Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's raining again

Yesterday a man let loose in one of our central squares here in Liège with a hail of gunfire.  He then shot himself in the head.  A few people died right away, many people were hurt, and a few more are in a touch and go state at the hospitals.

I was at home when it happened, thankfully.  I received a text from a friend checking to see if I was ok, and then The Boy called to make sure I wasn't downtown, explaining what he'd heard at that point.  I was surprised at the time, but not entirely.  Though Liège hasn't had a crazy with a gun before, believe it or not I've heard more than a few disgusting news stories regarding prison breaks, judges being shot, and enough rapes and knifings in Belgium to know that certain people don't really hold back here.  While part of it is cultural, part of this certainly has to do with a flaw in the justice system here.  This man had a conviction sheet with 20 items on it at least.  Rape, possession of (many) arms without permit, running a large grow-op, and so on.

Do you want to know how much time he's spent in prison here in Belgium?  From what I understand, not a very long time for someone with such a long rap-sheet.

Know what goes on in Belgian prisons?  Again, from what I understand: Overcrowding.  Early release after serving a third of your time, or payment of a fine instead of jail-time altogether.  And also from what I understand... jail isn't a place that tries to rehabilitate you, or to help you acquire any job skills.  It's just a place where you go to live like a cooped chicken.  Which means if you were a criminal when you went in... chances are you will still not be able to figure out how to live like a decent person when you get out, and you'll turn back to crime.

In this case I'm not saying that this guy would have been any different were he given access to rehabilitative programs in prison, because with a rap sheet like that we might safely assume that he was just scum who didn't aspire to be anything other than scum.  What I am saying is "really?  SO LITTLE TIME in prison for having a large grow-op, RAPING someone, having an illegal armery in your garage? Among other crimes?"

People were really frightened, and rightfully so.  I think a lot of people (myself included) find themselves asking a few questions they weren't yesterday prior to the shooting.  For everyone it's different questions, you know, the kind you ask yourself or others when you realize that life is short and very place-specific.

For me, yesterday is just more weight added to the question that's been growing all through my time here, regardless of how 'adjusted' I've become.  The question being: "what am I really doing here?"

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