I have always been perplexed about human cruelty inflicted on our differences, be it religious, class, color or customs. This perplexity overcame me again with recent uproars about race in the USA. Growing up in Holland, it was never an issue for me. I noticed at my boarding school that some boys from the Dutch Antilles kept apart, perhaps because they felt displaced, being so far away from their customary habitat. Some Indonesian boys belonged to my best friends. We used to make fun of one because he always took a bottle of water to his toilet because he was taught that washing his bottom with water was cleaner than using paper. It underlines how mean we can be about our cultural differences. Later on I had to admit his parents who taught him – and he who applied it – were right. Ever seen these smeared underpants of your kids?
In racism, the feelings of imposed inferiority are very individually felt and most strongly by those who had or have to endure it; and much less understood and not felt at all by those who were the “imposers”. I firmly believe that once a person has been hurt by this imposed inferiority, whatever the reason, his grief, hatred or disgust will never fully heal.
I think this is why in the USA colored people continue to raise their fists when someone white – even if it is rare – makes a racist remark. The “imposers” may have changed overtime, and even elected a half-black-half-white President. Note the fact that even though he had a white mother, he is still called BLACK, and not racially mixed or black and white. As soon as you marry out of the white race, you are kicked out of the tribe. How amiable!
The gradual decline in racial tension does not mean that the underlying hurt from past injustice will ever go away. It is something burned into a person’s soul. That person may forgive perhaps, but will never forget. For those, who were the “imposers”, it is easy to say, “Well, we have come this far now, and they should not complain anymore,” but the imposers never felt the imposed inferiority or were psychologically hurt by it. And that’s the quintessential difference.
I was made Catholic because of my mother’s religious preference and the whole protestant family clamped down on us. This may all have been overcome by now, but you don’t forget the moments when the put-downs were “imposed”. And although this is far less significant than racial stigma, this is the crux of the matter: you still feel the hurt.
If, therefore, politicians like Charley Rangel and others raise their voices when a racist comment props up again, however occasional it may be, my reaction is not “there he goes again”. Their base still feels that way. They would want him to comment on it to utter their eternal grief. Some feel it stronger than others, maybe, but the hurt is still there. The “imposers” never had that experience. So whites had better take it in good stride and incur the “inconvenience” of being reminded how ugly they once were. Leave it to less controversial black leaders proffering racial reconciliation to give a rebuttal.
The stigma of “slavery” is hardest to overcome (as compared to other human differences such as religion) because it affects a person’s dignity. It is reported that black people use racial slurs amongst themselves and do not get reprimanded for it, and that, therefore, when white people using them and do get punished for it, it is applying a “double standard”. That misses the point: the black person’s dignity was initially hurt because of white dominance and even though this may have been hundreds of years ago and not experienced by today’s black people, the stigma is still felt because it is an indelible sting stuck on your skin color. If they use it among themselves, it is because of an outburst of burned feelings or a way to joke about what they commonly feel, and what white persons can never feel, because they were not afflicted by it.
There is racial conflict in Africa, too. But it is mostly tribal. It can be very violent even in today’s age (Rwanda, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, just to name a few). This is not because of slavery. It’s because of being different, a subject of another column.
Modern slavery is still prevalent. It is rarely written about, or shown on TV, but it is a serious problem. But it does not “hit home” because it is “foreign”. When old national racial wounds are scratched open by some individual in the USA, even if most of the USA is not racist anymore, it makes big headlines and great talking points. The uproar is justified, as the phenomenon of making racist comments is totally out-of-order.
On the other hand, we should make occurrences like these opportunities to further heal the wounds rather than raking them open, as some people do. There is no use for prolonging the agony by harping on a major difference that is fading away. There must come a point where we can all share Martin Luther King’s dreams and not make it an issue anymore. I know, it easy for me to say this because I am “white”. But there are some leading black personalities who seem to agree and they should not be called “uncle toms” or “not black enough”. It is a two-way street where whites have to do most, but some black help can be pivotal. And that should be our goal.
Oh boy! What was Steve mad! Ranting like Jillert Amane! The great all time supporter of the all time Olympic US Blade Skating team! His “investment”did not pan out this time. Cutting “Dutch” Tulips furiously in half on Prime Time TV! Showing contemptuously the famous Dutch “wooden shoes” that are only used in “Holland” to please the American tourists. At some point I was afraid he would throw the wooden shoes at me from the screen. What a show.
OK, the Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema touched a bit hard on the favorite US national sport, “football” (which is called “voetbal” in Holland translated into “soccer”in the USA and then made into “football” here, but the “foot” is only used when punting for a goal, whereas in the “real football” it’s all with the foot. Rugby, called after a town Rugby in England where it was developed in the 16th century, is a bit of a mix, but played without all the overdone body armor as in US football). But was Jillert not a bit right with the current criticism in the US media on NFL stars turned “knuckleheads” for the rest of their life after so many head-injuries?
I take issue with the hurt of the American media saying that Jillert’s “rant” was “Anti-American”. That is a typical self-conscious reaction. His point was that if the USA want to participate in international speedskating, it needs to better prepare to win, and maybe spend a little less on national football, which is not an international sport. Holland is not anti-American but your best friend, and friends quibble occasionally. We all remember Shani Davis, an AFRICAN AMERICAN on SKATES!, winning the all round world championships in 2005 and 2006 and gold on the 1000 meters at the 2010 Olympics. What happened to the team?
Now, let’s go down to Steve’s accusations that the Dutch don’t even know how to call their own country; “Holland”, “Netherlands”, “Low Countries”, or whatever. It’s YOU, Steve, who doesn’t know. It’s them “foreigners” who call us that.
Item: “The Netherlands” MEANS “Low Countries”. “Nether” means “lower”.
item: in 1588, the Dutch and the British beat the Spanish Armada! “Viva Olanda”! Stands for Holland.
item: in 1688, William III “stadholder”of the then “Republic of Holland” (it was not The Netherlands yet, though the lands were low) beat the French Louis the Fourteenth to french fries (translation: smithereens) by becoming King William III of England through his marriage with Mary Stuart, affectionately called “King Billy”in Scotland and Northern Ireland (yes, that’s the same guy of the College of “William & Mary”). Louis the Fourteenth reportedly said: “ces salauds des Pays-Bas” (those bastards of the “low lands”) – Vive les Pays-Bas!
item: around 1614, the Dutch established “New Netherland” (Nieuw Nederland) along the Hudson River, which became “New Amsterdam” and remained so until the British took over in 1665 and named it New York. That’s a good one. You weren’t even Americans then! I’m sure that if at that time we had the Amsterdam coffee shops you Americans love so much, Holland would have stayed by popular demand and you would not have needed the Boston Tea Party with all its current ramifications.
item: New York has a famous Holland & Holland gun room, a town called “Holland”, and so many other things called “Holland”, including double-dutch and going dutch, not to forget my dutch uncle.
We call “Holland” “Nederland”, which means “low land”, since a good deal of it is below sea level, but you foreigners prefer “Holland” to “The Netherlands” because it’s shorter. Can we help that?
And please don’t throw those Dutch shoes at us. You would miss them. It is reported you wear them at home for comfort.
As for the Olympics, coach Jillert Anema was right: speedskating is a world sport, and US football is not (he was joking that you always think you ARE the World, but you aren’t anymore since Michael Jackson passed away). USA (350 million people) won second place with 28 medals (11 gold), Norway (5 million people) won third place with 26 medals (9 gold) and LowLand Holland alias The Netherlands (16.8 million people) won fourth place with 24 medals (8 gold). In sum Norway did best. But USA Meryl Davis and Charley White were fabulous in figure skating. Just wonderful. I loved them (but your Canadian neighbors think Putin rigged the figuring to help Obama out of his care mess). The Dutch are speedskaters and you do what you are good at, internationally.
As for the Blade US Skating team, why not just buy them
After all, the US team’s T-shirt you showed on TV was made in Bangladesh!(Donate now and help put skaters on track for winning Olympic medals — plus, for any donation over $30, you’ll receive a Colbert Nation/ Speedskating shirt!)
Your TV sports guy says football is much more “exciting” than two guys or girls racing “round and round”. True, speedskaters don’t pound on their competitors, they only do “sport”. That’s boring.
And why do you call us Hollanders “Dutch”? Again, not our fault and it’s so confusing. We call ourselves “Nederlanders”, but in English that sounds too much like “Neanderthals”. The great American informed people might not know the difference. So better keep it at “Dutch”. Dutch derives from the word “Deutsch”, the language that developed in the Germanic countries in Europe as of the Renaissance. Dutch are not “Pennsylvania Dutch”, these originate from Germany. English-speaking people pronounced Dutch language “Dutch” because it was part of the “Deutsch” or “Germanic”languages. But the Dutch language is quite different from German (compare for example Spanish and Portuguese). But why then was President Reagan nicknamed “Dutch”? Nobody really knows, unless from Reagan’s Memoirs that his father nicknamed him “Dutch” because as a baby he looked like a “fat Dutch boy”. Wherever he got that from is a mystery to me. He may have looked at that ad showing a Dutch boy smearing his bread with Dutch butter and growing up “strong”.
So, Steve, stop confusing us names. Get your skating team to use Dutch butter and the USA Blades will go speedy gonzales like your Amtrak or our TGV.
There are hundreds of millions of blogs floating through the stratosphere reaching readers are all over the world. Most we don’t know personally or meet because the world is a big place, but bloggers do get close to their readers through comments and reactions.
Several readers wondered why I had dropped the blog on “The Gay Thing”. I considered it a fairly balanced opinion from a straight guy who is waking up amidst a rapid changing world where his longstanding morals and values are being challenged. I edited the blog first to neutralize some terminology but in the end I pushed the trash-button.
The reason was that a good and very respectable friend of mine felt hurt because life on the other side had been all but pleasant. If that friend felt hurt, other friends might as well. And since I attempted to put forward a balanced view, friends on both sides of the aisle may have felt hurt.
Sexual orientation is a controversial issue. I felt compelled to make a point in the upsurge of current events. But that appeared an invalid impulse as we won’t see fully eye to eye on this “thing” and its origins, and as I don’t want to hurt good friends, better let it be and remove the sting.
My blog mainly focuses on memorable events, living highlights, and stories that I think are worth telling. An occasional blurb on the cacophony outside my front door may inadvertently go off into the air and this one did. I will weigh that more carefully in the future, as there are many others who blog about these things already or talk about it on radio talk shows and my opinion won’t change that.
So, let’s keep the peace and try to live together as best we can, and move on.
John and Mike, looking at it from above, and moving on