WaPo: Swedes Are Too Nationalistic
05/08/2020
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Personally, I’m glad that Sweden has chosen a different policy response than the rest of Europe, since that offers us more information about what to do next. But a lot of people, however, are not happy that Sweden is not going along with the herd. From the Washington Post opinion page:

The risk of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy? Blind patriotism.
Criticism from abroad may trigger a national identity threat for many Swedes

By Gina Gustavsson
May 3, 2020 at 2:00 a.m. PDT

“Be like Sweden!” — this slogan appeared on a sign last weekend in Minnesota, one of several U.S. states where protesters are pushing governors to roll back lockdown orders. Sweden, unlike the United States and many other countries, has largely stayed open for business. Pandemic experts have criticized this approach, combining a handful of restrictions with strong recommendations for risk groups and anyone feeling sick to self-isolate and voluntary social distancing for everyone else.

So why does Swedish public opinion continue to show not just high but increasing levels of support?

As of April 30, Sweden ranked among the 10 countries in the world with the highest covid-19 deaths per million people, with a ratio of 244. This is seven times more than neighboring Finland and Norway.

… What we are witnessing in Sweden is more likely to be the dark side of nationalism. To be sure, many Swedes who now say “let Sweden be Sweden” are staunch supporters of wider immigration and international cooperation. But such convictions are no vaccine against the psychological forces of nationalism.

Like any group identity, national identity is a powerful force. In “Liberal Nationalism and Its Critics,” contributors and I show how national identity can charge both the best and worst sides of human behavior. In a recent research article, I argue that when self-critical and based on a shared public culture, nationalism can legitimately be liberal or even progressive in nature. But when it takes the form of blind allegiance, nationalism becomes a danger to liberal democracy. …

Critics of the Swedish pandemic strategy meet with hostility and ridicule, both in academia and the media. Vulnerable minorities might be next in line. Former chief epidemiologist Johan Giesecke, for instance, pinned the failure to protect the elderly on immigrants. “Many of the people working in nursing homes are from other countries; they are refugees or asylum seekers,” he said. They “may not always be understanding the information.”

[Comment at Unz.com]

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