I am patiently waiting in line to present my passport to the custom officers at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It is very busy: so many people on holiday, business and probably otherwise engaged waiting to enter the lovely low-lands. The line is packed, we’re all standing very close together, my fellow human beings and I. A few yards in front of me is a lovely young family with a, I guess, nine or ten months old baby. The young parents eager to get on with their little bundle of joy, the obvious grandparents helping out their youngsters where possible when the waiting drags on. I am enjoying the scene, this is what I’m going to do in a few days time: helping my son and daughter-in-law with their babies. My grandmotherly heart is already melting.

Behind me, a male voice speaks in my ear: “Look, a cous-cous family”. They’re all eating cous-cous. All the time”. And look what they are wearing: head scarves! I call them Scarf Families and they are going to take over your country! Beware!” As far as it goes I turn around and stare in the broadly smiling face of a middle-aged man; modern looking, casually well dressed.  “What is there to smile about?”, I ask him bluntly, and: “What on earth are you talking about?”. He nods in the direction of the lovely family and says in a dialect I find difficult to understand: “Well those people there, they are going to take over” . The man goes on and on and in the mean time I’m standing there, bewildered and with an angrily wildly beating heart; it feels I’m about to explode. I have to stop this, but how? Everything I could say to this person coming up in my brain is sarcastic, angry, aggressive and vile. It would only feed his fear and hatred towards the people four yards ahead of us. People who are having a good time, eager to get through customs like everybody else  and who are unaware of the wave of hatred rolling forwards from a few yards behind them.

I stop the man’s verbal diarrhea by saying that he and I are speaking a very different language, that I do not agree with him (which sparked another bout of bowel-sickness expelled through his mouth) that I cannot hear him anymore, that I do not wish to engage with him. I turn around and am thanking Heaven that it is soon my turn to step forward and show my papers to a young friendly officer.

On my way to the baggage area all kinds of wonderful things and scenarios went through my head again, things I could have said and didn’t:  where are the clothes made you are wearing? Where do your almonds come from in your cookies, where do you come from Now? You have flown to a different country…Are you ever going on a holiday? Do you like Chinese Food, Italian? French?

I was wearing a big shawl, I could have draped it instantly over my head as an act of solidarity with women who are dressing in a way they themselves like or see fit… I could have told this man of my multi-cultural family. I could have asked him, if he, when his life would be in danger, would like to be saved by someone from a different nationality than his?

Dear scared, fearful, angry (little boy) man…where ever you are, maybe you read this (one can never tell, it’s a small world after all). Below are the words I read on facebook. A fb friend posted this and I wish I had the quickness of mind to say this to you:

Your car is German.
Your Vodka is Russian.
Your Pizza is Italian.
Your kebab is Turkish.
Your democracy is Greek.
Your coffee is Brazilian.
Your movies are American.
Your tea is English.
Your shirt is Indian.
Your oil is Saudi Arabian.
Your electronics are Chinese.
Your number’s Arabic, your letters Latin.
And you complain that your neighbor is an immigrant?
Pull yourself together!

(Say NO to racism via PrinzAndy Dreambig Kusi Sarfo)

Thank you!!

With love,

Karin Schlüter Lonegren