I grew up during The Cold War. A little skinny girl in a little skinny country squeezed in between Nato and the Soviet Union - although there was Finland of course, but due to its former ties to the East, Finland didn’t feel like a bouncer to us. Finland wasn’t safe.
My sons were born around the time when Gorbatjov took power in the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall fell. That’s when my children entered the world. They grew up when the Eastern European countries turned into democracies and with parents feeling the world (from our European perspective) turning into a better and safer place.
Trouble 1 was one of the last Swedish 18-year olds having to struggle through the mandatory military service, being a trained fire fighter for air base. Trouble 2 had the choice not to, so he didn’t. He chilled. The Swedish defense scaled down, because there weren’t any military treats any more. We all chilled.
How naive. It feels like now.
Donald Trump has only been president for a 100 days, but the Before feels like a different time and age. The Pre Trump era, when most of the world leaders spoke to each other in lowercase letters. There was Putin and Kim Jong-un and Assad and Erdogan and many more of course (which was bad enough), but letting Trump loose among these has been like taking the leash off a fired up pit bull.
I am not going to list the Trump accomplishments - or which word would be the most accurate for his 100 days presidency. But the fact that he has bombed Syria (which I know even Democrats applaud) without seeming even to have a strategy in mind, as well as developed an U.S - Russia situation which some say hasn’t been this chilly since The Cold War, and additionally put the U.S and North Korea on the brink of a major major conflict, as Trump himself puts it, scares the hell out of me.
When I was a teenager I was in Berlin twice. Taking the train through East Germany, being startled in the middle of the night by soldiers screaming “Haben sie Wapen, Ammunition oder Narkotika? (do you have weapon, ammunition or drugs?), while turning our suitcases in and out, pushing those special trolleys with mirrors under our seats, searching for hidden goods. I’ve been passing through Check Point Charlie, guards with pointed weapon on the wall. And getting through former Jugoslavia to Greece train-backpacking wasn’t a field trip. I have been afraid traveling in Europe. Really afraid.
In 2005, after Trouble 1 graduated from high school (and before he started his military service), I took both my sons to Berlin for a few days. It was my first since the wall fell. And a very different experience. The new and shining Mitte. The Parliament. Those places hidden in the dark East before. We visited the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and monument. And the fascinating Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which had opened just a few weeks earlier. We took a bus tour around Berlin and it was special knowing this was a very different tour than the ones I did 35 years ago.
And I was amazed by the fact that it was all gone. The fear. The totalitarian ideas casting it’s shadow over us when I grew up, even into my adult years. A shiny new world to show my children, linked to the history behind and the different -isms.
I honestly thought we have learned. I honestly thought mankind had moved forward and changed for the better, knowing what is good and what is bad. I honestly thought it was over, from my European perspective. As I sent my oldest off as one of the last ones for mandatory military service in Sweden.
Today, twelve years later, I feel like anything can happen. How wrong I was. How naive. Mankind has not matured to a wise old monk knowing it’s way. And Donald Trump, kicking and screaming like a big baby doesn’t help. As for me, I am still the skinny girl in the skinny country squeezed in-between Nato and Russia. And Sweden is rebuilding a military defense.
(Being done writing this post I am realizing my jaws are cramping from clenching my teeth)