Even if I have lived most of my adult life in Finland and my mother is Finnish, I’m still asked occasionally where I’m from. In a spirit of mutual respect, I ask the person the same question. Some don’t like it.
The innocent question, where are you from, reveals a lot about our prejudices and ignorance about who we consider Finns.
In order to emphasize their Finnishness at the cost of your Otherness, you’ll even get sometimes a lesson in race-and-blood myths and how their ancestors have lived for centuries in Finland.
When faced with such exclusive views of who is a Finn, I ask them how many ancestors they’d have if they went back 20 generations. The answer is about one million.
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Then there are those who claim they are as old as Methuselah, a biblical figure who died at the age of 969. Those who play Methuselah claim that their great grandparents fought in this and that war and built this land from scratch even if they had never seen war never mind suffered poverty.
I ask them a simple question: Are you 150 years old?
One matter that gives hope about building a more inclusive society is that we are still a young nation. Our national identity, which is nothing more than a social construct, was built by and large on wars and our loathing of Russia. This must change in order to make our society more inclusive and acceptant of cultural diversity.
Certainly we should respect our veterans. Even if they had no choice but to fight in trenches and die in battlefields, we don’t have to be there with them since the Winter (1939-40) and Continuation War (1941-44) ended over sixty years ago. We have to forgive and move on. The longer we stay in those trenches the longer we’ll be resentful and suspicious of the outside world.
Despite all the challenges facing us during this century as we become a culturally diverse society, I’m confident that we’ll succeed at the task.
Our Nordic democratic social welfare state values and the spirit of our laws ensure success.