an Old West utopia in the Swedish countryside

In the little playhouse in our backyard there hang bear curtains, Old West bear curtains. They are the only truly non-Swedish touch to the red and white replica of a quintessential Swedish farm house, part of our own little Bullerbyn (see Astrid Lindgren books and movie).

At first glance, I groaned at the curtains. Not again. Not another tone deaf moment in Sweden, another thing that we have to rip down around here even though NK saw me eyeing the curtains and grabbed them and said, “My curtains! Not Daddy’s curtains!”

But then I took a closer look, and I saw bear cowboys and bear blacksmiths and bear saloon keepers, and, of course, bear Indians. And the bear Indians rode their horses proudly among the others, just another type of bear on the bear street. A female Indian bear carried her bear cub in a sling on her back as she walked past the store.

Hey! Attachment parenting! We have three slings!

These dated Swedish curtains actually presented something new to me – a vision of a Western utopia, of what could have been, of European immigrants and Native Americans coexisting peacefully.

We almost never see that in America, any sense of lost chances. We see plenty about the horrors but not even a daydream of how it might have worked (Thanksgiving the exception to prove the rule). We get alternative histories on the Revolution, on the Civil War, on World War II. We never get alternative histories on “we did not slaughter the Indians.”

That is sad. To think disaster was inevitable, or at least so complete that we can not even imagine an America without wars and broken treaties and a violent taking of a vast land.

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