Second hand shame

2 Jul

Did you ever walk next to your parents, embarrassed to death, because they were making a fool of themselves- or you? That you wanted to scream ‘I don’t know these people!’? I did.
When my dad would pick me up from school in his hunter’s outfit, with dark green corduroy knickerbockers. And I was trying so hard to protect my animal-friendly vegetarian image! Can you imagine? I still have it sometimes. When my proud mother casually mentions to the cashier her daughter is a columnist for AD, while I am standing right next to her. Mom, please!
But not only my family makes me blush. So called supporters of my football team who feel the need to break things after losing a game. Or meeting a group of drunk Dutchies abroad. It makes me want to apologise on their behalf.
Yesterday, I felt a lot of that second-hand shame. It was exactly 150 years ago that the Netherlands abolished slavery. In itself, reason enough to feel ashamed. But what really made my hairs stand up, were the sad, sad discussions about whether or not my country should offer a formal apology.
‘We weren’t there, were we? Didn’t the Africans themselves sell us those slaves? Plantation life wasn’t that bad. And the Netherlands didn’t play such a big role. Do they expect us to pay them back? They should be grateful to us for abolishing slavery. And if not, they should go back to Africa.’
Just like with my dad’s knickerbockers, I want to scream that I don’t know these people. For what it’s worth: I herewith offer my second-hand apologies. It’s time for our Prime Minister to do the same.

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