It has been an uneasy week for the citizens of Madrid. Not because we are new to the fears and destruction of terrorism. We have long known how fragile human life is and how easily disaster can be sowed in the places that seem safest. And yet, we have often felt alone. Many times, it seemed as if the world had more sympathy for our longtime scourges, the Basque separatists of ETA, than for the victims of their terrorist attacks.
But this time, our dead are on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Our election last Sunday, which would have normally been a global footnote, suddenly took on international relevance. With this came scrutiny by those who fail to understand Spain, yet seek to judge us.
A friend called me from New York and told me that perhaps the electoral defeat of Prime Minister José María Aznar’s Popular Party, which supported President Bush and the war in Iraq, was a triumph for Al Qaeda and terrorism. I think that Spanish voters were not bowing to Al Qaeda but instead punishing the Aznar government’s arrogance in ignoring their wishes — as well as its subordination to the rude, inept and bellicose leadership of President Bush.