Words failed me after the Norwegian terror attacks last Friday. How do you respond to such meaningless violence with anything that doesn't sound useless or overblown?
Norway's leading politicians first showed us how, by consistently refusing to aportion blame and rather focusing on how the society could respond: By fighting for its democratic values. Survivors from the island spoke with unbelievable strength when they again and again vowed to respond with love rather than hatred to the actions that killed their friends. And these sentiments filtered through to the population at large. Norwegians created Internet support groups; numerous ones for the victims and their loved ones, but also for the killer's family and defence lawyer. Representatives of rightwing politics said they'd have to reconsider their rhetoric, while politicians from the left said they shouldn't be blamed for what happened. When Muslim leaders were interviewed they said they were sorry that Muslims had been accused (and some abused) of being behind the attack, but chose to rather focus on the victims.
The tragedy truly struck all of Norway: Representatives from every county attended the youth camp on Utøya. In the aftermath, almost every local paper carries an interview with someone who experienced the killing or who lost a loved one to it. Everyone didn't know someone who was lost, but they knew they easily could have.
And all of Norway responded. Members of the attacked youth party returned to their home towns and continued their show of strength by appealing for more love and more democracy. Other youth parties gathered ranks behind them. Youngsters and older people joined various parties and voluntary organisations, one of which was also hit by the atrocity, in droves.
Roses became a symbol for the sorrow felt over all the deaths and resistance against terror. Public places, symbols of the state and memorial spots were carpeted with flowers
, candles and greetings to the dead after people throughout the country had marched in protest against the atrocities. Roses and other flowers became so much sought after that florists cut them off potted plants and sold them. They made a huge profit; this profit they've vowed to donate to charity. The authorities, in turn, have temporarily abolished import duties on roses.
In one town, a man with the same last name as the killer organised the local march. And "his" name is being subjected to a silent boycott. The prime minister avoids saying it during appearances, preferring to focus on the victims. Norwegian tweeters created the first post-tragedy joke out of misspelling or remodelling the name, to things like Arnold Bingo Bumpling. And on the news the names of the victims, their ages and hometowns were recited in something which sounded like a solemn remembrance ceremony.
Significant symbolical events keep happening: Leading imams came to the main memorial service held in Oslo cathedral; bishops and politicians came to memorial services held in mosques. The first funeral, held today for eighteen-year old girl who originally fled to Norway from Iraq, was a joint Muslim and Christian ceremony. Hours before she was killed, Bano Rashid had lent a former prime minister, the one the killer referred to as the "murderer of the nation", her boots. I wish that my nation will remain big enough to fill them.