Saturday, July 23, 2011

Horror in Norway

I'll be getting home from my vacation late tonight, and will hopefully find time tomorrow to reflect more deeply on the horrific and tragic events in Norway. Two nieces of my cousin's wife were attending the youth camp where the shooter gunned down 80 people. Both survived by playing dead, although one received gunshot wounds in the arm and leg.

As I go through the motions of packing and getting ready to fly home, my spirit is elsewhere--with the people of Norway, my friends and family there, the victims and their loved ones. I tremble at the reality of evil, at its crushing noise and shattering spectacle, and yearn for the good, which so often works in silence.


  1. Øystein EvensenJuly 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    There are sadly many in our country who have feared that the immigration policies of our current Social Democratic government would give radical Islamists free access through our borders and lead to acts of terrorism like this. It should be an eye-opener that the culprit behind yesterdays attack turned out to be a radical islamophobic motivated by exactly this kind of fear.

    This tragedy has also given me the chance to really think about how blessed most of us are most of the time in Norway. My thoughts and prayers are with those of us who are now no longer among this majority. Their loss is not less because they live in a privileged part of the world. Most of us in this country still live in a political, judicial, financial, criminal and military security that billions can only dream of. This is not something we have any reason to be proud of, but plenty of reasons to be thankful for. We should not take any of this for granted, most of the world can’t. The newspapers write about how we are not safe anymore, that terrorism has now become part our domestic reality. True, acts of terror and meaningless violence can happen anywhere, but this was a onetime event brought on by one extremist who most likely acted alone. We have no reason to live in fear, especially since this fear is obviously one of the main propagators of violence and acts of terror. (Continued…)

  2. Øystein EvensenJuly 23, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    And finally, although I might not become popular for bringing this up, I’m glad that I live in a society that will not punish even such heinous crimes by further acts of violence. I’m glad the police managed to bring him in alive and that, although he will probably receive the harshest punishment of our justice system, that he also probably will be able to return to society and maybe start a new life at the end of his sentence (or two thirds of his sentence, if he is no longer considered dangerous). I must believe that there is hope even for him if I am to believe that there is hope for mankind. Some might say that all he deserves is death, or at least to be thrown into a hole for the rest of his life. They might be right, but it is of little consequence if they are. We must be willing to treat even the worst of criminals like human beings, capable of love and the right to be loved, if we are to rise above evil. In accordance with your Religion Dispatches article Beyond Retribution I hope, both for the sake of his victims and his own that he will get ample time to think about what he has done and that a seed of conscience will awaken and torment him with empathy and remorse. Not unto destruction, but unto repentance, redemption and even reconciliation. I have no idea how likely this is in this life, I don’t know much about his psychology, but nothing else, certainly not any destructive pain or loss, could fulfill justice.

  3. Thanks for these powerful comments, which capture for me what is best of the Norwegian (and human) spirit. I believe it is crucially important that voices like yours be strongly heard in the internal discussions that will take Norway forward, in one direction or another, in the wake of this tragedy.

    I'm still travelling (had to spend the night in Detroit due to a missed connection) but will bopefully find time early in the week to write more about these events.