On March 3, 1991, Rodney Glen King, a black man, was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers after driving drunk in a high-speed car chase. He was perceived to be resisting arrest, tased, kicked six times, and struck with batons fifty-six timess. His injuries were severe. The incident was videotaped and racial tensions boiled over into riots that resulted in fifty-three deaths, thousands injured, and approximately a billion dollars in damages. King was a troubled man with a criminal history and substance abuse problems. He died recently, was found dead in his swimming pool. The alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine in his system were pronounced the contributing factors to him drowning.
The most memorable moment of the whole tragedy, for many of us, is when King appeared on television and issued a plea to, I assume both the public and the police: “Can we get along?” After having been beaten to a bloody pulp and having his bones broken by vicious thugs empowered by badges, this was his wish. In retrospect, it seems a simple man’s expression of a sentiment stated by a certain Dr. King: “I have a dream.”
I’ve written a series of articles about racism in Finland, and given voice to both immigrants—mostly Muslim people of color—and in the interests of fairness, most recently, presented the resentments toward immigrants of those who term themselves not racists, but “critics of immigration.” The responses I’ve garnered trouble me, and I’ve given a great deal of thought to them.
The feelings of immigrants were largely unsupported rants from disenfranchised people who suffer from severe depression and frustration that they feel is caused by the prejudice of Finns at large. The writers of most of those missives were beaten down emotionally and spiritually. I got the feeling that many are dying inside. They sometimes resorted to the language of hate themselves, denigrating Finns as a culture of people of the worst sort: racist, ignorant, emotionless, bitter, and venomous. Perhaps I was wrong to do so, but I overlooked that ugliness, as I considered it the result of the hopelessness of the lost and damned. My intention was to try to increase awareness in Finnish society that there is a largely ignored segment of the population on the verge of suicide, and they need help
Some time ago, I offered to give voice to the opposition, to the so-called “critics of immigration.” I made an open offer to let a representative air his/her views as a guest blogger on my website. Instead, I became the subject of a discussion thread on Homma Forum, where the opponents of immigrants tends to congregate. Most belong to the political party Perussuomalaiset, or Basic Finns, or The Finns, the English translations vary.
Note that neekeri sounds like ‘nigger,’ and is now considered a pejorative by many Finns, but also translates to ‘negro,’ and is defined in my dictionary as such. Finnish language has yet to adopt a consistent politically correct term for a black person, so I can’t discern the intention of the writer using the word. Once again, just trying to be fair here. Note also that I have no political affiliation. I can think for myself, I’m a party of one. I avoided public discussion of politics for some years. But then I grew tired of people—unable to discern fact from fiction—assuming that the thoughts and beliefs of my fictional characters are my own, and writing about me under that premise. I’ve written a couple articles in which I took stances in line with those of most Perussuomalaiset. They were ignored entirely when discussing me, I suppose because it would undermine the attempt to discredit me, except for a brief mention that I’m anti-European Union. The articles are:
Finland Wrestles with the Russian Bear and Believes NATO Will Offer Protection. No, I’m not Joking.
Here are excerpts of Homma Forum concerning me. In and of themselves, they don’t bother me in the least. What troubles me is that, to my knowledge, nothing about me or my work had been mentioned on the forum until I published the thoughts of immigrants, which brought me to their attention, and at which point, for them, I became Public Enemy #1.
“Somewhat surprisingly, Jimi isn’t a nigger/negro, but only boosting book sales with fictional racism.”
“Most irritating is the fact that he rides on the name Jim Thompson, a real and outstanding author. Fake. Fake.”
Meaning that by using my real name, I’m trying to confuse people with the now dead Jim Thompson, so they’ll mistakenly buy my books. Ummm. Shouldn’t I have called myself Dan Brown, or maybe William Shakespeare? BTW, I’m only published as Jim Thompson in Finland, as I discovered it confuses web searches. I’m published as James Thompson in the rest of the world. I’m sorry, but this is just fucking ignorant.
“The stuff would be ok if the author were Finnish.”
So my right to free speech is limited by my nationality?
“This is probably the same thing as with Kaurismäki films, which exaggerate Finnish culture, but in spite of that, the films are good, which can’t be said of Jim’s books, although I haven’t read them.”
Right. Best not to think for yourself.
“So kick this clown and his Finnish wife out of Finland.”
Why my wife?
“I listened to that [radio interview], and I suspected the guy somehow ‘slow.’”
Someone went to the trouble of transcribing the whole interview in order to pick it apart. I had no idea my thoughts were so important. Should I be honored? And he’s right, I do speak slowly. I like to think before I speak.
“….political and racist murder stories or a disturbing series just do not belong, have never been and will never be read in Finnish society.”
I’m sorry. I have bad news. Tens of thousands of Finns have read my novels.
[Three people defended my right to write. Thanks guys!]
“But is this not that exactly in line with the policy of realistic art Perussuomalaiset desires? Better this than some kind of experimental post-modern poetry.”
This poor fellow took a drubbing for that. He was informed that my work doesn’t count, since it’s shit. I thank him for the effort though.
No need to kick Thompson out of here. Thompson writes fiction.
Right, or writes like Ilkka Remes’s [popular Finnish author] imaginary realities, not to mention the example Raid-books [crime series] etc etc etc. ..
And thank you, too!
I don’t mind the trouncing, it goes with my job. I’ve upset some immigrants as well. When I gave voice to the “critics of immigration” and explained the feelings of many of them, I received comments like this: “Thanks for giving these “disenfranchised” a voice. Knowledge of this kind of stupid, illiterate, ungrateful vicious rude people being allowed in the country to leech on welfare makes me cringe, no wonder the Finns vote for PS. Best thing you could have done to boost up the vote. Thanks!”
He’s responding to my suggestion that if Finns didn’t want immigrants, they shouldn’t have voted for politicians who would allow them in, and if they didn’t want more, they should vote accordingly This made someone mad, and he said I had used the “sun vika, olet sika” argument. It translates to your fault, you pig. It’s not really calling someone a pig, just an expression. But I made a valid argument. This is a democracy. What’s to complain about?
Has it occurred to people with this mentality that perhaps most immigrants on welfare would prefer to be working? That for the most part, they fled countries in order to stay alive, and probably considered Finland a land of hope and promise where they could build new lives that are safe and secure, that Finland might be a Mecca for them where they could prosper? That they would like to improve their social positions? Also, all immigrants aren’t black. Many are Estonian, for instance, and (old statistic) 19% of them are unemployed. Russian unemployment is high as well. And what about the Finnish Gypsies? Their unemployment percentage is out the roof, and some take pride (this from conversations with them) in never having had a job. I can’t even find stats on their unemployment rate. I think there’s an effort to downplay it as much as possible because it’s so high.
Or, as I asked in my last essay on this subject. What about Finns who lost their jobs in the last depression, twenty years ago, and haven’t worked since? Are you tired of feeding them and paying their rent yet? What about me? I’m a foreigner. I own my own business, pay taxes and plenty of them. Is it OK for employed foreigners to be here? And I’m white. Does that make it better? I’ve been here for fifteen years. Does that count? If I get dual citizenship and officially become a Finn, will it give me the right to write about this culture I live in, as some above believe I currently do not? Or are only blacks and Muslims, and or course, worst case scenario, God forbid, black Muslims, enemies of the State.
I renew my invitation to a Perussuomalainen “critic of immigration” to guest blog on my website and view his/her opinions on the matter, and I hope, answer the questions I’ve put forth. I won’t censor you in any way. You may criticize me personally as much as you like. Consider my blog yours for the day. I ask only that you express views affiliated with your political party and speak as its representative. Further, I won’t comment on your writings or criticize them. I will post every comment sent by others concerning it, for good or ill. I ask that you write in English, or I will post your thoughts in both Finnish and English if you prefer. However, I leave the translation to you. The reason being that only 12.5% of my readers are Finns. They do, however, provide 33% of comments. With permission, I will post your blog here on International Crime Writers Reality Check as well, and it will appear on several other sites too. I’m offering you a chance to spread your message to several tens of thousands of people worldwide.
Well, do you folks have the balls, or don’t you?
As to Mr. King and his question, “Can we get along?” It reminds me of when people say, “God answers all our prayers.” Perhaps he does, but more often than not, the answer is “No.”
October 29, 2012
With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’ s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has received critical acclaim from all quarters, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was selected as one of the best novels of the year by Kirkus. His novel, Helsinki White, was released to critical acclaim in the U.S. in March, 2012. He is also a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. The first three books in his Inspector Vaara series have been optioned for film.