Monday, July 25, 2011
This is a column I wrote for Patch, but I don't think it will be posted. Not their fault at all -- it's quite beyond what I've been charged to write about. And it's not particularly good, just heartfelt. So I'll put it here. (Update: This is also posted at Patch Altadena.)
Next week, this column will return to its regularly scheduled program -- the anmials, neighbors, and hikes; the simple and deep pleasures of daily life. But today, I can’t stop thinking about Norway.
And not just because most of my relatives still live in and around Oslo. The whole world was in mourning this weekend after the terrorist attack in Norway -- for the lost innocence, for all those children who didn’t see the sun rise on Saturday, and will never see the sun rise again. It’s almost impossible to stop imagining the horror of their last moments on earth.
Inevitably, Norway will shed some of the openness and trust for which it has, at least over the past forty years or so, been known. Norway will become a little less like Norway and a little more like – well -- like us.
Immediately after the attack, many outside Norway, including some members of the media, leapt to the conclusion this was a jihadist attack. I don’t recall a surge of retractions when we discovered the terrorist was a blond, blue-eyed, right wing, fundamentalist Christian extremist, a born and bred Norwegian.
No, the 24-hour global news monster just moved on, starving for more content. Now it is busy splashing excerpts from the murderer’s manifesto of madness in newspapers, on the radio, and of course throughout the internet.
Giving the alleged killer, Beivik, everything he ever wanted. World-wide publication, attention, fame. And while his thoughts and beliefs are only of prurient interest to 99% of the readers, for 1%, I fear, I deeply fear, it gives a sense of fellowship, a fellowship in madness. A promise their voice will be heard above all others, if only they can devise an atrocity of equal scale.
It’s at our fingertips -- all the news that’s fit to print, and all the news that isn’t, including the ravings of a madman.
Where is the equal time for those in Norway, the vast majority of Norwegians, who support a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society? And all the voices forever silenced last Friday.
Today I heard a piece on NPR. An Iranian-born teen had been at the Norwegian youth camp on the day of the shooting. He was leading a discussion on cultural diversity. And I’m recounting this from memory, but in the midst of the attack, he found a young girl who had multiple gunshot wounds. She said, as he held her, “If I die now, just know I think you’re all fantastic. I can see in your eyes you’re afraid, so I know I’m going to die.”
For me, this girl -- this lovely girl – is the story. The enduring story. It's her name we should know and remember.