It is impossible (for me anyway) to not be deeply saddened by what has happened in Norway. Seeing the people there come together to mourn this tragedy is a bright spot (that they’re coming together, not that they are in mourning) but it doesn’t erase what has happened.
What seems like a thousand years ago, I worked on a trip for President Clinton to Norway. That trip has been on my mind a lot this week — for some obvious reasons and some not. (You can read about the visit here: http://www.norway.org/ARCHIVE/News/archive/1999/199906clinton/)
President Clinton went to Oslo for a commemoration ceremony for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin. At the ceremony he gave a speech (I was not in the room but in the press filing center) about the genetic similarities we all share. The reason DNA can be used with such precision is not because we are so different but because we are so very similar. It may seem like an odd thing to bring up now but watching the events in Norway unfold and learning more about the motivations, I think it is a point worth thinking about. Cultural diversity is something to cherish, not fear but once we start dividing ourselves — as we seem to want to do — into categories of who is good vs. evil we do ourselves a great disservice.
One of my favorite courses from college was on William Blake’s “Innocence and Experience.” His poems reflect an idea that neither can exist alone and in that vein, I think our cultural differences and biological similarities complement each other. We are all unique but we are all the same. We are individuals but we need each other.
It is hard to watch all of this play out in the city that hosts the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony but what is more frightening is how much some of want to use our differences as an excuse for violence. When those differences come from religion, it is even more sad. Religion (as someone not at all religious) should bring people comfort and community, not death and hate. (I do wonder if Congressman Peter King will hold hearings on “radial Christians” as he did recently about “radical Muslims” but somehow I doubt it.)
My thoughts and condolences are with the people of Norway.
Norwegians dignity and absence of paranoid behavior are inspiring these days – how do we get there?