A Love Letter from a Swedish Conservative

 

shutterstock_112613762This is not a political piece. Not really. It’s more like a whole bunch of memories, strung together, and a plea for change from the change I see sweeping the nation I love.

I am a Swedish neocon, and a Jew, so I guess I am basically a unicorn. I was born and raised in a sleepy west coast town in the early 1980s, in a country an inch from being a full-blown DDR-state. I should be a socialist feminist performance artist, or a hipster filmmaker, passionate about gender-neutral daycare and sourdough bread. But I got lucky, and I broke away from the herd.

I first stepped on U.S. soil in the spring of 1990. My father had spent his high school years in Texas in the early ’60s, and now he wanted his daughter to see what he had seen and love what he loved. And boy, did I ever. I was 9.

I’m not sure if I can fully convey the cultural shock of going from 1990s Sweden to Dallas, Texas, or if it is even wise to try. Because how can I describe what it is to taste your very first doughnut or go to Toys R Us and see row after row of wonderfully girly Barbie-dolls? I came from the country of meh to the nation of yeah. And it was nothing short of magnificent.

I was lucky enough to spend my summers there, in the heart of Texas, and with every visit I gained a growing awareness of the differences between your country and mine. America was loud. It was uncomfortable and alive. People were different, not only from Swedes, but from each other.

It was the small stuff. There were flags flown publicly, showing national pride while maintaining a strong sense of individuality. People prayed at the dinner table, and even in schools! Women were allowed to choose to be home with their kids without guilt or government penalty, and people still got married and protected the institution of the traditional family.

In America I saw all these astounding, giant, little things; and an amazing mix of rallying behind your country, while at the same time demanding its leaders to be accountable, for your rights to be respected and your voices to be heard.

I lived with my dad’s childhood friend, Jay, an old-school republican with a passion for history and politics. On my first visit he gave me a copy of the declaration of independence, patiently explaining it, word for word. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; those words jumped out at me. Not only did this document say that I should be free to chart my own course, but that happiness was a right, and a goal? That changed everything. That changed me.

Jay and I talked politics all the time, and every visit was a living lesson. He took me to the Alamo, we followed the Clinton impeachment, debated the Gulf War and stood side by side on Dealey Plaza. And I fell in love, slowly but surely. I got to know and fall in love with a nation based on certain intrinsic values, carrying a responsibility for the world, seeing freedom as a right worth living and dying for.

I went back and forth between Sweden and the U.S., between socialism and freedom, and it was like growing up not only on two sides of the world, but on two sides of history. I saw America helping change the world and saving lives while Europe engaged in knee-jerk liberal analysis and Monday-morning quarterbacking, And every time the U.S. unapologetically went its own way I smiled with pride, sleeping soundly at night knowing that just like in my bedtime stories, there was a hero out there who would always show up just in time to save the day.

But things have changed, haven’t they? In the past years I have seen the country I love so much change, moving toward the country I grew up in. I saw a President get elected on change, and apparently things had changed enough by 2012 to hand him a re-election. Well, guess what? I know the change that your president speaks of. I have lived it, and I live it still.

I know what happens when government trumps the individual, I know what it is when you apologize for the values that built your land and I have seen the horrific results of a nation equating exceptionalism with brutality and deeming values moronic and obsolete. I know one thing for sure: If you grow up in a country that doesn’t ask anything of you, you end up living an entire life without asking anything of yourself. Expecting nothing, excelling at nothing, with no repercussions for failure and no incentive for growth. And it kills your very soul.

I know, however, that there is a way back and a road forward, partially thanks to Ricochet, actually. I joined this community just a few weeks ago, after listening to the podcasts and following the posts for quite some time. Here, I see the America I fell in love with. As I sit in my kitchen here in Stockholm I giggle with delight at the living, breathing conservatism and riveting debate you all let me take part of from afar (also, I do so enjoy the occasional joke about Swedish socialists and depressing Bergman-movies).

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; I hope every single one of you get how amazing that is, in word and in meaning. To me, it captures what it is to be human, by highlighting not only our need for freedom and our right to life, but the massive capability every single person is born with. This is something no government entity can ever replace, and no well-spoken leader should ever be given the power or pulpit to question.

You are exceptional, and coming to America taught me that I could be exceptional, too. Thank you for that. Thank you.

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There are 146 comments.

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  1. Coolidge

    Welcome. And thank you.

    What’s Jewish life like in Sweden? I see you are not in Malmo…

    • #1
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:27 PM PDT
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  2. Member

    Annika:

    This is simply beautiful.

    Those of us who’ve lived in America our entire lives need to hear thing like this to remind us that we are blessed to live in a wonderful country.

    Thank you.

    • #2
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:32 PM PDT
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  3. Inactive

    What a great story you have, thanks for telling it.

    • #3
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:40 PM PDT
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  4. Member

    Welcome aboard.

    I know a couple conservative Swedes who feel out of place just for their conservativism, but you certainly have them beat with the Judaism. Ironically, my Swedish friends who chose to live in America are less conservative. But we are gradually whittling down their resistance.

    One of my friends, now back in Stockholm, used to wear a funny T-shirt featuring the “Viking World Tour” (history of conquest). It’s sad that such a proud people is now struggling to maintain its culture in some areas.

    • #4
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:41 PM PDT
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  5. Contributor

    ctlaw:

    Welcome. And thank you.

    What’s Jewish life like in Sweden? I see you are not in Malmo…

     Thank you for the warm welcome!

    Jewish life in Sweden is bleak, and getting bleaker by the day. As for Malmö, it is one of the lost cities as far as the Jews are concerned..

    • #5
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:42 PM PDT
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  6. Inactive

    “I was born and raised in a sleepy west-coast town in the early 1980′s..” Falkenberg by any chance?

    • #6
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:42 PM PDT
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  7. Contributor

    tabula rasa: thank you so much, what a welcoming community!

     

    • #7
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:44 PM PDT
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  8. Contributor

    jetstream:

    What a great story you have, thanks for telling it.

     Thank you, happy to have such a great community to share it with.

    • #8
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:46 PM PDT
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  9. Inactive

    That was beautiful, Annika. Welcome to Ricochet!

    • #9
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:46 PM PDT
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  10. Contributor

    Jennifer:

    That was beautiful, Annika. Welcome to Ricochet!

     Thank you!

    • #10
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:47 PM PDT
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  11. Inactive

    My great grandfather came from Falkenberg. Evert Taube wrote a song about him, know it? 

    The melody is played each day at 12 noon on the bells in Falkenberg..

    • #11
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:50 PM PDT
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  12. Contributor

    doc molloy

    doc molloy:

    My great grandfather came from Falkenberg. Evert Taube wrote a song about him, know it?

    The melody is played each day at 12 noon on the bells in Falkenberg..

     How cool, you’re schooling me on Swedish history! Evert Taube I know, and his songs will be sung tomorrow night on midsummer’s eve here in Sweden…

    • #12
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:53 PM PDT
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  13. Contributor

    Aaron Miller:

    Welcome aboard.

    I know a couple conservative Swedes who feel out of place just for their conservativism, but you certainly have them beat with the Judaism. Ironically, my Swedish friends who chose to live in America are less conservative. But we are gradually whittling down their resistance.

    One of my friends, now back in Stockholm, used to wear a funny T-shirt featuring the “Viking World Tour” (history of conquest). It’s sad that such a proud people is now struggling to maintain its culture in some areas.

     I’m glad to hear you are working on the expats while I do my best to turn the natives..

    Re: our history, you are absolutely right. Our national anthem is very telling, with its most famous line being : I know we will one day become what we were.

    it’s the dream of past greatness.

    • #13
    • June 19, 2014, at 3:55 PM PDT
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  14. Inactive

    Annika Hernroth-Rothstein:

    doc molloy:

    doc molloy:

    My great grandfather came from Falkenberg. Evert Taube wrote a song about him, know it?

    The melody is played each day at 12 noon on the bells in Falkenberg..

    How cool, you’re schooling me on Swedish history! Evert Taube I know, and his songs will be sung tomorrow night on midsummer’s eve here in Sweden…

    The song is Himlajord.

    A stone sculpture in Bohus granite by Tore Heby, portraying Gustaf Löfgren’s adventurous life. Gustaf is John in Evert Taube’s poem and song Himlajord and became a farmer in Australia in the 1880s. The melody is played each day at 12 noon on the bells in Falkenberg.

    A seed from the last orange tree surviving on his farm was grown and taken back to Falkenberg and is now in the botanical garden in Falkenberg.

    • #14
    • June 19, 2014, at 4:00 PM PDT
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  15. Inactive
    MLH

    Main feed!

    • #15
    • June 19, 2014, at 4:30 PM PDT
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  16. Inactive

    My ancestry is also Swedish, on my mother’s side. The odd thing is how very, very conservative my Swedish immigrant grandparents were. How did they emerge from the same culture that developed into the modern Sweden?

    • #16
    • June 19, 2014, at 4:46 PM PDT
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  17. Thatcher

    That was wonderful, Annika. Thank you.

    • #17
    • June 19, 2014, at 4:55 PM PDT
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  18. Inactive

    Main feed Material. Baruch haba Annika

    • #18
    • June 19, 2014, at 5:20 PM PDT
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  19. Member

    Yes, thank you for the remembrance. I mark this because I’ve been stewing on a similar post -though of a darker bent (hey, us Calvinists gotta ruin everyone’s day somehow…) -so even though I don’t feel what you feel, I appreciate knowing someone does.

    Welcome aboard, Ricochet Resistance East (West Coast division).

    • #19
    • June 19, 2014, at 5:46 PM PDT
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  20. Member

    Annika you made my day. Thank you!

    • #20
    • June 19, 2014, at 5:51 PM PDT
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  21. Member

    Welcome dear lady. Most of us older Americans are fully aware of what we have, and it’s breaking our hearts to watch what is happening to our Beautiful America. I too am a Jew, and shed tears nearly every day in sorrow not only for what is happening here, but in other countries around the world. How is it that intelligent people cannot even understand what the crusaders understood, and Jefferson understood, that Islam is an evil cult, designed to destroy civilization. Everybody seems to just sit back and wait for somebody else to do something. We moan, groan and kvetch but nothing changes. Thank you for caring about us. If you ever make it to Montana, you will be welcomed.

    • #21
    • June 19, 2014, at 5:57 PM PDT
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  22. Member

    Thank you Annika for such a wonderful letter and as much joy that you find in America and Americans I find great joy in the fact that in Sweden we have someone who is one of us not by birth but by a decision that comes from the heart.

    • #22
    • June 19, 2014, at 6:46 PM PDT
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  23. Thatcher

    What Kay said, from another Ricochet Jew. We have members literally all over the world, and Ricochet is the ultimate “big tent”. Another thing you will find here, if you haven’t already noticed, is “sense of humor”. We regulars would be delighted if you would call in to our “audio meet ups”, held alternate Sundays and Mondays (Nanda posts the schedule a couple of weeks in advance). We have callers from Switzerland, Japan, and England.
    Welcome, welcome, welcome !

    • #23
    • June 19, 2014, at 7:16 PM PDT
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  24. Member

    Takk jaetta vaeldig foer vaennlig skrivelse! det aer foer laenge saenn, att jag har skrivit svenska! Which is no doubt obvious. It’s good to know that there are young conservatives in the magnificent Nordic nations. Since you’re here- what should a svenska laesande Texan conservative be reading for news from Sweden? I gave up on Dagens Nyheter years ago.

    • #24
    • June 19, 2014, at 7:41 PM PDT
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  25. Member

    Welcome, Annika! Thanks for the perspective – and the reminder of how easy it can be to take gifts for granted.

    • #25
    • June 19, 2014, at 8:08 PM PDT
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  26. Coolidge

    What a great testimony. Welcome to Ricochet!

    • #26
    • June 19, 2014, at 8:26 PM PDT
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  27. Inactive
    ST

    You go girl! Shalom & welcome aboard.

    • #27
    • June 20, 2014, at 12:06 AM PDT
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  28. Contributor

    RushBabe49:

    What Kay said, from another Ricochet Jew. We have members literally all over the world, and Ricochet is the ultimate “big tent”. Another thing you will find here, if you haven’t already noticed, is “sense of humor”. We regulars would be delighted if you would call in to our “audio meet ups”, held alternate Sundays and Mondays (Nanda posts the schedule a couple of weeks in advance). We have callers from Switzerland, Japan, and England. Welcome, welcome, welcome !

     Thank you, and yes- I absolutely will call in! 

    • #28
    • June 20, 2014, at 12:42 AM PDT
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  29. Contributor

    Kay of MT:

    Welcome dear lady. Most of us older Americans are fully aware of what we have, and it’s breaking our hearts to watch what is happening to our Beautiful America. I too am a Jew, and shed tears nearly every day in sorrow not only for what is happening here, but in other countries around the world. How is it that intelligent people cannot even understand what the crusaders understood, and Jefferson understood, that Islam is an evil cult, designed to destroy civilization. Everybody seems to just sit back and wait for somebody else to do something. We moan, groan and kvetch but nothing changes. Thank you for caring about us. If you ever make it to Montana, you will be welcomed.

     Thank you Kay, this is a lovely community and a chance to breathe fresh air in a world that seems exceedingly crazy. Thank you for making me feel so very welcome, and Shabbat Shalom from Stockholm! 

    • #29
    • June 20, 2014, at 12:45 AM PDT
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  30. Contributor

    Hartmann von Aue:

    Takk jaetta vaeldig foer vaennlig skrivelse! det aer foer laenge saenn, att jag har skrivit svenska! Which is no doubt obvious. It’s good to know that there are young conservatives in the magnificent Nordic nations. Since you’re here- what should a svenska laesande Texan conservative be reading for news from Sweden? I gave up on Dagens Nyheter years ago.

     First of all: Vilken imponerande svenska, bra jobbat! Second of all: I would read Svenska Dagbladet or the monthly Magazine Neo. It’s conservative-ish… 

    • #30
    • June 20, 2014, at 12:47 AM PDT
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