The Atlantic

America’s Future Might Be Lebanon

The Lebanese know that waiting for the end of something does not truly provide a fresh start, and certainly not a return to the way things were before.
Source: Alessandro Rizzi / laif / Redux

No one summarized the essence of Beirut better than the late celebrity food writer and chef Anthony Bourdain. The Mediterranean city he fell in love with was one, he said, “where nothing made any damn sense at all—in the best possible way.” He recommended that everyone visit, to “see how complicated, how deeply troubled, and yet, at the same time, beautiful and awesome the world can be.”

Bourdain went beyond the facile clichés of my hometown—that it is the Paris of the Middle East; that it rose like a phoenix after its civil war; that it is treasured for its clubbing and beach parties, its effervescent art and design scene, its food and general joie de vivre. He put his finger on something deeper: “Everything wrong with the world is here.”

Never has this felt truer than now, when Beirut, like much of the world, feels unmoored and broken, on hold but also changing rapidly, squeezed between the coronavirus, populism, and economic unraveling. Because it is Beirut, we experience all of this with a crushing intensity. And because we are in Beirut, we’ve already been here. We know that waiting for the end of something, anything, does not truly provide a fresh start, and certainly not a return to the way things were before.

In his campaign ads, Joe Biden promises a in the United States, with a vote for , empathy, love, and truth. But nothing is ever the way it was in the past, what is normal evolves constantly, and as the U.S. approaches Election Day, it’s worth pausing to ask: What has really changed over the past four years? How much of it will stay the

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