A bit of a dandy, a bit of a cavalier and a lot of a charmer, rogue British official The Dippylomat. Esq. investigates…
The Best Things about America are Swedish:
Jingle bells, jingle jitters, jingle all the way…all the blasted way. I am in a taxi, en route to an airport and with a growing sense of unease; a stale, lifeless, scentless Christmas pine tree air freshener dangles from the mirror – its existence coincidental rather than seasonal. It aptly reflects my merry-less mood.
Where else might one be flying at this time of year other than Lapland – where Sweden is at its coldest, darkest and Swedest. A Yuletide journey to document the supposed true whereabouts of Santa’s Grotto, I am left to assume. It would seem any snow swept country within several whale fin flips of the Arctic Circle can lay claim to the cash-register ringing residency of Father Christmas, and I could not give a reindeer’s horned hoot about any of them.
But duty beckons, orders are orders, so with an impending sense of a foregone conclusion, I collect my Dispatch Duty Details.
Minnesota. I am going to the United States’ state of Minnesota. This was not what I was expecting, but it sure beats the hell out of trying to get coherent sense from a Swedish town drunk who serves his only purpose when he is bribed into a Santa suit and his whiskey-ruddied face is adorned with an acrylic white tangle of beard.
I would have thought I was being reassigned, but there is a return ticket. It took just four taps of my keyboard for all to come clear. The State, it would appear, is the centre of American-Scandinavian activities, and blow me, haven’t those Swedes just made their presence felt Stateside. And not just in the thunderous realm of the American football stadium with its ‘Viktor the Viking’ mascot and squad of cynically stereotypical pom pom waving blonde Swedish-descended cheerleaders. The nuances of culture are far more deep rooted and subtle than is at first apparent.
The Swede’s initial New World foray was to colonise parts of North American in 1638 with the founding of New Sweden. But, true to form, their empirical efforts were a little lacklustre and easily thwarted; it wasn’t long before the Dutch trampled all over them – a fleeting ambition, and one which was quickly quashed.
But the next Swedish wave to hit the Atlantic seaboard was less about exploring and enterprise and more about escaping – and it was less of a wave and more of a tsunami. An estimated 1.2 million fled their homeland between 1885-1915 – that was one in five of the rapidly dwindling population. The reasons were all very run-of-the-redundant-mill: famine, religious oppression, not liking herring etc. Either way, the gush of emigration led to policy panic; as Sweden regained its economic stability it introduced welfare reforms in a bid to make the motherland equally as attractive as the bountiful plains of America’s mid- west. By 1920 the stream trickled and stopped and the foundations of the welfare state which made Sweden the envy of the world during the 20th Century were laid.
Unsurprisingly, the fresh off the boaters headed to what they considered familiar farmable territory. With a familiar climate and familiar forests of pine trees to quell any unnecessary homesickness, they sunk silently into society.
Silently, but certainly not without trace; Sweden has reigned supreme in the pages of modern history as one of the leaders in democracy, equality, health and science. And which US state might you presume now boasts similar traits? Minnesota, but of course.
The state has one of the most literate, healthiest and politically motivated populations in America; it is currently the third healthiest state behind Hawaii and Vermont and the third most literate region behind Washington and Seattle. In fact, just like Sweden, it flits around the the tops of the charts you would most desire your state to be flitting around the top of.
So is it just a coincidence that Minnesota is genealogically linked to Sweden? Only as coincidental as a Christmas pine tree air freshener swinging in a taxi during the month of December. The answer, of course, is a resounding, pom pom-waving, book-reading and marathon-running, NO!
~The Dippylomat, Esq.
There is more to the The Northern Plights that meets the monocle, for more DippyloInsights may I humbly invite you to my Facebook page.