the loss of innocence in sweden

my heart is heavy today.

the country that i call home now, the country that is my second home, has lost  its innocence.

if you are american, or if you even aren’t american, do you remember how it felt that day 14 years ago when those two planes flew into the world trade center in new york city? do you remember that overwhelming feeling that everything had changed? that, somewhere, deep inside, even though you didn’t know how, life would never ever be the same.

well, i feel that here in sweden this morning, as i sit in my beautiful, old european apartment, sipping my coffee, looking out at the crisp blue sky and the bright yellow autumn leaves glowing from the morning sunshine.

autumn home fall

i feel completely safe, not like i did on 9/11. but, just like on 9/11, i feel a loss of innocence. i mourn for the swedish society, which has now experienced first-hand the violence of one person, and his actions which now ripple outward, causing us all to begin to question… could that happen here? could that happen to me? in my school?

these are questions that most swedes haven’t really had to think about personally, instead they have only had second-hand conversations about the news of yet another school shooting in the united states. school violence is one of those things that happens in america, in my country of birth, but not here in the open, safe, progressive country of sweden.

and yet. that is just what happened yesterday.

candles trollhätten
students remembering + honoring. photo from here

in a small city, outside of gothenburg on the west coast, a city known to have a large immigrant population, a man in his 20s, dressed in back and with a star wars mask on his face, walked into a school with a sword. he has his photo taken with two students, all of whom just thought that this was an early halloween prank. until, the young man attacked a teacher that passed by. the students ran away to safety, but chaos ensued.

in the end, a teacher and a student were killed. and another teacher and student were critically injured, receiving help as i type this, in the local hospital. the perpetrator was shot by police and died later at the hospital.

three dead. two injured.

now, americans, you may be thinking: that’s nothing like 26 children in new town, or a massacre like columbine. but, i assure you, one act of violence, one person injured, is too much violence. one act of hate is one too many acts of hate. and, sadly, we have become desensitized to the violence that exists and occurs daily in the united states. even i have.

but, here in sweden, we have been safe from these worries.

no doubt, as police have began investigating, it was discovered that the stabber targeted a certain “type” of person. and he had racial motives behind his actions. the victims were all male and of another race = immigrants. it has now been established that the stabber also had supported (by likes on Facebook) right-wing, conservative political ideologies, which for one thing, work very hard to keep any more immigrants from coming to sweden – citing that they are bringing more violence to and ruining traditional, swedish society.

however, the killer was of swedish descent, targeting a school and a community that were filled with immgrants. ironic and sick, huh?

needless to say, the police have now called this a hate crime.

a hate crime at a school, where students and teachers should, of all places, be safe and secure and thinking about their dreams and their futures. not if they are going to be attacked or killed or see blood or a masked man with a sword.

but, this scenario is now a part of swedish reality. and the swedish society now has some tough questions to deal with.

so, what to do? what to do? i am so sick of thinking about this violence. so sick of not knowing how the stop it. so sick of how it has become “normal”. so sick of accepting that this is just how it is. so sick of not being able to do anything about it.

this tragedy that has now happened in sweden has left me feeling overwhelmed. and i’m tempted to just close my eyes and turn away because it’s just too big.

light coffee table home

but, as i type this, i see the flicker of the candle that i have lit this morning to serve as a act of solidarity and remembrance.

it’s one tiny little flame. but, it is filled with so much warmth and light. staring at it, i am brought a sense of hope and peace. a sense of duty and responsibility – to not give up. to not turn away. to not forget.

instead, that tiny little candle flickering on my coffee table is quietly whispering to me to fight on. to spread even more love + light. to believe and dream and teach.

yes, sweden is different today, i believe. at least, i feel that way. and no, we can’t individually eradicate all of the violence. nor can we turn our backs on the reality of the world in which we live.

photo of candles and flowers outside the school from here

but, what we can do, together, is to each let our single light shine. to speak out against hate. to speak up for the outsider and the forgotten. to teach acceptance and tolerance. to share peace and love with each other.

and, those may sound like big, huge, daunting things to do… but, think about it. just imagine how easy it is to spread positivity and light and love, one little moment at a time. to one little person at a time.

stockholm-sunset-stockholm-pride-parade my fellow swedes, i am so sorry that this has happened. and i am so very sorry that this amazing, beautiful society that you have created has been tarnished. but, violence and hate will not win. though things are not perfect, there is so much more that sweden has to offer. i believe in this country. in the progressive, open, accepting, loving, equal society that you strive so hard to be. do not give up. and i pledge, as someone who is patiently sitting and waiting to her her swedish citizenship, that i will do what i can, too, to continue to make this a society based on justice, humanity, and equality. i am grateful beyond words to call you home, dear sweden.

yes, even though this is a tough world that we all live in, even though hate and violence exist, i believe that we can make a difference. and that, in the end, love always wins.

let your light shine, friends. namaste.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

7 thoughts on “the loss of innocence in sweden

  1. I can’t believe that this happened in Sweden. How tragic. Sadly, it’s something that’s being associated with the US, not European countries. But I guess hate-filled people live everywhere.
    You are right: we can all do something to spread love and positivity, and actively make this world a better place. The actions of one deranged individual won’t shape the rest of us.
    We will shine our lights much brighter than their darkness!
    Thinking of you and your fellow Swedes today ?

    1. Thank you, Miriam, for your thoughts and support. And thank you for being such a light to so many – sharing who you are and inspiring others. I am so happy to have connected with you! xoxo

  2. I’m sorry about what happened Liz. Not overly surprised and probably that’s the little cynic that is still hiding inside my mind, a remnant of my past life and someone I am working very hard to erase out of existence (but obviously I still have a lot of work to do). But I am so very sad about what happened and I do understand the feeling of innocence lost and cry a little for that because like you Sweden is the last place I expected this to happen. I think there are two points I want to talk about.

    The first is that there is no such thing as a perfect society/life/whatever. We are beings with incredibly complex minds capable of amazing feats and also as a side effect vulnerable to damage that usually occurs in a very small age. And this damage is expressed in many different forms and ways. Most people don’t want to hurt others; we end up abusing ourselves until we get help. Unfortunately some turn to violence expressed against other people. It’s sad how the human mind can cling to ideas so desperately the only way out is to kill those who don’t share the same ideas. I think this is global regardless of country and origin.

    The second has to do with your reaction, which I think is amazing and I am so proud of you for refusing to lock down, turn away, and essentially admit defeat by admitting that everything is totally lost and it is the way it is. That is hardening, nourishing the cynic, giving up hope, hating what happened, refusing to think about it. Also all that is lies and focusing on them is living a lie. Instead you chose to grieve and you chose to speak freely and openly. You chose to believe that it can become better. And you chose to do that with love. Because hating the hate is only continuing the cycle of hate. I don’t know of a way to stop such hate crimes but I do believe that believing beyond any doubt it can become better is the necessary first step. Perhaps all we need is to gather mass and volume in a belief of a better life free of atrocities throughout the world. The more people believe that, the easier it becomes and that’s exactly what you are doing already actively and in a beautiful way. So thank you, I’ve lit a mental candle and placed it next to yours for support.

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