Oct 14, 2018

And the baton goes to the next runner up

It’s an Indian Summer day here on the 64th latitude. Sun and mild winds from the south. I even have the balcony door open a tiny bit. A day inviting picking mushrooms and taking care of those last left overs from the garden. Withered summer flowers hiding in a corner. Turning the water barrel upside-down before the snow comes. Seasons changing.

To be continued, I wrote last Sunday. Regarding forming a new government in Sweden. It’s been more than a month now since the general election. And today, this minute, the situation is as unclear as it was when I tucked myself in in Bolsena, Italy, on election night.

For two weeks now the Right bloc leader Ulf Kristersson has tried to form government, assigned by the Parliament Speaker to do so. He failed. That he declared to the Speaker today. It also looks now like the Right bloc is falling apart.

So, what happens now? Well, tomorrow the Speaker will go one more round with the leaders of all eight parties. He will most certainly pass the baton to form government to Stefan Löfven, leader of the Social Democrats. After all, he is the chair of the largest party. He would be the next runner up. But will his chances to succeed be higher?

Probably not, as Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost the vote of no confidence against him and his cabinet right after the election.

I would say the situation is even more locked today than a week ago. Now the Right block is more or less divided into two. And when it comes to talking to each other between the eight parties, those talks are conditional on restrictions they are all putting up, and the tone of conversation keeps getting more high pitched and harsh by the day.

Experts are shaking their heads. Pundits are nodding. No one can see an end to this in the near future. What happened to the famous Swedish consensus? Gone out the roof with all other loud politics of the world? 

And what happened to truth? The result of the election was 144 seats in the Parliament to the Left bloc and 143 to the Right. Simple and straight forward math. In spite of that the Right announced themselves winners, without a plan to form government. That worked well, right?

Yes, those 144 seats include the Left Party which has not had seats in the present government although backed it. The government has been a minority government. Which is not ideal of course, often the case though.

But tomorrow is another day. Will Stefan Löfven try to win the Centre Party over? The Liberals? To be continued…

PS. I am really looking forward to a different topic than politics in this forum. And there will be. A heads up for the risk (yes, I refuse calling it chance) of abolishing Savings Time. Wait, is that politics as well? 

Oct 7, 2018

A week of win and losses

1. The week when the Nobel Prize in Literature wasn’t announced.

2. The week when Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the Supreme Court.

3. The week when Jean-Claude Arnault was found guilty and convicted for rape.

4. The week when the right wing (Moderaterna) Ulf Kristersson was assigned by the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament to try to form government.

So how do I put this together? I don’t. Although two of the points are related.

To point 1: my hope from last week regarding this subject turned into disappointment. Yes, the FBI-investigation was held. In which they did not find a place, a time or any witnesses supporting Christine Blasey Ford’s detailed testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, accusing him for sexual assault during their high school years.

Those opposing Kavanaugh claim the FBI-investigation was doomed from the start, limited and constrained. After all, the investigation was commissioned by the White House, although not by the White House choice. FBI is only a client.

Christine Blasey Ford. What will her life be after this? Are the thousands of women (and men) all over the country demonstrating supporting her until the bitter end helping at all? 

Is there even one whistle blower through the history who afterwards didn’t disappear into the shadows of his/her own story? Yet, we have to whistle. I hope Christine Blasey Ford will find comfort, strength and pride in knowing she did the right thing. 

To point 2: the result of the Swedish general election was unfortunately even, 144 seats in the Parliament to the Left bloc, 143 the the right. And 63 to the nationalistic end xenophobic Sweden Democrats. 

By some incomprehensible reason math didn’t count. The Right argued they were larger than the Left. 143-144. On 25 September Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost the vote of no confidence against him and his cabinet. As a result, a new PM and government will have to be elected. 

On Oktober 2 the Speaker gave Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Right party (Moderaterna) the assignment to try to form government. Try is a crucial word here. Positions are locked since neither bloc is willing to compromise and the willingness to talk to or be supported by the Sweden Democrats varies and are still unclear. Ulf Kristersson will have to come upp with a government within in two weeks. So, To be continued…

To point 1 and 3: the start of the fall of The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature, was 18 women accusing a man in close connection to the Academy of sexual assault and rape. The name of this man is Jean-Claude Arnault, married to one of the Academy members.

I have been following the tragic, dramatic, messy and historic events of this story and here is more to reed.

Out of all the accusations towards Jean-Claude Arnault - events which had been going on for decades - two held all the way up to court. The long time span has been a negative factor for the victims. As Brett Kavanaugh, he has denied all allegations, but on October 1 Arnault was convicted of rape in one case. For that, he will spend two years in prison. The prosecutor will go further with the second case.

It is in a way symbolic that the verdict towards Aranult fell on the same day as the announcement of the Nobel Prize should have taken place. Should have. Because 2018 is the year when the controversies within the Academy made it impossible to hold on to the tradition. The confidence around the world for the Academy is broken. An historic institution is shattered. The image of Sweden and one of the finest awards in the world is soiled. All for a man who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and his hands off women. And for his pals who didn’t think it was a big thing.

But. Jean-Claude Arnault is now a felon. He will spend two years in prison. And there might be more to come. And every woman he has laid his hands on can stand tall. Because the verdict tells the story.

Sep 30, 2018

A moment of decency in Swedish and American politics

The relief I felt when it stood clear the Sweden Democrats (SD) was blocked out from  Speaker’s seats. And the “Yes!” I yelled out when Jeff Flake asked for postponing the vote and required a FBI investigation.

I nearly cried. It gave me hope. This time is not, after all, the end of human compassion.

It’s been an intense week politically in both Sweden and the US.

Last Sunday Sweden was in the wait for electing the Speaker of the future Parliament on Monday. The Social Democrats (as they are the largest party and that’s been the tradition) and the right bloc (since they don’t accept that as a reason for holding the Speaker seat) were both submitting proposals for the Speaker. SD announced they would back the right bloc candidate. The Left party had nominated a candidate of their own as 2nd Vice Speaker, a seat until now taken by SD.

The outcome of the vote came as a surprise. Not so much that the Speaker came to be a Moderate (member of the Right party) nominated by the right bloc and supported by SD, and the Vice Speaker subsequently a Social Democrat.

No, the big surprise was the choice of the 2nd Vice Speaker. After the Social Democrats voting for the Left Party nominee and the right bloc abstaining their votes, the 2nd Vice Speaker came to be the Left Party nominee. And the Sweden Democrats were left in the cold. In spite of them supporting the right bloc nominee. 

Although most parties have taken on a lot of the nationalistic and xenophobic SD’s proposals and opinions, when it came to the Speaker seats they all stood tall and denied them that kind of power and influence. 

At that point, human compassion was the winner. Thank you! The fight for humanity is still not lost after all.

Thursday evening the US Supreme Court nominee's hearing kept me up. I just couldn’t  make myself go to bed. 

Christine Blasey Ford’s restrained and subdued yet detailed testimony against Brett Kavanaugh. She, a professor coming out of anonymity having nothing to win except self respect on telling the American people about how Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in their high school days. Her testimony powerful and compelling in it’s humble and low key appearance.

He, an United States Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals and a nominee for the Supreme Court, proposed by president Trump. In the hearing a screaming and crying aggressor, repeating his CV as the impeccability proving his innocence. And blaming the Democrats and the Clintons and you name it for conspiring against him. It was a circus spectacle. In short, the Republican senators believed him, the Democrats her. 

Friday was the vote regarding Kavanaugh’s seat in the Supreme Court. Democrats presumably casting nay and Republicans yay. At 1.30 PM.

Minutes before, during the closing arguments, the Republican senator Jeff Flake and his friend the Democrats senator Chris Coons left the room. There was confusion and puzzlement. What was going on? Jeff Flake had earlier in the day announced his yes for judge Kavanaugh.

To be watching this live and momentarily was intriguing. During the closing arguments several of the Democrats senators were arguing for postponing the vote, wanting a FBI investigation of Kavanaugh. Out of respect for Christine Blasey Ford and the office the Supreme Court. The chairman didn’t listen. A few Democrats left the room as a protest and in frustration. There was drama in the air.

The speculations continued when Jeff Blake and Chris Coons re-entered the room. Blake asked for the word:

Mr Chairman, he said, after talking to colleagues on both side of the isle, I want to propose a postponing of the vote and a FBI investigation of the allegations against judge Kavanaugh, taking not more than a week.

Something along those lines.

That’s when I all by myself on my couch raised my arms in a YES! Thank you!

What made senator Blake alter his mind? Maybe the compelling arguments from Democrat senators. Maybe his friend Chris Coons. Or was it the two women in despair approaching and confronting him in an elevator the same day? He seemed cornered and humble, quietly looking down on his shoes as the women begged him to stand up for them and their daughters. For the women of the country.

The political situations in Sweden and the US are up in the air, to say the least. They are troubling. I am deeply concerned. But this week, both countries chose decency. And human compassion.

Sep 23, 2018

In fear of tomorrow

On that porch. In Bolsena, Italy. Following the votes coming in from the Swedish general election. The fear running us was: will the Sweden Democrats become the largest political party? Is the situation in Sweden that bad? Will more Swedes cast their vote for a nationalistic, xenophobic party with roots in Nazism than any other political party? Is that where we are at now?

The late August prognoses predicted 18,2 %. Bad. Really bad. It was in the 2010 election that the Sweden Democrats (SD) won their first seats in the Swedish Parliament by  shocking 5,7% of the vote. In 2014 they reached 12,9 %. The progress is horrifying so 18,2% seemed likely, and as they in the earlier elections had done better than the predictions, numbers like 25% was mentioned. Which meant they would pass both Moderaterna (the party most to the right, now nr. 2) and the Social Democrats, still nr. 1 among the Swedish political parties. 

In the pleasant Bolsena evening our bodies slowly let go of some tension when it looked like SD would end up slightly under 18%. And I could tuck myself in in the late night on my uncomfortable Italian super firm bed, without immediate anxiety for the future of my homeland.

The final number for SD is “only” 17,5%. They didn’t reach the prediction and definitely not their own anticipation. And they did not become the largest party and not the second largest. Our biggest fear did not come true and Sweden is to congratulate on that one. 

The parliamentary situation is complicated though. The “left bloc” ended up at 144 seats. The “right bloc” at 143 seats - there are 8 parties in the parliament whereof 7 are divided into those blocs.  The Sweden Democrats constitutes a bloc of their own at 62 seats - as of today most of the other parties don’t want anything to do with them.

I was okay back in the late Bolsena night two weeks ago. But this evening the fear from what the outcome would be is back.

Tomorrow Monday is the day for choosing a Speaker of the parliament. The Social Democrats (as they are the largest party and that’s been the tradition) and the right bloc (since they don’t accept that as a reason for holding the Speaker seat) are both submitting proposals for the Speaker. SD was silent until yesterday. When they announced they will back the right bloc candidate. Which means they will back a right bloc prime minister and government. 

Moderaterna immediately announced they are fine with the SD endorsement. I am guessing the Christian Democrats are too. So now is the big question, what will the Liberals and the Centre Party say to that? They have been very clear on never ever to take support from the Sweden Democrats. To turn the other way around would be to betray their voters big time.

 So what happens now? The Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his minority government (Social Democrats and The Green Party - backed up by The Left Party) will most certainly resign in a few days. And with SD support we might have a more conservative ruling in Sweden than in decades.

In the 2014 election The Sweden Democrats were all alone in expressing hostility towards immigration. The 2015 flow of refugees has changed the political agenda and vocabulary completely though. 2018 the only parties who still view refugees as human beings in need of help and Sweden as a country with resources to assist are the Left party and the Centre party. Who also appreciates how Sweden is in need of immigration. 

There is room in our sparsely populated country. And people from the Middle East, with their respect and esteem for the elderly, now already carry quite a bit of our home care services. What would I have done these past years without Awara, Hawkar, Goran, Fereshte, Sazan, Mohammed and Ali? 

Tonight I will tuck myself in on a windy and cold evening in my comfy Swedish bed in fear of tomorrow.

Sep 16, 2018

Can you believe it, I’ve been traveling again!

We were sitting at the porch outside our rooms (located in a former horse stable) in the warm September evening following the votes come in through Swedish National Television SVT’s streaming service. I’ve never been abroad on Election Day (except for when I lived in Seattle of course) and it felt strange. But thanks to SVT it worked out really well for me.

Yes, you a reading it correctly, I’ve been abroad!!!

I am actually not going to focus on the Election today. Although it’s been a week now, the outcome is still not a done deal. It’s unfortunately even between the left and the right bloc and then the Sweden Democrats a bloc of their own. The situation is locked. Maybe on next Sunday there will be more clarity to report on the subject.

So, I want to tell you about the unexpected and magic fact that I’ve been out of the house for five days! Out of town! Even out of the country! After six years under house arrest I have suddenly been traveling to Italy!!!

Thanks to the record-warm summer my back has been in an unusually good place these last 1,5 months. Late summer early fall is most often the time when I am at my best. That’s when the idea sometimes briefly crosses my mind it might maybe perhaps be possible for me to fly away somewhere. But since I can’t do it on my own, that’s where it stops.

Four weeks ago my friend Agneta suddenly and out of the blue asked me: “would it be possible for you to go to Italy?” Uh… Eh…

It turned out Agneta and her husband Mats had planned a trip with friends, but they couldn’t make it. So, there was a ticket and there was a room in an Agriturismo in Bolsena about 2-3 hours northwest of Rome. What do you say?

What did I say? I was stunned. An agritursimo is basically a farm house. Where you stay, and eat local food and vegetables and fruit from the garden. Slow food and slow vacation. Which is actually the only option for me. A big city adventure would be out of the question. But this I could probably do. Sit in a sun chair and enjoy the view of Lago di Bolsena, the lake giving name to the small town. My biggest problem would be the actual travelling, but finally there it would be perfect. It felt like meant to be!

Due to different health problems besides from my back I didn’t know until a couple of days before departure that the trip would really happen for me. Weeks in uncertain and stressful limbo. Also, because of my many traumatic travel experiences, travelling isn’t a big hurray for me. It’s connected with pain, anxiety and fear. Only thinking about my suit cases and packing brings the panic on. And it’s been six years since I last pulled those out of the closet…

This time around though was very different. I wasn’t alone.

Agneta and I got to know each other when we were 19 years old. Since then we have been singing together. Mats joined some thirteen years later when the two of them became a couple. So, we go way back and our families have had and still have a social life together, as well as mutual friends of ours. 

In short, I couldn’t be more safe than with Mats and Agneta. I couldn’t have nicer and more loving assistants. They know me in and out, and they are fine with what they know. That’s a very special thing.

I had a wonderful trip. The travel-days were less hard on me than expected and it turned out airport assistance came with some perks. I’ve been in wheel chair on airports before but only in acute and extremely painful situations. I’ve barely been aware of what’s been going on around me.

This time around was all different. Planned and under control. And for once I could bring something positive. The Fast Track! All three of us were escorted in the fast lane and I felt a bit like George Costanza in Seinfeld taking advantage of my handicap - although his was made up.

The stay at the Agriturismo was just as I had pictured it. Warm, calm, relaxed and a stunning view. The only thing was my bed which was horrible on my back and I only got a few hours sleep during my three nights there.

Other than that, this was just the perfect Italy trip! 27-31°C (80-88°F) cooling off in the evenings. Delicious food and Agneta and I even allowed ourselves carbs in a way we don’t at home, yum… Visits to ancient cities like Pitigliano and Orvieto, and lunch at the sweet sandy beach of Lake Bolsena. I couldn’t have asked for any thing more. 

Also, it was very interesting realising that after being housebound for six years unexpectedly let out in the big world again, I felt good about going back as well. It had a lot to do with that horrendous bed and traveling being hard on my body in general of course. Still, it’s a good feeling. Wanting to come home. A very good feeling.

So thank you Mats and Agneta, my dearest friends. For inviting me. For taking such good care of me. For letting me out in the world once again. For giving me an amazing  Italian experience to carry me through the upcoming Swedish winter. I am and will be forever grateful.

I’ve been traveling! Can you believe it, I’ve been traveling again!!

Sep 6, 2018

The story of two young sisters making political history: every vote counts!

This is a story I love to tell, and it’s been especially appreciated in the US. But I actually told it to my hairdresser just yesterday and her jaws dropped too. So here it is, the story about two votes making a mark in the political history.

My first time voting I was 20 and my sister 18. We had moved to Umeå but were still citizens of Nordmaling, our childhood small town. So our first time voting was in Nordmaling.

I remember us standing at the local post office, above the bakery where are dad was a pastry chef. At that time in life we weren’t overly politicly engaged. We knew our parents voted for a party in the middle, what’s now the Liberal Party. So why not? Our votes for the Swedish Parliament fell where our parents were at.

Now, who would we like to run Nordmaling? Well, we had moved away and at least I didn’t really care that much. We looked at each other and got this idea. How about going a bit wild and crazy? What if we would lay our vote on the Left Party?! Which at that time still had the word Communist in the title. I can still feel the excitement sisters sharing this moment of a giggle. Said and done!

When the votes were counted the result was clear. The Left Party had it’s first seat in the Nordmaling City Council. By two votes! And it’s still there.

I am posting my blog early this week because the General Swedish Election happens on Sunday. I am deeply concerned. I am extremely worried. 

The Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) is a nationalistic and social conservative party with roots in the nazi and alt right movements. It’s racist and xenophobic. And the support for it’s politics is growing rapidly.

At the 2010 election they won their first seats in the Swedish Parliament by 5,7%. In 2014 they had 12,9 % of the vote. And the prognoses August 30 2018 predicts 18,2 %.

This scares the hell out of me and many more. And as for the elections before, they have done much better in the actual election then in the prognoses.

To every Swede out there - and Americans in the Primaries and later Mid Terms - who feel your voice doesn’t make a difference: you are wrong! You couldn’t be more wrong! Every vote counts! Every single vote counts! Because every vote is counted, and when they are all put together they become the future! You can and have the right to decide the future! For yourself and your society!

Just as two young women decided the future of the political landscape in Nordmaling. Two young votes making history. Go vote! Go vote please! Go vote goddamn it!

Sep 2, 2018

The grace of democracy

- Can’t we do it online?

I remember my childhood’s Election Day as a day of weight. Mom and dad dressed up in their best coats walking to the city hall in the small town Nordmaling where I grew up. Casting their votes. An important moment at the beginning of September every forth year. Coming back to the house for a Sunday afternoon coffee with friends they bumped into at the ballot box.

I don’t remember my sister and I going with them. It was serious adult matter. When Trouble & Trouble were young we always brought them. No dressing up, but the whole family driving to the school in the next village which was our location for the voting. They didn’t see the point of course, and I am sure they protested as they grew older but I was firm on this. I wanted to pass on the importance of every man and woman’s personal impact on Swedish society and our lives through the right to vote for the politics we believe in. And I wanted to create the every-four-year habit in their mind and bodies. 

We take democracy for granted. We shouldn’t.

In December this year it is a 100 years since equal and general suffrage was decided on in Sweden. As a constitutional change was required, 1921 was the year when every man and woman finally had the right to vote. (That’s not entirely true though, people in prison, gone bankruptcy, entitled to social service or legally incapacitated was not allowed to vote at that time. And Swedish Romanies did not have a vote until 1959…!) 

The road leading up to 1921 had been long and winding. In the early 1900 a popular movement educating people in political rights and responsibility swept through the country creating an enlightened population. It might very well be that the Swedish people was better educated in these matters at that time then we are today when democracy is like air and water. It’s just there.

But as air and water. Can we take it for granted?

Democracy, in terms of actually casting your vote, takes action. In this time and age speaking your mind up is ridiculously easy. Even dangerously easy. You can shout out most anything on social media. You can pump up your opinion and your ego without any effort. Your vote a Like. 

- Can’t we do it online? 

It’s a friend of mine in his mid thirties asking. It’s a joke. But I am thinking, to many in their early twenties, or the 18 year-old first time voters, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a serious question. When you have grown up doing everything online it might be a legitimate reaction. Home work, shopping, tests, dating, banking, social life, taxes. Even the obituaries have moved to the internet. When people pass away, we get to know via Facebook.

In the Swedish general election 2014 86% of the population casted their vote. That’s a high percentage compared to most countries. But will the youngest online-generation accept an IRL having-to-drag-oneself-to-some-obscure-polling-station they are not acquainted with? Did their parents teach them the importance of this Jurassic tradition?

I know I sound like an arrogant and possibly ignorant 60+ here. And I do hope I am wrong.

I think what I am saying here is this. Cyber Space is decontaminated with opinions. Loud ones. Shouted out. Screamed. Yelled. This is a disease spread among most every group in society. And when leaders of the free world raises that megaphone to their lips, why shouldn’t everyone else?

OK, that’s a different subject, what I’m getting at is this: no matter how much you shout or Like or get Liked, your actual voice to impact the development of your country needs to be placed in an IRL box to matter. In Sweden an envelope given from your hand received by another hand. Eyes meeting eyes. And it will happen next Sunday, September 9.

And to you who speak in small letters: At the ballot box. When your hand is giving the envelope to the hand receiving. Eyes meeting. Your voice is as loud as everyone else. That’s the beauty of your vote. The grace of democracy.