May 25, 2012

Not Stockton, California

The 'End of the Affair'

Didn’t get much sleep the night before last. What I first thought was fireworks, soon erupted into full-scale machine gun battle in the street below, with hand grenades being lobbed out of windows (read here and here). With an office of armed Awmiyeh (Syrian Socialistic National Party) boys next door, you’d almost get worried.

People looking from their balconies at the battle site

 But it was soon clear that it was not a political action, just a banal fight over a woman, which turned ugly. Apparently the lady’s new lover came to the apartment to pick up her stuff, while her old man was in no mood to let go of her. The domestic dispute got loud, the new man on the block got shot, and when the police was called in by the neighbors to do something, the man took refuge in his apartment, and things got complicated. The army moved into the street, and sporadic fire kept us on our toes for most of the night, until they finally moved into the apartment in the early morning, and that was the end of that.

Everyone is all worried, but I think you should see things in its proper perspective.

'The morning after'

You see, I have a colleague from Stockton, California (yes Andy, you). When I mentioned to her last week that my son had been to a party in downtown and a kid had gotten knifed, and someone else had shot a gun, her reply was “That sounds like a normal party.” The surprise on my face must have been obvious, because she added “What? You mean you guys have parties where there is no shooting or stabbing?

The American embassy is sending out travel warnings to its citizens in Lebanon. I wonder what travel warning Americans get when they visit Stockton. You see, Stockton is a town with a population of some 291,707 inhabitants (source). That’s about a quarter of Beirut. And it apparently is the second most violent city in the US (on the basis of violent crimes per person), with some 49 murder, 109 rapes, 1,436 armed robberies and 2,533 assaults a year!

The chances you get mugged, raped, robbed or killed are 1 in 70 (source). You want to know what happened in Stockton these past 24 hoursBeirut numbers 4 times that number of inhabitants. We have an employment rate that is well above Stockton’s (which is 18.4%), yet I doubt we make it to 168 murders a year. 

And so, in retrospect, we’re not doing so bad at all. Breathe in, breathe out. We're in Beirut. Not Stockton, California.


Tarek said...

Somewhere in Stockton, a Jad Aoun is going to start a "Looks like Beirut" certificate and issue the first one to you!

Andy said...

YES!!! My first blog shout-out! Let the record show I feel infinitely safer walking around in Beirut than in Stockton. And the teachers here are also way less predatory! :)

Sietske said...

@ Tarek: Haha, never thought about it that way but you are probably right! Mea Culpa
@Andy: yes, (some of) Stockton's ladies are quite famous, they even make it to the front -page in Holland!!

Anonymous said...

Really... I have known you for years and finally got mentioned a few years back in your blog...Andy has been there for less than a year and gets a blog entry!!!!WTH!

Irate H.

Anonymous said...

The difference is that the Beirut bad news is always front-page news, while the bad news of american city can spoil the touristic reputation of the US.

And yes, in Beirut it is muuuch more safe than in many other capitals around the world.

Anonymous said...

in Stockton's defense; I'm sure they have better ways of documenting their crime rate than Lebanon.