Opinion: ‘This is not the Sweden I’m proud of’

Opinion: 'This is not the Sweden I'm proud of'
Rapper Petter Alexis Askergren, better known as Petter. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
In recent years Sweden has allowed racists to stretch the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. This is no longer a country I'm proud of when travelling the world, musician Petter Askergren writes.

Recently I've thought a lot about my mother and everything that we went through together, but above all, the things she taught me. I want to note that my mum taught me history, some kind of morals, to be able to show feelings, fears, and the most important of all: to show empathy.

She was obsessed with the Second World War and often spoke about the persecution of Jews, dissidents, and minorities. She often spoke about courage, and those who stood up for the vulnerable. That there were many Swedish heroes who made every effort with their lives to help people who were fleeing. I felt really bad sometimes when I heard about the horrors these people were exposed to.

The question that always came up then, but is equally recurrent and relevant today, is why? Why do we do what we do to one another?

I can't understand how someone can wish other people so much ill that, with unfounded self-created convictions, they could go into a school with a sword and cut down adults and children.

Or apply their energy and time to systematically try, and unfortunately succeed, in burning down refugee centres. Enough!

Unfortunately it's not only the odd idiot or lone individual acting on their own accord. This is systematic terror against people who are different for one reason: they often happen not to be born in Sweden and live with a trauma that these “proud Swedes” have likely never been close to.

Sweden has in recent years allowed racists to move and stretch the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. One party with noticeable power and influence in our Riksdag pushes and whips up the sentiment that we're standing before some kind of downfall if all of these refugees arrive. If all of these people continue to come everything will go to hell, according to the Sweden Democrats.

I know it's the opposite. It's exactly these kind of inhumane, egotistical and racist politicians given a place now that are bloody un-Swedish. This is not Sweden. This is not the country I'm so proud of when I'm out travelling around the world. Travelling has been important for me and my own view of humanity.

I wish that everyone in Sweden, in particular those who worry about Midsummer's Eve and surströmming, were given an honest chance to travel and see the world (I'm not talking about Crete or Thailand). Perhaps for a second just try to imagine how it would have been if it was them who had to flee with their family, because there was no other option. That's where the word empathy comes into the picture.

Sweden is a country that stands for empathy, humanity, and solidarity. Right now the opposite signal is being sent at Sweden's expense. In a world that is growing and where we constantly face new challenges, conflicts, poverty, epidemics and the climate threat, we should be a country other countries listen to and respect. Despite us being 10 million people. But who is going to respect a country that behaves the way some of us do right now?

My mother once asked me, worried, with a broken voice from the hospital: “Petter, what is happening in our country really?”. I didn't know the answer, but at the same time wanted to convince her that there isn't some kind of danger. “We will fight this,” was the only thing I could say.

Of course, it can sound naive, but the love and warmth that many of us show daily is always going to be stronger than the hate and malice. Do you know why? Because love and warmth is part of how we survive, and no one can take that from us. Because of that we'll always fight and spread love. Whether it’s striking with your pen, donating money at Globen, or helping refugees with food and clothing.

For us, people are just people. It doesn't matter which god you pray to, what your origins are or how you look. This is a fight we'll never relinquish.

This is a translation of an opinion piece by Petter Alexis Askergren originally written in Swedish and published by Expressen in 2015.