In the aftermath of the Swedish election, the Sweden Democrats (SD) party gained entrance into the Parliament. The reaction in Sweden to this has been interesting (mostly against the SD party) and emotional. They have been called racists, nazis, extremists, and other colorful names. Indeed, I myself peg them to the extreme right of almost any political structure on the planet.
But rather than simply call them names, I wanted to also provide some insight as to why I think their policies and approach is fundamental flawed in a global society.
Now back to my "Good Immigrant" comment. I first heard this phrase around 8 years ago. I was at a party and describing my background, job, and other details -- the normal introductory commentary. What struck me at the end of our conversation was that the woman say "you are one of the 'good immigrants'." On another past occasion, I was standing outside of a nightclub with some friends. A group of Africans in front of us got into quite a debate with the guards who ultimately refused them entry. As we were next in line, after some comments in Swedish (I was not fluent at the time), the guard looks at me and says "Oh you're American...it's okay" and then allows us to go in.
We'll link back to this in a bit.
My first introduction to the SD party was receiving my voting cards for them with an accompanying brochure entitled "Give Us Sweden Back!" outlining their platform. The platform was interesting because the all of the statements pointed back to immigrants and immigration being the problem. From crime, to national identity, to lower benefits -- every problem in society could be attributed to Sweden. When one further checked their website, it was also clear to see that the party was against family equality for LGBT couples. Searching further, I then found the following banned commercial:
So the message is clear: immigration -- particularly from Muslim and African countries -- needs to be curbed in order to preserve the national identity and resolve the problems of Sweden. So one can extrapolate that these immigrants are "Bad Immigrants" to be moved.
So the SD party is misguided for a few reason:
1) Immigrants as people are not the issue. The key issue here is immigration policies. That the SD party wants to push the discussion on integration policies is quite fine -- and probably long overdue. But the inference the party gives is that Sweden's problems will be reduced by closing the doors to additional immigrants and then paying existing immigrants to leave. At best this is misguided and nationalistic, at it's worst it is xenophobic.
2) It is a dangerous and slippery slope to start making distinctions between "good" immigrants and "bad" immigrants. For example...if Western European immigrants are "Good" (and via EU law there is little SD could do about it) and "Western World" immigrants are "Good", then it means that all others are regarded as "Bad" (Middle Eastern, African, Eastern Eruopean). Regardless of what group you get put in, the classification is wrong because "Good" and "Bad" are arbitrary. Today's good immigrants can easily end up being tomorrow's bad immigrants.
3) LGBT couple should enjoy the same family equality as straight couples, including the right to adopt children. There are no independent definitive studies that show that children grow up any less healthy or happy with same-sex parents than they do with opposite-sex parents.
So anyway, with the election behind us, we clearly have to work to do that address some of the root causes that resulted in SD getting 6% of the vote. The Alliance and the Red-Green blocks might not agree on much, but I hope that they can unite around the fact that the SD party does not need to own the immigration agenda. It is possible to take it back from them and transform the discussion into something more humane and dignified with positive lasting policy results. It requires only the political will to focus on what bring them together instead of what divides them.