Friday, July 15, 2005

The secret to world peace

I am in the city of the damned hamsters. There's just something about the image of a fire-and-brimstone hamster preacher that draws me like a moth to a flame. But yes, I am in Amsterdam, a city in which it doesn't matter who you are or what you do as long as you don't impose it on other people. You want to smoke pot or take "magic" mushrooms? Fine. Here are some regulations to keep it safe, and safely out of the hands of children. You want to have some kind of really kinky sex with a member of the same sex, or of the opposite sex, or of some other variation of sex? Fine, as long as everyone is a freely consenting adult. You want to exchange sex for specific amounts of money? Well, again, we need some health regulations and some special zoning.

The result is that the Netherlands has far fewer drug addicts per capita than countries with far stricter drug laws. The result is that the Netherlands has homosexuals and transsexuals and people whose sexuality, gender, and even biological sex defies the usual categories, in all levels of society, including the military, the courts, and elected officials, and it's just not a big deal. Any two adults can get married in the legal sense, whether or not your religion chooses to recognize it as spiritually valid. The result is that the Netherlands has far less crime — especially violent crimes — around prostitution than other countries that try to ban it entirely.

The result is a sane society that can focus its resources and attention on real problems. In other words, the result is not America.

In World War II, the Nazis occupied Amsterdam. It wasn't enough for them to occupy it militarily, it was also important for them to crush its spirit. In particular, the moral permissiveness that already characterized this city, even sixty-odd years ago, was a threat to the moral purity of the Aryan race. When Amsterdam was finally freed, they made a point of emphasizing their tolerance of "other" people as a parting gesture of defiance to the Nazis.

I don't toss in a reference to Nazis lightly, believe me. For those liberals who persist in comparing President Bush to Hitler, I say this: you are truly giving aid and comfort to America's sworn enemies — by which I mean you are giving aid and comfort to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Bush is not Hitler, and Iraq is not the Holocaust. We must never demean those horrors by invoking them for some second-rate chimpanzee and his little war.

The secret to world peace is what I did earlier tonight: I had joint-rolling lessons from two Iranians who now live in London. They took pity upon a poor klutz who couldn't roll a joint to save my life. When they left, I said to them, "I don't speak a word of Farsi, but hertzelijk dank and salaam aleichem."

Amsterdam sends greetings to a world in need of tolerance of other people.