Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Norway’s finest hours in my lifetime



On Friday, 22. July 2011, Norway was struck by two terrorist attacks within less than 2 hours. First a powerful car bomb exploding on the street just outside our government’s headquarters in downtown Oslo and then a shooting massacre at a political youth camp on and island outside the city. In the minutes, hours and days following these horrific events, I have been shocked, stunned, angry and sad beyond words, but I have also found great comfort in the manner in which my people has collectively chosen to carry this. In fact, in the middle of all the tragedy, this has been my country’s finest hours in my lifetime.

As a nation, we have chosen not to speak of revenge, but instead to stand together holding hands and lighting candles, promising each other that this will not destroy us or in any way drive a wedge between us. In the words of our prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, “Evil can kill a person, but never conquer a people.”

By taking this stance, I feel confident that the free and open multicultural democracy that our attacker sought to damage is emerging stronger than ever after these past days' events, and as a country we are more united than we’ve been for as long as I can remember. Yes, we are crying, but we’re crying with dignity. We’re not crying for revenge, we’re crying for compassion and humanity. We’re not crying for tighter control on anything, we’re crying for more openness and more democracy. More of what we love and more of what this guy apparently hated. That is how we choose to respond. Yes, there will still be issues that we disagree upon, but we’re a democracy – people are supposed to disagree with each other! It’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Everyone who feel they have something to say about an issue should go ahead and say it because a good debate is what makes a democracy work. We all put our views, interests and concerns on the table and then we all scrutinize what’s on the table, not the people who put it there. That’s how we separate the good stuff from the bad stuff, compromise to find common ground and figure out solutions that we can all live with over time. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Thus, in the words of one of the survivors from the youth camp at Utøya, “Bring the attacker’s political ideals to the table and we will debate them to death.”

On the evening of Monday, 25. July, people all over the country gathered to mourn together, cry together, hold hands, light candles and show their respect to the victims and their families. Not surprisingly, the largest gathering of people was in Oslo, which is our largest city and also the one that was directly targeted. At first the official number was approximately 150 000, but police later said that at least 200 000 people attended the event.

image-241245-galleryV9-fhkw Thousands of people gathered on and around the Oslo Town Hall Square in the evening of
Monday, 25. July 2011. Police later said more than 200 000 people attended the event.
Image credit: AP.


Among the speakers at the Oslo event was our crown prince Haakon, here shown at the event with his sister, princess Märtha Louise (left) and his wife, crown princess Mette-Marit. Haakon greeted the crowd with the words, “Tonight our streets are filled with love.”

Image credit: Scanpix



“Tonight our streets are filled with love.

We have chosen to meet atrocity with compassion.

We have chosen to meet hate with unity.

We have chosen to show what we stand for.”

--Crown prince Haakon

It couldn’t be said very much better.

And I’ve never been so proud of my country.

Now I hear some people are saying that they don’t expect this new-found national unity to last and that we are likely to have a society with more fear and less trust in the wake of this, but I’m hoping we can prove them wrong on that one.

Actually, it could be yet a little bit better.
A young girl and a member of the labor youth organization who’s summer camp was attacked at Utøya put it this way:

“If one man can cause so much evil -

think how much love we can all create together.”

--Helle Gannestad, AUF member who lost friends at Utøya

I have no idea who she is, but I’d really like to hug her right now.

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