Dutch Skaters, World Problems

In the Netherlands, the canals have frozen over for the first time in years and the Dutch are strapping on their skates and having a blast, albeit with a few bumps and bruises. But the politics are never far away, even in what you’d think would be a feel-good story. First, there’s the environmental angle:

In the 19th century, when Hans Brinker, the hero of the novel in which he tries to win a pair of silver skates, coasted along Holland’s ice, the canals froze almost every year. But water pollution and climate change have made this so rare that today a boy of 15, Brinker’s age, may never have seen a frozen canal, or at least remember one. Until, that is, this year.

Then there is the cultural and political angle:

“For us, it’s in our genes,” said Gus Gustafsson, 68, a retired insurance executive, explaining why he and his wife had rushed out to buy new skates and take to the ice under a cloudless blue sky. “It was like a frenzy that came over people, including lots of kids, like my granddaughter, who is 5.” With thousands of others, they skated northeast toward the cheese capital, Gouda, then toward Utrecht.
With an influx of immigrants, the country has been struggling to maintain what it considers its Dutch soul, and Gustafsson was one of many here who thought the skating experience enabled the Dutch to reconnect with their identity. “There were only Dutch people on the ice,” he said. “I saw no people of Arab descent.”
But Andre Bonthuis, who has been mayor in this town of 23,000 people for the past 20 years, said he had seen Indonesians and Moroccans, among other newcomers to the Netherlands, on the ice. “It’s rather new for people from Morocco,” he said. But he agreed that there was something very Dutch about canal skating, which is depicted in paintings by Dutch masters as early as the 17th century.

To be sure, a couple interesting asides. In particular, the second provides Americans a little glimpse into the mindset of an average European. But I’m just glad the Dutch were able to skate.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Netherlands and the Indonesians are part and parcel of Dutxch society-their food is immensely popular and many of them are non-Muslims whose parents or grandparents fled Indonesia.Indonesia was the Dutch East Indies until the late 40’s.Even the Muslim Indonesians are very acclimated as Dutch people,just like Surinamese and Curacao natives.
The Moroccans,Turks,and other sundry Muslims are unassimilated haters of everything about their adopted country.Most of them are criminals or religious fanatics.There are also many Egyptians in The Netherlands.Mostly all are Coptics and absolutely hate Muslims.
They own most of the Italian restaurants and snack bars.Nice folks.

bobc
bobc
12 years ago

Yes, The Netherlands, I have fond memories of the times I’ve spent in The Netherlands. At least I think I remember!

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