Friday, September 4, 2015

Finding Our Way

Ferris Wheel at Liseberg Park, Gothenburg, Sweden

Judy and I are attending the 6th International Carers Conference in Gothenberg, Sweden.  I will write about the issues discussed at the conference in a later posting, but I want to mention two issues that are off the usual topic of the blog.  We have always found that when we are in another country, we end up having a different perspective on our own country.  We notice the good and the bad.  Of course, there are many good things about the US, the freedoms and opportunities we have.  But we’re living in a time when there seems to be an emphasis in the media on the most extreme viewpoints, particularly as they relate to immigration.

One of the speakers during the opening ceremony for the conference was Åsa Regnér who is Minister for Children, Older People and Gender in the Swedish government.  That’s quite a portfolio of issues, but that is not what was notable.  Rather, she began her talk by saying how much she had been affected by the plight of the refugees in Europe and in particular the video this week of the little boy who drowned.  She then spoke proudly about how Sweden has been welcoming refugees, over 3,000 in the past week, including 700 unaccompanied minors.  She asked the Swedes in the audience to consider opening their homes as foster parents to these children.

When was the last time that we heard such a humane statement about refugees from a politician?  There is a far-right party in Sweden that opposes immigration, yet Minister Regnér was not afraid to speak from the heart.  It was quite a contrast to the presidential candidates in our country who are engaged in a race to the bottom on immigrant issues.  I wonder if any of them could recite the poem on the Statue of Liberty, or even give the gist of it.  It is, of course,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The other notable event this morning that highlighted differences between the US and Sweden was that Queen Silvia of Sweden gave the formal opening speech for the conference.  The Queen has been an advocate for caregivers for a long time, sparked by her own personal experience of caring for her mother who had dementia.  This morning she gave an articulate talk about the importance of helping caregivers.  But what was notable was the security, or lack of, in the auditorium, compared to the US.  Yes, there were security personal in the room, but they were discrete and on the sides of the room.  The audience did not have to go through metal detectors before entering the auditorium, and the Queen walked into the room as part of an entourage of conference officials, and not in the middle of her security detail.  Sweden is a much more civilized place than the US in large part because of its gun laws, and no one’s personal liberty is compromised because Swedes don't have easy access to firearms.

It does seem sometimes that we have lost our way, or at least that the media in the US dwells on the most sensational and extreme views.  We need to find our way back to a more civil society.  Countries like Sweden show us that things can be different.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful sentiments Steve and Judy! This is all the pathway to peace and the way to maintain peace PEACEFULLY!