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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.