I’ve been quiet for a few days. Actually more than a few days, the last post, on Saturday, was scheduled. Not only my written words have been scarce, but also the spoken words have been few. I am mourning. Mourning along with the five million people living within the political borders constituting the country of Norway.
On Friday 22 July a man driven by extreme political and religious convictions murdered in cold blood 76 individuals. Another 96 are physically damaged, many still fighting for their lives, and there are also people still missing. Left is a group of people of ethnic, religious and political diversity who have had their lives turned upside down. Many have lost loved ones. Many have lost acquaintances. The rest of us, well, Nordahl Grieg said it best when he said “there are so few of is in this country that every fallen individual is a brother or a friend” (my translation).
It is an immense sorrow we all share, but thankfully this shared sorrow has helped build an overwhelming love, and a common strength. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people around me to be as warm, strong, loving and including as my neighbours have proven to be over the past days. I don’t want to use the word Norwegians, nor words such as nation or country, as these are words the man behind the attacks weighed so heavily. There are political borders which determine the boundaries of Norway, but we all know that these are abstract and only there for practical reasons, in the aftermath of this event we all stand together no matter what passports we have.
The Norwegian politicians, my friends and acquaintances on facebook, the media, and most of all the many victims from Friday have awoken in me a pride. I am truly proud to be able to call myself one of them. The messages conveyed in social media, official media, the largest newspapers, and on the radio, have been messages of love. Our Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg said after the first attack that “We will retaliate with more democracy”. These words stand in contrast to the words uttered by George W. Bush after 9/11: “We will hunt you [who are responsible for this] down”. Words that have been copied and spread among many of my friends on facebook over the past few days. Words that show our values and priorities.
There aren’t that many of us living here far north, a small country with few citizens. The support from others thus mean much to us. Allegedly, Barack Obama said on the phone to Stoltenberg that “the peaceful little country of Norway shows the world how to handle situations such as this. At the moment I’d like to rank Norway as the largest country in the world, I have never seen anything like this” (translation is again my own – and the authenticity of the quote can not be guaranteed, I have not been able to find a proper source for it.) An article from the German newspaper der Spiegel says “Even in their deepest sorrow the Norwegians don’t get hysterical. They resist the hate. It is amazing to see how politicians and the whole country reacts. They are sad to the deepest thread of their souls. They cry in dignity. But nobody swears to take revenge. Instead they want even more humanity and democracy. That is one of the most remarkable strengths of that little country”.
Yesterday I came together with a lot of people, the number is estimated to have been somewhere between 75 – 100.000, in the city centre. In a small city of 120.000 inhabitants the number of attendees is incredible. The love, respect, sorrow, and strength shared among everyone was moving, to say the least. Never before, except when marking the end of the second world war, has as many people gathered in the city centre. Every city and town in Norway had similar gatherings, and hundreds of thousand came to show their support. The Norwegian crown-prince, Haakon Magnus, commented on the happening in Oslo: “Tonight the streets are filled with love” are the words we remember from his speech.
The love and strength, along with the liberty, equality, and fraternity of and between every individual is what we will look back on from the past days. The victims will be commemorated. Everything else, the hatred, the pain, and the man behind it all, will be stored away, not to be forgotten, but not to be given more thought or attention than necessary. The hatred and pain one man alone can reveal and cause, shall be drowned in the love we all share.