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The Netherlands has Lost Its Innocence
Foreword by Marshall Masters
The murder of the controversial political figure Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands last week has been reported from an American sound-bite perspective in the media. Because the media tends to focus on the easily recognizable issues from an advertising-based point of view, it tends to minimize what could very well become a watershed triggering event in European politics with profound long term geopolitical consequences.
While America's relatively short history is filled with political assassinations and attempts, the murder of Pim Fortuyn has brutally shattered a long standing record of 330 years of political safety in the Netherlands. The impact of this evet was best expressed by Ad Melkert, head of the governing socialist PVDA party when he said, "The Netherlands has lost its innocence."
For all those of native descent, this event was a jolting wake-up call to the price of creating a multi-ethnic state. While similiar troubles beset other European nations like France and Germany, what happens next in the Netherlands could have an even greater impact on European politics.
For this reason, I felt the need to give our readers a local perspective with a fuller dimension of this tragic event and what it means for the people of the Netherlands. This is why I asked Jacco van der Worp of the Netherlands to descibe this dramatic sociopolitical event from his own perspective. With public emotions still at a high, this was a difficult article for him to write and we deeply appreciate his contribution to our deeper understanding of this tragic event.
Marshall Masters, Publisher
The Netherlands has Lost Its Innocence
Hilversum, May 6, 2002. It's 18:00 local time in the Netherlands. Pim Fortuyn, leader of a political party-in-the-making, leaves a radio studio in Hilversum after having spent two hours at the Dutch broadcasting station 3FM, the station aiming at younger people of the Netherlands. Elections are due to take place in 9 days and an effort is being made to reach young people that seem to be losing interest in politics. Fortuyn's party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn, is expected to make its debut in Parliament with a staggering 25-30 seats out of 150 available.
In an attempt at breaking the trend toward apathy, the leaders of the bigger political parties have been invited, one after the other, to join in a daily radio show between 1600 and 1800 each day and talk politics but also talk music and life in general, to show there are people behind politics, plain ordinary people with a taste in music, with families, with parents they care about.
The radio show host walks Fortuyn to his car, they discuss the show that went successfully. Fortuyn has to get on his way to the North of the country for yet another campaign meeting. A man walks towards them from behind Fortuyn as they say good-bye. He holds a gun in his hand, lifts it and shoots Fortuyn in the back, twice. Immediately upon being hit, Fortuyn, grabs the radio show host and tries to turn around. Another bullet hits his neck; two more hit his forehead. He falls down. The gunman runs away, chased by associates of the victim. He's arrested within ten minutes, only a few blocks away. Meanwhile, emergency services rush in and try everything possible to save Fortuyn, without success. About an hour later they most reluctantly give up. Pim Fortuyn is dead. For the first time in 330 years in the Netherlands, a political activist has been murdered for his beliefs.
The Nation Was Stunned
Within minutes the news of the assassination, which had occurred right outside the Dutch national radio studios, spreads throughout the country. People around the country drop whatever they're doing and turn on their TV sets. Slowly the news trickles in about the seriousness of the injuries and finally death of Fortuyn. A shockwave hits the country, disbelief, anger and frustration struggle for prominance in the reactions that start to emerge from everywhere on how or why this could have happened. A balanced and controlled nation has lost its innocence, according to some reactions from abroad.
With elections just over a week away, a participating party lost their political leader. Should elections still go on as planned? Should they be postponed instead? What about the campaign?
AP, May 12, 2002
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - In death even more than in life, Pim Fortuyn - the dapper, gay, anti-immigration outsider of Dutch politics- is dominating elections for the next government.
The country is still trying to measure the aftershocks of Fortuyn's assassination last week, but one thing is clear. It has left Wednesday's vote up in the air.
Because he was killed so close to election day, Fortuyn's name could not be removed from the ballot. With macabre humor, not a few Dutchmen talk about electing a ghost as prime minister.
According to political analysts, though, the election could go either way. Fortuyn's death could translate into a sympathy/protest vote, or it could turn voters away from his now-leaderless Pim Fortuyn's List.
Fortuyn's death was an epiphany for the Netherlands, which had viewed itself as a sober, rational, peaceful nation where all disputes, given enough time, can be settled with hardly a raised voice, much less a clenched fist.
"The Netherlands is changing rapidly," said Gabriel van den Brink, of the Netherlands Institute for Care and Welfare. "That change was the backdrop for Fortuyn's rise."
The place of the murder in Hilversum, the house of the murdered front man and city hall of the second city of the Netherlands, Rotterdam, were turned into memorial monuments within hours. Thousands and thousands of people came to pay their respects and put flowers at the sites. Rotterdam was where Fortuyn had led a local party very similar to his own national list to a huge victory in city council elections just two months earlier, They had taken more than a third of the votes.
Why Fortuyn was Controversial
People were angered, grieving and desperate about the death of the man that had voiced their dissatisfaction with politics so strikingly. Rude at times, never afraid to seek the edge in discussions, Fortuyn exposed the reigning politicians as being overly involved in meeting after meeting without really following up on any of the items discussed in them.
This seeming apathy was the focus of his anger at the sitting politicians. All talk and no action was his biggest point of aim. Waiting lists for major surgery in health care are growing, people have even died because of the length of the wait sometimes, or gone abroad for their treatment. He bluntly put a finger on this sore spot.
Everybody has been concerned about creating and maintaining a multi-cultural society, yet city quarters are emerging where only foreign people are living. Some schools are turning into all-foreign schools where Dutch is no longer spoken; a spontaneous separation between groups of the population, native vs. non-native, Christian vs. Muslim, white vs. black is taking place. Such developments as these have been proven to have highly dangerous potential.
He stated that a multi-cultural society is wrong to begin with. A society cannot exist when the cultures within that society cannot live in harmony with one another. Once those cultures begin to live in harmony, they will become one encompassing culture, supported by contributions from all its constituent people, no matter where they may be from. That society will then become a big melting pot of cultures that everyone can relate to, with nuances, but not stark separations.
Fortuyn at first felt that Islam was a backward culture, but later revised that conviction, referring to Islam as a "nuance," instead. He added that by maintaining an intolerant position towards gay people (e.g. calling gays "lower than pigs") from their own religious point of view instead of just accepting gay people for who they are, not what they are, the Islamic part of society took a deliberate distance from the rest of the society that has accepted gays and tolerates the gay lifestyle, whether or not those members of society personally approve! Co-existence and mutual respect is what society should be about in Fortuyn's view.
People noticed it and started to vote for him, the man who finally gave their dissatisfaction a voice. At times, that voice may not have been very diplomatic or even respectful, but it was there, it made their problems known to the outside, to politics, to do something about. Now this voice had been silenced by bullets. Democracy itself does still suffer these shots with him.
He was opposed to unbridled immigration into the Netherlands from around the world. That is why many people inside and outside the Netherlands saw a rightwing extremist in him.
One fact that needs to be mentioned as loudly and as immediately as possible is that Fortuyn was NOT a rightwing extremist or a fascist or racist. He cannot be compared at all to the likes of Le Pen in France, or Haider in Austria.
How could people of non-Dutch origin and colored people have voted for him in local elections in Rotterdam just two months ago if he had been a racist? How could the number two candidate on his list behind himself be colored, have come from the Cape Verde Islands to the Netherlands as a young boy, studied business economy and hold a university degree and still support his ideas if Fortuyn had been a fascist? Fortuyn just looked at the capabilities of people. At least two more non-native Dutch are on his list of candidates for parliament. He selected them himself.
To take a stance against unbridled immigration is to look at a (future) problem in the third or fourth most densely populated nation in the world. 16 million people share a mere 16000 square miles, that is 1000 people average per square mile! That is truly crowded. Such a crowded nation needs to place careful restrictions on immigration, saving admission for those that really need it. Strict immigration laws are already in place in the Netherlands, having been put there by the parties that he campaigned against. Fortuyn simply urged the government to look at them again critically to see if they are sufficient for the times. That is not racism or rightwing extremism.
He was gay, open about it and proud of it. Rightwing extremists generally do not even accept gays in their midst, let alone follow them as leaders of their ranks. So the comparison has to stop once and for all; it dishonors his name, his work and his memory.
Fortuyn Must Be Remembered for his Courage
Even if one does not support (all or any of) his ideas, the points that he made did and do make sense, not just for the Netherlands, but for all societies. His goal was to wake up the powers that be and make them smell the fire that is already smoldering within society. We must do so before those fires burn out of control. Only if politicians take his points to heart and convert at least part of their many meetings into solid results soon, our tolerant societies will be able to refrain from losing too much precious ground to dissatisfaction and eventually rage. Some of the problems faced by today's society will not go away by themselves. Action is needed, not burocracy! That was the core point of his decision to enter into the political arena.
On May 10, 2002, a nation mourned a politician brutally taken away by bullets. Many tens of thousands of people paid their respect as the white hearse passed them by. Traffic stopped on the freeway, flowers were thrown onto the hearse. For a moment, life in the Netherlands paused.
One, however, must not silence his ideas and voice by bullets. Pim Fortuyn must not be allowed to die in vain! We must go on with care and wisdom and not let his work be lost with him because the time will come when we will regret that dearly!
Dedicated to Pim Fortuyn,