim for the worthy future of an architect, an engineer, a doctor. I will imagine a neighborhood; build onto the layers of my city; heal the broken. Sidewalks are mighty in tripping, leaving me lying along their surfaces, squinting hard into their cracks to see what is under there? What has passed? What histories, what cities, am I walking over? I won’t know. I may have a college degree, and I may not, but I will beg for a chance to build layers. I will give birth as the rulings on my body, my gender, my sex persist. I will rage and rage or I will create something or I will leave or all of these, none of these. The thick transparent layer that the political city has wrapped me in clings to the streets, clouds, buildings, schools, my children, family, and friends, the entire landscape, in every direction. I will peer through it every day and wonder, how far to the other side?