Yesterday, I picked up my brand-new, first-ever Dutch passport from city hall. Here they are, side by side, blue and red:
it was quite the momentous occasion for me. I’ve been a global citizen for years (23, to be exact), but now I have the passport to prove it. Unfortunately, the lady behind the desk did not quite enter into the spirit of the occasion, as she just handed me the passport and wished me a nice day. There’s something to be said for the American tendency to turn everything into a ceremony: when I picked up my passport at the American consulate in Amsterdam, I had to swear an oath, with my right hand raised and everything. It seemed a bit silly at the time, but I almost wished the lady today would have had me do the same. It would have marked the occasion somehow. I guess this is all the proof I need of how different both countries regard citizenship: the one, as something almost sacred, the other, far more utilitarian. No wonder everyone says the Dutch aren’t patriotic…
The whole having two passports thing has come up recently in Dutch politics, with a newly elected statesman arguing quite vocally against people having two nationalities. (Well, he’s mostly arguing about those people whose second country isn’t in the West. But to seem politically correct, he has to include the likes of me.) I think it’s ridiculous: my two nationalities have made me a better person. I’ve learned not to take things at face value, since cultures can be so all-determining yet so slippery and therefore so easy to misunderstand. I’ve learned that no matter how different people sometimes do things, we have a shared humanity and aren’t all that different in the end. Traveling back and forth between two countries has broadened my horizons. My bilingualism comes in handy every day. And the fact that I am required to pay taxes in two countries means I have a good idea of what solidarity means. These are just a few of the things transnationalism has done for me, and I feel quite strongly that it is not a danger. It is something to be embraced.
I keep my passports side by side in my room, and they’re a daily reminder of who I am, how I got here, and what I learned along the way. Geert Wilders, eat your heart out. Me and my passports aren’t going anywhere. (Well, except to the airport, so I can actually use them. But you know what I mean.)