First of all, I would like to express my profound, heartfelt respect for your continued criticism of modern-day politics and our culture (rather, the eerie abomination we now refer to as “culture”)….
I would also like to apologize straight away for my rather “bleak” language: Despite the fact that I have lived in the U.S. for more than 50 years (I hail from Sweden), I have never been able to truly perfect my languages skills, perhaps because I was an engineer—a “nerd”—and my “language department” is thus direly lacking in ability.
I am 70, while my dear wife is 75. At this stage, people start (at least they used to) to think intensely about the eternal and the transcendent, about what will be left after their looming departure. They start analyzing the world around them on a deeper level.
A few years ago I traveled to Sweden with my mother, who was 90 at that point, to revive our memories of the country as well as satisfy my mother’s burning desire to see her motherland (which, understandably, has a special place in her heart) before death. In short, I wish we had not visited the country, for it simply has gone out of existence.
My mother managed to retain the authentic spirit of Swedish Protestant ethics, now officially extinct. She diligently worked throughout her life, had a large family and, metaphorically speaking, always looked up at the sky and “saw” God. She had values, culture to honor and cherish and “humble pride” in her rich heritage. There was purpose in her existence. She always remembered her ancestors, who had built the magnificent world around her, and felt enormous responsibility before them. She knew the notion of “awe” well (sadly, the notion has perished; people feel only disdain, scorn and contempt). They had set high standards for her and it was a tall order indeed to live up to them. She, as a matter of fact, had a different face—she, unlike the today’s youth, didn’t have a vacant look.
When we arrived, I immediately realized that the Sweden I had once come to love was gone. My mother distinctly felt the dramatic change, fluttering in the air, as well. Faces were different; manners, culture were different; newspapers were different. The country in which we found ourselves was sheer chaos; people were lowly cockroaches rather than human beings carved in the image of God.
After conversing with one Swede, whom I had previously known, it struck me that he didn’t realize he was Swedish in the first place—he possessed no national identity. He was a socialist, a consumer, a nice chap, but he was no Swede.
Later on, I related the story behind our traveling to Sweden to him and was amazed by his response. He instantly began vigorously advising us to pay a visit to a number of first-rate restaurants and shops. To reduce Sweden to restaurants and shops is a ruthless crime. To fail to understand the sentiments of the two who returned to their motherland is mind-boggling. Is it our culture, our people?
Obviously, all countries evolve and Man is bound to perpetually miss the sweet world of his childhood and youth, but Sweden regressed and ceased being “Sweden.” The whole West is no longer “Western,” unless we are speaking about a purely geographical concept.
My mother died devastated, as her world was dying with her. Her mother, as she earlier told me, had died full of fervent hopes—she knew her children would keep on working hard, praying sincerely and making the world a better place.
I attempted to comfort her by saying that the Republican Party did exist and did aim to protect our values, at least on paper. “The spirit is dead and, when the spirit is dead, there is absolutely no hope. Values will go down the drain eventually, sooner or later.”
Now I am also “a boring old fart,” as I was recently tagged by a youngster, and am also pondering the future. Democrats are bringing up young liberals; Republicans are bringing up young “conservatives.” Do we have successors? Can our values make a comeback? When we die, will our world and our values and ethics die as well? Can we turn the tide?
Thank you again for your important work.
My letter is largely pointless and should be treated as a cry of desperation.