Opinion: Rewriting history

POSTED: 09/19/11 1:35 PM

The Golden Carriage, a nineteenth century vehicle the Queen uses every year for her traditional trip to the Staten-General on the third Tuesday in September, is at the center of a mini-controversy initiated by Socialist Party MP Harry van Bommel and GreenLeft MP Mariko Peters.

The two MPs are suddenly making a fuss about a panel on the Golden Carriage; they say it is offensive and they want it removed. The panel is entitled Tribute to the Colonies. Since it shows half-naked black men and women who offer the riches of their country to Dutch royalty the title Tribute to the Colonists would have actually been more appropriate.

Van Bommel and Peters now say that the painting is offensive because it reminds people of slavery and the role the Netherlands played in it. Damn right it does, so what?

Van Bommel and Peters want the panel removed and carted off to the National Museum. We wonder why the two parliamentarians come up with this suggestion now. After all, Van Bommel has been an MP for 4, 870 days, and Peters has been around for 1, 530 days. It’s not like they haven’t seen the Golden Carriage before.

So what is their point? The Netherlands played an active part in the slave trade and it is best to hide this fact from the public? It is not like the Golden Carriage is advertising slavery; it is just depicting part of the country’s history. Van Bommel and Peters seem to think that the panel belongs in the National Museum.

What is the difference? Unless they intend to bury it in a cellar, never to be seen by the public again, the panel will send the same message from the museum that it sends now from the Golden Carriage.

It looks like van Bommel and Peters wanted to find something to generate publicity. The headline earned them their three seconds of fame, but the result is obviously that they end up looking like a bunch of Stalinists attempting to rewrite Dutch history.

Yes, the Dutch were involved in the slave trade. And yes, it was an ugly period in the country’s history, the way the airport scandal and the Buncamper-Molanus land scandal are blemishes on St. Maarten’s history. But people move on; they do not rewrite their history books, because everything that happened in the past is what makes a country into what it is today. We deal with our history, but we do not hide the truth in an obscure corner of a National Museum.

No wonder that Prime Minister Mark Rutte thought of Van Bommel and Peters’ request as bizarre. That’s exactly what it is.

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