Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Mystery of Nationalism in Sweden

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of King Karl XII of Sweden. He died in 1718 in Norway from a shot to the head. Controversy surrounds the shooting, was it a Norwegian bullet, or was it, in fact, a Swedish one who felled the King? Doesn’t really matter to the people who celebrate his death, who see him as a hero who fought for Sweden.

He is celebrated because of his wartime victories and having ruled Sweden from Lund, which is in southern Sweden and part of Skåne. Skåne of course, was part of Denmark for quite a while so this was a big deal. During his rule Karl XII was known for his battles against the Russians, the Poles, and of course the Danes.

So there you have a quick background on the good King. Here is what bothers me. The people who celebrate this King tend to be nationalists. And for some reason, with nationalists you get neo-nazis. This year’s celebrations were only marred by a few arrests as opposed to the violence that apparently tends to accompany these celebrations. It’s disgusting. It seems as if these people take pride too far and you end up with some good old fashioned jingoism spilling over into racism. And that’s just no good for anyone.

What’s worse is that this becomes a stereotype of anyone who decides to fly a flag or be patriotic. This happens both in the US and Sweden. In fact, earlier this year a group of young boys decided to wear Swedish soccer jerseys in their school picture. Show a little national pride; show their support of the sport they love. No big deal right. Nope. The principal refused to allow them to be in the picture dressed that way because it was seen as xenophobic. Incredibly, the principal had no opinion on the racism shown by the actual soccer team that wears those jerseys for every international game. The reason given was some nonsense that the Swedish flag and jersey would could insult or offend those who are not of Swedish descent. Seriously.

Being proud of your country is frowned upon. Because there are immigrants here. Most of who have chosen to move to this country. Which would suggest they want to be here. And by making that choice you would think they might have pride in their new country. And I would imagine that quite a few of them do. But in an effort to make everything as non-confrontational as possible people go too far. Ridiculous.

I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people who moved to this country are excited to be here, proud to be here, and probably support Sweden in all sorts of sports. As long as they aren’t playing their home country. They probably don’t see a Swedish jersey as xenophobic. Maybe some do, but I have a hard time believing that the majority of people who move to a country would be disgusted by something as simple as civic pride. And apparently it was the poet John Lydgate who said something along the lines of “You can please all of the people some of the time, you can please some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Wise words indeed. There will always be a few people who are pissed about something. Doesn’t mean that the rest should suffer. Political correctness can go too far.

Maybe that is exactly why nationalism is so often adopted by the neo-nazis. They see people like this principal prohibiting students from showing pride in Sweden and decide that nationalism is a cause that they will support. Which is too bad. Because in doing so they weaken the very cause they purport to support (look at the rhyming right there. Poetic.). Silly nazis, clearly they are just misunderstood.

Most people have a hard time supporting anything with neo-nazi ties. As they should. A famous painting in Sweden shows Thor throwing his hammer in a battle against evil. On Thor’s belt is a swastika. The painting was painted well before the rise of the nazis and is meant as an ancient symbol of luck. The painting is amazing. Unfortunately, the neo-nazis have adopted it as some sort of battle cry. Again, they have bastardized something that many Swedes would be proud of and turned it into something instilled with attitudes of hate.

It’s amazing that a group of people blatantly broadcasting their hate for others can ruin something so simple as being proud of your homeland.



  1. Actually, I believe the quote is..."You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

  2. You are exactly right. Oops. It was actually the poet John Lydgate that said the quote I attributed to Lincoln. I'll fix that. Good catch!

  3. You got a good point here. I'm a Swede and I have friends who are immigrants and they wouldn't mind if I wore a Swedish football jersey. it's not very uncommon to find people in schools or on the street that wears a Sweden-jersey. Many Swedes feel a little uncomfortable showing national pride, except when it comes to sport, because of the neo-nazis and so on but quite a few people like me who hate neo-nazis but are not afraid to show our pride. It's just that it can be hard to, not only because of the neo-nazis but also because of people like that principal. Personally, I think that sucks. Many immigrants are, as you say, proud to live in Sweden but many are not. I'm not accusing those immigrants for anything, I mean, how can they be proud of Sweden when not even "real" Swedes can (because of dumbass people like that principle)?

  4. And guys like that principle does not only make it harder for Swedes to show national pride he also worsifies the polarization between native Swedes and immigrants. Because native Swedes who do want to express their pride of Sweden in public but feel that you aren't allowed to will eventually start listening to the neo-Nazis who certainly are not afraid to show national pride and maybe vote them to the government (there are political parties like that, believe me). Immigrants will also be less eager to show pride of Sweden when the only ones who do tha will be the neo-Nazis, who probably will be more in numbers if this development of society keeps on happening. Which I'm afraid it will, with not that few principals, politicians and bosses that are exactly like the example you mentioned.

  5. both good points. it still boggles my mind that something that should only wake pride in your country, like the flag, can be bogged down with such negative connotations. bullshit really. be proud of where you came from. be proud of where you ar. if not go somewhere where you can feel that pride.

  6. "Most people have a hard time supporting anything with neo-natzi ties" - I would argue that we need to support the positive of these symbols and names. Why let some group of people destroy the heritage of many cultures? I come from a town called Swastika ... and proud of my heritage. Our town did not succumb to some government mandate to change our name. We stuck to what was important to us. I am all for supporting the Swastika in a positive way.

  7. an interesting take on this. historically has been used by groups of people from all over the world as religious symbols, symbols of good luck. so I suppose it just all boils down to whether you can distiguish between the good and the bad. unfortunately, the bad was so horrendous that it is hard to make that disconnect.

  8. People like that principal is an embarrasment for Sweden.

    Immigrants wear their colors all the time and Swedes can't?

    "Rasist" is the dirtiest word in the Swedish language and everybody is afraid of being accused of being one.

  9. agreed. some people are just a bit ridiculous.