Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Missive to Geert

Dear Mr. Wilders,

My name is William Franken, a UK-based comedian of some minor renown both here in Britain and in my native America, known in equal measure for my surrealist form of satire as well as my outspoken vehemence against political correctness. Let it be said up front that I strongly supported your bid to become prime minister of the Netherlands and was gutted to see it was not, for the moment, to be realised.

I became aware of your political presence back in 2005 through the work of a greatly-admired former colleague of yours in The Hague, the formidable Aayan Hirsi Ali, whom I had the privilege of meeting following a speaking engagement at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco as part of the promotional tour for her book The Caged Virgin.

Five years ago, I relocated to the United Kingdom and, along with yourself and all freedom-loving peoples the world over, spent this last year heralding, with revolutionary optimism, both the election of Donald Trump as US President as well as Great Britain’s monumentally historic decision to exit the European Union. Given the nationalistic fervour of 2016, it was not strange that I should look to 2017 as the year of Wilders and Le Pen.

As a cultural Christian, I’m sure you can appreciate my decision to abstain from social media throughout these days of Lent. Largely, this abstention has been a welcome breeze of fresh air -- less a punishment of self-denial and more of an intellectual and spiritual reward that comes from having the space and time to look at things too oft overlooked. Still, there have been the periodic moments of frustration at having to remain silent at the unfolding of world affairs, particularly as regards my upset at learning of your party’s defeat. How I had hoped the trend of pollsters to predict anything but their own inaccuracy would have continued in Holland!

I had also made the decision a few weeks prior to the start of Lent that I would abstain from offering my opinions about the results of the Dutch elections, no matter what they happened to be, until I had at least performed my first shows in the Netherlands, which happened to take place in Utrecht only this past weekend. This had been my third trip to Holland, but my first for purposes of work. I have now been to Eindhoven, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. And, let me say, sir -- in the idiomatic language of my small-town Missouri ancestry -- Utrecht is a “darn sight pertier” than either of the other two.

My reasons for withholding electoral commentary until after these shows were chiefly based in the need for myself to experience first-hand a Dutch audience in order to accurately determine what sort of Holland I had entered. To be sure, election results might have provided vague indicators as to whether it would be a Holland that had demonstrated, by their votes, either a hunger for searing anti-Islamist satire -- or a Holland that was sanctimoniously patting itself on the back for averting the rise of an imagined Fourth Reich. 

However, in my profession, sir, I can tell you for a fact that what audiences laugh at and how loudly they laugh at it are considerably more concrete predictors of, if not where a culture is heading, then where a culture wants to be heading.

Having now given those performances, let me say, Mr. Wilders, that I foresee your Freedom Party movement continuing to grow in numbers and influence. I say this almost solely based on the unexpected yet welcome laughter that greeted the more subtle touches to my elaborate character pieces. From gambit to gambit, the audiences were receptive throughout. However, as a means of illustrating their particular appreciation for politically-incorrect satire, I shall now provide an isolated example.

One of my favourite current bits is one in which I play an Australian counter-terrorism expert who is debriefing a press gathering on the recent thwarting of a terror plot in Melbourne. The initial joke to the piece takes place once the expert has followed up his opening statement. . .

Islam is a religion of peace and Australia is a multicultural and diverse nation with a strong interfaith tradition.

. . .with the punchline:

So those are all the facts we have on the terror plot at this moment.

After being pressed by an insistent reporter for more details, the expert then offers, by way of clarification:

I forgot to mention, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and the majority of those are law-abiding, peaceful citizens. Oh -- and diversity, diversity, multiculturalism, diversity, interfaith dialogue and diversity. Does that clear it up for you?

The raucous laughter and subsequent applause evoked by this satirical litany demonstrated, I believe, how in tune Dutch audiences are becoming to the culturally-crippling effects of political correctness. More specifically, I felt it showed that, though the Freedom Party may have to wait a bit longer to grasp the reins of government power, their time will surely come, sooner rather than later. Have faith, good sir.

Before closing, I would like, if I may, to offer another brief anecdote upon my first weekend of performances in your country. Immediately after checking into my 6th floor hotel room that Friday afternoon, I parted the curtains to partake of the view of Utrecht city centre. There, straight ahead to my line of sight was a massive --  to put it bluntly --  mosque, flanked by two rather obtrusive minarets that permeated the Dutch skyline in an brutal upwards and tandem thrust. 

Later that evening, upon witnessing the unease of my fellow performers at hearing me disparagingly use the words “massive” and “obtrusive” to describe a mosque, I felt it necessary to add that we were in the Netherlands and -- whilst it might not be possible to witness windmills and tulips at every turn -- I was rather hoping for the next forty-eight hours to at least maintain a sense of being in Holland as opposed to the Middle East.

A few hours before this, having checked in at the venue, I struck up a brief chat with the staff, composed solely of Utrecht locals. I was particularly interested to see if any of them made use of the coffeeshops in the area and was quickly informed, by and large, that locals tended not to indulge in the "magic herb". Noting the time, I decided to head back to my room to prepare before showtime. I then asked if someone on the staff might point me in the right direction to my hotel. Funnily enough, no less than five Utrecht citizens -- the very ones responsible for my bookings at both the venue and the room, no less -- were unable to tell me simply, upon the leaving the building, whether to turn right or left for my hotel. Of course, such unexpected confusion eventually prompted me to inquire, “Are you sure you don’t do the coffeeshops?”

Mildly frustrated, I left the venue, preparing to beseech the help of passers-by. And yet no sooner did I turn left along the street when I once again saw the mosque. By now, the sun had set and the minarets were dramatically lit up in electric beams of royal blue. In the colourful playground of my imagination, I thereupon heard a gruff, Arab-accented voice call unto to me:

Follow the mosque. Follow the mosque. It is just a building like any Western building. Why should one form of architecture be celebrated and the other ignored? Follow the mosque. Follow the mosque. Let the mosque be the North Star that guides you infidels back to your hotel rooms. Follow the mosque. Follow the mosque. . .

I wish you all future success, Mr. Wilders, and that the time be not long before once again we see you on the international stage.

Godspeed for now, good sir

Wm. Franken