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After the Fall

May 12th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

Quiet moment in the former empire

I’ve got a few free minutes here in Amsterdam–it turns out my daughter likes to watch Olivia cartoons even when it’s in Dutch.

Dank je! says Olivia. Natuurlijk! say her pig parents. Dalia, knowing nothing but the picture, laughs.

I’ve actually been somewhat in-the-moment here, actually waking and sleeping with the family, and spending all the time in between. Which has, to put it bluntly, hurt my ability to blog about them. But never mind: slowly over the next weeks I’ll have more pics and more of those polished turds of wisdom about European parenting that DadWagon is occasionally known for.

For now, suffice it to say that Central Amsterdam is quite phenomenally pleasant. It’s been a slow visit here, four days without much agenda except for spending time with some friends of ours who have kids our age. I know that Holland has some serious tensions, mainly surrounding the influx of traditional Muslims and the extreme shittiness of Heineken beer. But in late Spring in the Jordaan, where all the houses look like gingerbread, and people putt-putt their sloops down drowsy canals without a care in the world, I’m feeling at peace.

I am buoyed by Holland’s civility and calm not because it’s a tiny country on the edge of an irrelevant continent, but because it actually was once the America of it’s time. About three hundred years ago, this place was the ass-kicking Team America of nations, warring and enslaving, fucking and fighting, brash, unapologetic, all-powerful. Back home, we seem to be quite preoccupied, to the point of half-truth and hysteria, by What Comes Next, after China has overtaken us economically and militarily, after the world has moved on and the United States can no longer bend back the pinkies of its allies and enemies alike. We worry as parents about what this life might look like for our children and grandchildren. Our future as the dethroned superpower can seem grim. At worst, China invades. At best, we will have to flee the ashes of our gluttonous and ruined economy  and look abroad for good-paying jobs, to the glee of irony-loving Mexicans everywhere.

But here in Holland, irrelevance seems faintly sweet, just musty and pleasant, the afterlife of a welcome death. Sure, they had hideous times under the Nazis, but that passed. And they are part of (still) grand alliances, in NATO and the EU. But they are an unimportant part, an inconspicuous partner. They live their lives without much influence or global ambition, and that actually seems like something to be embraced over in America, not fretted about.

So that’s my calming message for this morning. And now, I haven’t been smoking weed. Sleepy, lovely Holland is its own sedation.


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