I am a Dane. I was born and raised in Denmark. I look like a Dane. Walking down the street I have never had to suffer people calling me out because I look different. I have been lucky; I was raised in a good country, a country with compassion and room for difference. Or so I thought.
I am writing this because I do not believe my country listens to me. I know many who feel the same way; many who are ashamed, many who are shocked and in disbelief. Some of them even voted for the current government. One of the big buzzwords in Danish politics right now, is the fact that the voters do not believe they actually have a say. They do not believe anything will change. They do not believe the politicians will keep their words. We don’t trust our politicians at all. And why should we? Why should we trust you, Denmark? Why should anyone?
You were a beacon once, a country of milk and honey, of hope and dreams. A country looked up to by others, studied by many. You were a country other countries wanted to be, the place other countries talked about. Now you’re the international picture of what not to be. And the worst part is, they – those people outside of Denmark – did not do this to us. We did. We still got the milk and the honey, but we’ll be damned if we wanna share it.
I like to travel, meet people, make friends from other countries. I always loved sharing stories about my country – a country I was proud of. Now, when my friends ask me “Is it really true that this is happening in Denmark?” I feel ashamed as I say “yes”. Now, when I meet someone not from here, I hesitate before telling them where I’m from. A second of hesitation where I pray they are not coloured by all of this, where I pray they will not meet me with the distrust my country has sown. So for a second I brace myself for impact, so I can face whatever comes next. These days I often feel more like one of them, because the values I’m being told are Danish, well, they are not my values. They are not the values I was born and raised with. I never thought I’d live to see the day, when other countries told Denmark off for not inhabiting the very values I was brought up to believe in. The world used to feel like a much bigger place.
Truthfully this all began at one of the previous elections, with a previous government. It’s no comfort to you, World, that Denmark started making life hard for our own weakest first, but it’s the truth. We have gradually changed into a society that makes life really difficult for anyone not fitting the norm. I also think we are all so afraid, so we do what foreigners do what they come to a new country: We hold onto what we believe to be ours. Imagine how much fear it takes, for an entire nation to be exhibiting a behaviour we normally see with people trying not to lose their roots in a new country. We do not feel secure in our own nation, so we lash out at anything foreign to maintain our false sense of security. We raise our kids telling them that integrity and values cannot be taken from you; that they are only conquered by our own insecurity. Yet we blame the foreigners for our own insecurities. We accuse them of taking away our culture, even though culture is something integrated into our beings; it’s not a slab of land. It’s a state of mind.
So, unless they can change our minds, I don’t see how our culture can be threatened by sick, hungry, poor, desperate people. If anything they make me treasure my Danish values more; I feel for them, the poor and the hungry. No matter their colour of skin. I have compassion for their young and their old, to have survived such ordeals.
And you know what? I will happily give up my meatballs if it means we put more effort into looking after everybody – I don’t believe they’re a big part of what it means to be Danish. Same thing goes for the ham; I don’t even like ham all that much and I’m supposedly pure-blooded Danish. I wonder what went wrong in my DNA, eh? I believe the Danish values are a very different thing, different from flags and, different from fear of foreigners. I grew up believing in a Denmark which put people first; a country where people were our main value. Not money. A country where we took care of our own and lavished upon the fact that we were not racists. I grew up believing in love, in companionship, in taking care of each other. In embracing what’s different and not fearing it just because it doesn’t look like “a Dane” – whatever that means. A country that believed in integration – not assimilation. And assimilation is what we’re demanding now. I think a lot of people in my country should open a book and read up on the difference in those terms.
Dear World, we’re not all like that. Many of us welcome the chance to help those in need. Many of us want to do everything we can to help. Many of us feel condemned and alienated by our own country. And I beg of you; help me do what I cannot. Help me remind my country what we used to be. We were so much more than this, once.
You’re not just painting a bleak picture of the enemy and you’re not just sending out a signal of “don’t come to Denmark”; you’re not just scaring them away; you’re tearing our country in half. The fear and anger you portray on the foreigners take root here, in us, and it means anyone who doesn’t believe in these changes can be called a traitor – by our own people – can be called anti-Danish, be accused of not believing in Danish values. And anyone who believes those initiatives are right are being called racists, small-minded and what’s worse. You’re doing this to our country. You’re so afraid of what might happen, so you would rather ruin our image, inside out, than do it right. We used to have room for all of us; those who valued our flag, our pork, those who believed in compassion, those for the international society. Those who believed Denmark was about people and those who believed we’re about money. We used to feel like a bigger country, but lately all you do, is remind me how small we are.
We argue, as a country, that they should not be given better rights than Danish people; this is why we now seize their property. We argue that they should pay for their stay. I argue that it’s a lot of bullshit. Danish people get a right to welfare; we can be out of a job and get paid. We have unions. We are not stuck in tents or the likes during the midst of winter. We are not met with mistrust and accused of lying from our first moment in this country. They do not search our “luggage” to see if we break the rules (in truth they’d rather rely on us ratting out each other, but that’s a different story) and store more monetary values than we’re allowed. We’re afforded every courtesy compared to them – while they suffer every slight we can possibly hand them. I’m not saying I don’t follow the argument of them paying for their stay, but I am wondering about the logic; if they then leave before approved, will they be given their values back? Cause that’d only be fair; I do not want to live off of money taken from the needy. It also means someone would have to sit on their jewels and other belongs of some worth, until such a time where they are approved, because otherwise it might be damned hard to track down grandma’s ring when they wanna leave. Not to mention, if they do stay in Denmark and they have brought over values; where are they gonna spend them, I wonder? If you want a citizenship somewhere, in my book it’d be logical to assume they’d wanna use that money to make a new life. Ergo spending money. Here.
And even if we are to entertain the idea of them paying for their stay, then there were many other ways to go about it. Why do they have to pay with humility and lose their dignity in the process? Have they not suffered enough? I personally have a hard time believing it’s about fairness, considering how the government has acted; every move they’ve made, has been to prevent them from getting here and to make them go home when they are here. I think they would’ve gone home if the majority of them could do so safely. So my country does what it can to make life even more difficult for those who already suffered through unimaginable things.
We argue, as a country, that Asians and others integrate better than muslims; that the Islamic countries just don’t play ball well with the other kids in the play yard. I say we are doing a lousy job at integrating those people. I say we are part of the problem, because we meet them with mistrust, with hatred, with a strong disbelief that these people won’t integrate, but those people will. It’s not advanced psychology, realizing that people perform better, integrate better, if they’re met with open minds instead of mistrust and critique. I know for a fact that if I’m met with mistrust right away, before I even get a chance to open my mouth, I perform a poorer job. Because I get angry. I get resentful. I get confused. I get hurt. And I pray if I, and mine, ever end up in a position like theirs, that wherever we go, we will be allowed to keep our dignity. That whoever took us in would treat us with compassion and respect, rather than mistrust and rejection.
We argue, as a country, that other countries do this and that too, so why shouldn’t Denmark. So I ask of you, Danes, did your mother not teach you, that just because that kid did it first, it doesn’t mean you should continue? Were you not raised on the same values as I was? Raised to treat other human beings with decency and respect. Raised not to act like bullies picking on the weak?
We argue, as a country, that we should take care of our own. Yet I more often than not hear the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill and those falling through the cracks of our own society say “We do not believe the asylum seekers are taking away from us. We don’t mind sharing”. Stop using the weak as an excuse for your crusade. Stop shielding yourself behind those whom you are happy enough to ignore when the world outside doesn’t interfere. And stop using the names of those working the lousy jobs and doing volunteer work – with those who need it, both in- and outside the camps, on people with brown, white, yellow and any other shade of skin, stop using those people’s big hearts to justify you shouting “What about our own? Helping the asylum seekers means our own will suffer”. We are not your excuse. We are not your shield. We are not here so you can use us to defend your actions.
Denmark did this to itself. We reap what has been sown. And instead of accepting that we, as a country, made this choice, we now argue to defend it. The choices we’ve made are gonna need a lot of defending. But it won’t make it right, Denmark. Being ruled by fear and greed is not right. Kicking those who are already lying down is not right. This is not right.
How far will we fall before we turn around? When is it enough? Where do we stop?
Dear Denmark. I love you with all my heart, you’re my home. I love you so much it hurts, because I find it so hard to defend you right now. I have not given up on you; I still believe you can be the country other countries strive to be, but you have to stop being so afraid. You have to stop ruling by fear.
I will always love you, but I don’t like you anymore. If we are to restore our relationship, you have to change. You have to remember who you used to be, before you let fear in.
So today I got out of bed, I read the news and I sat down at my pc, with my breakfast, and started writing this. Not because I don’t have other important things to do, on this Wednesday morning, but because this is more important. I know some people will name me traitor for this. But honestly: Enough is enough.
I am human. They are human.
We are the same.
(Written mid-last week)