Feb 28, 2016

It was the morning after Kjell’s 30-year birthday party

I was lying in my bed. It was a slow Saturday morning, waking up from my brother in law, Kjell’s, 30-year birthday party the night before. In 1,5 month I would give birth to my first son, I was big and my back did hurt. My husband had been out in the white February morning picking up the newspaper. Came back. Said “Olof Palme is dead”. I don’t know if he crawled up in the bed with me or if he stayed in the kitchen making us breakfast. All I know is me lying in bed reading the words looking at the pictures. Not being able to take it in. Like every Swede that morning.

Olof Palme was the Swedish Prime Minister shot and killed on the street in Stockholm on his way home from the movies Friday evening February 28 1986. A man born conservative upper class joining the Social Democrats, becoming a skilled controversial politician, admired by many and highly criticized by others, even hated. Olof Palme left no one indifferent.

The police investigation, 30 years later still ongoing, is the most extensive in the world. The data base includes 87 318 personal documents. 10 225 persons have been interrogated. 133 have admitted the shooting. No one has been convicted. The murder weapon was never found and the murder is unsolved. And I don’t think Swedes in general have hope that it ever will be.

The investigation, conducted in the Palme Group, has worked on different tracks or leads through the years. The PKK track, the lonely shooter, the police track, the South Africa track. Today there is no main track that we know of, although the investigation claims to be very active, still putting in a lot of effort on tracing the murder weapon. Time is working against it though. Locations changes, memories fade, people die. All three investigators will retire within the next couple of months and the director is thinking about an early retirement too.

After 30 years, would it make any difference if the case was solved? It would. The Palme murder is to Swedes what the JFK is to Americans. A country needs a closure. 

It says Sweden lost it’s innocence when Olof Palme was shot. I think that’s true. And it’s a trauma. Like every American (and many many other throughout the world) knows in detail where they were and what they did when President Kennedy was shot, every Swede recalls their exact situation as the news about Olof Palme reached them.

September 10 2003 our Minister of Foreign Affairs Anna Lindh was stabbed shopping in a mall in Stockholm. She died the morning after. I was at work following the news casts with my colleagues. I know exactly where in the room I was sitting. It happened again.

Can you loose your innocence more than once? I think you can. One definition of chock is when something happens that completely alters your perspective. Of yourself, of the world close to you or the one spinning in the solar system.

I think the next time the Swedish innocence was lost was when the nationalistic Sweden Democrats had 9,7% of the Swedish vote in the European Union. Being followed by a 12,9% vote in the Swedish Parliament the same year. It had been unthinkable, but it happened. Who had we become? And this fall and winter Sweden has closed it’s borders to refugees in great danger and despair. Who have we become? Is this my country? Who are we in the world? What had Olof Palme been thinking about his party the Social Democrats following in the foot steps of the racist and xenophobic Sweden Democrats? What had been his stand? We will never know.

But this was a Prime Minister who’s opinion about the United States’ actions in the Vietnam war was so strong the U.S ambassador in Sweden John Guthrie was summoned back home. We can be sure he would not had hold his tongue.

Today my (ex)-brother in law is turning 60, now a grand father. My oldest son will be 30 in 1,5 month. A generation has passed. Media is remembering, contemplating, finding new angles, telling the story, over and over again. As they should. Doing their job. But also giving the country a chance to grieve and morn. As we need. As we must. Again.

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