By Scott Westerman
“In the middle of all these tragic events, I am proud to live in a country that has stood firm at a critical time. I am deeply impressed by how much dignity and compassion I have seen. We are a small nation, but a proud people. We will never abandon our values. Our reply is: more democracy, more openness, and more humanity. But never naivety.” – Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg
It could not have been much worse. A horrific explosion followed by senseless shootings in a country synonymous with peace. A mentally ill killer who confesses to the attacks but denies criminal responsibility saying the massacre was “gruesome but necessary”.
It was 9/11, on a smaller scale, but no less devastating.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s message to his nation used words like compassion and dignity. He vowed more democracy, more openness and more humanity. This struck Jim Moore, distinguished journalist and author of the book “Bush’s Brain” as extraordinary. “I thought, that is humanity, that is leadership, that is forgiveness. I wonder where he found the strength after what’s happened there.”
Perhaps its as simple as this: the Norwegians understand what true freedom is all about.
Renate Kristiansen, a 28 year old social worker drove four hours to help with recovery efforts. “We are a very open nation,” she said. “One man cannot change us.”
Oslo school teacher Lise Seglesten said that the sad event will galvanize the nation to fight against racism and fascism, the very things that the killer seems to espouse.
History celebrates those singular souls who rise above hatred, enduring unimaginable pain without losing their moral compass. It also reminds us of those who use tragedy to limit freedoms, to surpress discourse and to advance a personal agenda that stifles diversity.
This weekend in Norway we saw first hand what Viktor Frankl calls, “The last of human freedoms – the ability to chose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”
Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s message should focus us on the richness of our one true race, The Human Race, and our most important common faith, faith in one another. He concluded his remarks at the Oslo Cathedral with this, “No one has said it better than the AUF girl who was interviewed by CNN: ‘if one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.’”
As you ponder all of these things in the coming week, you may find yourself in a situation where someone will try to hurt you. If that happens, think of Norway and remember:
No one can diminish you without your permission.