- Six Kindergartens too many
- ” Six Kindergartens too many”
- A Young Norwegian Reflects on the Tragedies that shook his country.
Posted: 26 Jul 2011 09:22 PM PDT
Posted: 26 Jul 2011 07:59 PM PDT
Posted: 26 Jul 2011 11:02 AM PDT
Dear fellow Councillors,
As most of you probably have been informed of by now, terror struck Norway this last Friday afternoon. I wish to thank Bill and Jim and others who through various channels already have offered condolences and warm thoughts. They are much appreciated. I wish to offer some information to those not familiar with the story, and some personal thoughts in return.
As I am writing this, I am sitting on a bus, on an 8-hour ride back to Oslo from my hometown where I have been on vacation. I am unsure about what I will face. The extremely powerful car bomb (as it seems to have been), which shattered windows 5-6 blocks away, exploded precisely in the path of my twice daily 4-minute walks to and from the office.
The bomb killed at least 7 and left some 30 wounded. The death toll might rise as security allows the damaged buildings, which normally houses the Prime Minister’s office and those of several other ministries, to be more thoroughly searched. My office is less than 100 metres and around one corner from the site of impact, and will not be possible to use for some time.
Some of us wondered why the terrorist or terrorists had chosen this day and hour for the attack. Most people were on vacation, and most of those that were not would have left their offices early for the weekend.
A few hours later, we knew why. And suddenly the bomb and all its damage were so small. It was because government employees and cabinet members were not his prime target. The bomb was a decoy. A new generation of politicians were his target – tomorrow’s political leaders and advocates of policies that he could not tolerate.
Dressed as a policeman, he convinced the ferryman that he was there for security measures after the bomb attack, and was transported out to the island Utøya where around 600 members of the Social Democratic party’s youth movement were gathered for their annual summer camp. Once there, he started firing with explosive ammunition.
The stories about what followed are devastating and gruesome, and better told by those who survived than by me. We know that some survived by playing dead for an hour, partly hidden by the dead bodies of friends. Others survived by fleeing into the water while bullets were chasing them. Many didn’t make the whole swim to the shore.
I both know and knew people that were present on the camp. As far as I know, those close to me are all safe and more or less unharmed. I cannot speak for Boye or Magnus. But not many are so lucky. 86 people – most of them presumably teenagers from 13 to 20 – are so far confirmed dead. Several more are missing. Some 60 are wounded, many seriously.
When disasters occur, perspective is important. When disasters occur close, perspective becomes meaningless. The events of this weekend are by numbers bleak next to the horrible tragedy that struck Takahiro’s people and country earlier this year, or next to the sufferings of wars that we even are part of ourselves, through the decisions of our elected leaders. But there is as little point in belittling your own pain, as there is in exaggerating it.
These attacks were not just attacks on a group of people too young to be the target of any conflict, violent or not. They were not just attacks on social democracy or social democrats. They were attacks on a nation where everybody knows someone, or someone who knows someone, of those affected. They were attacks on all of us who works, or have contributed hours voluntarily, for something we believe in, like a better world. They were – like 9/11 – attacks on values that we do not only cherish, but that we put our faith and our future in.
And just maybe it hurts more because the blow came from someone unexpected, from an old enemy believed to be dead and powerless, from a threath in a new disguise. Though most speculations in the first hours after the attack pointed toward Islamic fundamentalist terror groups, the bomber and gunman was a rightwing extremist with the opposite, yet similar view of the world. An apparently very intelligent and knowledgable person, a self-proclaimed conservative Christian, a strong supporter of Israel, not at all a neo-nazi, perhaps not even racist, but vehemently opposed to multiculturalism and Islam. A counter-jihadist; part of a political direction I fear Europeans will learn to know better in months and tears to come. A person waging his own war, believing himself to be a pioneering soldier, with an intent to eradicate a generation of political talents.
Somehow, many of us are relieved that this wasn’t an act of Islamic terrorism. That might have created divisions and empowered political forces that would have been hard to handle. Instead, we are clearly shown that madness does not belong to one religion or culture.
And instead, the situation is handled with an extremely intense togetherness. At this point in writing I have arrived in Oslo and have participated in a ceremony including one minute of national silence, led by the prime minister in an open University Square in downtown Oslo, and after which he spent time giving hugs to ordinary citizens. Yesterday, the cabinet members sat mingled with the man in the street in the memorial service in Oslo Cathedral. The King waited patiently in line to light his memorial candle.
For those interested, these links may be enlightening as to this particular point on what is at stake in an open society after such attacks:
Much more could be said about open society, about the value and importance of equality in state and society for the sake of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and democratic stability. I will leave that for later. But I will mention this: At a point when noone knew who was behind the atrocities, and at a time when it was tempting to want to “hunt down and kill” those responsible, our PM stated: “We will retaliate with more democracy, more openness, more humanity.”
In fear of crossing the line to nationalism (of which not all kinds need to be evil), I nontheless hope that this particular phrase is something we all can learn from. I hope and expect that “more democracy” exceeds national boundaries. And I assure you that we will continue to work for the realization of that hope. No bigger injury could be inflicted upon both jihadists and counter-jihadists.
Said by one of the survivors of the Utøya massacre in a CNN interview: “If one man can show this much hatred, imagine how much love we can show together.”
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