Today is once again Belgian National Day! A day off work! Military parades in Brussels! General joy and jubilation!
Or not. At least not that last part, for it’s hard to get very enthusiastic about a country which a while ago broke the world record for operating without a proper, approved government after its last elections (which happened at the beginning of June, 2010). Instead we have newspaper editorials marking the day like the one impishly offered by Liesbeth van Impe in the Nieuwsblad, entitled Fear and Cynicism. And as the latest in a long line of formateurs (politicians appointed by the king to cobble together a workable governing coalition), a bow-tie-wearing dude called Elio di Rupo, finds himself having to deal with squabbling political parties and scheduled negotiation-meetings that fail to convene, the prospect continues to hang over the country that a split-up might be the only solution left.
Hmm . . . a National Day for a nation on the verge of separating roughly down the middle. Don’t know about you, but that reminds me of 150 years ago and July 4, 1861, when all of the states that were to make up the Confederacy had seceded, and blue and grey armies were headed towards each other on respective sides of the new internal border. Especially since that day was described recently in an excellent New York Times piece, one in its “Disunion” series marking that 150th anniversary. (more…)