April 30, 2004

SPECTRUM

I don't know exactly why reading this at Medienkritik triggered something in my mind, but it did. Back when I was in my Swedish class, our teacher was trying to briefly explain the Swedish political parties to us. She drew a sort of spectrum line on the board and put the various parties along the line from left to right. Someone in our class asked where our American Republican and Democrats would fall on the Swedish spectrum; our teacher put the Democrats on the far right edge of the spectrum and said that the Republicans would be located in the next room. We all laughed.

But it's something to keep in mind. There's no such thing as my sort of thinking in Europe. Well, there are some Americans Born Elsewhere, but for the most part, everyone is to the left of me. My Swedish friend just this year met the very first Swedish person in her life who supports the death penalty. The very first one she's ever met. She's 25. In contrast, we were making a sample outline in my ENGL class the other day, using the generic topic of the death penalty as a sample, and when I asked if they wanted to make the sample as for or against, they shouted For! in unison. No question in their minds. On questions of the government's role in health care and social programs, no one can touch how far right I go. There's just no such thing over here, at least not that I understand (correct me if I'm wrong.)

On a related tangent, Tim wrote the other day about patriotism and flag-pride in other countries. While living in France, we bought the same Swedish friend a Swedish flag patch to sew onto her bookbag. She wore it while she was in France, but she said that it was a little weird to sport it in Sweden. I can't say if she's representative of other Europeans, but I can't think of any other country -- besides flag-drenched Canada -- where the flag means so much.

Our flag means so much that people everywhere burn it. That says something.

MORE TO GROK:

Awesome. A blog in Sweden! With links to other blogs in Sweden. Fantastic -- now I have a way to prevent my Swedish from being completely eaten up by my pathetic German. I'm having tons of fun going through his posts -- did you know that Hans Blix participated in a WMD joke on a Swedish talk show that sounds quite similar to the scenario that Bush got ripped a new one for? Dude, he's so blogrolled.

By the way, he says that there are right-leaning folks in Sweden, but they are even deeper in the closet than I am.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:31 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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April 20, 2004

FREEDOM

So the first quote that I pull from Mexifornia has nothing to do with either Mexico or California. But it relates to something that happened here yesterday:

Europeans who drive their safe government cars to the beach, work seven hours a day, enjoy six to eight weeks off yearly, and have nearly all their medical problems, tuition, natal care and rest home worries taken care of by a maternal government see us as impoverished. Yet Americans find Europeans' tiny homes, solitary small cars, single televisions, and outrageously expensive food, clothes, entertainment and gasoline a real poverty that restricts the individual's ability to satisfy his cravings.

I honestly don't have that much interaction with Germans. I go to restaurants occasionally, but usually to the same ones over and over, and I have some German friends, but they're pretty Americanized (it's hysterical to be with a group of German women who are trashing Germany mercilessly.) I have never really had any run-ins with Germans, so I'm fascinated by the stories the Conflicted Reservist tells. He started working for the Germans about two years ago and has thus lost his support from the US military. He is engaged to a German and owns a house here and for all intents and purposes is living the German life. And he faces deep troubles with Germany and her citizens.

His neighbors won't let their kids play with his daughter because she's American. He tried to help a neighbor jump start his car once, and the neighbor refused his help, saying, "You're an American." Two weeks ago he had his motorcycle tires slashed by a German biker who growled "American" in his face. This Reservist is trying to fit in to the German world, and he's facing shocking opposition.

When we first moved here, my husband went to get his haircut and had to listen to the German barber go on about how the US doesn't have any real freedom because once she was at Walmart and wanted to try on bras in the middle of the store; security wouldn't let her, thus we have no freedom. Europeans might have more freedom to take their clothes off whenever they want, but there are other realms I'd rather have freedom in.

The Reservist's fiancee just had a baby last week. They went to get their new daughter's birth certificate, and they were told they cannot name their child what they want. First of all, the Germans wouldn't let them give the child the Reservist's last name since they're not yet married. Second of all, they won't let them name their daughter Haley Amber because it's not German-sounding. So their child doesn't have a name yet. Legally, the Germans can tell you what to name your children -- an appalling governmental control, in my opinion.

Just as we define poverty differently, as Mexifornia shows, we seem to cherish different expressions of freedom. The Germans may look at our inability to tolerate boobs in the Walmart as being one step away from a police state, but I see the inability to choose a child's name as a more important freedom that's being denied to this Reservist.

So the Reservist is fed up; he's moving to Spain.

Posted by: Sarah at 02:53 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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