Hur ser svenskarna på USA och det amerikanska samhället? Det finns en grupp människor som har unika insikter inte bara om det amerikanska samhället utan också om hur vi svenskar ser på USA och det är de amerikaner som bor i Sverige.
En av dom, Peter Mayers, är väl förtrogen med både Sverige, dagens USA och även hur vi svenskar tolkar, och misstolkar dagens USA.
Peter Mayers lives in Örbyhus (north of Uppsala), and works as a translator. He grew up in Oakland here in California and originally came to Sweden in 1989. He divides his time roughly evenly between
Sweden and California.
Did I get that right? Obama’s ahead in North Carolina? Great stuff!
As for how this all looks to people in developed countries (yes, I caught your sour joke there!), well, it’s precisely as you might expect. Opinion here in Sweden is overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Did you see that recent international opinion poll on the U.S. presidential race conducted by Pew Polling? (I think that’s their name — something similar, anyway.) It showed people outside the U.S. favoring Obama by something like an 80 to 20 margin. I don’t think Sweden was included in that poll, but the balance of views here must be at least that heavily tilted in Obama’s favor.
Even the few pro-McCain voices — yes, you CAN find them, if you search around in the blogosphere for awhile — often express distaste for Sarah Palin and the U.S. cultural right. (By the “cultural right,” of course, I mean the folks with conservative views on hot-button issues like guns, God, homosexuality, the flag, the death penalty, and the like.) It is that side of American society which is most alien to Swedes and other Western Europeans. (For ease of exposition, let’s refer henceforth to Swedes and other Western Europeans as SOWEs).
By contrast, the bi-coastal face of American society is extremely familiar to SOWEs, and they feel a lot in common with it. When SOWEs visit the U.S., for example, it’s very largely the two coasts that they visit; and their American friends are mainly from the two coasts as well. As a result, a great many SOWEs are surprised — over and over again — when Bush-type Republicans are victorious in American elections. Results of this kind don’t jibe with the U.S. they know.
On the other hand, SOWEs have also heard a lot over the last decade or so about the Bush side of U.S. society — mainly through the media, I think. They’ve noticed the aggressive flag-waving, the puffed-up pride, and the associated foreign policies. They’ve heard about the religious right, and their views on Creationism, global warming, and so on. As a result, this side of U.S. society now plays a large part in the (inconsistent) stereotypes about American society which are common among SOWEs.
However, I don’t believe most SOWEs have much personal experience with the Bush side of America; their acquaintance with the Bush side comes mainly from the media. By contrast, they have often had some personal experience with bi-coastal America; and they tend to find its more modern and cosmopolitan values agreeable.
As a result of these varied elements, then, SOWEs often find the U.S. quite confusing. (I sometimes feel a bit confused about it too.) Contradictory, schizoid, complicated. This helps to make SOWEs’ reaction to the place rather complicated as well.
In sum, it is the cultural-right side of American society that SOWEs find most offputting. By contrast, a much larger proportion is drawn to the values and practices of American capitalism. In other words, the economic right is much better represented among SOWEs than is the cultural right. This is particularly pronounced in a country like Sweden, with its overwhelmingly modern and scientific outlook. (The idea of teaching Creationism in schools, for example, strikes almost all Swedes as simply bizarre. That’s probably the very weirdest of all the cultural-right proposals, seen from a SOWE standpoint.) The economic right here, in other words, is just as modern and scientific in its outlook as the center and left. It’s the American CULTURAL right that’s so alien from a SOWE standpoint, not the American economic right.
(Of course, SOWE society remains considerably more welfare-statist than its U.S. counterpart. Still, a good many folks here — especially among businessmen and other usual suspects — would like to move much closer to U.S.-style arrangements in this area. But few indeed are those who want to move much closer to, say, Utah — on the cultural and “hot-button-issue” front, that is.)
Needless to say, all of the generalizations I’m making here have some interesting exceptions. However, I suspect almost everyone with much knowledge on the subject would agree with the broad outlines of the picture I’ve painted.
Switching subjects a bit, finally, I wanted to say a word or two about optimism. That is, I’ve found that my optimism is mounting about the near future in regard to economic policy. I hope I’m not exaggerating, and I’m trying not to let my hoping carry me away. Still, after making all due bows in the direction of realism, I must say that it now seems fully possible — maybe even likely — that (a) Obama will win big, (b) the Democrats in Congress will win big, and (c) the economic policies followed by the victors will entail a substantial shift to the left. (I need hardly point out that there’s one absolutely critical additional thing here that makes such an assumption plausible: namely, the implosion on the financial markets.)
Taken together, these things may indeed be making — as my big bro David has been arguing for some time now — for a critical formative moment, an opportunity for shifting leftward, of the kind that only takes place once every half-century or so. Maybe even a new New Deal. Or at least some serious regulation of the financial markets, which would be a very good thing indeed (and not just for Americans).
Hmmmm … maybe I’d better tone this down a bit; it’s not like me to be so optimistic. Well, well, we’ll find out soon enough.
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[tags]Politik i USA, Republikanerna, Demokraterna, US Politics, Washington, USA-regeringen, George Bush, Peter Mayers, SVensk-amerikaner, USA-svenskar, Sverige-amerikaner[/tags]