This piece is no longer available in the Vancouver Sun archives and is therefore posted here instead.
Last Friday a terrorist tried to kill my friends. With a bomb placed outside their workplace he voiced his political dissent in the most cowardly of ways: Through violence. In the hours that followed I reached out over the Internet, through email, Facebook and Twitter, to make sure they were OK. And they were. By random chance, the luck of the draw, by the tiniest of margins. One was on holiday. Another had gone home early. The third met a mutual friend in front of the building at 3:16pm, only ten minutes before the bomb went off. They likely walked right past the terrorist. In an email to me later, one of them writes “It’s strange to think how close I was to waiting a bit longer.” The bomb went off as they turned the corner a block away, killing 8 and wounding many more. The time was 3:26pm.
Last Friday a terrorist killed our future leaders. Dressed like a police officer he landed on Utøya and opened fire on a crowd of political youth gathered to shape the future of their country. As the kids fled in horror, jumping into the freezing lake, hiding behind rocks and trees, shielding themselves under dead bodies, the terrorist laughed and shouted: “I’m going to kill you all.” Of the more than 650 youth that arrived on the island days before, 68 lost their lives to explosive ammunition and violent hatred.
Last Friday a terrorist took the innocence of my homeland. Armed with weapons, explosives and a political ideology fueled by vitriolic polemic on the Internet, he fired the first shots in an imagined civil war, pitting the “pure Europe” against an “invasion” of “Islamists” and “multiculturalists.” His carefully selected target was Arbeiderpartiet (Labour Party) and their youth branch AUF. His goal, expressed in a chilling 1500 page manifesto, to “choke” new recruitment and derail the democratic process. In the wake of his attacks, Norwegian political parties have seen a sharp rise in new memberships.
Last Friday a terrorist committed the worst acts of violence in Norway since World War II. And he did so in his own country, against his own people. Not because he was marginalized. Not because he was crazy. He did it because his right-wing fascist ideology, one supported by a large number of people around the world, imagines the western world under attack from Islam, from other cultures, from politicians wanting to bring forth a “new multicultural World Order.” And though most of his ideological brethren would never condone his atrocities, they are ready to support his hateful beliefs.
On Monday the Norwegian people answered the terrorist in the only way they could: By coming together and raising roses to the sky in memory of those slain, in support of the injured, in respect for their families, and in hope for a better future. In their silent vigil, the world saw verification of the words of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg: “Our answer is more democracy, more openness, more humanity.”
Today I ask myself: Do I hate him? The terrorist that hates me, my friends, my views and my country so much? The answer is no. I don’t hate him. I pity him.
I pity him for not understanding the democratic process. I pity him for not seeing the value in a multicultural society. I pity him for his lack of understanding of the human condition.
I pity those who see his political views and ideals as valid. They have surely lost their way and we must help them back on the path of humanity.
I pity those who undermine political discourse, turning to personal attacks, hate speech and ridicule to quash their opposition. Attacking opposing views with hate and vitriol is not debate: it is cowardice.
Today we are faced with a grim reality. Our preconceptions about who commits evil in the world have been proven wrong. Our hate-filled discourse on the Internet has created a monster. Our Global Village is being ripped apart by our fear of “the other,” our misconceptions, our ignorance and our self-righteous beliefs.
It is time to stop, to take stock. It is time to stand together, to raise our own roses to the sky and send a message to those that incite division, hatred, violence and terror. The message: Together is our only option.