Summer is drawing to a close, and typically I’d be looking forward to a fresh start in the autumn, which I always considered the beginning of the year (a legacy of too much schooling I suppose), but this time it feels different.
Over the summer holiday, I spent three sweltering weeks in the Swedish countryside, where months of abnormally hot temperatures had left the usually green nature so burnt it resembled a wasteland. On the farming fields surrounding the village where we stayed, crops were failing to thrive, and the customary countryside walk left our shoes and legs covered in a thick layer of sand and dust.
Water was scarce, so in lieu of a shower, we made daily trips to the beach to cool our overheated bodies in the sea. Every day I hoped for rain, but it never came.
This was a summer like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my native Sweden. The heat was oppressive, the air stifling, and some days the sea water was as warm as a tepid bath. In several parts of the country, firefighters were struggling to tame up to eighty wildfires caused by the hot, arid weather.
‘It’s the apocalypse,’ I thought. ‘We’re burning up.’
On the night of the lunar eclipse, the sky was too cloudy for us to be able to fully take in the spectacular sight of the ‘blood moon’; the burnt meatball in the sky left my daughter and me hugely underwhelmed.
If nature doesn’t kill us first, politics will. The farce otherwise known as Brexit continues to move, snail’s pace, towards the precipice, and with the looming threat of a no-deal, millions of British and EU citizens’ lives are caught up in a massive game of Russian roulette.
Meanwhile, right-wing politics have gone mainstream in Sweden and with elections only a week away, there’s a real possibility that the anti-immigrant, Islamophobic Sweden Democrats could substantially increase their mandate, overtaking the conservative ‘Moderates’ as the second largest party. Although the other parties vow never to work with the Sweden Democrats, that promise might well be forgotten once the election results are in and the power grabbing begins.
In the United States, scandals involving Donald Trump seem never ending but, in a Houdini-like fashion, he somehow pulls off one escape act after another, and though the possibility of impeachment is again being spoken of, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The other day, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with dinner out and a trip to the movies, were we saw Spike Lee’s latest offering, Blackklansman. It’s a biographical comedy-drama about Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer who, in the 1970s, successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan by posing as a white racist in a series of phone conversations with Klan members, including David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan at the time.
Lest anyone thought that racism and white supremacy was a thing of the past, the film closes with footage from the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, including footage of David Duke who was in attendance, as well as a video recording of Donald Trump failing to condemn the white supremacist violence.
Deeply shaken, my husband and I staggered out of the cinema afterwards, any thoughts of a romantic tête-à-tête wholly gone.
Europe and the US, the bastions of Western democracy, are reeling under the weight of right-wing politics, deeply rooted racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and this is not the time to be complacent about our democratic systems. Not unlike marriages, democracies depend on continuous nurturing to survive and thrive.
Having spent much of the summer vacillating over which party to vote for in the Swedish elections next week, I finally took the bus down to the Swedish Embassy in London earlier today and cast my vote. Normally I’d despair at the sight of a long queue, but today I was only too pleased to see so many London-based Swedes taking time off to cast their vote in an election that is shaping up to become a de facto referendum on Swedish democracy.
If the summer had an apocalyptic feel to it, what kind of winter might we expect?