It starts in the front of the mouth with an average-sounding “leeb” and then sort of sloppily falls off the lips at the end with a disgusted “boowaa.” Leebboowaa. Leebewah. Leebooa.
How did they come up with such an unsavory rendering as Liibüa? If they cared to, they could easily have copied the British. Libya? How about Liibiia? Or Liibia? Or even Libja? But no. We have a country name that sounds like president throwing up.
Now it seems we all are suffering from an incurable case of Liibüa. NATO has assumed command of the no-fly zone, also known as the “mission to oust Gaddafi, or maybe not, let’s just bomb his military and see what happens.” I follow the news, quietly siding with the rebels. It’s not that I really believe that they will pull off a liberal democracy in the end, it’s just that Gaddafi is such a flamboyant dictator that any breathing human with a smidgen of humanism in his veins just can’t resist the sight of him going down.
What comes next is just sand: limitless possibilities, more of the same. Who can really control or predict anything? And so we come to the point where seven Estonians were abducted in Liibanon last week, one of whom is the son of someone I know. They were cycling near the Bekaa Valley, having just crossed over from Süüria, at a time when the entire region is convulsing with political demonstrations, seething with unrest.
At first, I couldn’t help but think they had fallen prey to their own innate Estonian naivety. Long freed from the bondage of a Soviet visa regime, nationals of this country have traveled to the most unlikely of places to take advantage of the liberties their parents longed to enjoy. Just as Estonians drive like they’re in a video game, they travel like 19th century explorers. It’s not uncommon to meet slight young Estonian girls who disappeared into the hills of Kashmir and not only emerged unscathed but with caravans of sherpas cheering them on and posing for their digital cameras in moments of global-a-go-go rapture.
The world is made up of the same elements. Rock, sand, stones, trees, bushes, wind, water, sun, and, of course, people. And, no matter where you go, people generally behave the same. The bizarre love triangles, the lust for material goods, the religious pontificating, the uneasy feeling that mankind has been cheated. You’ll find it everywhere. As my continent-hopping wife once pointed out: “Do you really feel safe in lower Manhattan?” Or on the Tube in London? Or in coastal Japan? Point taken.
Robbed of all metrics with which to measure the distance between myself and the Libyans rebelling in Liibüa or the Estonians kidnapped in Liibanon, I sit and read the news, listening to The Jam sing “All Around the World,” waiting. That’s all most of us can do.