I found myself in unfamiliar territory the other night. Going through my late evening routine of working on my laptop and watching the news on TV, from the comfort of my window-side couch, I noticed that there was not a single sound of firecrackers in the street outside. I am not exaggerating when I say that it might have been the first night since the beginning of Ramadan that I have not heard firecrackers being thrown around.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against people rejoicing and having a good time. My problem is with Jordanians going overboard when celebrating engagements, weddings, elections, graduations, birthdays and Ramadan by playing with firecrackers. This is to say nothing of honking cars, and their crazy screaming teenage passengers that cruise through the streets of Amman on any given summer night.
It is an even bigger problem when one looks at the region’s sorry state of affairs. Violent wars, military occupations, terrorism, coups, assassinations, kidnappings, beheadings, religious fanaticism, civil strife, refugees, corruption, rigged elections and human rights abuses, are just some of the many depressing circumstances dominating the regional news scene these days.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would disagree with the suggestion that the Middle East is no stranger to doom and gloom. What I cannot get my head around is how the residents of West Amman can publicly celebrate an event or an occasion against the backdrop of regional malaise. Looked at from the other side of the telescope, one can only wonder how the people of Amman would feel if Iraqis in Baghdad were celebrating their national football team winning a match on the night of the Amman bombings in 2005.
Think also of the money being spent on all these celebrations. Wouldn’t these extravagant funds be better invested in the community? Or, does the country have a sudden shortage of poor families in need of financial assistance? What about run-down homes and public schools, not to mention local community centers and charitable organizations?
Everyone seems to agree that in Jordan, generally, and West Amman in particular, a “crisis of disengagement” from the dismal state of the region pervades. Yet, the problem lies in the fact that readily available solutions are in short supply. What’s a country to do when faced with a bunch of undesirables whose guilt is difficult to prove in a court of justice? The Jordanian state is also partly to blame, trying very hard not to miss the chance of jumping on the same bandwagon, often throwing extravagant firework shows on each occasion.
So, where do we draw the line when it comes to how far Jordanians can go in celebrating in the public arena? To me, this is not a matter of personal choice. Rather, it is a matter of right and wrong. I strongly believe that the choice of frequent public celebrations in a region plagued by catastrophes and turmoil is simply an inappropriate one. It shows a clear lack of respect for Jordan’s next-door neighbors. Thanks to its wise leadership and efficient security apparatus, Jordan is an island of stability in a very turbulent region. Let’s enjoy it, but not abuse it.