April 30, 2004
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.
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Thanks for the compliment!
Interestingly, just yesterday I was told (by a German who had spent most of the last decade in LA) that I should move to Texas, as I would find many people with the same views as me there... Sounds like fun-plus I would finally be able to take Kim du Toit up on his offer of shooting lessons! :-)
Posted by: Dominic at April 30, 2004 06:00 AM (0h0BM)
Luckily, you're wrong. There are a lot of sensible, individualist, right-wing thinkers in Socialist Sweden. It's just that freedom of expression is a joke - anyone brave (or stupid) enough to voice dissent is immediately ignored and looked upon with contempt. You either get in line or get shut out.
The flag thing is correct, though. If you display the flag everyone thinks you're a Nazi. Sick, but true. In Sweden, being openly proud of your country is not something you do.
Your Swedish teacher didn't get it. It's not that political parties here are that much more "to the left" of Reps and Dems, the problem is that they are all the same. They plot on a very small segment of the spectrum. Just an example: members of Parliament (the Riksdag) were asked who should be in the White House next term - 5 out of the 7 parties were 100% anti-Bush.
Posted by: Anders at April 30, 2004 09:02 AM (RWjHO)
Flags: On Sunday mornings I am able to look down the busiest (re: businesses) street in our city because nobody is out that early. I feel a sense of pride each Sunday morning because I can see the flags all flapping in the breeze. I've lived in this city for 26 years and the view has never changed. Those flags have been flapping for all those years.
I guess I was kind of stunned when I read the article about other countries not displaying their flag. And then I thought about the 4th of July in the US. Our summer vacation is planned during the July 4th week so we can see what other cities do for the 4th. From small towns to large cities to National Parks I am never disappointed by the displays that are put on for the 4th.
The only other "country" I've been to is Canada, and really does that count as another country? I live in a Detroit Suburb, so Canada is just like another state to us because of the large amount of interaction we have with them. Canada's version of our 4th is July 1st, Canada Day. In Detroit we have a huge International Celebration with Ontario to celebrate both those days. I guess in looking at Canada and the pride they show for Canada day I assumed that all countries take that much pride in their countries.
Maybe that is what this is all about. The US takes great pride in our country and patriotism. Other countries see this as arrogance because they don't understand pride and patriotism for their country.
Posted by: Machelle at April 30, 2004 10:40 AM (W/eGG)
But did you translate the German article yourself?!
Posted by: Mike at April 30, 2004 10:49 AM (cFRpq)
I'm an American woman married to an ex-pat Swede. He's been in the US since about age 11, but speaks, reads, and writes in almost perfect Swedish still. Sweden is very much a part of his life. When we go to our cottages on "the island" in Sweden, we have never been made to feel badly about being American - or not fully Swedish. We even display an American flag quite prominently on our cottage. (And I must say it looks nice with the ever present 'barn red' that Swedes almost uniformly paint their cottages.) I don't know if it's because we are almost always there at Midsummer, but there are Swedish flags all over the place in people's homes and on Midsummer decorations. In fact, many Swedes love Tommy Hilfiger flag stuff and Polo sweaters, often in red, white, and blue, extremely preppy, and very American looking. The only time I have ever felt shocked by anti-American attitude in Sweden was when my mother-in-law called her friends in Sweden after 9-11 and some responded with "They (the USA) deserved it." Of course presuming that she doesn't now identify with both peoples, as she does. We were all offended and surprised, but...I know that not one of the people I know in Sweden would ever look me in the face and say those words because they adore me and they know that that attitude is only uttered in a mindless and unreal context. They are smart enough to never wish such violence on anyone and love this country deeply when it comes down to it- despite all of the noise you here. That's just one American girl's opinion...
Posted by: Alice at April 30, 2004 12:51 PM (vmlwj)
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April 20, 2004
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.
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Funny, I always hear from the German wife of one of my husband's coworkers (who hates America by the way) how tolerant Germans are. How racist and intolerant we are. They sure don't practice what they preach apparently.
Just more reasons as to why I look forward to the realignment and hopefully the Big Red One coming on home to Fort Riley.
Posted by: Shannon at April 20, 2004 03:48 AM (Bod3i)
I doubt your friend will find Spain any better anymore.
I don't know what it will take to wake Europe up - Madrid train bombings seemed to act like a sedative rather than the stimulant one would have expected. But it better wake up soon, or it may be looking back at Hitler as an 'enlightened liberal'. A few leaders (Blair, Berlusconni, Aznar, and probably Putin, though silently) 'get it', but the people don't. Very reminiscent of the 1930's when no one would listen to Churchill, preferring Chamberlain's stand. Too often we hear what we wish to hear.
Posted by: Glenmore at April 23, 2004 05:21 PM (QoMJw)
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