The fear of riots reaches our neighborhood

I got this e-mail from the US Embassy the other day, just after I reassured my mother that we were far from any trouble.

On Sunday, May 19, more than 100 cars were set on fire by rioters in the northern Stockholm suburb of Husby in protest over a police shooting. Similar incidents occurred on the nights of May 20-23, spreading into other areas near Stockholm. Swedish police have made several arrests and consider the situation contained. However, due to the potential escalation of the riots, the U.S. Embassy cautions U.S. citizens to avoid the following areas during the next several evenings: Husby, Tensta, Kista, Rinkeby, Fittja, Jakobsberg, Solna-Hagalund, Sollentuna, Skogås, Hagsätra, Skarpnäck, Vårberg, Skärholmen, Jordbro, Fruängen, Salem, Farsta, Rågsved, Bredäng and Älvsjö.

Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. We recommend that U.S citizens avoid the areas where such demonstrations are occurring if possible, and, as always, exercise caution in the vicinity of any parades or protests. We also advise you to stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Included in the list of neighborhoods is the one just across the “big road” from us and where my daughter goes to school.  There have been no problems there at all, and we love the “immigrant school” in the neighborhood (the one where all the kids speak great Swedish because what else would they speak?  It’s too diverse).

I can’t decide whether to be offended that the US Embassy lumped every immigrant-dominated neighborhood together or acknowledge they are being realistic and that the US Embassy has not caused the social divisions and unrest in Sweden.

Then last night a preschool burned down in the other direction in a rich neighborhood, and even if it’s only an accident, which it seems to be, it’s got people jumpy.  But maybe it will also get their attention, just like the kids burning cars want, and deserve (because even if the kids are basically criminals, it takes a lot of neglect to produce a core of tough, drug-addicted young men to burn all those cars).

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Sweden turning to 24-7 child care

Preschool is a route out of poverty, it gets women in the workforce, and it reduces financial burdens on the working poor.  It also can help mitigate developmental differences that come from growing up in poverty, which means better qualified workers in the long run.

Norfors summed this up when she wrote: “Without preschools, we would not have among the highest female and maternal employment rates in the European Union, or the lowest levels of child poverty.”

This is absolutely true, and it is a huge improvement on the American system, which makes families—especially those less well off—scramble at best and dump their kids in dangerous child care at worst. But the Swedish policies also shine a bright, pragmatic light on the price that young children and their parents are paying all over the globe as work speeds up, even in the midst of a global slowdown.

via Mom’s at work? Sweden’s solution is round-the-clock preschools – Quartz.

This is from a post I wrote recently for Quartz.  It’s based on a USD 16 million grant the Swedish government has for expanding childcare hours.  I’m all for it, of course, especially compared to the Hell of American Daycare, as the New Republican recently put it.  But I still stand by my ambivalence that all these kids need to be mainstreamed into child care so early.

I still want three years of parental leave.  But what Sweden’s got is still the best around.

the unspoken rationale for America’s crappy social safety net

On the contrary, much of the unspoken rationale for America’s crappy social safety net—with work-based healthcare and no day care and so on—is the continuing image of the 1950s family as an ur-standard. You don’t need day care because mom’s at home; you don’t need government healthcare because all the daddies work. Articles like Drexler’s, which erase the past, paradoxically keep those antiquated gender roles around. The “traditional” family is always something we’ve just left behind, always something we’re just adjusting to. The truth, though, is that these changes are of long standing, and the adjustments we need to make have little to do with the ambivalent feelings of male millennials, and a whole lot to do with policy changes that are long, long past their time.

via Hey, the Gender-Role Revolution Started Way Before the Millennial Generation – Noah Berlatsky – The Atlantic.’

It’s tough in the US because the society hasn’t moved en masse but here and there, region by region, class by class. How do you judge how people perceive a massive social shift?  In Sweden, they instituted nation-wide rules in the 60s and 70s and everyone shifted accordingly, even if it’s slow going.

A Glimpse of Daddyland at the Eurovision Song Contest

We missed this at first go, as my kids got bored about mediocre song number 20. But this musical number from the show pretty much sums up Sweden … and you have to love the men with strollers (about 3 minutes in).

I also wrote a post for Quartz about Eurovision, calling the competition to pick the Swedish winner the Swedish equivalent to March Madness.

Talking about fandom, fathers and the violence of football

My daughter is a die-hard fan of AIK soccer here in Stockholm.  She is five.  I have never mentioned AIK, except in relation to their stadium, which is in our town.  But she picked up AIK fever at preschool, even though she has no idea about the reality of AIK soccer.  She just loves the black and gold and knows that they “win a lot” (this is debatable).  You can probably read in between the lines my ambivalence.  I am not an AIK fan.  I am a fan of other, American, teams.  I appreciate much of AIK’s history and the devotion of the fans and their association with our town.  I do not like the hooligans, who piss outside our window and drink in our park and once rioted (really) right outside my sleeping childrens’ window.

I also think soccer is boring.  I also do not like that her sports world is not revolving around me.  This is what I get for swearing off watching sports on TV.

Still, this makes me think what I do want her to like.  Baseball?  Definitely.  Basketball?  Absolutely, and this is the local sport I push the most.  American football?  Oooh, I get tortured.  I still can’t shake football or my love of the Buffalo Bills, and I definitely do not want my son to play.  But can I replace the Bills with AIK?

Should I Quit Watching Football For My Kids?:  OK, I wrote this story back in 2010.  And it led to a radio profile on The Story from American Public Media.  Everything still holds here, however, on my ambivalence about the nature of football’s violence, its culture, and the concussions.  How can I even watch the NFL now that we know about the concussions?  I don’t know.  Now I feel bad.

The Saints, Head-hunting, and (another) disaster for the NFL:  I feel less bad after I read this by Charles Pierce.  At least I am trending the right direction.  I too feel the slow slide of football away from the realm of baseball and basketball and more towards boxing.  It may take decades, but I’m not sure the hyper-controlling NFL can put the concussion genie back in the bottle.  And I really don’t think they’ll build helmets that solve the problem, at least fast enough.

For years, sensitive people in and out of my business drew a bright moral line between boxing and football. Boxing, they said, gently stroking their personal ethical code as if they were petting a cat, is a sport where the athletes are deliberately trying to injure each other. On the other hand, football is a violent sport wherein crippling injuries are merely an inevitable byproduct of the game. I always admired their ability to make so measured — and so cosmetic — a moral judgment. This was how those sensitive people justified condemning boxing while celebrating football, and, I suspect, how many of them managed to sleep at night after doing so.

How We Become Sports Fans:  The Tyranny of Fathers:  This is the article that makes me feel worst about my kid’s AIK fascination.  As a sports-loving dad, I am supposed to be dominant here.  And my daughter does say she likes the Bills “too.”  And while I picked up my father’s love of football, I did not pick up his team (Detroit).  I went for Buffalo, where we lived.  In fact, I did this about when I was five.  But I don’t even like soccer!  Ahhhhh.

But, wait, maybe it’s a good thing she likes AIK.  Maybe it means she doesn’t need to bond with me over sports.  Because we bond over doing goofy dances together instead …

Dads are more emotionally remote than moms, except when they’re watching sports, and that’s the crack in the ice that kids naturally choose to exploit. If Dad laughs, cries and high fives about the Red Sox, his kids are going to use the Red Sox to laugh, cry and high-five with him.

Do Sports Build Character?:  The big money question.  Does all our sports obsession mean anything?  Are we kidding ourselves that we are somehow tapped into the Greek ethos, the YMCS ethos, of building character through sport?  This is a long, rambling article but at least it is asking the question, one that we don’t usually even dare to bring up in American pop culture.

And, heck, he features Plato and Lawrence Taylor extensively.  Got to appreciate that, even with a wishy-washy conclusion that Plato and LT would knock off the field.

In Plato’s spirit, one must give the thymotic drives of the soul full recognition and reasonable play, but at the same time keep them in check. This is an ideal—Hector’s ideal, we might call it—and it is not impossible to attain. But there is something in the drive for glory that despises all reflection. A certain sort of glory-seeking must in fact overcome reflection, as Achilles shows, and go headlong. So sports will always be a world of danger, as well as one rich with humane possibility.

More photography from the eyes of my five year old

More photos from my daughter, who goes on these picture-taking sprees with her beat up Fisher Price camera with the worst lens ever.

I gotta get her a real camera.  These are not necessarily the best, just the clearest.  But they still have a certain preschool je ne sais quois …

There has been a self-portrait phase.  Notice the dress from when she was two years old, plus the one glove, a la Michael Jackson.  Very funky.

In the laundry room.

We still like hearts, though less than before.

She also likes to photograph details from books and her own drawings.  These are usually beyond her high-powered Fisher Price, but this flower detail came out beautifully.