In December 2011, the tourism bureau of Sweden made its Twitter feed @Sweden into a democracy, and they didn’t even have the U.S. Armed Forces to help them.
Since then, every seven days, a new citizen has taken control of the nation’s Twitter to show that there are no “typical Swedes.” Tweeting for the nation, @Sweden has broached subjects from Sweden’s National Day, to the sterilization of transgendered people seeking reassignment, right down to today’s tweets by Sonja, 27-year-old mother of two, who inquired as to the reasons why people hate Jews.
Despite the explosive negative attention that this feed has been getting since this morning (Slate called the inquisitive tweets a “‘Jew’ rant”), I’m going to go back to a time before then, back to, say, yesterday, or any time during the past six months, before @Sweden really garnered national attention, and say that this actually is a good idea.
I grew up in New York, and I can see by the way your eyes did that little flicker thing that you just got excited (or judgmental), so let me stop you. I’m not from “the city.” I’m from a small town Upstate, it’s about halfway betw–and you’ve stopped listening.
Whether you love New York City, or hate it, there is one thing you can’t care less about–Upstate.
Which is a shame, because I have met some way cooler cats up in cow country than in any major city in America. So if the New York Office of Tourism (the same ones, by the way, who give out all that I <3 NY stuff; those shirts are actually about the state, guys) gave us a voice like the one @Sweden is giving to its people, then you might be a lot more interested than you first imagined.
Because a place isn’t its landscapes or its panoramas, it’s the sometimes inspiring, sometimes crazy, sometimes daring, and yes, sometimes ignorant people who get to live there, and be a Swede or a New Yorker.
So, really, what better way to show off what you have to give than by letting everyone have a chance to show it–i.e., their country–off for themselves. No one knows it like they do.
POST SCRIPT: I can’t ignore it because it’s there. Sonja’s tweets were like a child asking his or her mother why one group of people is hated by another group of people solely on the account of their skin color, religion, class, et cetera. From what I can tell (I have read the tweets!), Sonja’s inquiries–which were in no way, shape, or form, a rant–were purely innocent.
Slate.com’s Jeremy Stahl is right when he says that Sweden has a history of having “been a very homogeneous society, has struggled with xenophobia and anti-Semitism.” He’s also right about one other thing: Sonja is not an anti-semite. And to suggest that the Curators of Sweden, who run @Sweden, should somehow “vet” their candidates, completely negates what the feed aims to do, which is to represent the citizens of Sweden–all the citizens–one at a time.
So will everyone stop yelling at Sonja and explain to her the irrationality of anti-Semitism? Because that’s all she wants.