Funny thing, patriotism. We wrap ourselves in gaudily-coloured material, beat our chests, assure ourselves that the land on which we stand is somehow superior to that on which anyone else is standing and, increasingly once more, we scowl suspiciously at the somehow other, on the off chance that it's their fault we're so miserable all the time. There is a curious flip-side as well: the feeling that the land we so love is in some way quaint or parochial, and as such faintly risible, like a drunk, embarrassing Uncle with whom we put up on special occasions but is best disregarded at all other times.
Me, I've always been an outsider. Of neither one place nor another, my blood a cocktail of races and creeds, I've always been slightly suspicious of blind patriotism by simple dint of having so often been confronted by the ugliness of racism and xenophobia. By the same token, though, it sometimes takes an outsider to see the magic in a place: too many Swedes seem nowadays to fall into the latter of the two categories described above, missing the true wonder of this green, clean and caring place. It's often telling that the people who appreciate it most seem to be those who have spent time away - after all, one never sees what one takes for granted until it's just not there anymore.
Sverige is ambiguous, to an extent. Perhaps Joachim Berg falls into the second category, perhaps not: he's a wily enough lyricist to leave that to individual interpretation. One thing is certain, though: as the inevitable shower starts to fall on another Swedish midsummer, there is room at the table for everyone. A schnapps glass is raised in toast: Welcome, welcome in, whoever you are, wherever you're from. Now, that's the Sweden I love. Skål!
40 Year Itch : Irene Good Night
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