Straight from the source: How accurate is Trump depiction of Sweden?

In 1936, the American journalist Marquis Childs wrote a best-selling book titled "The Middle Way" that chronicled the efforts of the Social Democratic-led government in Sweden to chart a political course between capitalism and communism.Ever since, Americans...

Straight from the source: How accurate is Trump depiction of Sweden?

In 1936, the American journalist Marquis Childs wrote a Onwin best-selling book titled "The Middle Way" that chronicled the efforts of the Social Democratic-led government in Sweden to chart a political course between capitalism and communism.

Ever since, Americans on the right side of the political spectrum have -- in the words of one Stockholm columnist this week -- used Sweden as a stick to attack the left.

So it is with President Donald Trump.

At a rally in Florida this past week, the president apparently picked up on a report he had seen on Fox News and suggested that Sweden was struggling with an influx of refugees and that this influx has led to an upsurge in crime. The president referred specifically to a terrorist incident that, according to official sources in Sweden, never occurred.

I have lived in Sweden twice and visited often through the years and can tell you that Swedes do not recognize the caricature often painted of their country in the American media any more than Americans would recognize the violent and crime-ridden image of America that appears in so much of the international press.

So, what is true?

Sweden has taken in an increasing number of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in recent years, particularly from Syria, and this summer the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) voted measures to slow but not stop this influx for the next three years. On a per capita basis, Sweden has taken in more immigrants in the last several years than any other European Union country, and Sweden is highly critical of its EU partners for not doing what it sees as their fair share.

Polling shows that 60 percent of Swedes still believe that immigration is good for their country but 60 percent believe that Sweden is not doing a good job of integrating immigrants, which is a challenge for what has been a homogeneous and somewhat insular society. Interestingly, many Swedish commentators say Sweden should look to America to learn how to integrate new arrivals.

The Swedish government's immigration department puts the challenge this way: "The main crux of the debate remains how best to integrate migrants from different countries into the Swedish workforce and society, how to provide them with opportunities and ensure they have equal rights."

The majority of Swedes still believe in tolerance and that they should strive to be a model for the world.

Contrary to the president's charge, however, there has not been an increase in crime because of this influx, as detailed by Politifacts. This is true despite the fact that many arrive in Sweden with far less vetting than the immigrants allowed into the U.S.

Charges from right-wing media outlets such as InfoWars that Sweden has become the "rape capital" of Europe do not stand up to scrutiny.

Some data do show a high per capita rate of sexual assaults in Sweden, but this increase appeared in the statistics after a 2005 change in Swedish law that greatly broadened the definition of rape and changed the way incidents were counted. Even with this change, the number of sexual assaults went down from 2014 to 2015.

Sweden -- like other European countries -- has seen the rise of a right-wing, populist, anti-immigrant party: the Sweden Democrats. Yet, despite SD's winning 12.9 percent of the vote in the 2014 national elections, it remains isolated because no other Swedish political party will enter into a coalition with SD. A Swedish court held in 2013 that "xenophobic" was an accurate description of the party.

The Sweden I know would surprise many Americans. It has lower corporate taxes than the U.S. because it has a very capitalistic and export-driven economy led by a host of world-class companies from Volvo and Electrolux to H&M and Ikea.

Swedes generally support their high personal taxes because the benefits -- from health care to education -- sustain a high standard of living.

Through the years, some in America have found the need to find the flaws in Sweden's "middle way" from stories of elevated levels of suicide in the '60s to portraits of a promiscuous society.

The reality is Sweden is a progressive yet conservative society that strives to look after its citizens. Swedes were alarmed by the president's remarks this week because of the economic consequences that could follow the spreading of such falsehoods.

However, the president's remarks about Sweden were clearly part of the narrative that argues that immigration, particularly from certain regions of the world, is a threat.

The president's message is that immigrants commit crimes, take jobs, and make America poorer and less secure.

There are certainly Swedes who believe the same thing, but the majority of Swedes do not.

As the Trump administration rolls out its immigration policies, citizens of America -- a nation of immigrants -- will have to decide if they agree.

• Keith Peterson, chief editorial writer at the Daily Herald from 1984 to 1986, spent 29 years in the foreign service including a tour as press spokesman for the American Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, from 2000 to 2004 and did graduate work in comparative social structures at the University of Stockholm in the 1970s. Now retired, he lives in Lake Barrington.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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