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The wooden shoe of farmer Berend

'We're going to walk and I'm going with you, we're going to walk to the Capitol to cheer on our brave senators'. The crowd cheered and yelled. There they went. They went out together to get their justice. Well, not quite all of them. Because where the crowd turned right to visit the Capitol via Pennsylvania Avenue, there he turned left to his White House and then, while enjoying a cup of coffee and a liqueur, he sat on his lazy chair while zapping to the many live reports on the TV channels. Then, 24 hours later, he declared: 'I'd like to begin by naming the gruesome attack on the American Capitol. Like all Americans, I am deeply outraged by the violence, lawlessness and chaos. The demonstrators who invaded the Capitol have soiled American democracy. People guilty of violence and destruction do not represent our country'. The crazy thing was, I wasn't even surprised by this statement anymore.

It must have been somewhere in the second half of the 1970s. I don't know exactly, but I was in class 5 or 6 at the Prince Willem Alexanderschool in Eext. As often I asked my friend Marc Nijhof at the end of the schoolday if I could play with him. Marc thought that was fine. I went straight home to tell my mother and then I cycled to Marc's house as fast as I could. And what a house.... a farm! A farm as you can only see them nowadays on the old Dutch schoolpictures of Jetses. This farm, built in 1870, with a construction door, a loam floor at the barn, about 30 cows in the barn with the grup behind them, wonderfully smelling silage outside on a hump, a bit further a dung heap of cow dung mixed with straw, and in the yard cats, goats, geese and chickens. The best part was at the barn with a haybox filled with straw and hay. It was such a farm that, as a child, can make you madly happy and believe me, I was happy there. Because at Marc’s you were allowed to play in the haybox. We made huts, we swung ropes from one side to the other, we romped and romped with the result that after a while straw and hay particles punctured through your clothes everywhere. Halfway playtime we went to opoe, Marc’s grandmother, who lived in the front house. From her we got a toffee with white powder around it. I can still taste that delicious toffee when those beautiful memories come up.

That afternoon we had something special. Marc had secretly picked up a box of PallMall cigarettes from his older sister Ina. There we sat, upstairs in the haybox and lit a cigarette. We carefully took a puff, coughed and sneezed and looked incredibly tough from the highest hay bale into our empire. We were the kings of the world, nobody could do anything to us. We thought!

Suddenly there was farmer Berend in the barn. He looked at us with furious eyes. Within two seconds he was upstairs, grabbed us with his enormous big famershands and summoned us down in a not very gentle way. When we arrived there we hardly had time to realize what had happened because underneath Berend’s body his huge right leg with a horribly large wooden shoe swung towards my delicate child's buttocks. The impact was enormous. With an 'immediate getaway', I disappeared from the farmer's paradise.

My mother looked surprised: 'Are you home already?’ I nodded and tried to walk to my room as normal as possible. I didn't say anything that night and for the next few days I remained silent like a grave. In that quiet time I realized all too much why Marc's father had been so furious. Now, after all these years, I understand that it could have given a totally different turn to my life and that of my parents and Marc and his family. I don't have to think about what would have happened if a burning cigarette had set the haybox ablaze.

The whole week after, Marc and I didn't talk about it, but I didn't forget the incident. Luckily my parents didn't know anything about it so I was spared from their punishment or piercing looks. Until exactly one week later, my father suddenly said to me: 'I also met Berend in the village! I was nailed to the ground. Not of fear, much more of shame. I did not dare to look at my father. He saw this and so he said: 'Look at me!’ I looked. My father saw me, was quiet for a moment and then said: 'I guess I don't have to say anything more about it, huh?’ Shamed and small I nodded. With a gentle stroke over my head I could go.

During the words of the president I suddenly realized what the man probably never developed; a moral awareness. Retroactively I granted young Donald Trump a meeting with the wooden shoe of farmer Berend and the healing eyes of my father.

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