Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Swedish American in the US… Still

I’m back. On the blog at least. Took a bit of a break but figured a post would be necessary to keep everyone’s interest. And also to comment on the new laws in Sweden going into effect in January of 2009. Granted this was voted through about three weeks ago but I’ve been on vacation remember?

Basically, a new law is going to allow the Swedes to look at every e-mail and message that crosses their borders, incoming and outgoing. Which means they will know everything about me. If they want. And they should. I am a very interesting person. Because, being a Swedish American in Sweden, quite a bit of my communication is directed at people in the US. Outside of the border of Sweden. The idea is that by doing this they will be able to monitor certain key words associated with terrorist dealings. I understand the need for intelligence. I do. You have to know what s going on if you are ever going to overcome or stop or prevent the bad guys from getting you. But there are limits. Because infringing on the freedoms and liberties of the very people you are trying to protect seems only to insult everything that they stand for and believe in. In this case, some semblance of privacy for an entire nation. And that’s where my problem lies. This is for everyone. Not just those that may be perceived as a threat. Or have some sort of connection to something that could be perceived as a threat. Everyone. I suppose that’s the Swedish way, don’t single anyone out.

Now, I’m no terrorist. I’ve knocked down a few port-o-potties (or honey-buckets as they are sometimes called in Eugene) in my day. And I suppose if one found themselves in the port-potty at the time of the tipping that may be considered an act of terrorism. So I suppose I have nothing really to hide. But that’s not really the point. I should be able to write and say whatever the hell I want in my private conversations without having to worry about some sort of Orwellian 1984 Big Brother checking up on me.

And let’s be honest here, I don’t know which key worse will act as warnings and get you searched. I suppose I could probably test that by throwing in “bomb” or “al Qaeda” or “kill the infidels” in a few of my e-mails and see what kind of rise I get out of the Swedish government. But honestly, I’d like to think that the FRA and terrorists for that matter are a bit more sophisticated and use some sort of code. Because Osama would have to be a real idiot to send an e-mail to his Swedish counterpart asking him to “round up al Qaeda, bomb the hell out of Stockholm during the tourist season, and kill all the infidels who caricatured Mohammed as a round-about dog.” Because come on… anyone worth looking into for terrorist activities can’t be that stupid right?

Now, the thing that I find amazing is that this is Sweden. A country that prides itself on its liberal attitude in basically every aspect of life. In my weaker moments, I may have referred to Sweden as a police state because they require me to check my car every year and apparently a back door that doesn’t open is grounds for failure but this is different. Now they are reading my e-mails. Reinfeldt says that Swedes maybe don’t understand the law and that’s why they are pissed. He seems to think that Swedes are interpreting the law to be a tool to be used domestically. That wasn’t the impression I got. I got the impression that Swedes understood damn well that this was meant to be used internationally. And they still got fired up. Because they have friends abroad. Or travel abroad, especially in the winter when darkness descends. Granted, the measure passed by only a few votes. And people can complain all they want about this being the result of the moderate party being in power. The Social Democrats are promising to rip it up if they are elected in 2010. But it passed.

But in a beautiful display of democracy, freedom of speech, demonstration and everything else that makes a country great the Swedes did not sit idly by. They demonstrated, blogged the hell out of it, made phone calls, wrote newspaper articles, debated on TV, and wrote e-mails to the government. Lots and lots of e-mails. Twelve days after the law had passed about half a million e-mails had been sent. In a country of nine million. And by the 3rd of July about six million e-mails had been sent. In a country of nine million. I know that a lot of people probably sent hundreds or even thousands of e-mails by themselves. But still. That’s damn impressive.

The question is what will happen now. Because the debate continues. And demonstrations continue. And blogging continues. And phone calls. And newspaper articles. And court attempts. And every other form of non-violent protest imaginable.

Welcome to Sweden. Where both Big Brother and democracy are alive and kicking.

For those of you interested in reading up on it here is a link to a search query on Due to the insane amount of articles written about this I just searched for FRA. It is sometimes referred to as “the snoop law.”

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