Justine Harcourt de Tourville is an American writer/communication consultant living in Antwerp. She researched and wrote her Masters thesis – 100 pages — on Belgium, national identity and food. It took two years, countless containers of yoghurt and hundreds of thousands of cups of coffee. For this article, it took just a few hours in pajamas, half a croissant and six cups of coffee. http://about.me/justinejustine


Hélène said “Justine, will you write another post? You can write about anyyyyyything.”

OK, let’s test that theory. Let’s talk about Flemish politics and those goobers you get to vote for.

Here’s the thing: I can’t vote in Belgium but follow the campaigns religiously. Do you want an outsider’s view? No? Exit now. Yes? Read on.

Burning Questions about Belgian Politicians

#1) What’s up with the bad haircuts? Seriously, Jo Van Deurzen. Wouter Van Besien. Bert Anciaux. Too name but a few. Annemie Turtleboom, you’re a mother and Minister with enough responsibility for ten people. Your crazy hair I can relate to. Just cool it a little with the eyeliner.

#2) Those bad suits. If we held a cattle drive and herded all the politicos into an arena for a mega-styling rodeo, the world would scream yi-hah. A guy in a hoodie and basketball shoes looks better than the present political team in ill-fitting suits and horrible ties. Isn’t this the country famous for fashion? Hallo, Raf Simons? Help!! Worth nothing that even though he leads the party that would get me on the NSA or FBI watch list, Peter Mertens from the PVDA always looks sharp.

#3) Did someone forget to tell the N-VA how the color yellow is linked with irritation? I’m not kidding. Yellow is supposedly the color of hope and optimism, but if you stare at it too long, it makes you cranky. Those yellow banners, posters, flyers… grrrrr! Whenever I see someone flashing the peace sign against that urine-yellow background, I can’t help it that I want to punch them in the face — and I’m a pacifist. http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-vision/color-and-vision-matter

#4) Anyone who stuffs my mailbox with a cartoon about “Brown” people needs to move to Namibia. Look, I get that there are parties (plural!) that don’t like the immigrant situation. I understand that if we were to replace all the hoofddoeken in Antwerpen with Americans wearing sweatpants à la Britney Spears, there would be protests up and down the Leien with signs waving “Americans go home!” The desire to protect a culture as we know it is natural. But hating people because of their skin color is cheap. Better to focus on assimilation measures and positive examples of integration than ramp up hatred. Hate is the start of a country’s decline. Just ask Adolf. Or Pol Pot. Or Mobutu. Besides data shows that racists have lower IQs. (link below) You don’t want to be stupid, do you? http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2672/Wetenschap-Gezondheid/article/detail/3151600/2012/02/02/Conservatieven-en-racisten-hebben-een-lager-IQ.dhtml#

#5) Bart de Wever, you are one uptight dude: “Jongens, ophouden” and “Zet die ploet, af.” I just wanna get you drunk on good tequila and see you relax. Or maybe slip you some ecstasy and make you feel the love for evvvvveryyyyybody. No wait. You’re cracking down on illegal drugs. That’s a good thing since our coked-up Antwerp pigeons make global headlines. So, we’re back to tequila. Call me. I’ve got good references at the N-VA since I got a bunch of your diehards drunk on my famous spicy margaritas.

#6) Liesbeth Homans, will you please smile more? I get the feeling you are squeezed by boa-constrictor strength lycra underwear and uncomfortably tight high heels. Sometimes you seem miserable. But c’mon, look how you smoked Kris Peeters. Flash some pearly whites. Have some fun. Let your hair down. Get some sweatpants. Looks like I have to hook you up with some tequila, too.

Not_Elected_Charlie_Brown#7) As the granddaughter of hardcore Republicans from Midland, Texas (epicenter of the Bush dynasty), my grandparents would roll over in their graves if they knew my heart beats fast for PAUL MAGNETTE. He’s a – shock, gasp – socialist! And worse, French-speaking! I don’t want to drink tequila with Paul. Chill some Veuve Cliquot Grande Dame, roll it on a room service tray with oysters and caviar, Marvin Gaye in the background… But wait, if this guy became Prime Minister, I’d never get the chance to whisk through security and whisper Paul, je t’aime… It’s too bad, because Belgium would instantaneously be famous if they had a hunk as cute as George Clooney leading the nation…

#8) John Crombez, you’re a cute fixer-upper. Let’s get you on a Tom Waes-style workout regime, put you in a cape and tights and watch you fight crime. POW! BAM! Fraudeurs go flying and we poor zelfstandigen are finally saved from Dr. Evil. You know Dr. Evil was from Belgium, didn’t you? I’m guessing he got that name from the too many taxes he liked to inflict.

#9) There is someone in the Antwerp stadsbestuur who has greasy hair. Won’t say who because greasy hair screams mafia. And the mafia scares the bejeezus out of me. But I will point out that I live in Antwerpen 2000. Most of the Antwerp stadsbestuur is made up of people from Wilrijk 2610, Berchem 2600, Merksem 2170 and Deurne 2100. This drives me crazy. I want someone from the Nationalestraat, close to the Mode Paleis or the Academie, to govern what happens in Antwerp 2000. Someone with Walter Van Beirendonck’s phone number in his or her GSM. I’m pretty sure that person won’t have greasy hair and won’t come up with scary ideas for Antwerp 2000. By the way, how can you argue against Waalse influence on Flemish politics, when our own city centers are ruled by the outsiders from the suburbs? C’est pas juste!

#10) New glasses please for Elio di Rupo. Elio is a rare species. How many gay men do you know who need style help? It’s not a gay thing because Wouter Van Besien, you need to visit the optician, too.

#11) You know why I like Ludo Van Campenhout? (Other than the fact he brought the Velo and Red Star Line Museum to Antwerp?) He doesn’t drink. That, in my eyes — when dealing with politics and bureaucracy – requires a will of titanium. If I were a politician in Belgium, I’d need to be wheeled around with a bakster of Don Julio 1942 and occasional morphine. The intellectual genius Dr. Cornel West said “To serve the people, you have to love the people.” Frankly, it’s clear that a lot of politicians don’t pass that basic qualification. There’s no shame in not serving. I don’t run for government because I don’t love the people. I love tequila.

 #12) Can you guess which would be my party of choice? My favorite color is watermelon red, forest green, midnight blue, sunny yellow, golden orange, African violet … oh yeah, you can’t pick that way. If you judge by policy, I’m a little of this and a little of that from all parties (except Vlaams Belang, they are on record as hating Americans, so the feeling is mutual), which would put me in the middle circle of a Venn Diagram. When all the colors come together in one circle, you get brown — that makes me a member of the poo party.

Now before you whip out the hate mail that says “politicians should pay attention to issues not looks.” I understand. But don’t forget we have to see these people in the media 24/7. It would be nice for something other than a frumpy fashion parade across the television screen in Belgium, the wannabe fashion capital. Says the American woman writing this in sweatpants.