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    March 14’s First Congress: What’s New?

    Besides the new logo, the stage set-up and the visual effects, Lebanese citizens saw on March 14th 2008 the same colors, the same people, the same political references and the same pictures on the walls… The political memorandum that was released included both the spirit and the rhetoric that March-14 has used at least since the end of the July war.

    If you read or watch excerpts of the speeches and the memorandum, you may think you found nothing new or different from what you expect coming from March-14. However, a careful reading of the memorandum shows four new elements that were never completely included in March-14’s positions.

    1- The New Political Element

    In its memorandum, March-14 clearly defined its views of the political crisis. The current crisis is not about struggle for power. It is not about seat-sharing. It is not about who should be in charge of what. It is not about specific legislation. The struggle is cultural. It opposes two visions for Lebanon, which can both be valid from an analytical point of view. Both are comprehensive and tackle almost all aspects of public life. By doing this, March-14 is challenging itself to be consistent. The cultural description of March-14’s Lebanon must be found from now on in each March-14 proposal, position and action.

    2- The New Partners

    March-14 in 2008 remembered what made its strength in 2005. March-14 understood that the majority of those who took part in the March 14th 2005 legendary demonstration were non partisans. March-14 understood that most articles in international media outlets back then were about those independent Lebanese citizens and the re-energized Lebanese civil society, which provided March-14 with an extremely appealing and refreshing image. March-14 listened at last to Samir Kassir, who asked his friends in May 2005 to go back to the street in order to go back the truth. Of course he did not mean the January 23rd, 25th and 27th kind of street. Samir Kassir asked March-14 to listen again to citizens and to reconnect with those who granted them with their most precious gift: their trust. The March-14 forces, in their memorandum, acknowledged that March 14 goes beyond them and includes independents and pro-reform civil society organizations. March-14 went even further and called on this segment of the population to actively engage in shaping March-14’s vision and policies. For the first time in Lebanon’s history, every single citizen is invited to shape policies. Every single citizen can sign up to one of the 11 workshops that March-14 will launch, about all sectors and aspects of the political, social and economic life in Lebanon.

    3- The New Courage

    March-14 set another new precedent in Lebanon. It acknowledged some of its weaknesses and failures. It frankly told its supporters that it failed in achieving some, maybe many, of their dreams. It was courageous enough to tell them that committing mistakes may happen again. Furthermore, it announced the creation of a permanent body in charge of evaluating March-14’s performance and suggesting adjustment measures.

    4- The New Risk

    By clearly defining its political/cultural vision, by reconnecting with independents and civil society organizations, and by undergoing a self-criticism process, March-14 must accept a new risk; the risk of losing the backing of some of its radical supporters, those who only support March-14 out of sectarian motives. Will March-14 leaders be ready to stick to the newly announced vision if this ultimately means losing some of their current supporters? Will their new message be strong and persuasive to attract enough independent citizens to outnumber lost radical elements? Winning this challenge will perhaps be March-14’s greater victory. We, March-14’s supporters and activists, have also a role to play in this regard. We must be the liaison between our parties and independent friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues. We must be vigilant and monitor our leaders’ rhetoric and performance, to remind them of the goal they set for themselves on March 14th 2008… Barack Obama’s supporters would have said: Yes We Can! This is what we say too!

    These four elements concur in translating the culture that March-14 is defending in Lebanon. A culture where participation is an action not a slogan. A culture where every single citizen has a say. A culture where no side, divine or human, can impose its will on others. A culture where nobody is mistake-free.

    The event itself represents an aspect of the culture that March-14 is defending. A colorful and joyful event, where people announce visions and are open for debate and criticism.

    Finally, how can we talk about what’s new in March-14 and forget this great wall, to the right of the stage, where we read the names of each civilian who fell since October 1st 2004… For them, let us implement the new March-14 vision…

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