22 July 2011


I spent four years in Norway, where I did my undergraduate degree in modern languages and international studies. From 1991 to 1995, with the exception of some summer vacations in Spain and the US and a semester abroad in France, Norway was my home. I had mixed feelings about Norway. People can be quite cold and rather provincial and don't even get me started on the climate. But overall, I love the country and visit my son there at least once a year.

What I have always loved most about Norway is the sense that, in an insane world of conflict and hate, here was a corner of the world where sanity prevailed. People voluntarily vote for high taxes to help eradicate poverty, and as a result, there is almost zero poverty in Norway. Despite the lies of Republicans here in the US, it turns out that you can have high taxes, low poverty and high wealth, too. Norwegians are wealthier than Americans, they live longer, they report higher levels of happiness.

Today, that nice, cozy, safe place in northern Europe was shattered by a horrible, senseless act of violence. There's no definitive word yet on who is responsible, but early reports suggest it is homegrown extremism, not the Islamic variety. That horrifies me, because I think that the Norway I love and respect could overcome Islamic terrorism and come across whole on the other side; but I am not sure Norway can stay the Last Homely House of the world if it turns out this was a Norwegian act against Norway. If I were a praying person, I would pray for Norway to come out of this unscathed and still determined to remain a beacon of fairness and justice. Please, Norway, don't let this event deform your sense of decency and fairness the way we let 9/11 destroy our sense of fair play and decency.

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