How do we look at war?

"That smell - the smell of death - was everywhere all the time."(Mason p.223)

While reading In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason we found ourselves not quite understanding how the characters in the book related to war. It feels like we have different views when it comes to war and fighting. We have not had a war in Sweden since the beginning of the 19th century. That is probably one of the reasons why we Swedes have a different opinion about war than the Americans have.

In our opinion people in the United States of America are more proud of their country than we are of Sweden. Of course we are proud of being Swedes but not to the point where we scream and shout about it. We are keeping a low profile, which means that we do not go around bragging about our country. We think that Americans are taught from an early age to think that their country is the best and that they should be really proud of it and stand up for their nation. The national anthem of the States is an example of how the children of America are being raised to feel proudness in their hearts. Just look at the final line in the song; "The land of the free and the home of the brave." They are taught that they should stand up for their country, that they are the nation that should stand for the free and the brave, and that is probably one reason for them to want to fight for their country.We Swedes are not even able to wave our flag without being seen as racists, which is quite a sad development of our society. In American movies such as Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbour we often see patriotism. There might be an American soldier saving their country from harm or helping the world to become a better place. Then they return as heroes to their beautiful America, waving their flag in the air.

This is a clip from the movie Born on the 4th of July.

This is the way we think of the States and their inhabitants and we probably have Hollywood to thank for that. The movies from Hollywood and what we see on the news are almost all the information we in Sweden get about war. We think that Americans gladly go out to war to defend their country against all the evil in the world. They see it as a privilige to fight for their country like their fathers and grandfathers have done before them.In the book In Country we can read the following:

"If there was a war, would you sign up?" Sam asked Lonnie. "It depends. But if America needs defending, then I couldn´t stand back, could I?" "That was what Emmett thought." Bud said, "I was lucky, I guess, to be between wars. But I never felt right about it. My daddy and his daddy both fought, and I felt like I missed out on something important." (p.86)

In Sweden we do not have a tradition like this. All we think about when we hear the word war is death and misery. There is nothing glorious about it at all. If there would be a war in Sweden of course we would take up arms and defend ourselves but we would not see it as something heroic, more like something we do out of duty.