The Ulf Nilson column, Nordstjernan 02/2009

It’s a good bet that most Swedes watched the Inauguration and particularly The Speech, just like I did.
And everybody who did not listen got his or her fill anyway: Stockholm’s leading newspaper Dagens Nyheter – to give you just one example – devoted 12 pages out of 40 to President Obama. Two of those pages gave the full speech in translation. One page, the last, was a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.
How well I remember that day! I stood maybe 8 meters from King as he spoke those immortal words: "I have a dream…."
At the time, JFK was still in the White House, not yet murdered. The world was truly new (we felt). The two Cuba crises were behind us and the civil rights movement was gathering strength and speed. We would win, we felt – that is, we who were on the side of the angels, who were liberal, pro equality and freedom….
Ah, well, we were right and we were wrong. Maybe the confrontation in the fall of 1962 – when we were close to a cataclysmic nuclear war! – set in motion the forces that led to the demise of the Soviet Union. Maybe (and I believe so) it had been on the slippery slope since it was created, tyranny inevitably leading to its own destruction. Or maybe there are no rules; like the (ooops!) climate, human behavior is impossible to predict.
At any rate, one thing I know. King's 1963 speech reinforced the already strong movement towards the freedom for black people to be just like white people. (Please, do think a little about how white people are!)
On Tuesday last, we saw the culmination of that trend. The new president was inaugurated and he was indeed black. MLK would have been well pleased and so would JFK, not to mention LBJ, who, Texan and all, was actually the president who did most for the Civil Rights movement.
Much to my consternation, I have to confess I found Obama’s speech a bit less than inspirational. Just like during the campaign, he chose to be cautious, staying with secure words and concepts. Good rhetoric but no discernible new thoughts or directions.
So, where do we go from here?
Do I know? No.
Does Obama know?
Of course he knows a whole lot more than all of us that have not been elected president. Yet, the unknowns have much more impact than he - or we - would like. He cannot foresee the way the economic crisis will turn. Will millions of people go on saving their money instead of spending it? Will the banks start lending again? How high will unemployment go?
And so on.
Every person on earth will be, in one way or another, touched by Obama’s actions and decisions. Take Iraq. Take Afghanistan – will he really send more troops to that horrible country where no foreigners have ever won?
What will he do about the Iranian bomb ... maybe only a few months down the road?
And, to round it off, what about Saab?
Yes, Saab. If it doesn’t get money from the Swedish government, it will go bust. Very much the same with Volvo. The American owners, GM and Ford, are playing a very rough game, saying (probably truthfully) that they can not save their Swedish babies. GM is prepared to “donate” some of its German production to Sweden. Fine, but in return for what?
Government money, I suspect. But how much? In what form? And most importantly: Why?
Why should the Swedish tax payers support an American company?
Part of the answer will come from Obama. What will it be?