Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This is Norway

The past few days I have seen the worst and the best of mankind.

It started with the worst. With terrorism, hate, fear.

But it quickly turned around, into a show of strength far superior to that of one individual's hatred. It was the will of an entire people - and with us an entire world - who chose love, solidarity, democracy to battle terrorism.

"We meet terror and violence with more democracy and will continue to fight against intolerance," our Prime Minister said. And the people replied. By organizing hundreds of events in support of the victims. By speaking out in public, or by use of social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. By standing together, in rain and sunshine throughout the weekend, in Oslo and around the country (and also abroad). The sea of roses in front of one of Oslo's churches grew from a few hundred to thousands and thousands in the course of a few days. And then the rose march yesterday - taking place simultaneously in Oslo and the rest of the country. We're a small country, of only 4,6 million people. About 1 million of us were out marching with roses or candles yesterday. Even though we're not many, though, even though we're small; we're also big. Together we are more than 1 million roses, more than 4,6 million people. We're a nation coming together in a time of grief. 

Another inspiring quote that has circulated these past few days is from one of the young politicians who was at the Utøya camp on Friday: "If one man can show so much hate, imagine how much love we could show, standing together."

This is exactly what we are now doing.

Matching our solidarity and love, however, must also be what our Prime Minister called for: democracy.

According to our laws, the maximum punishment the culprit from Friday's terror actions can get is 21 years (though there is the possibility of charging him with "crimes against humanity", which might make him eligible for a total of 30 years). In addition, these are not calendar years, but "prison years". Which means that in theory, he could be out of jail after 16 years.

16 years does not seem much considering the many lives lost. 16 years does not do justice to the loss of these young lives, the dreams and hopes. But then again - what would? Prison for life? Capital punishment? Public lynching?

Of course not. Nothing will ever do this justice. The best we can do is to make sure that the terrorist's intention will not prevail. He attacked our democracy. Our democracy will fight back.

So it is important to me to answer to what I've seen of international (and national) skepticism with regards to the "mild" sentence. Yes, it is mild. 16 years in a comfortable Norwegian prison is not much. But it is what we have at hand, determined as we are to not let him win by changing us.

In addition, even if his official punishment ends at 21 years, his time locked up will not. We have a system in Norway called "forvaring" (involuntary commitment), reserved for criminals who are considered a particular danger to society. There is no doubt that he will end up there, probably for the rest of his life.

It's still not justice. But neither would changing our society and somehow find it in us to execute him. It would not help. It would not bring back those who died. And if we did, then it really would be appropriate to consider this a "loss of innocence".

I trust my country and the people ruling it. I have faith in our ability to get past this without changing for the worse. As many have pointed out - this will change Norway. But it is us - not him - who decide how.

Finally, some impressions from the rose march, which wasn't a march after all, since 200 000 people showed up in Oslo. It was simply impossible to logistically organize it, so we stayed put in front of the city hall. Here there were speeches from Prime Minister Stoltenberg, Crown Prince Haakon, the leader of the Labour Party Youth Organization, and several others. There was music, togetherness, and roses. Roses everywhere. Every few minutes someone raised their rose to the sky, and this triggered a wave of roses all over the crowd. It was stunning to see what resembled a meadow of flowers growing from the hands of the people. And it was impossible to fight back the tears when the crowd spontaneously erupted into song.

This memory will be with me for life. I can only share with you the pictures.

That is how much love we can show each other, standing together. OsLove <3

maria mena "Mitt Lille Land" by maria mena


LTM said...

so glad you guys are finding strength and support in one another. That's the most important thing at this time--being there for one another. Time will take care of the rest~ <3

Cold As Heaven said...

That's an excellent post. Thank you.

Cold As Heaven

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad your country is coming together. No death penalty though? That surprises me.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to everyone affected. I'm very impressed by the tolerance and compassion and courage shown in Norway and the path you have chosen, which is not retaliation but humanity.

Michael Offutt said...

A Chinese curse says, "May you live in interesting times." To that end, I think you live the most interesting life of any blogger that I follow. You have roots in Norway so you are touched by that crisis. You live in Japan so you are also in the midst of their crisis (tsunamis, nuclear meltdown, etc.) Wow. I think you live in interesting times for sure.

I just wanted to say one thing on the Norway mass murderer and this may make people angry at me but I don't care.

I'm not surprised that the man is affiliated with a religion.

There I said it and I believe it. I'm atheist by the way (if that explains anything).

Liza said...

The perfect words: "If one man can show so much hate, imagine how much love we could show, standing together."

Cruella Collett said...

Leigh - thank you

Ketil - together we stand. Together we will fight this

Alex - Norway is one of many countries that believe death penalty doesn't solve anything. As you understand from this post, I agree.

Ladifi - thank you

Michael - I'm an atheist too. That being said I cannot begin to try to understand the ideas of this madman, or whether they really are religiously motivated. It seems clear it's political and ideological. Whether he really was a Christian - which I find it hard to believe judging by the Christianity I know through friends, the compassion and love for fellow human beings many Christians hold to be the most important part of their religion - I don't know. And in the end it is irrelevant. His religion, politics, ideology, whatever - it was his interpretation, his insane ideas and thoughts. We didn't manage to stop him in time to save the lives lost, but we did manage to contain his hate and push it back by standing together in solidarity, regardless of political, religious or otherwise conviction.

That makes me proud.

Liza - indeed. So many inspiring people to make this a little easier to cope with.

Hart Johnson said...

Sounds like the gathering had so much power--very nice that you could be there. I love the way Norway has handled and will continue to handle this. I know you know this, but I agree much more with your government than mine.

Kelly said...

I truly admire the spirit and determination the Norwegian People have shown throughout this tragedy.

As with the events in Japan, I appreciate hearing your first-hand commentary.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

It's good to get news first hand through you, I can't begin to imagine what you have been through.
My heart goes out to your country but the spirit of togetherness is there.
God Bless you all.

sue said...

I'm going to have to come back later Mari, my tears are going to fry my keyboard.

Jan Morrison said...

Like Sue, I am awash. Thank you so much for your clear and loving report.

Chary Johnson said...

This was so beautifully written. *tears* Know that we, around the world, stand with you! *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Great post! This was a tragedy that unfortunately we have trouble preventing. Thanks for the post!

Ziva said...

Reading this post, it suddenly dawned on me that you speak Norwegian. And that I speak Swedish. And that even though they're different languages, you and I can understand each other. That said..

Fantastiskt bra skrivet. Norges svar på denna hemska tragedi är beundransvärt, och trots att jag inte är norsk, känner jag mig stolt över Stoltenberg, och glad över att svaret på dådet inte är hat och hämnd, utan mera demokrati. Jag gråter för dem som mist livet, men det är fantastiskt att se ett så enat Norge, och det känns varmt om hjärtat.

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