Roger L. Simon

Amsterdam Diary: Strangers on a Train

Twitter screenshot of Jane Curtin on CNN.

I hadn’t planned on taking the train from Amsterdam to Paris this trip, but I’ve been on it before, in both directions.  So when I read the news over here of the mayhem on that route Friday, it struck a little close to home. I took pride in the American servicemen who obviously saved a number of lives. But I brooded about what would happen in the U.S. if a similar Islamic nutcase got loose on one of our trains, subways or buses before anyone or ones, military or otherwise, could risk their lives to stop him.

The next president will almost certainly have to deal with events like that, probably multiple events the way things are going, I thought, while running my eyes over “Five Theories of Donald Trump” by The New Yorkers John Cassidy. It was hard to concentrate on the magazine.  It struck me how old fashioned, how out of touch, that once-revered publication had become, now a fuddy-duddy avatar of the most conventional and bourgeois liberalism.  They would find a way to explain away these fanatics like the one on the Amsterdam-Paris express, perhaps some impoverished childhood or long ago “racist” insult from some oblivious Westerner, preferably white. Trump and his ilk, not Islam out of synch with modernity, are the problem.  Pay attention to what’s really important.

Not surprisingly, all five of Cassidy’s theories about The Donald are the most obvious clichés.  The article even goes so far as to quote that great moral authority Hillary Rodham Clinton on the subject of Trump with no reference whatsoever to the fact that Her Chappaquaness, that tribune of the middle class, is on the cusp of an indictment, indeed would be indicted were she not a Democrat.  She’s just another astute political observer (herself on the way to an inevitable presidency) as far Cassidy is concerned. He refers to Trump as if it were indisputable that Donald was a racist and a sexist.  Oh, to live in the comfortable environs of political correctness.  You never have to look below the surface of anything. In fact, if you did, your audience would be offended.  You’d probably lose your column.

But looking out the window of my rented apartment on the Brouwersgracht, the waters below the romantic canal seem anything but comfortable.  Migrants are rushing into Europe from failed states across the Middle East and Africa, carrying with them the problems of cultures that have not made peace with the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first.  Where will this end? Don’t ask The New Yorker if you want anything but the received wisdom of 1968, never revised or modified. They, and therefore we, are stuck in ideological time.

Meanwhile, Amsterdamers and tourists from around the globe are enjoying something here called  Sail Amsterdam, a once in five years event that leaves the city’s famed canals looking as clogged with boats as the 405 at rush hour is with cars.  But unlike the 405, the nautical traffic jam makes this spectacular place even more glorious, if such a thing were possible.  Old Europe, as our former SecDef would call it, is a confusing place — heartbreakingly beautiful while being, at this point, extraordinarily blind and bent on societal self-destruction (sort of like The New Yorker in that regard). As you walk around, you realize how often history repeats itself.  We make the same mistakes again and again.  Why should that stop now?  If Donald Trump, or any other Republican, gets elected, they are going to have more work cut out for them then even the most pessimistic of us can imagine.  I admire them for wanting the job.