Nearly two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands have been entered into the memory book of our life together.
My wife and I spent some glorious time reconnecting with friends and taking in some of the most spectacular countryside either of us ever has seen.
I took a couple of small notebooks with me. I put them in a back pocket. I had intended to write a great deal about politics and policy while visiting with folks. I didn’t do nearly enough of it.
Our journey, though, did give me a couple of key observations about the state of the world as seen through the eyes of western Europeans.
Donald J. Trump’s rise to political power has them as astonished as many of us.
We met a few friends and colleagues of our German friends. “How do you feel about Trump?” a couple of them asked. I gave them my typical response: I do not understand this presidential campaign. More than one of them, knowing we were visiting from Texas, responded with, “How do you feel, then, living in a state where everyone is a Republican?” Not “everyone,” I reminded them.
Our Dutch friends are equally perplexed about Trump. They do not know what precisely this says about the state of American politics and policy — and they are fearful of what a Trump election would mean to the future of U.S.-Europe alliances.
Join the club, y’all!
The second takeaway?
Germans and Dutch appear to live side by side with Muslim immigrants.
While Trump and his minions offer hysterical responses to the plight of Muslim refugees, I witnessed a lot of Muslims doing business in places like Rothenberg, Germany and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Women wore their hijabs to cover their hair. They mingled in marketplaces with their children in tow. I didn’t see any outward tension.
I am well aware of the rise of ultra-right-wing nationalism in Germany. I also am aware that not everyone in Europe is welcoming the refugees from Syria with open arms and hearts. But the refugees’ presence is quite noticeable and as we made our way through the communities we visited, I was taken aback — just a bit — by the absence of hysteria that some American politicians imply exists in that part of the world.
We’re home now. We’re glad to have enjoyed a marvelous adventure. In the past most of our international travel has involved something related to my previous life as a print journalist. This one was different. It was totally recreational.
However, I have difficulty throwing aside my tendency to look at the world through a reporter’s prism.
I do not intend to leave you with the impression that I learned all there is to learn about European geopolitical views. It’s just an observation I was able to glean from 11 days across The Pond.
Even so, I learned (a) that Europeans share many Americans’ disbelief in Trump’s rise and (b) that they appear to have a more reasonable and rational reaction to what Trump and others insist is an international crisis.
Go figure, man.