buber.net > Basque > Features > GuestColumns > A Basque-American's Reaction to March 11
For security reasons, user contributed notes have been disabled.
A Basque-American's Reaction to March 11
by Blas Pedro Uberuaga
I first heard about the March 11 attacks on the commuter train in Madrid while on the way to work. NPR (National Public Radio) was covering the story fairly continuously. My carpool had already heard about the attacks earlier in the morning and were relating what they had heard as well.
My first reaction was sadness, sadness for all of the people who were killed and hurt, for their family and friends who had already begun the grieving process, and for Spain as a whole.
I was also shocked and in disbelief that this had happened again, this being a massive and indiscriminate attack on civilians at the peak of the morning rush.
And, I felt fear. Not for myself, as I was far away from the day's events. But, I was afraid for my father's people, the Basque people. NPR was reporting that the Spanish government was certain that ETA was responsible for the attacks. And the possibility that that was true was overwhelming. I felt a shame that a group of people of Basque origin might be responsible for the attacks. But, it went even further. I was afraid for the entire Basque Country.
The Spanish government had already attacked various Basque cultural and political institutions. They outlawed the political party Batasuna and closed the only newspaper written in the Basque language, Egunkaria. These actions were committed by the Spanish government as part of their own war on terror. But, these were in response to terrorist acts that were small compared to those of March 11.
If ETA was responsible for the commuter train bombings, then I feared that this would in turn cause the Spanish government to intensify its offensive against the Basque people and Basque cultural institutions. I feared it would begin a new wave of repression of the Basques, a level of repression not seen since Franco's time. I feared for what this would mean for my family and friends in the Basque Country. I feared what this meant for the future of Euskal Herria and for Spain.
I also feared the backlash that the Spanish people might direct towards the Basque Country. When I checked my email that morning, I had already received a couple of messages saying things like "this day is the beginning of the End for the Basques". Surprisingly, I only received a small number of such messages, compared to other times, and maybe this was an indication that the Spanish people already doubted ETA was responsible. Or maybe they were still in shock and grief and didn't have time to bother with sending such messages across the ocean.
On a positive note, I also received a number of emails asking for information about the Basque "situation", the senders trying to learn about what was going on in Spain and in the Basque Country. The traffic to my page jumped a factor of 5 as people were trying to learn more about the Basque people, admittedly in connection to ETA's possible role in the attacks.
I have to admit that my fear was much more tangible to me than anything I had felt during the time of 9/11. The events of 9/11 killed many of my fellow citizens, and I grieved for them and their families as well, but I feared that the events of March 11 might destroy the future of my family and friends. For that reason, it felt more personal. Even though these people I felt for hadn't actually been harmed by the day's events, they were my family and the aftermath of the bombings had the potential to change everything for them.
For the next couple of days, my friends here in the US often asked me about the events, often with questions like "How about those Basques?" With the media reporting the ETA was responsible, it wasn't surprising that these kinds of thoughts ran through their heads. While I too feared it was ETA (and enough evidence was coming in that made it seem possible that it was) there was also a small amount of evidence -- such as the van with the tape of Koranic verses -- that gave me enough doubt -- and hope -- that it wasn't ETA. And, I clung to that doubt, bringing it up to anyone who asked "about those Basques". I was glued to the news outlets, hoping for reports of more evidence pointing away from ETA.
I think I know at least a little how the average Muslim must feel when they hear about the latest bombing attributed to al-Qaeda or some other radical group.
In the end, while the investigations are not over, it seems that ETA was not responsible. In fact, with the change in the Spanish government, and the new government's willingness for dialog with the Basque government, the future for the Basque Country looks brighter than it has in a while. How long this feeling of optimism will last is anyone's guess, but at least there are reasons to be optimistic.
For me personally, there is a strong sense of relief that ETA was not responsible. I realize that for many people, especially for many Spaniards, the question is academic. It does nothing to relieve their grief or suffering, or bring back their lost loved ones. But, for me personally, it means a completely different future for the Basque Country than the one I feared might occur on March 11. And with it comes the lifting of a dark shadow over my heart.