Norway’s tragedy

Today is the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

Matt and I are actually traveling this weekend, but only to Zurich, and thankfully not in the US. I have a hard time imagining anyone in the Western world is not noticing this anniversary, but an essay in the The New York Times (among all those other commemorative outpourings across the media) noted that upheaval in other places may make this day pass noticed.  Another comment that struck me:  This day is now a day of fear, one journalist wrote, not commemoration.  Certainly not celebration.

The shootings in Norway in July are also now inexorably linked to 9/11, to fear of Islam and Muslims, to anniversaries that strike fear and terror.  One man’s brutal acts are seared into a community’s psyche, into a generation’s ideals and world outlook.  In the same way that the airplanes crashing into various U.S. targets have done the same to Americans.

As the news accounts say, at least.  I read everything I could about Norway’s response immediately after, but even the urgency to know about the events that unfolded there has waned.  I think in the same way, I have become less cognizant of the actual events of 9/11, and have folded the consequences into my daily life where necessary.  I recall railing against the government as they started to put up ugly cement barriers across downtown Washington, D.C., when I lived there.  I am still amazed I do not have to take off my shoes in European airports.

The people who remain truly affected by 9/11 are those who lost family members and friends — something I did not and therefore will never comprehend entirely.  I was reminded of this reading about the quick cooling of affection for New York City as time passed after the towers tumbled.  We were all New Yorkers, for a little while, just as we were all Norwegians for a little while, after the July attacks.

But we are not all Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians… our boundaries and barriers to understanding remain.  Some commentators hoped that 9/11 might bring us together, might leave permanent fingerprints that link us all.  Even after the Norwegian shootings, the acrimony was plain — I am struggling to remember how media spoke before 9/11, pre-FOX news… was it really different then?

Election season is on in Switzerland, and the far-right SVP is posting these images of booted feet walking across the Swiss flag.  Switzerland for Swiss, is the gist of their message, and keep out the immigrants.  It all looks so fascist.

In Sweden (and in Norway), the general response after the July shooting was that these far-right parties would be marginalized. That people would be forced to examine their hatred and xenophobia. I wonder if our barriers ever go away, even in responding to or marking these horrible events like 9/11.

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My reading immediately after the shootings in Norway:

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One Response to Norway’s tragedy

  1. Ms. Krieger says:

    I am a Syrian, every time I read about the revolution or hear it on the radio. I remember the random man in Palmyra who gave me a ride to me hotel just because I was lost and it was late; the young juice seller in Hama who would sit with me and drink pomegranate and carrot smoothies in the evenings; the woman in Homs who shared pita bread and cheese with me, then translated the school children’s chanting slogans in the court yard “We go hungry for the glory of the State!”.

    Oh I remember them and I hate the dictator and I am a Syrian at that moment.

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