if there was a "Greatest Country on Earth" award, real Norway could very well win it. According to the United Nations, the Scandinavian nation ranks first in Human Development Index which calculates life expectancy, education index and GDP. Also according to the United Nations they rank second (to Sweden) in per capita government sponsored humanitarian assistance world wide and its people rank second (to Luxembourg) in private humanitarian donations. Aside from large foreign aid contributions throughout the world, Norway's soccer federation even twice donated soccer fields to Brooklyn.
Norway also ranks in the top ten with both, the least financial inequality, and also the least political corruption. According to the World Health Organization Norway ranks "only" 11th in health care, but even that is 26 spots higher than the United States. Finally, according to Wikipedia Norway ranks just outside the top ten with the world's lowest murder rate and is second (to Iceland) in all of Europe.
Historically, Norwegians (through their Viking ancestors who later settled in what became the French duchy of Normandy) can be credited with establishing the Kingdom of England (1066) as well as uniting Saracen, Byzantine and Lombard lands in southern Italy and Sicily to create the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (1130). To the horror of the neighboring Papal States, Two Sicilies, which also featured large Latin and Jewish populations was Europe's first multicultural kingdom. Ironically, the kingdoms created through Norman conquests not only dwarfed Normandy, but also their original homeland of Norway itself. While those foreign lands prospered, Norway remained a small isolated land which never experienced the type of Renaissance that swept through Western Europe. In fact, only within the past 200 years did Norway's population surpass the million mark. For most of their post-Middle Ages history, Norwegians ceded power to their neighbors in Denmark and then later in Sweden. Surprisingly, it's only been about 100 years since Norway did re-establish an independent, constitutional monarchy. Still, in that time Norway has much to be proud of. Perhaps their proudest moment came when, unlike Sweden, they did not remain neutral and did try fighting off Nazi Germany.
Sadly, not all Norwegians live in real Norway. Some live in the lonely world of hate, fear, violence and destruction. A world which thanks to the internet is stronger and more united than ever before. It's the type of world which many Americans belong to, most notably those who have recently gone on anti-government shooting sprees like James Von Brunn in Washington DC, Richard Poplawski in Pittsburgh, and Byron Williams in Oakland. All lashing out with deadly plots to stave off an enemy which only exists in the fake world of hateful propaganda.
On the afternoon of July 22nd, Norway too became a victim of real violence stemming from a fake world of imagined threats. Unlike the American attackers, 32 year old Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, not only chose to target the government but also defenseless teenagers. First he car bombed a government complex (the closest building to the parked car filled with fertilizer and explosives housed the Prime Minister's office) in Oslo. That explosion killed 8 workers. During the confusion Breivik later snuck off to a rural island retreat inside a popular lake where he executed 69 campers (50 of whom were 18 or younger) while dressed like a police officer and claiming to be there for their protection.
Despite being crazed with infinite hate, Breivik was far from crazy. Instead, like Timothy McVeigh, he had a meticulous plan for mass murder. It was the first battle which in his mind alone would lead to a greater Hitler-esque type of racial war. Better put, a modern day crusade against Muslims. Like Hitler, Breivik's final solution came with a manifesto. Despite similar mad writings, Breivik was still aware enough to disassociate himself with Hitler followers of today. A former member of Norway's populist, ultra-right wing Progress Party, he had always realized that any tie in to Hitler was a non-starter within any sane political circles. Ironically, he couldn't realize that a racial war against Muslims in his home country is quite inane considering that Muslims make up 2% of real Norway's population. On top of that, people from North African/Middle Eastern lands are not even the biggest or quickest rising immigrant groups to real Norway. Instead, Norway's biggest wave of immigration over the past 10 years has been from Eastern Europe.
According to Wikipedia, the biggest ethnic exodus to Norway comes from Poland. Poles make up 60,000 of Norway's 4.9 million people, with 54,000 of them arriving to the Scandinavian country since 2001. In terms of raw numbers that makes Poles by far the fastest growing ethnicity in Norway. The fastest growing ethnicity, in terms of percentage, comes from Lithuania. Their population has boomed from 300 to 16,000 over the same time. In all, Norway's Eastern European population has ballooned from roughly 20,000 to over 150,000 people during the past decade. Even without factoring 35,000 Central European immigrants from Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Austria or other Western groups from Scandinavia, to the Mediterranean, to the United States, Eastern Europeans alone outnumber Muslim populations. Since there is no Muslimlandia, this means that Norway's Eastern European population outnumbers the combined totals of people coming from Morocco, to Egypt, to Somalia, to Saudi Arabia, to Iraq (more on a particular Iraqi story later), to Pakistan and all Muslim lands in between.
Still, Breivik, following the writings of Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes and Bat Ye'or (born Gisele Littman), while inside the paranoid world of fake threats to Norway, saw Muslims and not Catholic Poles, or Orthodox former Soviets, as the enemy. Like Oklahomans voting to ban Sharia Law (Muslims make up 0.8% of Oklahoma's population) Breivik was too lost in hate to understand reality. In fact, he didn't even look to attack Muslims first, but instead what he considered Norwegian enablers. Even that's not true as he used the bulk of his massacre to kill the children of the enablers. The children were members of the AUF, a youth wing of Norway's ruling Labour Party.
In power for the past 6 years, and 23 of the last 35, Labour has courted immigration while also standing against America's illegal invasion of Iraq, against Norway's inclusion into the European Union and against Israel's illegal land grabs on Palestinian territories. Like Hitler, Breivik considered traitors as his country's primary threat. While many are aware of the 6,000,000 Jews murdered during the Holocaust, most are unaware that nearly 2,000,000 Gypsies were also exterminated. As were between three and eight million "others." These others consisted of not only captured members of opposition armies, but also German civilians. Those that Hitler considered his first enemy. The long list of native opponents included political, sexual and social enemies. Germans who were communists, or homosexuals, or homeless, or even the handicapped. Like Hitler, Breivik first built his Aryan credentials (Breivik used plastic surgery on his forehead, nose and chin to appear more Aryan) before going after his imaginary traitors. Or at least, their children.
Deemed unfit for military service, Breivik often played dress up (including Knights Templar gear) while seeking his modern day crusade. Perhaps it's no surprise that Breivik did the bulk of his murdering while dressed in a police officer's uniform. In his cop costume he rounded up the teens at an Utoya beach, drew his automatic weapons and started firing at the kids.
Somehow, others didn't quite see the act of murdering children as all that disturbing. Instead, some, like Glenn Beck, saw the AUF itself as the "disturbing" part as he compared it to the Hitler Youth. Aside from some later obligatory sorrow for those murdered, Beck made sure to not only publish Breivik's manifesto on his blogsite but also kept re-posting a YouTube clip made by Brievik before the murders. On the air at least, Beck tried distancing himself from Breivik. This despite their strong similarity in political beliefs (Breivik wrote glowingly about the Tea Party in his manifesto) and Beck's seemingly pro-Breivik blogsite. Not only was the blog filled with Breivik propaganda but it also contained a forum for Breivik fans to openly cheer the cowardly terrorist from the safety of Internetlandia. Again, there are many on the internet living in a fake world. Sadly, a handful of elected officials from right wing groups in Italy, Austria and a few journalists in Israel, were more open in defending Breivik's views.
Obviously, this is not true for the vast majority. The list of real Norwegian heroes and heroines proved to be even greater than Breivik's hate. Hearing gunshots and screams, people on the mainland took to Lake Tyrifjorden unarmed. In small boats they risked their own lives and dodged bullets while saving others. Marcel Gleffe, a German-Norwegian, was the first on the scene. Racing his boat to harm's way, he saved 30 while throwing out life jackets to the disoriented teens who did not know whom to trust. Even through all the despair Gleffe reported that the teens knew who needed help first and who could muster enough strength to paddle through the ice cold waters and wait their turn to climb aboard.
Other boats also arrived to save lives but no one saved as many as a married lesbian couple (unlike in most American states, homosexuals are allowed equal rights in Norway) who rescued 40 teens off the shores of Utoya. To Breivik's chagrin (the terrorist wrote against feminism and women almost as angrily as he did Muslims) the couple, Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen, went towards the bullets while bravely reaching out to panicked survivors. Survivors who were not just shot at, but also trying to wade in frigid waters while fully clothed. Through the gunfire Dalen and Hansen brought as many as they could back to the mainland. The couple then returned and went back to the island to save others. They then returned again and again until the police (most of whom were earlier busy clearing the streets of Oslo) finally arrived. Thankfully, over 500 teens did survive the hour and a half shooting spree. Most hid, some played dead (although Breivik did often reshoot those on the ground that he thought were still breathing) and many others stayed afloat in the frosty waters waiting to be picked up by heroes like Gleffe, Dalen and Hansen.
A couple of AUF members, immigrant teens from Chechen Republic (17 year old, Movsar Zyamaev, and 16 year old, Rustam Daudov) actually tried fighting back. They had come to Norway as refugees from the ongoing battle with Russia. Sadly, they were already familiar with blood and violence. Walking with a third friend, they hears a commotion coming from the beach. Originally the three thought it was a joke. When the third friend took a deadly bullet to the head, the two Chechen teens ran into the woods knowing the violence was just as real as it had been in their native land. They hid in the woods even as what they thought was a police officer, Breivik in costume, had asked them to come out. Others did come out as Zyamaev and Daudov witnessed their executions.
Hiding in a tree, Zyamaev used his cellular to call his father. Zyamaev's father instructed his own son to remain calm and to go after the armed killer when the opportunity presented itself. Remarkably, the boys did just that. Sneaking up on Breivik the two threw stones at him, one of which hit the killer square in the back of the head. Unfortunately, the stone wasn't big enough to knock out the terrorist. Breivik turned around and fired but missed his targets. The two escaped through the woods and eventually led 23 others to the safety of a cave in a remote, rocky part of the island. There they hid, not attempting to swim through the cold waters which may have drowned those unlucky enough to be saved by Gleffe, Dalen, Hansen and the other hero boaters.
In all, five of the 69 killed in Utoya were Muslim. The last name to be put on the death toll is that of 20 year old, Jamil Rafal Yasin. Yasin's body is still missing but it's feared that she drowned or was shot dead while trying to swim through the cold lake. She was one of over 3,000 Iraqi refugees who had escaped to Norway after our illegal invasion and occupation. Unlike America (fearing an invite of terrorist cells), Norway was quick to give asylum to innocent civilians caught in war. During her brief time in Norway she and her younger brother, a survivor of Utoya, quickly assimilated into Norwegian culture.
Aside from becoming politically active she also appeared on the televised Norwegian pop music talent show, The X-Factor. No one can say whether Yasin would have pursued a career in politics, or music, or both, or something else entirely. Chances are she would not have led the 2% into a Muslim takeover of Norway. Chances are, if she had stayed in Iraq, she would not have developed any links with al-Qaeda or helped in developing any weapons of mass destruction. We know Iraq had no ties to al-Qaeda and know they had no weapons of mass destruction. We now also know that Yasin was a multiple real life victim of violence due to fake threats. While Yasin and 76 others are gone their memories live forever. While their touch, their voices, their love has been silenced, love for each and every one of the victims has only grown stronger.
Two days after the attacks, real Norwegians showed how strong their love is as 200,000 gathered in Oslo (a city of only 600,000) in a memorial for the victims. Speaking to them and millions more on TV, Noway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, quoted one of the AUF survivors, Stine Renate Haheim, who herself had relayed a text from a friend, Helle Gannestad, to American viewers on CNN. The Prime Minster echoed Gannestad's sentiments: "If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we can show together." Something to think about for the red and white rose carrying crowd as they try coping with the devastating trauma.
Sadly, Breivik will not be the last terrorist to kill in the name of hate. Whether it be due to right wing extremism, Muslim extremism or American imperialism, more innocent people will die. While the forces of evil will continue to kill, none will be able to stop progressive thinking. Obviously slavery will never return to America just as the Holocaust will never return to Europe. But smaller advancements are always being made as well. As in the Biblical struggle between love and hate, love always wins out. Whether it be for minority rights, female rights, gay rights, eventually those rights are met. No amount of future Breiviks can ever change the progress made through peace, love and understanding.*