This documentary about conversion therapy is crying out for a rebuttal

Well, what happened 450 years ago on April 1? I think many TV viewers had to look it up. I do. If only we had paid more attention to the past Wednesdays The Story of the Netherlands (NTR), that handy history lesson from Daan Schuurmans. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Dutch parliament from a screen on Thursday morning. He is on a world tour and like a pop star, he has prepared a personal word for each country, preferably about a local historical war trauma. MH-17 and Rotterdam 1940 were to be expected, but the fact that Zelensky had the capture of Den Briel by the Watergeuzen ready came as a surprise.

After all the jubilant previews about the rhetorical gifts of the world star, Zelensky was a bit disappointed. Yet his Zoom performance had an immediate effect: the House of Representatives scolded the government that they had to help Ukraine faster and better. we have to something to do!

That urge to something wanting to do is understandable, but not always wise. This is evident from the two-part Zembla documentary about the previous war: Mission Afghanistan (NPO2). Journalist Bart Nijpels and his colleagues, who have already made about eleven Zemlyas about it, look back on the Dutch participation in the twenty-year war in Afghanistan.

The first part is about the mission in Uruzgan (2006-2010). The Dutch government sold it as a ‘construction mission’: the military set up girls’ schools. But it was just hard fighting against the Taliban. The BD generals and other military personnel who speak keep it tidy – apparently no one wants to call the then Prime Minister Balkenende a liar again. One brave sergeant says: “You could almost see it as lying to the Dutch population.”

It was still fighting with one hand behind the back: the army was only allowed to send eleven hundred men. Therefore, it had to pay a lot of protection money to a scary, local warlord. After four years, the army left again, after rumblings in The Hague. A general explained how it should be done: “Be completely clear from the start: what the Dutch interest is, what the strategic goal is, and what we are willing to pay for it.”

Loaded question

Thanks to Netflix, documentary series are in fashion. Often that means stretching, dilating, and repeating everything three times. If only they had squeezed it into one hour, do you think? But on Thursday a documentary appeared on NPO3 that just screamed for more episodes. In From the other side (VPRO) Tim den Besten wonders whether he was born gay, or whether he became one.

That is a loaded question: gays have fought hard to have their sexuality recognized as innate and immutable, instead of as neurosis, or perverse behavior that you can change. At the same time, we are seeing a shift in LGBTQIA+ young people. They say: gender and sexual preference are fluid. Does it mean that you can also become something else? That you can choose?

It brings Den Besten into the lion’s den: at a Hungarian conference on conversion therapy: a Christian method to ‘cure’ gays. Den Besten talks to ‘ex-gays’ who say they are free to choose: you are not gay, you choose the “gay lifestyle” or not. It is dangerous nonsense that cries out for a reply, but Den Besten has come to listen. He gives a fair and fair picture of conversion therapy, but what does it help us further?

From the other side feels like an introduction, because you are left with a lot of questions. Fortunately, Den Besten ends happily with a Purple Saturday at a secondary school, where LGBTQIA+ is celebrated, with face paint and flags.

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