In the last week an awful lot of people have sent me a video from a Dutch TV channel trying to explain to Donald Trump about the Dutch. The assumption is that the blunt, forceful, lewd and poorly read Donald Trump wouldn’t understand Dutchness.
On the surface, they’re right. He doesn’t speak Dutch. He probably doesn’t know much Dutch history. And yet, Donald Trump doesn’t need the core values of the Dutch culture explained to him. Why? Because Donald Trump is Dutch. Isn’t that weird?
If you missed this, you shouldn’t feel bad. Even the Dutch team over at VPro didn’t recognize Donald Trump as one of their own. And yet, you don’t have to do much digging to see why this is the case. In his book American Nations, Colin Woodward explains the Doctrine of First Effective Settlement.
Basically, whoever first settles a place effectively establishes the culture of the place. New York was settled by the Dutch in the 1600s. Here you can see the lower tip of Manhattan including the Wall that would come to define “Wall Street.” In 1664, the English captured New Amsterdam and renamed it New York but the Dutch culture of bluntness, sexual openness and a heavy focus on trade and money making has persisted to this day. And that puts a very different spin on the behavior of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. It means Donald Trump is America’s Dutch Uncle.
America has had Dutch Uncles many times before with varying degrees of success. Martin Van Buren was America’s Eighth President. He’s usually ranked by historians as somewhere in the Middle. However, two of America’s greatest Presidents were culturally Dutch too. Roosevelt is an extremely Dutch name. Roose means rose. Velt means field. And both Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt exemplified the very best of Dutch culture. They were willing to speak bluntly when no one else was and to take charge in facing a crisis. And that is as Dutch as it gets. The Netherlands is called The Netherlands because like your nether regions it’s down there. It’s extremely low lying land that is largely at sea level. In fact, much of it is below sea level because it has been reclaimed from the ocean. That means there’s a constant risk of flooding and the community has to pull together to handle that crisis. There’s no time to worry about niceties or people’s feelings. You just say whatever is on your mind. You handle the crisis and you move on. It’s the engineer’s mindset writ large.
This has its benefits. Leaders like the two Roosevelts are straightforward, plainspoken and direct. However, it has long rubbed the politest people on earth the wrong way. It’s hardly a surprise that Austin Powers English dad can’t stand The Dutch. The Dutch and English fought many wars over many years and the English language is littered with not entirely flattering phrases about the Dutch. “Let’s go Dutch!” captures the Dutch cheapness. And a Dutch Uncle is someone who is well-meaning but gives direct and often unsolicited advice.
My own Dutch Uncle, Agien, despises Donald Trump which I find incredibly ironic because they have a lot in common, notably in how they talk about sex. If Uncle Agien sees a nice pair of tits, he says so. He used to read pornography around the family. And he routinely told jokes about prostitutes around the family. My Kansas-born mother was appalled by this behavior. And yet, you come to realize there’s no malice there. Sex is fun. And so, if you’re Dutch, you figure why not talk about it? I like those tits so I say it. Take Donald Trump’s most famously provocative comments about how you can “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” and put them in a Dutch accent and suddenly you see them in a whole new light.
The irony is that American liberals love the sexually open Dutch and despise Donald Trump. And yet, they’re not so different. Of course, much of this comes down to sexual behavior and, in this regard, American liberals don’t actually understand Dutch sexual tolerance. The Dutch word is gedogen. It’s less about tolerance or celebrating sexual diversity as in not giving a shit. There are more important things to worry about like flooding and trade. Why argue about sexual preferences and homosexuality and pronouns when we could be making money?!? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the key to liberal America getting Donald Trump to do what they want. They just have to frame everything in terms of profit. Because the Dutch are Earth’s Ferengi. At worst, the Dutch will behave shamefully for money as they often did in Indonesia. At their best, they will be plainspoken and practical and do whatever is required to maximize prosperity. Even combat sexism.
You don’t choose your family. I didn’t choose to have a Dutch Uncle but I’ve come to really appreciate him. Many Americans didn’t choose to have a Dutch Uncle named Donald Trump. Once you understand how Dutch Uncles work though, you can use them to do incredible things. Just ask Doris Kearns Goodwin who wrote an amazing book all about another American Dutch Uncle who knew how to manipulate the press to achieve his goals.
Donald Trump’s New York Values are Dutch values. And what that shows you is how culture persists for centuries even when superficial changes in language obscure it. The world needs a Dutch Uncle to have this conversation. I’m happy to be it. Teddy Roosevelt used the office of the President as a Bully Pulpit from which to reform society for good. President Trump will use the office of the President as a Bully Pulpit. American liberals want to defeat Donald Trump. Here’s one way to do it:
But there’s another way to do it. And that’s to take a page out of the playbook of another President:
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” ― Abraham Lincoln
You can have a great relationship with a Dutch Uncle. You just have to understand where they’re coming from. And that took me a very long time. In the next four years, I’ll give you the inside track on how to manage your own Goldmember.