Anyone who has seen firsthand the exquisite pastiness of my face would not be surprised to learn that I’ve got a bit of Swedish blood in me. I might be off a generation or so here, but I’m pretty sure that it was my grandmother’s grandfather who left Sweden back in the late 1800s. (He married an Englishwoman, which explains my teeth.) The story that I’ve heard from family members is that he and his brother fled Sweden to avoid the draft. However, after discovering The Local, Sweden’s news in English, I think I know the real reason: Sweden is a very, very boring country.
I don’t mean to sound rude. I’m sure it’s lovely there – this is, after all, the country that gave us ABBA and IKEA. But judging by the headlines – the things that The Local considers to be important and pertinent – Sweden just isn’t very exciting.
Consider a few recent headlines:
-Hunter charged over toilet seat shooting
-Regular tobacco use falling in Sweden: study
-McDonald’s wins right to serve beer at Stockholm airport
-Group rules against Swedish swimmer on ‘sexist’ swimsuit ban
-Liberal Party looking to reduce Migration Board’s influence
So, to recap: a man shot a toilet seat, Swedes aren’t smoking as much as they used to, the airport Micky D’s has booze, a woman can’t wear something under her swimsuit, and the Migration Board has more influence than the liberal party likes.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is news.
Granted, I’ve left out a few interesting headlines for effect. For instance, a man died at a nuclear plant, and there was something about a psychotic art student. But the first day I ever read The Local, one of the biggest headlines was something about one of the guys from ABBA – I think it was Bjorn, and he had something to say about illegal music downloads. And that was a leading story.
Maybe I’m desensitized to hard news stories, living near as I do to Phoenix, a city where people are more apt to shoot you than they are to stop at a red light. I guess I’m just accustomed to reading news stories that are … well, newsworthy. Rapists on the loose. Bodies found in the desert. Car accidents in the West Valley. Stories such as those in The Local strike me as novel … and dull.
I think I know why.
I grew up in a town that had, on a good day, a population of about 5500 people. The news stories in the local paper – a weekly that cost a quarter until I was a teenager – made the headlines in The Local look like hard-hitting super-journalism. Usually it was something about the DARE program or tourism or the mayor being a crook (they were all crooks, by the way). The lack of news was just another stark reminder that I lived in the middle of nowhere, where nothing ever happened and no one cared. One of the nice things about moving to the Valley was that things happened. Sure, plenty of them were bad, but these things, good and bad, were proof that people live here. Lots of people. And they do other things, and people care. It’s exciting in a way. So many people live around where I do that there isn’t just one psychopathic felon, there are dozens of psychopathic felons. You can’t beat that. Page didn’t even have any psychopathic misdemeanor-committers.
So, sorry, Sweden, but you can keep your Bjorns and your falling tobacco use and your Saab factories and your booze-filled fast-food restaurants. I like things busy and messed up. And I think my great-great-great-grandfather did, too. Why else would he have left the only country in the world where people were as pasty as he was?