Wild wild North

My life 350 km north of the Arctic circle

From Norway with love, not war

I was actually going to write a cheerful text. About how I’m enjoying this fading Northern summer to the fullest. How I’ve made friends with my fancy new mountainbike and started to explore the surrounding islands. How I got to show huskies, polar heroes and the Lofoten islands to impressed tourists. Then some sick guy appeared out of nowhere and shot down the whole country’s mood, a precious part of its democratically engaged youth and probably its light-hearted attitude for which it had been admired, ridiculed and envied.

I was sitting on the bus back from Lofoten, marvelling at the incredible landscape and talking to a colleague. We congratulated ourselves on our choice of adoptive home, our conversation shifted from cloudberries to sailing to my landlord’s ninja kid to children in general, summer camps and youth work. I was talking about how important my youth group and the annual camps had been for me, how helpful they were when I was a child and how rewarding when I helped organising groups and camps. How I had been contemplating getting involved again, here in Norway. We hadn’t gotten much sleep during that Lofoten tour, so at some point we dozed off.
I woke up to my colleagues exchanging details in disbelief. On a little island, so nobody could escape. Like in a horror film. The Labour Party’s youth camp. Maybe some 25-30 young people shot already. I stared at my neighbour. Then I looked away, because my eyes were welling up. I had fallen asleep in a paradise, and woken up in a nightmare.

“It is horrifyingly close and surreally painful, like phantom limb pains also for those who “only” experienced it through the media”, writes author Roy Jacobsen.

After two days of shocked silence, helpless reading and watching the news, comforting conversations and distracting silliness I’ve started to find words again. Am I going to forget about my cheerful text now? Is everything in Norway going to change? He would like that, wouldn’t he. That was exactly his plan. But as the government promptly made clear, nobody is going to shoot us into silence, and the Norway of tomorrow is going to be recognisable. I’m proud of the reactions of the Norwegian politicians who vowed to counter that attack on democracy and openness not with violent revenge, but with more democracy and openness. I’m proud of all the people who take care of each other and spread the answer a survivor gave to a CNN reporter asking whether she felt like revenge: “If one man can show that much hate, imagine how much love we all can show together”. I’m proud of the individuals who risked their lives to get fleeing young people away from the island. And I feel slightly alienated from some non-Norwegian friends here who didn’t understand the extent of my grief.

I’ve realised how Norwegian I already feel. It’s a small country in which you easily feel close to everyone else, and I want to stay here and build a future for me and us. I really hope that this “now more than ever”-attitude will win, and that even more people will contribute to what that nutcase is so afraid of: a society in which tall blond narcissists, short veiled muslims and everyone else can live in peace.

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