By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Here in the United States, our politicians seem unable to agree on anything. Well, there's one country that's more divided than we are, so divided in fact its people can't even decide on who should run it.
Belgium has now gone through some 385 days without a functional government. Listen to its story. There might be some lessons in it for us.
When Belgium last went to the polls, now more than a year ago, the party that won the most seats was called the New Flemish Alliance. The alliance's main aim is to split the country in two - not politically but physically.
You see a slight majority of Belgium's population, the Flemish, speaks Dutch and lives in the north of the country in Flanders. A minority of the country speaks French and lives in the south of the nation in Wallonia. And the winning party wants to take their majority and split into an independent nation.
Already the country is divided at every level, almost every public service you can think of, schools, hospitals and they are split along the lines of language. There are French schools and Flemish schools, Flemish hospitals and French hospitals and so on.
Then Brussels, it is the capital of Belgium and the Flanders, but Brussels is French speaking, which is why it is also the capital of the European Union. So if you partition the country, the French-speaking capital would end up in the Dutch-speaking Flanders.
You wouldn't normally compare Belgium with Iraq, but that's the country with the previous longest record without a government. For 249 days the Iraqi Parliament could not decide how to form a government and then it took another 40 days for that government to actually assume power. Iraq's democratic experiment was much maligned at the time. It was falling down while taking its baby steps of democracy.
But the Belgians have had a bit more practice. The country gained its independence and started its current form of government in 1830.
So you think we are divided?
Well, now you know about the Belgians, but they're still surviving.
How? Well, the people of Belgium seem to do is grin and bear it. Some Belgians quite literally did that, stripping down in the cold winter to make a point.
On February 17th, the day when by some counts Belgium overtook Iraq as the country with the most days without a government, Belgians marked it in style: street parties, deejays tuning out music, funky costumes, they had it all.
And there were some political messages. In Dutch-speaking Flanders, locals handed out free French fries while in French-speaking Wallonia, you could swig some free beer.
Some went as far as to create a fake government website. It had this message, "Government not found. The requested government was not found in this country, please come back...well...later."
We live in an era of unrest and political uncertainty in many parts of the world. So you have to hand it to the people of Belgium. They're taking it in their stride with an admirable sense of humor.