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Lebanese Photographer Visits U.S. Cities Named 'Lebanon'


Fadi BouKaram was born in Lebanon and discovered about a decade ago that the name of his home country is also on numerous cities across the United States. The constant threat of violence in Beirut caused him to quit his job as a tax consultant. He bought an RV and made a five-month journey last year to visit and photograph the Lebanons of the United States. His journey is documented in a recent article in Foreign Policy. Fadi BouKaram joins us from Beirut. Thanks so much for being with us.

FADI BOUKARAM: Thank you for having me, sir.

SIMON: You started this trip during the presidential election season last year...


SIMON: ...At a time when there was a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the presidential campaign. What did you find when you went from Lebanon to Lebanon in the heart of the United States?

BOUKARAM: I can't really say that I experienced any of the backlash to it on my route, except for one minor accident in - close to Lebanon, Neb.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, tell me about that night in a bar, if you can.

BOUKARAM: Yes. That night, I was in this town called McCook. So McCook is about 40 minutes away from Lebanon, Neb., and it's the closest city to it. And I was in a bar, and there was a man - and I always have my camera with me because the intention is to take pictures. So the man sees my camera and asks me if I could take his picture, and I said yes. But then he asked me where am I - where I'm from, and I say from Lebanon, and I say the country. And then he starts getting angry.

And then the bartender saw him, and she jumped in right away, and she kicked him out. And she comped me all my drinks, so that was really nice. And then the next day, after I sleep in my RV, I wake up and I find a Post-It note on my windshield. And it said, Fadi, there's a lot of hatred in this world. I hope you meet more good souls than bad ones. Have safe travels - Alyssa (ph). And Alyssa was the barmaid at the bar.

SIMON: What do you think you might have learned about the United States that maybe people born here find more difficult to recognize?

BOUKARAM: That there's a lot more in common between the people than they realize. The things that need to be focused on is - I mean, less the differences between the people than the commonalities. It's perfectly fine if you want to attack politicians, like, say bad things about politicians or people in power because these are public figures. I mean, they know what they're getting into. But it's not fair to attack regular people or have assumptions about their way of life because, you know, these are not public figures. It's not - you need - there needs to be a little bit more communication and sharing about what's common between these people.

SIMON: Fadi BouKaram - his photographs and story are on the Foreign Policy website. Thanks so much for being with us.

BOUKARAM: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.