Watching The Wheels

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Norway 2011: What Now?

This week I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with a resident of Oslo, Norway  James Michael  Calderone. James is also a fantastic amateur photographer and agreed to provide the pictures he took of a candlelight vigil which you see here. Of course we talked about the insane tragedy that occurred there this past week. As we talked I realized I wanted to get the human element of this out before the soulless nutjobs in our politics and our media (same thing?) get hold of it. But, alas, that has already happened. In any case,  this man I spoke with attended a candlelight vigil for the victims of the lunatic that snuffed them out. I have posted here with his permission, the pictures he took at one candlelight vigil this week and they are breath-taking.  More than that, my friend was willing to give his personal feelings on what is was like, in a peaceful nation, for something as horrific as this to unfold before his eyes and the eyes of everyone he has ever known.

"It is a surreal thing.  I don't lock my doors here, never worry about guns." James said at first. "To be honest, I wasn't surprised, though my first reaction to the bomb was that it may not be terrorism. It was unclear if this could have been a gas leak or an explosion of a different cause."

As far as it being a shock, he said,

"The initial knee jerk thoughts that this must have been Al Qaida gave way to the fact it was a  right wing nationalist. This has really made people stop and think. It was strange really. I was at home and I let my partner know that there was an explosion in Oslo. I was in contact with most of my friends online. When we learned of the bombing, we weren't all that surprised. We all felt it was a matter of time. The US Embassy has long been thought to be a target.

"I suppose there were two main reactions... the first, people started blaming those 'damn immigrants' and Muslim extremists. But some of us, were a bit more guarded about tossing blame... I took a wait and see approach, even when a facebook page popped up by Muslim extremists claiming Muslim extremist responsibility. It didn't add up. If whoever did it was going for maximum damage and loss of life, they only had to move a few streets over. Then we heard about a shooting on the Island of Utøya at the Labor Party summer camp. That had us glued to any source of news we could find. Why would that be an international terrorist target?"

  I had to ask if he saw any ripples that will sprawl out into Norwegian society.

"I don't think Norwegian society will change in the long run,"
Calderone replied ."But if I ever get to the point where I have to kill 80 kids to make a  political statement, please shoot me. I imagine, though,  it has certainly made the 'Norway for the Norwegians' crowd really stop and consider some things.

" Had this been an international attack, I think Norwegian nationalism would be playing its ugly hand right now, but as it now seems to be a domestic attack against the sitting Labor Party for nationalistic reasons, this has put the nationalism in check somewhat, and focused the issue on the scale of the tragedy and what the idea 'Norwegian way of life' really means. In my community, things are getting back to normal for some, for others there is a long road to healing.. I heard last night that one of the boys who survived the attack physically hasn't been alone since he got back. He came face to face with the gunman, and he was shot at. Luckily the bullets missed. I can only imagine what he's going through, and i'm sure he knew people who were killed.  I was told his mates are taking turns sleeping over each night, and the other evening his dad said one of his mates was there when he went to bed, and in the morning he found another has showed up in the night. People will heal. We'll get through this if we all stick together and help each other out." In the US we at least had the perception that something like 9/11 could happen. Norway did not. Considering the entirety of Europe is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome with their Muslim "invasion", for lack of a better word, the last thing they would expect is this. I refuse to mention the murderer's name here as this is not The Animal Planet blog. But extremism of any kind is dangerous. One would think that Europeans, of all people, would understand that. There was no reason to expect anything, though. None. Or was there?

"We've been expecting an attack for some time now," Calderone was quick to point out. "I believe most felt it would from an international source, or at least have something to do with images of certain bearded folk or have something to do with the Mid East peace process, the Nobel Peace Prize, our involvement in Afghanistan, things like that. I don't think the thought of domestic terrorism was on anyone's radar."

The Christian Al-Jazeera, , has made a point of trying to say that the killer was a Darwinist, not a Christian. Of course, this site is nothing but a hatred site against gays and Muslims. My point is that the US is already trying to spin this. As someone who has worked all of my professional career with disenfranchised youth, all I can think of is, "CHILDREN WERE SLAUGHTERED!". Can't we drop our neurotic beliefs to honor the innocent souls that were sent prematurely to their end?

Even with all I have seen in my life I cannot wrap my head around how this perverted nation of mine can shrug off the pure hell of this act.  No. Ratings are more important. Take broadcaster Glenn Beck, for instance, who recently compared the young people's camp on Utoya island to "the Hitler Youth."

"Glenn Beck doesn't know what the hell he's talking about." James said. "Can you imagine what Glenn might have said had someone made comments about the motives of the people killed during 9/11, 3 days after it happened!?. If these were American kids, he'd be calling them heroes.

"Glenn and his kind have no sense of decency. Glenn likes to use the word Nazi and Hitler whenever there is something he doesn't understand. The camp is a yearly event for kids either in the the labor party of considering membership. They get together to have fun, debate, learn, and share their ideas. Glenn Beck doesn't understand the differences between socialism, communism, Marxism, Nazism, fascism etc etc, to him its all one thing....

"Norway is a social democracy. I don't expect Glenn to ever understand what that means. To equate fascism with social democracy says all one needs to say about Glenn Beck and his kind. Like him if you please, but if his fans do not condemn his recent statements, I question their decency as well."

When I was a junior in high school in Upstate New York I was elected to go to something called Boys State. We went to a college campus - vacated in that month because the academic year was over - and participated in a mock state government. There we chose candidates for governor and they waged campaigns for the whole week. One was elected and he appointed his staff and so on. This program was an honor to attend, hosted by the VFW, which every man in my family has been elected to attend. Was this, too, the Hitler Youth, Glenn?!?! .

I would only add, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "That which we call a freakin' lunatic, by any other name, would smell as hideous."

Among many of the things James said he mentioned that a young musician in his community has gone missing at this exact time.

"I think right now we need to focus on getting our dead returned home, and making sure the families and people affected are all right. The boy from our town is still missing and likely drowned or shot while swimming away. Clearly there are some lessons to be learned from this. "

Even today, this whole thing has not registered with me. This was far more personal and up-close than 9/11. That, maybe, is why it is so horrible to contemplate. It is easy, as I have done, to write this murderer off as simply insane. Which may or may not be the case. But the lingering question, as with the Unabomber, is, "What if he isn't?". That is even more terrifying.
Think about that. Just because an act is insane doesn't mean that the person committing it was. "Well, he was just nuts." That doesn't wash with me. I believe within each and every human being on this Earth is the capability of horrible acts. To quote my favorite television character of all time, Doctor Gregory House:
 "We are all base, selfish animals crawling across this Earth. But because we have brains, and if we try real hard, we can, on occasion, aspire to something less than pure evil."

"How do you feel?", I finally asked.

"I feel sad, I feel calm, I feel proud of Norway. Coming from 'the big city'  Its odd for me to live in such a rural area (and this is considered city life in Norway). I didn't know the boy who was killed, but I have seen him around. You see everyone around at some point in an area like this. (Sometimes twice in one day at two different locations which still freaks me out). My only hope is that Norway doesn't change. I firmly believe it will be stronger. The society will remain open but at least in terms of an open society, I think security for our institutions will need to be rethought

"If the tragedy helps to define national identity gone wrong, maybe so many  will not have died in vain. "

Copyright 2011 by Andrew T. Durham
Photos copyright 2011 by James Michael Calderone


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