nativist terror in Belgium is reflected everywhere

only the lyrics change

I'm going to start by pointing out that here in the U.S, in the best of all possible worlds, we managed to put racism and nativism behind us long ago and we are today totally cool with the blessings of multiculturalism.

Admitedly however, in the last few weeks we've had to confront the fact that we haven't entirely straightened out the kinks in the wall which is supposed to keep out the brown peril on our southern border.

We've also been reminded only this week that we still haven't been able to carve into the Constitution a new 3/5ths rule for our damnable native homos, although this time it's going to be more like 0/5ths when marriage licenses are distributed. The girls aren't much of a problem, but why can't the gay boys be happy with their beauty parlors, ribbon counters and, well . . . their traditional illicit and indiscriminate sex, leaving the manly jobs and marriage bliss for real Americans?

All of this gives me the authority to decry the horrors of nativism which have descended upon what is by most accounts one of the most ancient and most sophisticated [Western] societies on the planet, the nation of Belgium.

I am going to upload here the entire text of an email which I [along with a number of her other correspondents] was privileged to receive recently from a good friend who has been living in Antwerp for a number of years. Kate's own complex national and cultural background would be difficult to describe easily, and I would argue it is irrelevant to the significance of her account.


Dear friends abroad:

I am writing to tell you what it is like being here. Recent events have brought an ugly demon to the surface and everyone seems to be tainted in some way by its grip. It was as if before it was "sleeping" but events prove that it has embedded itself deeply at this society's core.

I am talking about the recent spate of attacks and murders that have swept through the Flanders part of Belgium and in particular in the city of Antwerp where I live.

First we were shocked to hear how a parisian of african origins and his Belgian (white) rastafarian friend were severely beaten by some neonazis in the picturesque city of bruges

The african man is still in a coma and just about every bone in his face was broken

Then a young boy of, what, 22, was chased into the river Scheldt and drowned. The assumption is that it was a racist attack, as Mohamed Bouazza was from Morocco, living in Belgium.

Third and perhaps most devastatingly an eighteen year old man went on the rampage with a hunting gun which he simply purchased at a store near the museum where I was working that day. Didn't need a license, and the weapon he bought was powerful enough to kill a bear. Are there still bears in Belgium, incidentally? Just days before it happened I had looked at the shop, displaying all manner of weaponry, and knives as if they were trophies, and wondered what sacrifice would be made with those items.

So the man goes into town, and shoots a Turkish woman reading a book on a park bench, the bullet going right through her and even leaving traces in the apartment building behind. Her condition is serious if no longer critical.

The man then proceeded to kill a Malian woman who was pregnant, and a child of two from Belgium for whom she was babysitting. In the "Black Sister Street" [Zwartzustersstraat] no less. Nobody of the Flemish government was at her funeral.

The shooter's aunt belongs to the extreme right Vlaams Belang (formerly known as the Vlaams Blok), is a member of parliament and also involved in some of the VB's more radical wings. Evidence shows the man's motives were racist. It does not seem too farfetched to suppose that the man was brought up on extreme right propaganda. Fed with his porridge spoon as they say in Flemish.

One third of citizens in this city votes extreme right.

Yesterday 20.000 people marched in silence to the court of justice in Antwerp to commemorate the dead. 35.000 people went to see the holy blood procession in Bruges a few days earlier. I don't know if they were all tourists; or if it was because of yesterday's rain. What I can say is that people are afraid, the atmosphere is highly strung here, and that there seems to be no solution in sight.

The region of Flanders has to wake up to the idea that its diversity is a fact and that it is a positive and enriching fact in an already extremely prosperous region. I see these events as the result of a people's grossly warped self image and a great lack of gratitude. Flanders is stooped under a huge chip on its shoulder due to the francophone suppression, but that was years ago and now Flanders is far more prosperous than the Wallonian, french-speaking part of Belgium. A big chunk of the taxes I pay go to funding the Vlaams Belang, who preach hate messages wherever they can.

The march was a warm affair despite the damp yet at its end I was left with a feeling that little had been done. I had a feeling that the immigrant community don't have a good spokesperson, and there is such an all pervading sense of "the other" it is chilling.

Of course it was nice to see many artists and actors, musicians, poets in the ranks of people on the walk. We found each other and we spoke with people we didn't know before. And 20.000 is an awful lot of people. All people I know have reacted in a similar way to me and are as disgusted and shocked by the events. And I am happy to say that I have met some wonderful warm intelligent gifted openminded and generous people of all origins while living here and that the cultural scene is thriving, at times visionary, and quite positively one to be jealous of. This gives hope.

But I am not sure how much longer I want to live in this city which never clarified or brought its dubious allegiances of its WWII history into the open.

I am not an expert on this subject but I have tried to sketch an image of how I feel.

Be well,

In truth of course Belgium's nightmare is currently being shared in one form or another by each of its neighbors, and to a greater or lesser degree by every nation on earth, not least our own frightened, benighted land.

If only reports about the worst of these horrors unfolding in distant lands could bring us to our senses. Instead similar tragedies produced by similar hatreds and fears can continue to unfold here precisely because we fail to recognize ourselves in the ignorance and malevalence of what is seen only as the other.

[image from Latin American Studies]