Sweden's National Day

Sweden’s National Day

Malmö. Thursday. Afternoon. Sweden’s National Day. 

One of the biggest pitfalls of aging that I am most cautious about falling into, especially since I turned 60 last year, is thinking that everything was much better in the past.
It does ring true sometimes. But far less often than I hear myself muttering every now and then. With some perspective since I moved to Gothenburg a week before Midsummer 1978, I think Sweden has actually gotten a lot better.

When I look back on the 46 years since I began calling Sweden my new homeland, I am filled with both pride and gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to start a new life in this fantastically beautiful, elongated country. A nation that in many ways is still characterized by reasonable people, sound values, and sensible social norms.

Do I feel proud to be half-Swedish? 

No, actually just about as little proud as I feel about being half-American. I had nothing to do with where I was born. It just happened that way.
I am definitely glad that I was lucky enough that my mother was from Sweden. If I had stayed in the USA with my useless father, it would probably have ended badly for me.
I only feel pride when I have contributed or influenced something or someone in a positive direction. Otherwise, it’s just a check in the box – a kind of proxy-nationalism that I avoid.

Since I am, after all, one of the country’s many immigrants/migrants, my pride comes from what I have contributed to Swedish society as a citizen and small business owner.

After a quick estimate, we have together paid about 20 million kronor in various taxes since we started our little company 25 years ago (1999). That little contribution is something I actually feel proud of. Doing the “right” thing, so to speak. Being supportive and humble are more important Swedish qualities than being “lagom”. The American in me has always struggled with lagom. Maybe that’s why the word can’t really be translated.

Sweden 2024 is definitely not the Sweden I got to know in 1978. From a slightly critical perspective, I think we have adopted far too much from the USA. The unchecked consumption, junk food, entertainment frenzy, raw profiteering (greed is good!), the commercialization of important public services, and the hysterical corporatization of state/municipal companies have in many cases shown that the solution is not always capitalism.

On the other hand, today’s Sweden is paradoxically both a less homogenized and a much more equal country. This applies to men, women, and everyone in between. Pick your pronoun. But there is still much equality work left to do…

With the risk of falling into the trap I started with, I believe today’s national politicians lack political integrity and, with few exceptions, personality and presence that engage. Most of them are just meh… I can still easily see and hear the voices of Thorbjörn Fälldin, Ola Ullsten, Karin Söder, Lars Werner/CH Hermansson, Olof Palme, Gösta Bohman/Carl Bildt, etc. They were maybe not better… but definitely characters you recognized when they appeared on one of the two TV channels we had back then.

An interesting thing that has remained since my early days in Sweden is the Russian bear, which has never been more present or threatening. And since we recently joined NATO and I am still both an American and Swedish citizen, Putin now has double reasons to target me.

Two of my brothers lived many years in Sweden but moved back to the USA as adults. I stayed. I absolutely do not regret it. My life has been fantastic here and many times better than I could ever have imagined that difficult summer of 1978 when my mother suddenly died and I was about to start a new chapter with the help of Aunt Lillemor in Göteborg.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to see and experience much of the country of Sweden. From Bohuslän to Lappland and from Gotland to Skåne. And there will be more of Sweden this summer.

Happy National Day!