My heart is heavy for Norway

“Do you know a cure for me?”

“Why yes,” he said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.”

“Salt water?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”
— Karen Blixen (Seven Gothic Tales)

Everything I want to write about myself right now is overwhelmed by the reality of what happened on an island in Norway. I want to write about the moments I drove straight to the beach, body shaking with emotion I didn’t know how to let out except by diving into shallow churning waves. To wear myself out fighting the rip tide, to cry and sweat in the salty water. Salt water is my cure for many things.

But now, all I can think of is teenagers swimming for their lives. All I can imagine is the horror of that moment, instead of my moments of relief. I think I would have done the same thing. Had the same instinct. Swim to escape slaughter. Swim as hard as you can because your life does in fact depend upon it. Swim while tears coat your eyes and sweat tainted with adrenaline mixes with the sea. It’s devastating to me.

The other salt water not included in the cure is blood. Blood. Killing is not a cure for anything.

“We will show that our open society will past this test as well, and that our answer to violence is more democracy, more humanity.” (Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway).

“I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach respect.” Oslo mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether the city needs a greater security apparatus. 

“Our democracy does not allow for enough punishment to satisfy my need for revenge, as is it’s intention. We will not become worse, we will be better. We lived in a land where this is possible, even easy. And we will keep living in a land where this is possible, even easy. We are open, we are free and we are together. We are vulnerable by choice. And we will keep on like that, that’s how we want to live. We will not be worse because of the worst. We must be good because of the best.” Ola, Norge forum commenter.

Many people have commented on how un-American these Norwegian sentiments are. How we would never hear our elected officials or our young people say such things. I remember sentiments like these expressed after Sept 11th but they were drowned out by bloodlust. Revenge became public policy, is now our official discourse. Blood is our saltwater cure.

I don’t agree. I don’t feel it. I don’t abide by it. I’m teaching my kids the exact opposite of it.  They know that blood is sacred. That every body has the fundamental right to stay whole. That any act where human blood is shed is a violation, not a cure. My sons know the healing powers of sweat and tears and the sea.

My heart is heavy for Norway
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