Let’s celebrate the national past, that’s what it’s there for
A commemorative event on 26 July 2018 marks the fact that it it then exactly 437 years ago that the Estates General of the United Provinces foreswore the Spanish King Philip II as their lawful sovereign. The act of 1581 was indeed a great moment in the history of democracy and the run-up to the idea of popular sovereignty. The commemoration frames it, however, as a national-identitarian event. "The Netherlands commemorates the signing of the document", as the press header has it, and the day is insistently called "Independence Day" - under the emotive header "Is The Netherlands ready for its own Independence Day?", suggesting this could be an annual feast day. One historian places the initiative in the context of similar recent celebrations of Dutch national symbols. While the instigator admits that the initiative could be assocated with nationalism (and the tone of the newspaper coverage is a good illustration of that drift) he thinks its emphasis on an innate right to freedom would appeal to all ethnic communities in the country. In other words, it is an expression of “good” civic nationalism rather than “bad” ethnic nationalism – as if you can have one without the other.
Exactly 437 years ago. Clearly this speaks to the anxieties of, precisely, 2018.
Source: De Volkskrant, 25 July 2018.