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my city, your city

published: 2014-10-30

Dutch people. We always bike through red in Amsterdam. A man in front of me, hunched over his steering wheel, does the same. He is wearing a wool hat when it’s over ten degrees. A long jacket. Old shoes.
A fast little Smart car almost hits him. The man in the Smart car stops, bars his way, opens his window and swears. The man on the bike listens patiently. His arms wave apologetically, may he bike on now? But the man in the car has blown a fuse. He shouts and swears until another car behind him honks its horn.
Before driving off he shouts, “fucking go back to your own fucking country!”
I do a double take as I thought the man in the Smart car looked foreign himself. But it’s probably because he had gone purple.
The man on the bike turns to me and says, “but this is my own country.” I now see he is lightly colored, hear his accent, probably from North Africa.
He bikes off, shoulders slumped forward.
My son asks why the man in the car was so angry. “Why does he have to go back to his own country?”
How do I explain that once upon a time, Amsterdam was the most liberal city in the world. It was built on immigrants. But now they are hated.

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