By Enrique Tessieri
When I moved back to Finland over thirty years ago I left behind a troubled world: the scars of the Vietnam War, Watergate, dog-eat-dog capitalism, and the dirty war of Argentina (1976-83), which wiped out a whole generation including me.
When I came back to live in this country in December 1978, Finland was a scarred nation using its nationalism and muffled pain to cure its wounds. The country had suffered four wars since its independence in 1917 and was in the midst of a long one, the cold war.
Even if those wars had left deep scars on the people of my mother’s country of birth, I felt back in the late-1970s that Finland would still be the best country to build a home and raise a family.
Due to my naivety and romantic views injected in me by the unforgettable summers I spent with my grandparents in the woods of eastern Finland when I lived in Southern California, the culture shock I endured during those first years upon my return were harsh to say the least.
The first shock that I encountered was that I was officially a foreigner to the authorities. There was no law (until 1983) that regulated immigration policy at the time. Finnish citizenship was only granted to children with Finnish fathers.
In 1984 the law changed to include mothers.
During my thirty-odd years in Finland, I have led a rewarding life but I have spent most of those years as an outsider looking in.
An eerie sense of déjà-vu has, however, come to haunt me these days in Finland: McDonalds, USAmerican greediness, globalization, the streamlining of the social welfare state, polarization of our society and, worse, the rise of a right-wing populist party that has declared war on people like myself.
Should I have paid more attention to history and attempted to understand the circumstances why my great grandparents left the Old World and never returned?
If I look at the ever-growing strife and polarization in our society especially after the April 17 election, I am certain that many of the signs in the air today (in a different historical context) explain why my late relatives left Europe and never came back.
Listening to the hate speech of people like Jussi Halla-aho and his ideological cronies and extremist followers, it’s pretty clear that something is not only very wrong in Finland but in Europe as well.
Massive emigration from Europe to the Americas will not save us from ourselves as in the past. That is why we must face the threat and challenges here unless we want to repeat the horrors of past generations.