In the backdrop of Finland’s independence day celebrations Friday and as the world mourns Nelson Mandela’s death yesterday, our country is at a major crossroads contesting whether it wants to be a closed or open society. The historic victory of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party in 2011 is one example how this country has taken a perilous path that brought so much disaster and suffering to this country in the last century.
For the price of cheap sound bites drenched in nationalism and intolerance of every imaginable kind, some Finns are willing to forfeit everything we gained and worked so hard for in the last century.
Nationalism and intolerance never comes cheap. It caused Europe to go down a ruinous path that brought World War 2 to our homes and where an estimated 60 million people perished. The same arguments that led us to such ruin are being used today by short-sighted and opportunistic politicians: generalizing, over-simplifying and harshly victimizing other groups.
Compare anti-Semitism in the 1930s with Islamophobia and xenophobia in the 2010s.
While the time frame and historical context are different, the discourse is the same.
Since intolerance is nothing more than an exaggerated lie, parties like the PS of Finland are constantly required to make up new arguments to hid their prejudice, stereotypes and racism.
If you believe that the PS has toned down its xenophobia and loathing towards refugees, check out what they are doing in the municipality of Kouvola. According to the local daily, Kouvolan Sanomat, the PS wants the city council to stop receiving asylum seekers and quota refugees by 2016.
While the PS blame the economic situation and cost-cutting measures by the municipality for their stance, the truth is that this is a long-term plan by the anti-immigration party to stop Finnish municipalities from receiving quota refugees.
There are two types of municipalities in Finland today: open and closed. Those municipalities that opt for the closed model will struggle in the face of ever-growing poverty, while those that are open stand a better chance of making it.
One small indicator of our openness is our ability to accept refugees in our municipality. Accepting them is an important gesture and message to others because it shows that we are open to the suffering of others.
Finland’s map of shame. Only a handful of municipalities in Finland accept quota refugees last year.
Why would a company invest or a skilled immigrant move to a municipality that is hostile to other groups like refugees?
That is why those who claim to be patriotic while they spread hatred and racism are the real menace to our society. They are impoverishing our society economically, socially and robbing it off its greatest asset: the ability to help others in need.
Imagine that the third-largest political party in parliament in Finland is doing just that by inflating our nationalism to bash immigrants, the EU, and our ever-growing cultural diversity.
But the good news is that our ever-growing cultural diversity is here to stay no matter how much some try to exclude and make it invisible.