As a long time Santa Monica resident, I recently returned from visiting the Netherlands or Holland, as it’s better known. It’s where I grew up and where I have family and good friends. Admittedly, it’s a small sampling but I wanted to share some observations they have about U.S. politics, policies and customs.
Hardly any of those whom I talked to have the desire to visit here anymore. This is a considerable change. The general consensus is that the U.S.A. has unfortunately become a bully; militarily aggressive, warmongers for lack of a better term.
Please hear me out because sometimes it’s good to see yourself through the eyes of others. After all that’s what traveling is also about. I tried to defend the U.S. image as best as I could but to little avail. The consensus remained that the U.S. is a “hypocrite.” Mind you, these discussions were with people who had liked, and even loved, the U.S. Some had traveled here, others had lived here. So what’s their beef?
While some may seem trivial, here are a few examples:
Having to carry a beer can/bottle in a paper bag. Everyone knows what’s in the bag. Stupid and hypocritical was the overall consensus on that one.
What about radio and TV bleepings over words that everyone uses and every child knows? Hypocrisy at its finest. Words are bleeped but showing violence, i.e. murder and rape scenes is fine? How was I going to defend that?
In Holland trains and public transportation are available everywhere and I mean on every block or within a five minute bike ride. Many stations provide free of charge car parks and bike racks, covered and uncovered. Until 2015 Santa Monica had no train station. Will it be possible like it is at The Hague’s Central station to place a piano in the center of the arrival hall for anyone to play to relax amidst the hustle? And they played. Not for money, just out of passion.
Watching TV in Holland is a whole different experience. Commercials are subtler. The news show is not brought as a “show,” as they’ve evolved over decades here in the U.S. In Holland news broadcasts are calm, and collected. The Brian Williams fiasco didn’t help my case either.
Which brings me to another beef. Remember Nipple gate? Oops, can I even use the word nipple here? That bizarre incident where Janet Jackson’s breast showed for half a second and the country had a meltdown. A breast on TV! Oh my God! The FCC got involved. CBS got fined. How was I going to defend that against all the mass murders, hostage taking and shoot outs at the schools shown on American TV?
By far the biggest complaint was over guns, which of course is a hot button issue here. I can’t even tell you how many times I had to explain that if during Hitler’s invasion of Holland in 1940 Dutch citizens had owned weapons, it could have changed the course of history. They didn’t buy it. Not for a minute.
What about police brutality? Hey now, wait a minute I interrupted eagerly. I explained that the U.S. is ahead of most countries in undoing the wrongs of the past. Sure the U.S. has problems, but at least they’re being acknowledged. As we were talking, an item appeared on TV about a Dutch policeman shooting to death a Caribbean man. You see, I said, Holland’s police brutality problem is just starting, whereas in the U.S. it has been acknowledged. They’re a step ahead. I wasn’t successful in that one either.
What about medical insurance? I explained to the best of my ability that Obamacare was a miracle of sorts, and while Holland’s insurance industry is scratching all kinds of services, over here for the folks who really are down and out, the emergency room will help free of charge. That was a new one to them. They’d never heard of that. Was I sure? Yes I was, of course I was. They kept insisting that the U.S. is a “What’s in it for me” society.
Conversations led to the elections and the guy with the funny hair, Donald Trump. They were befuddled that just because he has money, he thinks he’s capable of leading the free world.
Over in Holland they also like money, but they don’t worship it. How many times a day can you eat? They snickered at the amount of overweight people in this country. Over there the attitude about the extremely wealthy is that they probably got so wealthy over the backs of others.
I did what I could to defend my adopted country. I’ve learned to take the best of both. A pretty good mix if you ask me.