Tuesday, September 21, 2010
"No Crystal Ball"
Some may have noticed I've said very little about Belgium's ongoing political crisis. I feel a bit awkward discussing the issue, since I'm an outsider. Still, I must say it will be a terrible tragedy and loss if Belgium falls apart. Hugo Biets, alderman of Tongeren, cut to the heart of the matter in an address to mark Armistice Day in 2006. (The speech is published in Dutch and French at ProBelgica). Like Biets, I often wonder: if Belgium splits up, what will become of such commemorations? Who will remember all the heroic men and women, Flemings and Walloons, combatants and noncombatants alike, who sacrificed their lives in defense of united Belgium in both world wars? The soldiers, doctors, nurses, resistance fighters, political prisoners, the victims of oppression, deportation, torture and execution? I also wonder: what will become of the memory of Belgium's kings and queens, who dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to their realm? Whatever their qualities or failings as individuals, I firmly believe they have all shared an intense, generous patriotism. What will happen to their monuments and memorials? Will the Royal Crypt of Laeken, for example, become merely a forlorn relic of a past régime? What of Queen Astrid's memorial chapel in Switzerland, where King Albert II commemorated the 75th anniversary of his mother's tragic demise, less than a month ago? Will there be a Belgian National Day in 2011? Let's hope so. Yet, sadly, I cannot help feeling more and more pessimistic.