Monday, May 4, 2009

Queen's Day Aftermath

There's a commentary by Robin Pascoe, the founder of about the events from last Thursday. It wasn't a Dutch 9/11, no al-Qaeda, just a lone, mentally unbalanced man taking revenge on the Queen and members of the royal family. We'll never know what was exploding in that man's head. Hundreds of uploaded videos of April 30 have dominated the hits on YouTube. The Netherlands is a small country, and naturally a tragic event on its national day is cause for reflections. While I agree with much of Pascoe's commentary about moving on, he just doesn't have a clue how important the Dutch royals interacting openly with the public is, especially on Koninginnedag:---
[...] It was a shocking event to witness anywhere but made even more so because it happened so close to home, on a sunny day when everyone was out having fun.

But three days on, there is a danger that the Netherlands is descending into a strange sentimentality. [...]

There are soul searching articles about how life in the Netherlands will never be the same again.

And will it?

The one important question is, of course, why? There is no terror cell at work here, no carefully coordinated attack by animal rights activitists or Al Quaeda. There is no enemy to vent anger at - just the action of a lone, and perhaps lonely man, who flipped for whatever reason.

We have been hit by this attack because we watched it happen and we are still watching it, again and again and again.

No amount of security would have stopped this man doing what he did. This time he drove his car through the crowd watching the queen. Next time he could be entering a school with a machine gun or a creche with a knife.

Life in the Netherlands has not changed for all of us, only for those who have lost loved ones or who were closely involved in the aftermath. And wallowing in sentimentality helps no-one. The tv images will fade - if we stop watching them. And we should not be hypnotising ourselves into thinking otherwise.
Today from Radio Netherlands, discussing future celebrations of Queen's Day (and Rememberance Day on May 4th and Liberation Day on May 5th),
The present Queen has also been known to be defiant in the face of adversity in the past. In 1980 she choose to hold her coronation in Amsterdam in spite of demonstrations planned by the squatter's movement to disrupt the event. The day was marred by serious rioting in the capital.

Prince Constantijn [the second son of Queen Beatrix] speaking outside the World Press Photo award ceremony on Sunday said that the royal family will continue to do the things it does with conviction,
"In this country and as a family we value openness and accessibility. So in that sense we will continue with our heads held high."
The print and television media have pushed the story to morbid extremes. Adding to the confusion - from an article [Dutch] in Volkskrant: the tabloid newspaper AD has apologised for posting a photo of a man they said was Karst T., but it turns out he wasn't. The man has the same surname as Mr T. At least the paper's official didn't give the usual excuse, "mistakes were made," but actually apologised (We betreuren het enorm dat dit is gebeurd...); AD won't relegate its correction to the back pages - it will appear on the front page. In this kind of media frenzy and rush to further sensationalize a tragedy, and sell papers (for it happens frequently in the US, too), I always wonder whether the legal department, editorial board and fact checkers are asleep on the job. Think of the harm potential harm to the man whose photo was published. Of course, these kinds of photo mistakes have occur often in US newspapers and on television, sometimes with tragic consequences - usually to ex-cons, notably sex offenders, who have already done their time, are rehabilitated and are set "free," but still receive harassment from "society."

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