Senseless sentimentality

Some 2.4 million people were watching the Queen’s Day procession live on tv when the black Suzuki Swift blasted through the crowd and slammed into a roadside monument, close to the open bus carrying the royal family.

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.
Football matches nationwide have been cancelled because the wife of an official is among the six dead. Political parties have stopped campaigning for the European elections out of ‘respect’.
Suzuki is wrestling with the name of its Swift – a name which will always be associated with the attack, the Parool newspaper informs us. Insurance company Central Beheer Achmea has pulled its long-established ‘just ring Apeldoorn’ advertising campaign for the time being.
News websites are running continual updates about how many people have signed the condoleance registers. Newspapers are rich with photos of children lighting candles and people looking at the pile of flowers where the attack took place.
The first memorial service has taken place. Others are being planned. ‘How many times can a country lose its innocence,’ writes one commentator in the NRC, before going on to describe Holland as a ‘desperately unstable country’. Most of the papers carry 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 activists 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.
Robin Pascoe is a founder of

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation