March 27, 2016


Brussels memorial violated

Bodies were lined up by the side of a fairground ride after the tragic bombing in which 65 people have been killed, and the death toll is expected to rise further

After 31 people died and over 300 were injured in Brussels last Tuesday, the Taliban’s Easter attack in Pakistan (on Christian women and children, primarily) injured approximately the same number and killed at least 65. (I think it’s always fair to think about the scale of attacks in the West and in the East, especially when they happen so close together and the media coverage of the former eclipses the latter.)

In terms of the visuals, these photos (both taken yesterday) share a wrenching symmetry. We are painfully familiar with the public ritual after terror attacks. Grappling with the carnage and the civic trauma, citizens spontaneously construct public memorials to the victims. In doing so, these carpets of flowers, candles and drawings become sacred spaces in their own right. That’s why the scene above from Place de la Bourse is so disdainful. Extreme right wing, anti-Muslim demonstrators not only converged on the square and clashed with police, but they actually violated the memorial by tromping through it.

The second photo disgusted me in a similar way. To the extent we recognize the perversity, and even the abhorrent scale of urban terror, the attack in Lahore was something different.  In this case, the Taliban struck a park on a religious holiday containing rides and a playground for children. Of course terror, by definition, knows no boundaries. At the same time, I would like to think that a spontaneous memorial to freshly fallen citizens and neighbors, and especially, the ground for a child’s amusement would, somehow, remain inviolate.

(photo 1: Adam Berry/Getty Images. caption: Right-wing self-described hooligans trample over flowers and candles left over the previous few days at Place de la Bourse for victims of simultaneous suicide bombings at Brussels Zaventem airport and Maelbeek/Maalbeek train station, on March 27, 2016, in Brussels, Belgium. Days after the attacks killed 34 people and injured over 300, security levels have been lowered, but on the Easter Sunday following the attacks, the city still remains on edge. A ‘March for Peace’ scheduled for the holiday was canceled due to safety concerns. Meanwhile police used water cannons on a group of the few hundred right-wing demonstrators who descended upon the peaceful ongoing vigil on the Place de la Bourse. photo 2: AP. caption: Bodies were lined up by the side of a fairground ride after the tragic bombing in which 65 people have been killed, and the death toll is expected to rise further.)

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Michael Shaw
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