Time has run out for places like Noma

Showing our distain for the treatment, employees in the culinary world must endure can be done when being mindful of where we put our money.

The closest I’ve come to dining at the world-renowned Danish restaurant Noma was when I visited The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. The chef used to work at the famous Copenhagen restaurant.

Sipping on my sparkling bubbles at an outdoor patio overlooking the Puget Sound, the tranquil atmosphere was abruptly interrupted when an infernal noise erupted. A mixture of shrill shouts, chants, megaphones, and musical instruments handled so effectively that every note that was out of tune reached me and the other guests.

“I’ll go talk to them,” I told my husband. All he wanted was to enjoy an evening without kids, hold hands, and have a private conversation. But he knows me well enough, so he didn´t object.

“What are you protesting against?” I asked them.

The person in charge told me about unpaid wages, inhumane working conditions, non-existent overtime pay and sexual assaults.

We often talk about that night. Not because the food left an impression, it was rather boring and predictable – but because that night we got to talk about what gentrification does to a community and about, and I understand this may come across as a bit of a white woman´s privilege, that we as consumers have a choices to make when it comes showing our values by being mindful of what we decide to spend our money on.

Had I known that the restaurant on Lummi Island with its 900 residents was at the center of a controversial case about pay, gender discrimination and physical and psychological abuse, I would never have set foot in that place – regardless if the food had been world class or not.

This weekend I watched the movie “The Menu” and couldn’t help but think of Noma and other high-ranking Michelin-aiming restaurants known for unacceptable working conditions.

The mood has changed, the winds are blowing in a different direction. It’s no longer cool to brag about having been to Noma – on the contrary, it’s almost considered a distasteful waste of money that could have been spent in so many other useful ways. The Menu points a finger, claiming that dining at a high-end Michelin restaurant is like a metafiction. The clown is the guest who leaves behind thousands of dollars on the restaurant table where he has been taken for a fool all night. Through a nonsense avantgarde description of food, the guest is tricked into believing that what he consumes is art – and so what ends up in the toilet is praised through a dance of words.

It is not benign things kitchen workers at Noma must put up with: odd working hours, being treated like brainless amoebas, physical and psychological abuse, poor pay, etc.

In the film “The Menu” it is clear that the emperor has no clothes in the sense that one of the guests, a woman who does not belong to the one percent of the population who can afford to eat at a fancy Michelin restaurant, lets the chef know that his food is boring and that she would rather have a cheeseburger.

Maybe it’s time to tear down restaurants instead of the people who work in them? And maybe it’s time for us as guests to make choices that don’t show what sophisticated avantgarde-ish we are. Maybe it´s time to stand up for people who´s working conditions we would never ourselves accept?


Tiden er løbet fra Noma

Med pengepungen kan vi vise vores modstand over for den behandling, medarbejdere i den kulinariske verden arbejder under.

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Egregious contempt from Danish politicians towards their constituents.

Gaslighting the Danish population is what comes to mind, when hearing politicians attempting to reason why they want to slash a holiday that dates back to 1686 arguing that an extra day at work will finance a stronger defense system.

Denmark is in dire need of manpower, the welfare state is not functioning properly because of a shortage in key positions within the public sector. Here is an idea: Instead of punishing hard-working Danes, how about getting those on welfare into the labor force?

“Immigration to Denmark must not challenge cohesion,” reads one of the headlines in the Ministry of Immigration and Integration’s report “Status on integration” from May last year.

The Danish population has changed significantly over the past 40 years. In 1980 I was five years old – back then approximately 51,000 immigrants and descendants with a non-Western background lived in the country. Today, the number is more than 500,000. This would not be a problem if integration and assimilation had followed, but unfortunately it did not. Who and what is to be blamed for this can be debated endlessly.

Similarly, we can debate whether the extra working day Danes are facing will finances tax breaks or more welfare. The answer will depend on whether your glasses are blue or red toned. The fact is that far too few with a non-Western background living in Denmark are participating in the work force. The fact is also, that hard-working Danes get up every day and contribute their share by going to work. Through their taxes, they pay for those without the same sense of responsibility – people who enjoy living a safe and comfortable life in Denmark with free healthcare, childcare, education, rent etc. – without ever feeling the need to contribute to the welfare state they have been invited into.

How dedicated is Denmark really? After all, they do not reach the goal of the commitment they made decades ago of 2 percent of GDP for their defense system until the year 2030.

The welfare system in Denmark is fantastic. Most people agree on that. My grandmother never missed a chance to tell me what the Social Democrats and the unions did for the life her children and grandchildren were able to live. I am, and will always be, grateful for the opportunities I and other Danes have enjoyed and benefitted from. Danes inside and outside the country’s borders are proud of the Danish model. I am one of them. As an Lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle, I have lectured classes on how amazing a country Denmark is and how well we take care of our citizens.

But I have also had to teach the students that the welfare model requires a population with values that are alligned; that one must be able to identify with one’s neighbor in order for the system to work. It is easier to get people to accept a high level of taxes if you feel you are paying to someone similar to yourself – in appearance and in culture. A welfare system works when the population is fairly homogeneous. You must believe that when you are able, you have an obligation to contribute to society via being a part of the work force. Similarly, when you are in need, you can rest assured that you have the right to benefit from the welfare system.

Denmark is no longer like that. The model only works if everyone feel like this and if the life cycle of a citizens life is predictable. But the more diverse a population is, the more difficult it is to predict, the more deviations from a homogeneous mass there will be. Therefore, societal changes are necessary for the Danish model to survive. The problem is that politicians cannot say this out loud – for fear of creating division or because they risk being called racists or worse.

That is why they have invented a phrase, they repeat over and over: The reason for slashing a holiday is a need to finance the Danish defense system.

But the argument does not hold up, because Denmark has long ago committed to spending 2 per cent. of GDP – they just never did. Furthermore, this government is far from the first to say that the Danes must sacrifice a holiday in order to finance welfare. The circumstances are the same, now as it was then: lack of tax dollars revenue to fund welfare. The difference between now and then, however, is that previously there was no war in Europe that the Danish politicians could use as an excuse.

So, when Social democrats, Liberals, and the Moderates repeat in one debate after another that taking care of Denmark is their main focus and that the Danes must therefore wholeheartedly pay their share by living up to our international obligations, it is at best hypocrisy if not an outright lie.

How dedicated is Denmark really? After all, they do not reach the goal of the commitment they made decades ago of 2 percent of GDP for their defense system until the year 2030.

It is a “talking point” when politicians repeatedly highlight increased defense spending as the reason for the extra working day. And it is disrespectful and insulting to the Danes not to tell the truth.

Denmark has changed from when previous generations created our fantastic welfare system. Unfortunately, some would rather reap the benefits than contribute to the society they are a part of. As long as no one has the guts to say this out loud, the utility worker, the caregiver, and other working groups will slave away every day, while other groups sit back while sipping mint tea in stead of feeling obligated to take part in the community that takes such good care of them.


Tror politikerne, danskerne er idioter, når de siger, store bededag skal finansiere mere forsvar?

Danmark mangler arbejdskraft. Så hvad med at få dem, der ikke yder, ud på arbejdsmarkedet i stedet for at straffe hårdtarbejdende danskere?

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Jehovah´s Witnesses violate the rights of children

Exclusion of minor children is in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Norway’s State Administration has settled a case in which it determines that children’s rights are violated when Jehovah’s Witnesses practice their exclusion methods. Children are exposed to negative social control and are held accountable within the organization´s closed legal system – and are judged as adults. All children deserve the same level of rights, not just Norwegian children.

If you are registered as a “recognized religious community” (Act no. 1533 of 19 December 2017 on religious communities outside the national church) in Denmark, you have a number of financial advantages regarding (property) tax and VAT. In addition, members can donate a tax-dectable amount.

In Norway, brave members of Jehovah´s Witnesses contacted the authorities because they felt trapped and did not dare to leave the sect for fear of the personal consequences it would have. Yesterday, Norway’s State Administration announced to the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that the religious freedom of the members is violated when the organization expels its members. The decision does not mean that Jehovah’s Witnesses will disappear from Norway. They can still practice their religion, they just no longer get millions of tax crowns every year, and then they lose the right to seal marriages.

In October, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway were warned that the financial state support was about to end. On the same occasion, the organization was asked whether it wanted to change its exclusionary practices so that it could continue receiving government support. To that, the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization replied no. At the same time, the organization hired a high-profile lawyer.

Jehovah’s Witnesses practice what was previously known as “excommunication” and has since changed name to “exclusion,” probably to create an illusion to the public of a softer punishment.

But excommunication is exactly the same as exclusion. In practice, it means that you are dead to your family and former friends. I know how it works, because I have experienced it myself. If you are walking in the street and pass someone you have known since you were a child, he must pass you by without acknowledging you. If you call home, your parents must hang up immediately. No contact, whatsoever, is allowed. If you become desperate and show up outside your parents’ doorstep, they must must close the door on you – the treatment of an excommunicated member is the same, no matter how old or young he or she is. Imagine how many excommunicated members die from suicide or go back into the cult – not to mention those who do not dare to leave for fear of the treatment they know they will have to endure.

That is precisely why Norway has now had enough. It is inhumane to treat especially children and young adults like this. When I confronted my mom with this, I was told that had made the choice when I chose to be baptized and therefore knew the consequences when I chose to leave the sect. To be clear, I was baptized two weeks after my 14th birthday, had not yet had my first period, had never been in love, or kissed a boy – in short, I had accepted restrictions, I had no understanding of.

The sect strongly encourages you to get baptized as early as possible – after that you are reliable for your actions according to their rules and restrictions. You are held accountable for your actions on equal terms with adults. I have heard of children as young as 8 who have been baptized – and judged as adults when they start asking questions or breaking the sect’s rules.

There has been a citizens’ proposal to deprive Jehovah’s Witnesses in Denmark of their recognition as a religious community. Unfortunately, not enough signed the petition for the Danish Parliament to consider the proposal.

That’s a shame. On the one hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses are immensely happy to receive the economic benefits that the Danish state provides, on the other hand, such a state-supported economy is de facto a symbol of accepting the inhumane, sectarian doomsday cult’s practice, which, with its Gestapo methods, forces the members to rat on each other – with severe personal consequences.

So, what has been Jehovah’s Witnesses reaction to the decision in Norway? Ironically, they state that they are a persecuted minority, that their freedom of religion is challenged, that they are the victims of a crusade that tries to make the lives of the witnesses as difficult as possible, and pressure them to change the interpretation and practice of the Bible’s message, which they of course “have no intention” of doing. It is tragicomic to see how their manipulative rhetoric trickery is turned upside down.

My hope is that more countries will look to Norway as a pioneering country – not only when it comes to financial support and lucrative tax-exemptions for Jehovah’s Witnesses, but for all religious communities, cults, and sect organizations that take children and young people hostage and use social control contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and general common sense. The state must play a greater role – especially in democratic countries. After all, we can only expect more insane religions and sects on our doorstep in the future.


Børn skal ikke straffes som voksne – men det bliver de inden for Jehovas Vidner

At udstøde mindreårige børn er i strid med Børnekonventionen

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World Cup in Qatar: Dictatorships 1 – Democracy 0

The soccer World Cup was one big victory lap for authoritarian regimes.

“I don´t give a shit! I’m here to watch soccer,’ the Danish soccer fan said on TV.

He was in Qatar to watch the Danish national team play and was asked by a journalist how he felt about the debate about human right violations in the autocratic desert state.

To the democratic-minded journalists who focused on the atrocities – thank you. The Western World Cup journalists who focused on the conditions in Qatar did their best to shine a light and raise awareness, but unfortunately they lost the debate. The rest of the world doesn’t seem to care. The western values have lost, helped by FIFA, who lashed out at Europe and the West, accusing us of double standards and hypocrisy. In the Arab part of the world, that announcement was received with gloating smocks.

If we roll over and denounce our values to enjoy 90 minutes of yelling, high adrenaline, and testosterone-filled roars over 22 young men running around a field, I worry for our democracies in the future.

Sports and politics have always been inextricably intertwined. But focus have changed. Now, the focus is not on money for underprivileged states. Instead, identity and an awareness of privilege. FIFA signaled that it is time for Europe to have a diminished role and that the arrow of influence and power should be pointing elsewhere. Europe was once, due to its colonial empires etc., the villain and must apologize for thousands of years before it can allow itself to criticize the conditions in non-democratic states. So, FIFA is turning its interest towards authoritarian states – I would be suprised if Saudi Arabia doesn´t get to host the World Cup in 2030.

There has been a shift in the debate. Democracy versus autocracy has become the overarching theme and FIFA seems to have picked sides – in favor of autocratic states. Democracy-minded states are facing resistance when trying to focus on human rights violations, and Qatar’s PR machinery have succeeded in bringing together large parts of the Arab and Muslim world and dominate the narrative. Even sports journalists initially concerned with human rights ended up writing more about soccer and less about human rights at the end of the World Cup.

If we roll over and denounce our values to enjoy 90 minutes of yelling, high adrenaline, and testosterone-filled roars over 22 young men running around a field, I worry for our democracies in the future.

Europe’s values were attacked and tested during this World Cup final. Should it have escaped anyone’s attention, democracies are under attack. Apparently, most people in the free Western democracies are indifferent to the conditions women and children and critical voices have to endure, as long as it does not affect their everyday life. We seem to be confident that we will never have to fight for our democratic values in our part of the world. But we are wrong. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent people lose their lives far from our hemisphere, but we don´t care as long as we can gobble down hot dogs and chuck IPAs, and feel entertained.

It’s that easy – if you choose to close your eyes. But doing so is ignorant, selfish, and not particularly far-sighted. The stakes could hardly be any dirtier. History repeats itself – Berlin should never have had the Olympics in 1936, despite a heated public debate in Denmark at the time about the conditions in nazi Germany. Clear minimum requirements should be in place for who is worthy of hosting major sporting events – and in that context, authoritarian states have to be left off the ranking list.

So what does the future look like for major sporting events? – Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have already been granted major sporting events in the near future. So cheers! – sporting events are on their way to take place in dictatorial autocratic states with arenas of human life on these countries conscience.


VM i Qatar: Diktaturstater 1 – Demokrati 0

VM i fodbold var én stor sejrsrunde for autoritære regimer.

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Will Danish public schools be the next ideological battleground?

In the US, worried parents are taking over school boards. Could the same happen in Denmark?

It is a good thing, students learn about their country’s less beautiful areas of history. It is a good thing, attention is being targeted on oppressed groups, minorities, and vulnerable populations. It is part of a student’s school education to learn that life and history are nuanced and that all groups in society are not always treated equal – only by learning about the past can we look forward and try not to repeat the sins of the past and maybe even contribute to making the world a better place.

But it is problematic when the scales tip and focus is only on the sins of the white man and a country’s violation of fundamental humanity. A clear-eyed approach in dealing with multiple elements of the past should include teaching both the oppression of Native Americans and the ancestors of African Americans and the incredible progress that American history offers.

“The Danish public schools have an enormous responsibility for graduating democratically minded citizens who will take part in the Danish society – in a country that is held together, primarily because its so homogeneousity.

Not many places in the US are like that. Where I live, the school children know about countless Indian tribes, but hardly know why they celebrate Thanksgiving . And that’s problematic, because if we don’t know our own history, how can we relate to it? How, then, do we create a generation of citizens without guilt and shame, but with a nuanced awareness of the past, to gain the courage to go out into life uniting, side by side, with young people from other nationalities, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds to make life and society a better place?

Having an informed opinion about statues that symbolize oppression, books in school libraries that preach that a family consists of a father and a mother and a couple of blond kids – in a world that is constantly changing, is forming an opinion to a version of life, that is not one-eyed.

But when the attitude to what a family looks like is rooted in antiquated religious notions with Stone Age views, the Geist, many parents have when it comes to their children’s schooling, can be dangerous.

In the US, we see this especially clearly in rightwinged Christian circles, who try to get certain books banned from school libraries. This is particularly the case with books that have sexual scenes, or books with themes of homosexuality or other LGBTQIA+-community-related themes. Librarians and teachers live a life in fear these days – is school board members find they have exposed their kids to content that goes against their Christian beliefs they highjack the boards and change curriculum and library content according to their beliefs.

The school boards have great power in American schools and are elected for an entire school district, not to an individual school as is the case in Denmark. In America, you have to be an American citizen to run for the school board, in Denmark you just need to be a parent at the school to run. Fortunately, the structure of school boards in Denmark is different, otherwise that would be the blow and decline for a homogeneous Danish society.

The Danish public schools have an enormous responsibility for graduating democratically minded citizens who will take part in Danish society – in a country that is held together, primarily because of its homogeneousity. The Danish democracy is beautiful and works well, and fortunately the school board model also bears its mark.

Still, the individual schools will be challenged and tried in the future. There will be forces trying to shape the public schools in a direction that has a strong focus on religiously based values. Hopefully the implementation or imprinting of various radical teachings will not be able to take over or infiltrate the individual public school. Danish democracy is strong and, in contrast to the USA, the focus is on community and shared basic values, that might be the saving grace for the Danish public schools – and for Denmark.

Bliver folkeskolen den næste ideologiske kampplads?

I USA overtager rabiate elementer skolebestyrelser. Kan det samme ske i Danmark?

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Someone aught to listen to what Mohammed has to say, when Denmark and the European Union are discussing immigration policies.

Europe is experiencing an influx of migrants and refugees that is on par with 2015 and 2016.

EU politicians have been called to an emergency meeting in Brussels. Does the European Union have control over its borders? Can the EU solve the refugee crisis? Should solving the refugee and migrant policies be up to the individual country to deal with?

“Could you please tell your newspaper’s readers what I think about asylum camps?” Mohammed asked as my Uber ride with him was coming to an end.

I was on my way to the airport and, as always when I’m around strangers, I struck up a conversation. Mohammed was originally from Sudan. In Africa, he stayed in four different camps, including one in Burkina Faso, before he was granted asylum in the United States.

“I have family and friends in Europe. I’ve been to Holland, I’ve been to Norway, and I’ve also been to Denmark,” he said. “How did you experience the situation with immigrants and refugees in the countries you visited?” I asked.

“Europe has been naive and brought the wrong people into their countries.” It is not the first time I hear immigrants, refugees, and people in search of a better life in a new country express themselves like this.

“The Europeans are no longer as happy about people coming to their countries, especially not the welfare states to the north.”

“Why do you think that is so?” I asked.

“Your country should make camps in the Middle East and Africa and select those they want, instead of the chaos that is going on now, where young men and extreme Islamists have full access.” The words came as if he was stating the obvious.

“If I say something like that in Denmark, Mohammed, I’m called racist and considered inhuman.” Mohammed looked at me confused. Then he burst out laughing. “You are not a racist”, he laughed, shaking his head.

“The European asylum policy does not work now, nor will it in the future, if the model is not changed.

“It’s about seeing people as equals. Of course, you should receive help if you need it. But the system must be fair.” It felt liberating to be able to speak freely, not least because Mohammed had actually experienced an asylum program, many Danes see as inhumane, racists, and against human rights.

“Views like that ends up in racism in the population! When the wrong people enter a country and ruin it for the rest because they behave badly or don´t work, when they live off other people´s  taxes, then the European populations eventually turn against us.” Mohammed’s deep voice rose, even though I was sitting a few inches from him. “Of course, you have to be thoroughly vetted before you can be sent to a country that has been designated for you. Partly it ensures that those who need asylum get it, and you make sure it´s the right ones, you let in.”

The European asylum policy does not work now, nor will it in the future, if the model is not changed. Approximately 70% of asylum seekers in Europe who have their case dismissed do not leave Europe. Denmark takes in more asylum seekers and refugees than the average in European countries.

In the future, there will be more climate refugees on top of war refugees, and people in search of better economic conditions. Furthermore, population growth in Africa is of such an explosive nature that in a few years one in three of the world’s population will be African. It makes perfect sense that Denmark is considering sending people who come to the country illegally to a safe third country while their case is processed.

The tone was light, a sense of intimate familiarity had developed between us in the time it took to drive from my home to Sea-Tac. When we parted, Mohammed asked if he could give me a hug.

“I didn’t think you could look me in the eyes, shake hands, and give a hug to a woman as a Muslim,” I cheekily said. “That is another thing that many Muslims in Denmark insist on, must be respected.”

Mohammed spread his arms: “Those who are like that have completely misunderstood Islam,” he stated.

We hugged and I thanked him the conversation and the drive, all the while thinking that someone should listen to Mohammed and other reasonable people like him so that Europe can thrive with its new inhabitants now and in the future.

___

Måske burde Mohammed have noget at skulle have sagt, når Danmark og Europa diskuterer asylpolitik?

Europa oplever en tilstrømning af migranter og flygtninge, der er på niveau med 2015 og 2016.

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A bitter taste of hypocrisy and a lack of integrity in the world of soccer

The threat of a yellow card is enough to make soccer players stick their tails between their legs. Meanwhile, violations of human rights cost human lives, every day.

It would have been an honor. It would have been a minimal price to pay – a yellow card for the national team captain for wearing the message ” 1 love” on his armband in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ people. A small price to pay for staying true to one´s values and a convenient statement without actually having to participate in the fight for human rights.

It would have been beautiful. Imagine seeing Western democracies stand up for those who do not have the opportunity to express themselves freely, without facing consequences – in the form of beatings, imprisonment, persecution of family members, or even death. But a gentle pressure and poof – there goes their solidarity down in the gutters. The thought of being met with consequences for standing up for their values in the form of effecting their professional performance and financial future was enough to make them retreat.

I have written about why authoritarian dictatorship states should not be allowed to hold prestigious sporting events (tillykke med kvalifikationen, Danmark). It is a way of legitimizing their regimes, it is a mockery of the thousands of people who have paid with their lives so that our Western well-padded bums can sit and howl during the staged events, orchestrated by deeply anti-democratic and corrupt regimes.

Instead, it is the players on Iran’s national team who are leading the way by refusing to sing along to their country’s national anthem – and according to Amnesty National risk torture when they return to Iran. A country in chaos, where women have been protesting for weeks for freedoms every woman in the West takes for granted – hundreds have paid with their lives, many have been sent to internment camps, and even more have been tortured.

Once again, the West acts like fools. Little by little, the measures that have been negotiated in advance – such as getting a draft beer during football matches – are being withdrawn. But it’s not so much about the draft beer that fans don’t get down their throats – it’s about the fact that you can’t trust regimes that play by completely different rules than those Western countries are used to following. And when you bow your head and model your participation according to views far from those the West stands for – you give the violent regimes the platform they want and the recognition that invites them into the same club as Western democracies – a club they don´t belong to.

Not all countries are equal, that should be ok to say. When FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, in his infantile way said that the West must apologize for the next 3,000 years for the past 3,000 years of misdeeds, it screams to the high heavens. The logic is that the countries that have become wiser, i.e. the Western democracies, in no way have the right to hold countries without respect for general human rights accountable. This means that the killing of LGBTQIA+ people, the killing of women and migrant workers, the oppression of girls, etc., etc., should not be prosecuted and that nothing should be done about the fates of the weakest.

The lesson seems to be that we must close our eyes and rejoice that we live in countries where we do not have to fight for rights as independent, free individuals – and let the rest of the world’s weakest populations carry on as best they can. The soccer players seem to agree: The national Danish team (with DBU as the supreme body) has indicated that they will leave all integrity in the dressing room and crawl onto the field like mice – not like men – unwilling to take advantage of their unique , privileged position to show the onlooking world their solidarity with the world’s weakest and stand up for the values that the West, at a safe distance from the world’s focal points, prides itself on standing for.

___

En besk smag af hykleri og mangel på integritet i fodboldverdenen

Truslen om et gult kort er nok til at fodboldspillere stikker halen mellem benene. Imens koster brud på menneskerettighederne hver dag menneskeliv.

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I wish the US was as civilized as Denmark, when it comes to respecting the democratic process

Democracy is difficult. The Danish election two days ago shows us that the US could learn from Denmark. Meanwhile we are waiting for the American mid-term elections.

There they were, all eleven heads of the Danish political parties, representing the spectrum in Danish politics. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the very night of the parliamentary election. Traditionally, on election night, after all votes have been tallied, all party leaders participate in a joint session on the Danish public service tv channel DR to answer questions from the media. The atmosphere was civil, no one accusing anyone of cheating. I was completely stunned and quite moved. I must have forgotten how a well-functioning democratic process works.

My daughter and I were watching the live broadcast from Seattle. I explained the Danish political system, which she was somewhat confused about. Denmark has a multi-party system and eleven parties are a lot, even for a Dane, but not least for her, being used to the election being between the Democrats and the Republicans.

So, I explained, which is not as easy as one might think, because the Danish parties are close in their set of values and often overlap each other in their positions on individual topics.

“The red parties in Denmark are on the side of the blue bloc in the USA. But even the most conservative parties in Denmark, which is represented by a blue color, have some areas that are more socialist than the blue parties here in the US. The blue parties in Denmark are often more ´red´ than the blue party color of the American Democratic Party.”

My daughter asked questions about ideology and what it takes to get a mandate. “It’s a very complicated system,” she said, until it dawned on her that every vote cast counts—unlike presidential elections here.

When I heard the head of The Green Left (SF), Pia Olsen Dyhr, say that despite the differences in opinions, the representatives from other parties in Parliament (Folketing) are colleagues she likes and respects, I almost wanted to move back to my beautiful, democracy-loving, safe country of origin, Denmark.

“This is too exciting! I am amazed how quickly they count the votes,’ she said, while we watched the DR hosts try to fill out airtime while waiting for the final votes.

“Far fewer people live in Denmark. And the Danes are good at creating efficient systems and believing in the democratic process,” I replied.

The atmosphere I felt when I watched politicians from The Red/Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) bike ride through the streets of Copenhagen, the warmth I felt, when the cameras panned through various rooms in Parliament covered in confetti, showing Danish flags being waved, and nervous, excited looks glued to the latest election numbers on tv screens. I saw smiles, hugs, and groups of people spontaneously breaking out in song. That atmosphere, the USA could learn from.

Democracy is something to be celebrated. When I heard the head of The Green Left (SF) Pia Olsen Dyhr, say that despite the differences in opinions, the representatives from other parties in Parliament (Folketing) are colleagues she likes and respects, I almost wanted to move back to my beautiful, democracy-loving, safe country of origin, Denmark, where the rhetoric, even during an election campaign, is at a level where the politicians do not fear for their lives.

In that context, the political mood in America is starkly different. Many politicians talk to each other in such a disrespectful way you hardly want your kids to hear it. Many refuse to meet each other for debates. On the political arena and among the population, the atmosphere is so toxic that some fear a civil war.

Last week, a man broke into Speaker of the United States House of Representatives house, Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi was not at home. But her 82-year-old husband ended up with a fractured skull and injuries to his body. He is still recovering in the ER. The perpetrator has since stated that he wanted to smash Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps so that other politicians would see what was in store for them.

More than 70 per cent of Republicans in the United States believe that the last presidential election was “stolen” from them – a falsehood that has been refuted again and again by various recounts and by countless court verdicts.

In the US, we don’t get the election results as quickly as other countries do. We must wait and wait and wait because one party in particular, the Republican, want the ballots recounted over and over and because they bring the decision to the courts and drag out the results by appealing even when the margin is significant. By law, they have the right to do so. But when the tally is clear, one must ask whether there is a strategy behind what the republicans are doing.

By dragging out the final election results, citizens lose interest and trust in the system. And that is most likely exactly what the republicans want. In its extreme consequence, that is an eerie thought: if you can destroy faith in democracy and make people believe their vote holds no power, that democracy is too difficult, what then is the alternative? – indifference and acceptance of a totalitarian system brought in through the backdoor.

Democracy is hard. But that does not mean that citizens should turn away from voting and participating – because if we do, we can wave goodbye to the democracy America prides itself of on the global world stage. Maybe America should look to Denmark for showing the world how to respect democracy?

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Tænk, hvis USA var lige så civiliseret, når det kommer til at afholde valg

Demokrati er svært, og USA kunne lære meget af Danmark. Det viste det danske valg, mens vi venter på det amerikanske midtvejsvalg.

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´Tripledemic´? Covid, flu and RSV are ravaging the USA

We have been so careful with Covid precautions that we are now vulnerable to other respiratory ilnesses

“Please test her for the new Corona virus!, ” I begged when I arrived with my sick daughter at our local hospital here in the Seattle area. It was at the beginning of 2020.

It was a different time than the one we now live in. The new virus that ended up ravaging the whole world wasn’t really on people’s radar yet. My daughter was sick—coughing, running a high fever, and showing all the signs of the disease I had heard about on the news – a virus, mind you, where the first detected case in America was a few miles from my home.

It turned out that my daughter had RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). The symptoms are largely identical to both flu and Covid, and after a week at home, where we back then found it rather unfamiliar that she had to wear a mask, she recovered. That same week, the public schools in our school district closed – 540 days passed before she was back in a classroom.

This happened before the full-on outbreak of the pandemic, that ended up putting its clammy, suffocating hands on the world’s population. Still, and I have to say this even though most probably share my burnt-out Covid fatigue, the consequences of the pandemic are far from over.

Seattle Children’s Hospital reports that their capacity is at 200% compared to the same time last year. There is no treatment for RSV, although, ironically, it was research into an RSV vaccine treatment that laid the foundations for the Covid vaccines. For now, the hospitals can only provide relief when a child is admitted with RSV and help with oxygen to help children breathe.

In Denmark, you also see an increase in RSV, the flu numbers are in a normal range, and there is a decrease in positive PCR tests, but an increase in the waste water tests. Is Denmark facing the same development as we see here in the USA?

The authorities in the US are nervous. Covid, flu numbers, which are estimated to be high, and RSV, which is affecting more widely due to a lack of herd immunity. We have been isolated, wearing masks, working from home for so long that, all in all, we face an autumn and a winter with a high proportion of sick people and a strain on our healthcare staff.

The lack of herd immunity is due to the fact that many have worn masks, kept their distance, and worked from home for the last two winters. Our immune systems are not strong enough, so flu and other raspatory illnesses will hit earlier and harder.

Most adults manage RSV without problems and recover after a week or two of cold-like symptoms. Recovering is not as easy for the youngest and oldest citizens, who can develop pneumonia and bronchitis.

In normal times, i.e. before Covid, which, frankly, is hard to remember, children are exposed to a number of viruses in their first two years of life. But because we have been so successful here in wearing a mask and keeping a distance, the children are exposed to clusters of viruses at the same time – which means more serious symptoms and disease progression.

Hospitals from other states are contacting my state, Washington, daily to see if we have bed capacity at our children’s hospitals – all hospitals in the US are under pressure – medical professionals are facing a season where their capacity is pushed to the limit. RSV and influenza have not changed, but we have – because we did the right thing and followed CDC guidelines and the guidelines of our state officials in an effort to protect our children and the elderly.

So, I continue using my disinfecting wipes on surfaces, wash my hands, and tell my kids to do the same. And then I ask myself: when will it end? How many years will pass before we and our children no longer pay the price for the pandemic we so wanted to protect our loved ones from?

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Tri-demi? covid, influenza og RS hærger USA

Vi har været så påpasselige med covid, at vi er blevet sårbare for andre sygdomme.

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The US has changed my values: School shootings have made me favor the death penalty

The victims of mass shootings in the United States are more than those we bury. I do not want to understand the perpetrators of mass shootings. Others must do that. I have no room in my heart to explain and understand why they are also victims.

How do you describe the deepest grief of parents who have lost a child in a school shooting and are now sitting in a courtroom listening to their child’s name and cause of death read out loud while a 22-year-old killer and the rest of the world look on? The other day, CNN broadcast live from a courtroom in Florida, where the perpetrator of the Parkland shooting was to receive his sentencing. At 19, he killed 17 people at a high school with an automatic riffle.

For several days, I have been thinking about how to describe the grief. No words can seem to be sufficient. No matter how we all feel, nothing compares to the feelings of those who loose loved ones.

Grief is hard as flint and soft as a heart. It is expressed in the chain bearing a son’s name in gracefully curved letters above a silver heart around a mother’s neck, it is seen in the upturned red-rimmed eyes fastened to the ceiling of the courtroom, it is evident in the tapping of a manicured index fingernail on a mother’s upper arm, it is present in the gaze set on infinity as the camera zooms in as the name of a son or daughter is read aloud. We watch it, grief, in the involuntary muscle movements around a mouth in an attempt to control emotions in a public space where the world is watching.

In the courtroom, parents, siblings and grandparents were seated across from the defendant, who was awaiting his sentencing. Wiping away tears, I had to look away. To me, the panning seemed too invasive.

But I was also affected because these parents are living my worst nightmare.

For me, it began with the mass shooting at a school for 0.-5. graders, Sandy Hook in 2012, where a 20-year-old man shot 20 children aged six to seven and six adults. At that time, we had been living in the US for two years and were still in that phase where most things were new and exciting.

My children were two and five years old, the same age as many children at the Sandy Hook school. That day, scales fell from my eyes, and I woke up abruptly to the reality that has since been a part of every day life here in the United States. I started telling my kids what to do if they were in the theater with the school and something bad happened; I talked to them about what to do at the cinema, at school – wherever they were if a bad guy did something.

Every month, all children here in the United States have some sort of exercise to prepare them for possible disasters such as “active shooter drills”, bears, earthquakes, lockdown, lockout etc. That´s just part of their everyday school life. My children learn at which angles to hide in their classroom, so that they are not visible from the hallway if there is a gunman at school; they learn to run from school to the nearest neighbor if they are in a situation where they can; they learn to hide in classes while continuing their school work if there is a lockout.

Since the day small children were murdered at Sandy Hook, according to Time, almost 1,000 shootings have taken place at schools and universities in the United States. More than 300,000 children and youth have experienced gun violence in American schools. It is a reality they live with. It is a reality we as parents live with.

I do not want to understand the perpetrators of mass shootings. Others must do that. I have no room in my heart to explain and understand why they are also victims.

My values have shifted since I lived in Denmark. Of course, I was not in favor of the death penalty, what a barbaric thought, what a resigned attitude to the possibility of rehabilitation of fellow human beings! But the USA is not Denmark. Here, a young person can waltz into the nearest gun or sporting goods store and acquire an automatic weapon designed for use in war zones and drive straight to the nearest elementary school, where six and seven-year-old students sit and draw, and gun them down.

So the US has changed my values. I know, research shows that long prison sentences do not equate rehabilitation. But for my faith in the judicial system and in the system overall, I want the death penalty when there is absolutely no doubt about who the perpetrator is and no question of his or her guilt in a heinous and cruel act of criminality such as a school shooting.

The man who murdered 17 people in cold blood at a high school, including the three adults who heroically ran toward the assailant and tried to help the high school students escape, will spend the rest of his life in prison. I would rather see him get electrocuted than a life of more prison violence against officers, love letters from women all over the world, as well as books and films written about his life.

My daughter just started high school. The other day she showed me around her school. “Here is the band room, here we have chemistry, over here algebra.” She is a happy teenager, full of life and a desire for learning. While my eyes darted about, I followed her from classroom to classroom. “How exciting, honey!,” I managed to say before the next sentence flew out of my mouth: “Do you know where the exits are? Do you know how to get out as quickly as possible?’

Without a flinch, she answered in the affirmative. Because we are all victims in this country, and we live with that as best we can.


USA har ændret mine værdier: Skyderierne har gjort, at jeg går ind for dødsstraf

Ofrene for masseskyderier i USA er flere end dem, vi begraver. Jeg forholder mig ikke til gerningsmændene. Det må andre gøre. Der er ikke plads i mit hjerte til at forklare og forstå, hvorfor de også er ofre.

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