Sweden's reputation is currently under attack and I feel I must respond, however unpopular this might be. I feel angry, frustrated and saddened about recent events. This is my angle…
I am proud to live in Sweden and I am proud, and fortunate, to have received Swedish citizenship. This is a country that, in my mind, builds on equality and solidarity. This is a country that tries to do the best for its people. This is a country that stands up and does the humane thing, even in difficult circumstances. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
In some foreign media, Sweden is currently being dragged through the dirt. Stories based on lies and fabrication are spreading. Sweden is falsely being depicted as a failing country on the edge of collapse. This is total and utter bullshit. It is nothing more than the poisoned school gossip trying to bring down the popular student. It is a tactical attempt to spread fear and uncertainty and we must not bow to it. It is in their interests to undermine the social experiment that Sweden stands for and attack the politcs of liberalism and tolerance. A weaker opposition opens the way to a closed and darker society.
Opportunistic right-wing Swedish politicians are jumping on the bandwagon. By reinforcing this picture internationally, they paint themselves as the concerned party. Make no mistake, this is pure manipulation. Their only motivation is to gain more of a foothold in Swedish politics and gain political power based on lies and fear. They want a fearful and closed society.
I try to look at the world with open eyes. Sweden, like all countries, has its problems: an aging population and an expensive welfare state, challenges of integration and inclusion, social problems, unrest and crime. Of course this exists. To claim these didn't exist would be naive. And of course crime should be fought. But I truly believe that Sweden can solve these issues. And I truly believe that the way forward is the continued path of openness and solidarity. Not fear and defensiveness. And not lies.
I am proud to be Swedish and live in Sweden. I am proud that Sweden takes in thousands of people in their direst need. I am proud that Sweden helps people survive war and starvation. I am proud that Sweden leads the way in social and humanitarian issues. I am proud that Sweden does not criminalize poverty. I am proud of Sweden's diverse and multicultural society. I am proud that Sweden stands for human rights and equality between men and women. I am proud that in Sweden you can be whoever you want to be. I am proud that everyone is welcome here. I am proud that Sweden respects its children.
In my mind, this is what it is to be Swedish. Sweden is the true land of opportunity.
This is my call to action. Do not buy into the lies and falsehoods that are spread about this country. Do not buy into the fearmongering of power-hungry politicians.
On social media, on the streets and in your life, question the source of all information. Do not just swallow the bullshit. And if you disagree, stand up and be proud to be a part of this nation with all of its challenges and its opportunities.
Neil Shipley is a lecturer and coach in intercultural competence and communication. He has lived in Sweden for over 20 years. Read his blog 'Watching the Swedes' here.