Terrorists hit Brussels this morning, with 26 reported dead. Another senseless tragedy, another sober confrontation with this: what do we do?
Two years ago, almost to the week, I visited Belgium for the first time. My husband had just accepted a job with a French company, and so our baby daughter and I tagged along for his intro in Paris.
Over the weekend, we took up a suggestion from my mother-in-law and rode the train to Bruges. It’s a medieval town preserved remarkably well (considering all the chaos a few centuries wrought).
Belgium was beautiful. Spring meant tulips. And lime-green grass. The main square in downtown Bruges had an array of restaurants with outdoor seating, where we had fish for lunch and my husband drank a Belgian ale. The spot also hosted a small carnival, where our daughter played a fishing game. She won a generic version of an etch-a-sketch. We still have it. I saw it yesterday.
Reading shop signs was a treat. I know a bit of French, so sometimes I could decipher the gist of what was up for sale inside. But much was wholly indecipherable because there are three national languages in Belgium: Dutch, French, and German.
So fitting for the European Union’s host country. Multilingual. Multicultural.
I can never understand terror. I know all the treacherous apologetics. But none of them makes sense on a ground level.
How do you walk past an unsuspecting high school student who hasn’t ever once intentionally done you harm, and still justify murdering him?
To take just one example.
I think of a young adult because I was struck by the Dutch kids we saw, riding bikes and bumming around town. They seemed tall. And quite serious, compared to the loud, giggling American teens I used to teach.
European teenagers have often seemed older to me, but I do suspect it just a misperception. I suspect they are as goofy and insecure and desirous of a good laugh as anyone.
I spoke with a friend over the weekend. He serves in the military, and spent some time stationed in Afghanistan. We talked about Middle Eastern politics. We talked about the Syrian civil war and refugee fallout.
He said he was very nervous about a destabilized Europe. As our strongest international ally, Europe’s continuing strength – economically, politically, militarily – is key for peace.
What now, I wonder? Can Europe fight an internal threat? Can they deal with radicalized citizens already living in their midst, and vet all the refugees pouring across their borders?
There must be an answer to this. A good answer. But I don’t know what it is.
And yesterday, Donald Trump talked with the Washington Post, and was incoherent and frightening as ever. He said he’d prefer not to go “nuclear” with ISIS, before observing that he’s a counter-puncher, that Marco Rubio started the whole argument about his manhood, and hey, lady, you know you’re a “beautiful” reporter.
The man is a fool.
And he is getting closer every day to being in charge of our response to terrorism.
There are current estimates of 26 people dead in Brussels this morning, murdered in terrorist attacks.
What will we do now? I don’t know. I will start by praying.
Praying for the victims and their families in Belgium. For all the people of Belgium.
Praying for the people of Europe.
Praying an end to Syria’s war, peace and protection to the refugees. A way of peace forward for them.
Praying for the American people to wake up to the threat of a Trump presidency against such a threat as ISIS.
Photo: Flickr/Matthias Ripp