Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Like my law partner, I have been thinking about the murder of Anna Lindh. Although I've spent some time in Scandinavia, I can't claim the same sort of familiarity that she does: I've been to Stockholm, I know some Swedes; I've been to Helsinki, I know some Finns. Forced to choose, I'd pick Finland, although it's hard to say why: the difference between Lasse Viren and Björn Borg perhaps. I also came to Stockholm and found it familiar because I'd read the Martin Beck mysteries. In my travels I have found that early in any conversation with fellow members of our glamour profession who practice in other jurisdictions I will be told one or the other of two things. Both are true, and both are false; both are chilling, but also oddly reassuring. Sometimes I am told, "Our countries are much alike." Sometimes I am told, "Our countries are very different." Even though the junkies in Stockholm are unionized, their neighborhood is a bad one to be in. Even though the Swedes pride themselves on the openness of their society, there are still child killings, and every other sort of violent crime that man has devised since Cain. Swedes like to point out that their national character comes from the fact that they are a small country, and to hear them describe it you'd think that six million people is intimate. It's not intimate: it's Brooklyn. There is all kinds of room in six million for every kind of saint and every kind of lunatic. And every kind of tragedy, I suppose. We are all alike. We are all different.

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