Today is Thanksgiving. Ten years ago, I wrote a very lengthy screed about the history of the holiday. I will not attempt to rewrite it, nor will I supplement it with new information or new perspectives. It is what it is. Later today, mi novia and I will make our way to a place where we will celebrate Thanksgiving in our own unique way. I suspect our Thanksgiving meal may involve Chinese food. Black Friday, for us, will not focus on the greed of acquiring sale-priced items; instead, we will be museum visitors. Small Business Saturday will not involve greater greed on a smaller scale; instead, we will breakfast with members of mi novia’s family. I will make it my mission today to think about people and experiences—past, present, and future—for whom/which I have been, am, and will be grateful. Gratitude and appreciation are the objectives of the day. To the extent possible, I will try to maintain those objectives every day going forward. That is an admirable aim; I hope I have the discipline to accomplish the goal on a continuing basis. May that be true of us all.


Many years ago, my late wife and I took advantage of one of my business trips to England by taking a ferry, after my obligations in England had been concluded, from the coast of England to the Netherlands. My memory of the experience is dim, but I believe we took a ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland. From Hook of Holland, we went to Amsterdam, though I do recall how we made that part of the trip. After a few days in Amsterdam, we took a train to Paris. At the time, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was known for being an open, welcoming, tolerant country. Ever since that trip, when I witnessed an incredible openness, I have admired the Netherlands. The country is one of several European nations that have seemed to me to understand and appreciate the beauty of tolerance and diversity.

However, the just-concluded Dutch election revealed a massive change in Dutch voters’ attitudes, with an anti-Islam populist party winning a huge victory, capturing 37 of 150 seats in the lower house of parliament. The leader of the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), Geert Wilders, has called for the “de-Islamization” of the Netherlands; he has said he wants no mosques or Islamic schools in the country. He also wants a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the European Union, a total halt to accepting asylum-seekers, and migrant pushbacks at Dutch borders.

Obviously, the enormous change did not occur in a void. A massive influx of immigrants over the course of the past several years has impacted the way immigrants are perceived. Many of the more recent immigrants have come from cultures radically different from that of the Netherlands. Though the Netherlands’ attitudes and the country’s welcoming policies toward immigration have been among the attributes that allowed immigrants to enter the country, many immigrants apparently find the country’s culture of tolerance intolerable. The clash of cultures and Dutch concerns about real or perceived threats from immigrants seem to have contributed to the backlash. Welcoming people with open arms seems to have had unintended consequences. Tolerance and diversity, once almost universally embraced in Dutch culture, appear to be decaying in the face of intolerance and a tendency for “birds of a feather flocking together.” Two cultures with different characteristics and attributes and values can enrich one another—but they just as easily can clash and attack one another. What can be done to encourage the former and discourage the latter? I wish I knew.


Time for more espresso. I am grateful that I can enjoy that luxury. That little luxury is one of a million things for which I am more than a little thankful. I am incredibly fortunate and I know it. It’s sad to realize there are so many millions of people who are not as lucky. That is true every day, not just on this day when many of the fortunate few sprinkle some of their good fortune on the less fortunate. If only those sprinkles were enhanced and made more frequent. Giving someone a turkey dinner may satisfy our wish to feel benevolent, but I think poor people need money much more than they need turkey. Stop it, John! Go get your damn espresso and quit being so damn judgmental.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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