Questions for the Dutch Nation

James Henry Graf

Which is better, to be at home in hell or a stranger in heaven? How can one remain in a place where free exercise of cherished rights and principles provokes invasion of privacy, slander and innuendo, assault with radiation and bio-chemical weapons, the murder of a pet dog, mental torture, malicious deprivation of a job, destruction of a car, the breakup of a thirteen-year marriage, and more, with no available recourse or remedy? Difficult as it may be to believe, the United States of America can be, and is, such a place.

When one is persecuted by a government turned satanically malevolent in a nation that seems to have lost both its mind and its soul, when loyalty to law and Constitution have purchased only terror, tragedy, loss, and indignity, when rage and shame subvert and supersede one's patriotic fervor, what course other than flight will avail, what solution short of expatriation will prove remedial?

Could an American refugee choose a better destination than the Netherlands, land of honesty, respect, decency, and stubborn autonomy combined with social responsibility? What better balm can life provide for a spirit deprived of privacy -- defamed, degraded, insulted, anathematized? What land has shown itself more respectful of human dignity, more assertive of its national sovereignty? Who sheltered the Pilgrims in England's very shadow? What other Protestants gave refuge to Catholics and Jews in times of persecution? Such a land, one presumes, would gladly welcome a man hounded for his profound commitment to human rights and vigorous advocacy of dignity and decency. What a shock to discover otherwise!

One January afternoon in 1957, an impressionable, idealistic New Jersey high school student sat in the balcony of New York's Cort Theater, a point of reverence and awe in that vast firmament of theatrical witnesses. The Diary of Anne Frank was near its end. The pounding -- the horrible, amplified pounding -- of the Green Police on the door of the Secret Annex shook this writer to his soul.

The desolation and despair so artfully conveyed forty-one years ago come easily back to consciousness on the black wings of events in our own time, my own time. I have heard that pounding, amplified by the horror of inescapable immediate reality -- not this time as a spectator, but as a pathetic figure on the other side of life's proscenium, not a witness now, but a victim, the author of "Hard Realities," the unacceptable stranger. Three times ejected from a place of refuge, seized and taken where I would not go, I must now fight alone the forces, wicked and ignorant, that report to the very heart of hell.

The Amsterdam so loved by Anne Frank is loved by me as well. In 1991, in the narrow room of the Secret Annex where she slept, I looked out the window, marvelling at the magnificent view of Prinsengracht that it afforded, only to remember sadly that Anne dared not approach that window for fear of discovery. "How much we share," I thought in the eerie beauty and respectful silence of the place. "We are both kept from the things we love by the evil, the folly, and the cowardice of a world that seems to care as little for its own fate as for ours."

I must ask you something, dear Netherlands, land and culture I have loved above all others. When you signed the international human rights instruments that bind your government, did you do so with crossed fingers? Did you make reservations, harbor objections in your hearts that did not appear above the signatures on the treaties? Is an asylum-seeker less than a person, however valid his claims, however horrid his experience? Why don't you try to help people like me instead of looking for ways to get rid of us?

Dear Dutch People, who mourn en masse for every victim of senseless murder or overwhelming tragedy in your land, who show the world a face of compassion and decency, how can you tolerate corruption and discrimination among you? How can you justify what your government has done to me and others, and how, in the sincerity of your hearts, can you justify its coverup?

I am not garbage. I am a person, endowed with dignity and rights. In God's name and in the name of humanity, will you not effect my rescue, save my life? I have trusted in the law and in your integrity. If these prove variable, what hope is there for my safety or anyone else's? What hope is there for your salvation if you so wantonly abandon your principles? Do what is right. Fulfill the promises you have made to the rest of humankind, or else be honest enough to renounce them.

Discuss this article in my Yuku Human Rights Community

Hard Realities

October 16, 1996 Letter to President of Dutch Court

Additional Comments Regarding Dutch Court Decision

A Danish Question

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