Love means never having to say sorry … but accountability does

Elected officials in Amsterdam are considering issuing an apology to the people of Suriname for the actions and legacy of slavery. And that’s not an outlandish thing to ask for when you consider that the Dutch West India Co., the corporation that oversaw and ran the Suriname colony, wasn’t just based in Amsterdam, but funneled much of the wealth that powered that city’s Golden Age. What if the U.S. followed suit?

Everything’s turning up Rembrandt

“Portrait of a Young Woman” was painted in 1632. Rembrandt would have been about 26-years-old, and he would have just moved to Amsterdam the year before. He was still two years away from marrying Saskia, who would feature in so many of his paintings. He still had so many great works and such a full life ahead of him at that point.

Paging Dr. Tulp

Art, after all, doesn’t just exist in the time it was created. It speaks to us from the time of its creation, sometimes whispering and sometimes screaming, always waiting for us to hear. And this particular painting has a lot to tell us about influence, privilege, crime and humiliation.

The Golden Age is over

Right-wing alarmists complain that political correctness runs amok. Imagine their despair to learn the Amsterdam Museum banned the phrase “Golden Age.” The reason: the golden years weren’t golden for everyone. But terms like “Golden Age” make history more accessible, and god help us, we need to talk about our history more if we want to change our future.

Pulp non-fiction: the world’s first best-seller

In the 1590s, the newly independent Dutch Republic looked to flex its economic muscle, but stronger, more-established nations like Spain and Portugal stood in its way. Their ships blocked the way to wealthy trading ports in Asian nations. Besides, even without their interference, the trip to the Spice Islands (now known as Indonesia) took the better part of a year. What was desperately needed was a faster route to the wealth of Asia that bypassed the military threats of European rivals.

Enter Willem Barentsz.