The on-going trial against the Norwegian terrorist is starting to wear us out and put restrains on our lives. I know several families who have changed their tv-routines, and stopped buying the main newspapers, to protect their children and the families for the exposed evil.
Not since the end of World War II has Norwegians had to deal with such monstrous acts and statements. One out of four Norwegians knew or knew of one or more of the victims. They are around every dinner table, in every school and lunch room, on the bus and on the television. With such strong emotions in a close knit community, this trial is an extraordinary test of Norway as a nation and the quality of the Norwegian legal system. Much has been said about how Norway reacted as a nation in the immediate after-math of the attacks, but the real test is now.
When the terrorist began explaining his actions on that fateful day to the victims, their families, their friends, the Norwegian people and the world he admitted to having bombed the Government’s buildings in Oslo, killing 8, before traveling to Utøya were he shot and killed 69 people, most of them only teenagers. He also pleaded not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense of the Norwegian people against the “conspiracy of multiculturalism”.
The first challenge we have is to accept that no punishment can ever fit this crime. Some have called for changes in the legal system to allow for longer prison sentences or even death, but even if those had been real possibilities no punishment in the world is ever going feel just enough or undo what has happened. Although my heart is filled with anger, fear and sorrow, I am therefore glad that the Norwegian legal system treats everyone the same and is not subject to popular opinion. It was designed at a time when the nation did not feel outraged and those objective rules are there to deliver justice when emotions gets the better of us. If we Norwegians can hold on to that we have already won a great victory.
The second challenge is to remain true to the values of Norwegian society. It is easy to be sympathetic to demands for stronger censorship, policy controls, and online surveillance. Many will question if the terrorist could not have been stopped if only… But those questions should not be allowed to change Norway. Freedom of speech also includes freedom of anonymity. As hard as it can be to accept, extremism of any type is not fuelled by those who speak in public, under real or false names, but by those who feel that no one speaks for them at all. There must be room for even the dark sides of human nature if Norway is to remain Norway. Only then can we as Norwegians emerge on the other side of this challenge as greater and stronger people than we were before.
The third and last challenge is to see and accept one another. This is a tragedy that has touched those who were there, their families, and their friends, but it also touches all those who didn’t know anyone and still shed tears when they think no one is watching. Understanding that this is a pain and a trauma that not everyone will handle the same way or with the same composure is key to helping each other move on. As Norwegians we will make mistakes and as individuals we will overstep, but if we are forgiving in our dealings with others we will slowly find that we do have the strength to get through this together.
During this trial the terrorist who took so many innocent lives will get the chance to explain himself. The court will question his witnesses and it’s allowing the terrorist to look into the eyes of the world while stating that he has no regret and only wish he had killed more. At the end of this trial, these 10 weeks, a just legal system will pass its verdict and he will disappear into the books of history as nothing more than a reminder of all those we have lost. They will never disappear and it’s for them that Norwegians now need to pass the test that is on-going in and outside the court of 22.July.
We promise to forget your name and your face. We promise to replace it with unity and grace. You name won’t be written in the history books. You won’t be remembered, just the lives you took.