By Erik Daarstad
Ever since President Trump made the comment in a meeting at the White House about Norwegians vs. inhabitants of certain “s-hole” countries, it has become a much discussed and re-visited subject at our morning roundtable at Tango Café. Since I’m the only full-blooded Norwegian at the table, I have received much ribbing and various comments accompanied by much laughter.
Yesterday’s Spokesman-Review had an article by a Washington Post columnist entitled “Dear Mr. President: No Norwegians,” a tongue-in-cheek piece that dealt with many of the benefits that Norwegians enjoy like universal healthcare, long vacations, superior free education and equal pay. This created much conversation and suggestions around the table. Rex suggested creating a bumper sticker for my car reading “I’m Norwegian and You’re Not,” somebody else wanted to create a table centerpiece that would proclaim the presence and celebration of a real Norwegian.
I decided to go online and find out more about the reaction to Trump’s statement, both from sources in Norway and my hometown as well as from people in other places. The predominant reaction was, “Why in the world would we come there!”
Emigration from Norway to the U.S. hit its peak in 1882 when almost 29,000 mostly poor Norwegians crossed the Atlantic. In 2016, however, only 1,114 Norwegians moved to the U.S. while 1,603 Americans moved to Norway. “Why would people from Norway want to emigrate here? They have actual health care and longer life expectancy,” tweeted the author Stephen King. And in 2017 Norwegians were declared the happiest people on earth.
Norway is also not any longer quite as homogenous or white as Trump may think. About 17 percent of inhabitants are immigrants or children of immigrants — largely refugees from many corners of the world.
On Norwegian TV there were interviews asking people if they wanted to move to the U.S. None said they wanted to leave. “Absolutely not,” proclaimed one man while a woman broke into raucous laughter and added, “Maybe if they get a new president.”
Christian Christensen tweeted: “Of course people from Norway would love to move to a country where people are far more likely to be shot, live in poverty, get no healthcare because they’re poor. Get no paid parental leave or subsidized daycare and see fewer women in political power.”
Brian Hjelle: “My parents came from Norway. God rest their souls. If they were alive today, they would know better.”
Many expressed: “Why would we move to a country with a “s-hole” President?”
Jill Filipovic: “Funny how Norway isn’t a “s-hole country” despite embracing everything Trump supposedly abhors: high taxes, big government, liberal social values, something resembling socialism.”
Yesterday morning I received an email from Freida, a dear friend of mine in Santa Monica, Calif. She started with a short greeting: “We’re lucky to have you here – Your president should give you a medal!”
She attached a graphic showing the comparison of some of the advantages of living in Norway versus in the U.S. I showed this to everybody seated around our Tango round-table. After they took a little time to digest the information, they all looked at me and as if with one voice asked: “WHY ARE YOU HERE?”
Sheepishly I had to answer: “When I arrived as an immigrant in 1958, it was a different time and a different place, but if it was today, it might be a different story with a different ending.”