It is 4:30am, and I find myself unable to sleep again. I am no stranger to mild bouts of insomnia, but they usually are due to an overindulgence in chocolate or perhaps a tune in my head barring me from slumber. However, this time my restlessness is caused by a pulsating pit in my stomach, a noxious cocktail of fear, confusion and disgust I seldom feel. I don’t like doing so, but I supposed the word that best describes the feeling is terror.
I am confused because just recently, my adopted home city of Oslo was rocked by a blast I heard from my window. It was a very real explosion. People died, blood was shed. But it was also symbolic detonation of one man’s rage and anger at a natural process of demographic change in an open, healthy and democratic society. Anders Behring Breivik’s attempt to destroy the voices of Norwegian society that uphold the values Norway stands for was futile. He must have known that. He must have known that killing, in cold blood, 77 people would not achieve a goal of drawing attention to immigration issues. Nor would it have hindered the labor party in political participation. On the contrary, his only achievements were to further alienate the extreme nationalists by proving just how irrational they could be and to affirm that political progress could not be interrupted by madmen, or if it could be, only momentary so. Those, and perhaps being the cause of my sleeplessness. So, I am confused by how anyone could think that such acts of violence could elicit sympathy for their cause. I am confused about how a person, by becoming a courier of death, could believe that he was making life better for those he did not kill. I am confused about how a person who describes himself as a nationalist cannot see that his acts clearly define him as a traitor to his country and to human decency. I am confused about how a person could conclude that by bringing violence to this city of peace anything other then a strengthening of that peace would result. He must not know the city well.
Still, I must admit he has succeeded in creating a certain sense of fear, at least for me. In the hours after the detonation of the car bomb on Grubbergata, my mind raced with speculatives. Are the more explosion coming? How many perpetrators are there? Are my friends and loved ones safe? Each question faster than the other spiraling out of control, a sensation only achieved so effectively, I presume, by terrorism and perhaps mental illness. After it became clear the immediate danger was over and that those close to me were unharmed, the crippling reality of the loss to those I did not know came center stage in my mind. Yes, I felt fear, but I cannot imagine for a second the nightmarish horror that those youths participating at AUF’s summer camp must have felt as a crazed gunman attempted to systematically exterminate them without mercy or remorse.
It is when I think of those young people being slaughtered on Ut¸ya that I feel the aspect of terrorism that affects me most: disgust. I am horridly disgusted that a human being could commit such unspeakable acts against others who peacefully organize to converse in politics. I am ashamed to know that, as a member of the same species, I share some of the same chromosomes with this spineless monster. If there is anything more cowardly than indiscriminate shootings, it must be indiscriminate shootings on an island where escape is near impossible. What type of animal can justify such a gutless attack? Only one with the devious mix of criminal insanity and self-righteousness such as Anders Behring Breivik. The disgust rises so high in my gullet that I feel like vomiting. As he has already admitted guilt, I feel no shame in saying that the least of the punishment to be handed down (in addition to life imprisonment) should include stripping him of his citizenship. Every second he continues to carry a passport, he besmirches the entire Norwegian nation. I normally shy away from punitive imprisonment in favor of rehabilitation, but in light of the seriousness of the events, I am sure most would forgive my inconsistency.
Newton’s law does not work as well in terrorism as it does in physics: to every action there is a greater and opposite reaction. Norway has condemned this violence with it’s unabashed support of peace and it’s unwavering commitment to the values of solidarity and unity. It is with the gravity of this comforting thought that I can overcome the confusion, fear and disgust of terror to combat my insomnia and finally get some sleep. The buses will run, the planes will fly, the joggers will jog, and the people of Oslo will continue to live their lives in their beloved city, and there is nothing Anders Behring Breivik can do about it.