Today, I saw and remembered the Netherlands. It was a sense of "home" for me, as this is my husband's "homeland". Most of his family still live there. And today, I ran across a blog that had some marvelous pictures of the blogger's visit there. It was nostalgic for me. But, her written entry on November 2, 2009, grabbed me heartfully. Her entry described the "culture" very well.
This the entry of "D.C. Weather Report: Mostly Bad News" blog by Iggy Bloggit from Washington D.C. ...
"When I stepped off the platform (after taking a train from the airport to Amsterdam) I saw the future: people living artfully. I arrived into a performance of style and beauty, art and grace. Ahh the Dutchies. Striking and silent. Poise in the way they ride their clunky bicycles, drive their tiny cars. Beautiful and brilliant. Ongoing preservation of really old architecture and traditions of keeping an open mind, speaking openly and to the point, tolerating and living and loving together. Recognition of value in history and future. The past and future together, a perfect equation for a successful present.How do they do it? How does such a place exist, that lives art in every corner?
Even scaffolding and trash bins and mailboxes are decorated with simple illustrations or constructed in such a style to make them pleasing, to add to the collective. My impression is that it is history and an attitude of tolerance that has allowed them to appreciate life, to move beyond matters of disagreement and work together from all sides of political, religious, scientific, and personal perspectives and form a more perfect society. Oh, you are religious? Great, enjoy the meaning in the beautiful ancient churches. Oh, you are homosexual? Have a great life, we were the first country to legalize your marriage. Welcome welcome everyone, we may not all live the same way but we all live, all the same. Our differences make us more interesting.
When I look I can see golden age and holocaust, renaissance and crusade. Is "historically rich" really so important? My high school French teacher thought so, she made it clear what she thought of the US and none of us understood her distaste. That was a long time ago, I've come to understand what she meant. But never to the aching degree I felt in a land where I looked at the people and finally felt I'd found my other elf girl selves. They looked like me! Long and blonde and legs and creamy features. I love and hide behind my personal identity as the white minority in every place I've lived. This disturbed something in me, to see what I would have been if my family a few generations back had not left Western Europe. I felt proud to be European. But though my longings to explore further are directed away from the US, there is a certain cool thing about being American too, and surviving it :) After all we did just elect a black president... and yes, that is unbelievable worldwide still a year later, worth referencing again and again.
One evening I sat with friends outside a bar on the canal in Utrecht.A stranger sat down beside me, looked to be about 40. Big guy, Moroccan. Don't know which of us started it but we settled into a conversation, the bold honest talk of strangers.
"So you are not Dutch?" he asked.
"I am American. I live in Washington, DC."
"Oh, I like to meet an American," he said. I didn't ask him why, but a few minutes later he told me.
"So how old were you when all of this shit happen?"
"I'm 28," I said, trying to follow him.
"So 8 years ago. You were 20. You were in DC? What was it like there?"
"No," I caught up to his meaning.
"I was in Hawai'i. It was early in the morning. We all knew of it, right away."
"Ahh," he said. A few minutes later: "Do you like to know where I was?"
"Yes, of course."
"I was in prison."
"Here in the Netherlands?"
"No. In Morocco."
"What for?" Immediately I felt like an ass for asking, but he was cool in his reply, validating my question.
"It was not for rape, or anything like that. It was not for any thing."
"Did you learn of it right away, do they tell you in prison?"
"We learned, but not right away. I was not so happy about it. I tell you, you go to America and tell your friends. You go to DC and tell your friends, I am part of Islam and they do not ask me permission to do this.
"A personal apology, for an event with shaky details and worldwide effect.
"I will tell them," I said. "I understand."
I said, "They do not ask me permission about things, either."
We sipped our drinks and understood.