So long Sweden!| August 13, 2011
I am sitting here in the airport waiting for my flight home to begin, and I can't help but feel a complex mix of emotions. On the one hand, I am excited to get home and to get back to school to see my friends and family. I have really missed them over this three months, though I am happy to report that it was easy to stay in touch with them thanks to this handy invention called the internet. It may not always work the way I want it to, but you have to marvel at the fact that I can easily contact people on the other side of the world to chit chat at all hours of the day. However, I am also sad to leave Stockholm, as so much has happened in this last few months it feels almost like a life-time. This past couple of weeks has been very eventful. I though that after so many of my friends left, things would slow down, but the world had other plans. Not long after my last post, the world seemed to go to h**l in a handbasket. Being in Sweden, the Norway massacres had a great effect on daily life. People came out in droves to show their support. I went to a rally in the city center where Swedish politicans, celebrities, and just plain ordinary citizens met in a show of solidarity. No one expected the attacks and many were afraid they may be repeated in their own country. Racism and extremism are problems people don't really talk about here. Everything seems so idyllic in this sleepy little socialist paradise. Everyone seems very happy with their free helath care and education, and are even willing to pay higher taxes for it. The influx of immigrants has placed some tension on this normally homogenous society, and many are not sure how to respond. Extremism is not the norm by any means, but it does exists and Norway reminded us all.
This came at a time when American was experiencing its own problems. The world has been suffering recently, from Europe to Asia, and America also began to feel the sting of another economic downturn. For a while now, we have been hearing about the economic collapse of Europe due to high debts and falling stock markets. The debate about the debt ceiling attracted a lot of attention across the world, and being here has really reminded me that Americans are not the only ones who take an interest in American affairs. While I was studying and working in France, I had the privilege to observe how Europeans reacted to and followed the American presidential election, and being here has really driven home just how interconnected the world really is. The political morass of the United States and the resulting financial downgrade was met with just as much fear, uncertainty, and frustration here as at home. Everyone was concerned about how it might affect them and their home economies. Sometimes we forget that the world is out there and that it is affected by us in many ways. This has really opened my eyes.
Finally, there has been a lot of political and social unrest throughout the world recently, and my job at IDEA has given me a first-hand look at many of these movements. Everyone was shocked when London went up in flames. Many in America were confused about why the Londeners were rioting, but in Europe, there was more understanding. Across the continent, many are feeling the same way, disenfranchised in their own homes. While most do not condone the rioting, there are many Swedes who sympathize with the undercurrent. Frustration has been building in Europe, which has been seeing a spike in unemployment and a growing welath disparity far longer than America. What I learned is what our future may and could look like if we don't do something about it. There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not the rioting could ever happen in America, and whether Americans have become too politically apathetic to rise up and protest in such a manner. I think that a spark could light the fuse like it did in London, and that would be a very bad thing.
One of the reasons I got into law was to make a difference and to help change a system that in many ways had become bogged down in apathy and bureaucracy. This expereince has galvanized me and given me purpose. The idea that America is connected to other nations, that what we do effects them, and that their problems similarly could be relfective of ours has motivated me to immerse myself in that system and see what I can do to help. In that way, this experience in Sweden has been more than just an internship. It has been more than country profiles, a handbook, or fun times with friends. It has been a learning and growing experience that has and will shape me in the years to come. I am excited to get home and sad to leave, but most of all, I am eager to keep learning and moving forward, because that is where I really want to be. So long Sweden.