I studied at Yale University, but the day most seared into my memory is not the day when I graduated: it is the day when a court in the Netherlands decided to put me on trial. I was acquitted on all counts, since I was not the person responsible, but my signature set into motion all of the events which led to me sitting before that judge and confessing my sins while explaining who I was: a poor young man who didn't understand the power of his signature.
When I walk the streets of the Netherlands today, I sometimes only think of that judge, and of me having to tell her that I was on Social Security in the Bronx, and that I was the orphaned, illegitimate son of an adopted supermarket bagboy. I confessed my dead father's biggest shame, and I did it before people who look like the professors here in Leiden, people I will see on a daily basis.
I confessed to knowledge of a crime and yet I walk the streets a man without even a fine to his name, often feeling compelled to tell people that I feel like a criminal.
|Will my signature be one day judged here?|
In 2013, the Netherlands made it illegal to teach someone to grow cannabis using more than 200 lamps because they found a Cannabis College certificate attributed to me inside of an Amsterdam grow-op and figured that it would be used for my defense in court, as I had been a teacher in Korea and simply moved there trusting that I would be engaging in a legitimate enterprise.
The Netherlands will eventually legalize cannabis as it becomes an irreversibly multi-cultural country that embraces the international community, drifting away from its current gray laws, but I will always be one of those men who can say: "I was put on trial for bootlegging during prohibition."