Transcending the trauma of Norway

Back in the days when I still qualified for a youth Eurail Pass, I traveled across Norway, via train, bus and ferry, from Oslo to Bergen.

I passed by the newspaper office in Bergen and decided to go inside, introducing myself at the reception desk as a fellow journalist from the United States. A couple of reporters amiably showed me their newsroom, which looked remarkably like the one I had recently left in Indiana, right down to the messy desks and bulletin board covered with editorial cartoons.

I wondered this week whether those reporters still are in the business. If so, they’re covering the most difficult story of their careers.

Some are comparing the events of July 22 in Norway – which began with a bombing outside Oslo’s government buildings and ended with a maniacal lone gunman tracking and killing dozens of young people gathered for an island retreat – to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The confirmed death toll now stands at 76, including 68 in the island attack.

Anyone, whether in the U.S. or around the world, can relate to the horror, the pain and the lingering anxiety created by the acts of Anders Behring Breivik, Norway’s “homegrown” terrorist.

So how can we respond in simple ways that transcend security protocols and self-appointed fear-mongerers?

  • We can embrace the reality that we live in a multicultural world.
  • We can take the time to learn about a religion, a culture or a part of the world we know little about.
  • We can visit a church, mosque or temple in a neighborhood outside of our own.
  • We can expand our circle of friends to include at least one more of another faith, race or ethnic group.
  • We can refuse to accept intolerance of others from anyone we know – family, friends, co-workers, church members – and explain why such behavior is not acceptable.
  • We can raise our voices in protest – in person, online or on the air – when an individual or organization uses hateful speech to heighten public fears or pursue a political agenda.

In the end, it comes down to choosing love and hope over hate.

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