Boycott Holland

4 07 2011

If you’re not Dutch, you’re not much. I heard that phrase many times growing up. But it’s not so much a phrase as much as an attitude– one that still permeates Holland.  Only they’ve changed it a little bit. If you don’t act or think like we do, you might as well be a dried up piece of dog crap or a special interest group.  That’s what Holland City Council is saying anyway.  In a 5 to 4 vote, they decided  not to include sexual orientation and gender identity into their fair housing ordinances and equal employment opportunity policy. Jim Larkin their token gay council member resigned in protest.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/gay_resident_resigns_from_holl.html

They said the community should decide (aka “I don’t have balls to take a stand”).  I mean seriously, aren’t they elected  officials? And then they said it would end healthy conversation over the debate. WTF? Hollanders don’t talk about stuff–especially, serious, community changing stuff. Best to leave things the way they are. Next thing you know people will want to drink and hang their laundry out on Sundays.

Grand Rapids ordinances have prohibited housing discrimination based on sexual orientation  since 1994.  That was almost 20 years ago!   I would have to say that even though Grand Rapids is larger than Holland, it’s generally a conservative city and still part of West Michigan’s ubiquitous Bible Belt.  Lansing which is seen as more of a liberal  dyke haven included sexual orientation in their ordinances in 2006. http://www.fhcmichigan.org/images/Arcus_web1.pdf    For those who work for the state of Michigan, there are employment protections based on sexual orientation. http://www.lambdalegal.org/states-regions/michigan.html  If you’re a GLBT patient in a Michigan hospital, you are protected by the PUBLIC HEALTH CODE Act 368 of 1978 which states “A patient or resident shall not be denied appropriate care on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual preference, or source of payment.”

So there are many people down on Holland right now like the angry Facebook page that is calling for a Holland boycott.  I get that. But shouldn’t this be something that is decided on the state level. How is it fair that the state of Michigan protects their GLBT  employees, but not its residents? And for those of us who work and/or live in Holland, how are we supposed to boycott? It’s not like we live in a flourishing economy where we can just sell our house tomorrow or find a job with the same pay and benefits next week. Real life doesn’t work that way. And besides, if everyone who is GLBT or GLBT friendly avoids the city, who will be the voice who speaks out? Change only comes over time and with persistence. Not by running away. Well, fuck it. I’m not going to Holland ever again. Thanks assholes! And what about gay business owners in Holland? They do exist.

Conservative Hollanders are accusing special interest groups and non-locals of trying to change their local laws.   I’m not a special interest group. I’m mostly Dutch.  I was born in Holland Hospital—the old part. Lived in Holland for 23 years.  Two of my grandparents spoke Dutch. I Dutch Danced in high school. Played in the Holland Area Youth Orchestra.  Ate at Russ’s more times than I can count.  Bought candy at The Peanut Shop. Currently, I spend 1/3 of my life in Holland. I’ve spent 23,000 hours of my life providing nursing care for Holland residents. Problem is–I’m gay. And I have all sorts of liberal, non-conformist ideas about tolerance and civil liberties in my head.  I might even been contagious. Uh, oh.

The Happiest City? Welkom? Holland has always projected the façade of Happy. It’s the “if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist.”  My coworker who’s a native of Chicago described the attitude best. “You have a husband and wife. The husband wants to go to one place for vacation. The wife  wants to go to another place for vacation. But they don’t talk about it. So they go to a third place for vacation that neither one wanted to go to.” Hollanders don’t talk about things and don’t want things to change.  They want to order half a sandwich and cup of soup at Russ’s until the end of time.  And it better be the same price  and don’t expect a 15% tip. Are you crazy? A menu change would cause a cataclysmic mental melt down.

With the economy the way it is, you think Holland would be more cautious about who it snubs or pisses off. Money is money whether it comes from a Christian Reformed straight couple or a Pagan lesbian couple.  I remember when I was a kid before the
Westshore Mall. Mom would order our clothes from Sears or JC Penny’s Catalogues. Our other choice was a trip to the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids. When I moved to Grand Rapids in 2001, the WestShore Mall was already dying. Big Boys, JJ Finnegans, Lane Bryant Spencers . . . all gone. Everyone is either closing up shop or moving back to Grand Rapids. And the Outlet Mall–last time I was there, it seemed like there were more empty shops than not.  And what about all the companies that have  disappeared?  I remember Life Savors before sugar was cheaper in Canada. Donnelly Mirrors before they sold out to  Magna. RediWhip.  Prince Corporation which I believed turned into JCI which is always laying people off. And those  are just the one’s I can remember. What’s left in Holland?  Muskegon used to be something too until all the factories shut down. The lakeshore and the Tulip Time Festival won’t save Holland.

Grand Rapids Mayor Heartwell said that including the GLBT community is a marketing decision, making a welcoming place for everyone. Notice he never says that he embraces the GLBT community. He’s not flying a rainbow flag in his front yard.  But he  believes in tolerance and a city that allows everyone to live as they are. http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2011/06/west_michigan_mayors_debate_be.html


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6 07 2011
Brian

This is a great piece and states why I prefer not to job hunt in Holland even though I have been laid off in January of 09. It doesn’t matter if I am guy or straight, what matters to me is tolerance and Holland doesn’t show any. I also hold some religious beliefs, however my sister is deeply rooted in religion and she feels that Holland is over the top. She lives closer to Holland then I do and will not enter the area unless she is driven through. My point is, the citizens of Holland need to see the arrears of their ways, and realize that it is not up to them to judge.

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