Where were you when four people were shot at the Jewish Museum in Brussels ?
Not that far away, on a peaceful terrace, near the Soignies forest at the outskirts of Brussels.
Utterly unaware of what was happening in the centre of town, reinvigorated by a walk in the woods , I sat there in the sun, sipping a glass of wine. Alternating between reading (a book about the disastrous chain of events that led to WWI) and quarrelling with C. about the Sunday elections.
C. was making fun of my weeks- long fretting about how to vote, as if a single vote made any difference. This had me arguing that every vote counted and that people had bravely battled for universal suffrage (Belgian women acquired the full right to vote only in 1948). But this principled democratic zeal of mine did not resolve my voting-dilemma : not a single party-programme could entirely convince me. Right-wing too right-wing, left-wing too left-wing, and centre-parties too fuzzily in the centre. And why do politics always have to be so polemical? One interest group pitched against the other. Can’t we all strive to work for the “greater common good”? But then, of course, how could we ever objectively determine what that greater common good is. Perhaps the Chinese central committee thinks it can?
But hey, tomorrow was another day. Nothing like a good night’s sleep to find electoral illumination. And staying far from internet and news services. Just listening to Bach sonatas to purify the mind and the senses.
So the next day, still utterly unaware of what had happened, I cycled to the nearby voting office – where everything went on as usual, in the jovial and slightly jocular atmosphere which always surrounds elections in Belgium. I had reached a decision too, proportionally (&selectively) doling out my votes. I had no less than 4 votes to give away, thanks to the complicated Belgian voting-system applicable to a Dutch speaking person in Brussels: votes for the Brussels region, for Flemish community-issues, for the Belgian parliament and then of course for the European parliament. Whom did I vote for? At anay rate, not for any excessively barking politicians neither for any nationalists (those two categories tend to overlap) .
And then one does turn on the internet to get the latest news. “Four people shot at the Jewish Museum. Three dead, one critically wounded “ . It’s a nice museum, with small but always carefully selected exhibitions. Without much visible security measures, no metal detectors or so. After all, this is Belgium! We don’t do that kind of violence! We don’t do terrorism! (apart from some home-grown shady communist cells in the 80s.)
So please let this be an isolated act of a lone crazy gun man. There are so many nationalities, races and religions living in Brussels – peacefully and without any trouble so far. So please let this remain an isolated act. Let us continue to have barking politicians instead of violent gunmen. And now I ‘m going to look where I can get flowers to lay at the doorstep of the Jewish Museum.