My Dutch was a man in an airport who was verifying my passport a decade ago. Welcome to the Netherlands, he said. He was a taxi driver who sped up the second lane while rain was pouring on the road to Utrecht. A smiling blond giant who carried, carefully, ham and cheese and loaves of bread on welcoming plates in a warm, hearthy B&B minutes from the main square. The black policeman who showed us the way to the singing carillion. A side entry into Rijksmuseum. The awe-inspiring collection of Van Gogh drawings. The Hague and the breeze of the Atlantic on a rainy day in the capital of Justice. The International Justice. My Dutch was the keeper at Madurodam where we strolled along lilliputian streets and miniature houses, netsuke airplanes with microscopic logos. He was the one of miriad bicycle riders. The fisherman on the peer. The babylonian whose Babylonian I thought I’d get to understand because, to my ear, it was so much English, and French, a musical version of German and a bit of my own mother tongue, all into one. My Dutch was my Esperanto.
My Dutch was pushing her seventies with gusto and invited us all to dance at the beginning of training, just let those joints shake the feeling of timidity, this is about Body Work in the end. Her eyes were glass shards from the sea she lived by and her tanned leathery soles beat the drum while she instructed us kiddie trainees to focus our anger on that pillow, not on fellow man. She did this for the education. She did it for the faces of eager and the meager.
He was a fat, wheezing sweaty activist in Padua, my Dutch, at my first congress on Law and mental health, having chanced in the same seminar session. Amnesty International guy. Stroke survivor. Undainted activist for the rights of immigrants. Makeshift teacher. His were the stories about the ghettoes of Rotterdam. Mine of bullying and the solipsistic injection of the Self in cyberspace. Who would’ve guessed we clicked? And one seminar became two, and instead of five speakers it was just us and a bunch of Japanese enthusiasts in a side-room of one of the oldest Universities in the world. And I still wasn’t thirty yet.
My Dutch was a Goliath at Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. He had just returned from Pyong Yang and had chilling stories to tell about the North Korean regime. But older stories were tougher still. He had worked under Hans Blix when they went to inspect WMD’s in Saddam’s Iraq and had been there, three sits behind Colin Powell, when it was announced of that “irrefutable proof”, the smoking gun Mr. Bush & co were waiting to launch an offensive. My Dutch had been a radio-telegraphist in the war in Yugoslavia and, as such, contributed to the NATO bombings. He could never shake the shame and that’s why he’d joined the IAEA. We were asked to keep confidentiality on most of the things my Dutch shared.
My Dutch waited patiently for me in front of the Pristina hotel in a Volkswagen Passat that looked older than actually was bearing the foundation’s logo. He was a nervous Dutch, the first of his kin. We bonded instantly in a country that was not a country, on the Bill Clinton boulevard bearing, triumphantly, a Bill Clinton Statue while the Skander beg flag waved bloody red on some frontispice. My Dutch quipped about the great Catholic cathedral being built in a majoritary muslim community, about the quality of food, of the great meats and beers and the aliveness of all around him, why he had come here 10 years before, why he raised his children here and not back in the Nether, why he brought social skills, psychology and psychotherapy training in a country with just a handful of trained professionals. My Dutch had a Dutch wife whose name rhymed with Plasma, and she was a typical Dutch, all smiles and politeness and kidness and patience and strength. And both didn’t withdraw from that second glass of wine in a side-garden of a previously unknown 5-Michelin stars restaurant while choleopters banged and exploded at the touch of incandescent light. And at the end, Dutch that they were, they didn’t go Dutch and I had just been bought the most amazing dinner by this couple of Dutch psychologists.
My Dutch was a clerk at a hotel on Apollolaan, welcoming me again to the land of water canals and official brownie tasting. He was a curteous porter, a solicitous restaurant owner, a silhouette playing frisbee on Museumsplein on my way to Dam and my talk on transgenerational trauma. My Dutch played guitar at the entrance of the Red Light District and he didn’t sound half bad while, deep in talk about anything but the Redness of light, I was entertaining luminous minds whose light was luminating mine.
My Dutch are all just your everyday Dutch, bearers of perfectly imperfect Dutchness and most likely uncorrectable dutchisms about how the rest of the world would do good to be less un-dutchy and more dutchful. But amongst all the peoples I’ve walked theirs is the quality of humanism, and humanitarianism. And almost two hundread of them lie dead, these days, on a hellish field where grass is burned by fuel and clothes lie scattered like poppies on the madness of the world. No grief can be spoken without remembering all before, who my conscience knew. And I ask, and wonder:
Where is your Dutch?
And how is he like?