How we got here

Christopher Caldwell has written a cover story for the current Weekly Standard that's a tour d'horizon of the Netherlands, a society on the verge of remaking itself in response to Theo van Gogh's murder.

The country, writes Caldwell, was not all that long ago "a society with a high level of religious affiliation and intensity." The political structure as of the middle of the last century "empowered church-affiliated organizations to perform temporal tasks created a mighty role for religion."

Because of the magnified role of religion in the public square, the sociological shakeup that turned everything inside out in the late '60s and early '70s, "which was seen as a revolution against class in Britain, against de Gaulle in France, against the World War II generation in Germany, and against Vietnam in the United States -- was seen in Holland as a rebellion against church authority."

The conflict produced a "libertine public square" that the country is now famous for, including "legalized prostitution, hashish in the 'coffee shops,' [a] laissez-faire immigration policy, [and] a law enforcement system whereunder you get 120 hours of community service for threatening to kill someone."

The last gripe refers to paltry sentence handed out to a man who police identify as "Farid A." He posted a picture of Dutch pol Geert Wilders to an Islamist website urging that "Wilders must be punished with death for his fascistic comments about Islam, Muslims, and the Palestinian cause."

Wilders has gone into hiding under police protection, and he's far from the only local pol to do so. At the same time, the popularity of politicians like Wilders, who favors sharp limits on Muslim immigration and restrictions on the Muslim religion, has increased dramatically. The coming crackdown may make the Patriot Act look like the Magna Carta.

The "essential fact" about the country's legal structure and outlook, Caldwell explains, "is that most Dutch people don't like it. Eighty percent of Netherlanders tell pollsters their country is 'too tolerant.'" Somehow I've a feeling that won't be the case for long.

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