The contrast between Norway’s response to the brutal terror attacks last Friday and that of the United States after 9/11 couldn’t be starker. Imagine if President Bush had instead said, like Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, “Our answer is more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence.” How many brutal and unnecessary deaths of innocents could have been avoided in Afghanistan and Iraq? Canadians like Maher Ahar (361 days in Syrian detention), Abdullah Almalki (more than 22 months in Syria), Ahmad El Maati (two years, two months and two days in Syria and Egypt) and Muayyed Nureddin (34 days in Syria) wouldn’t have had their lives disrupted forever by illegal deportation to, and torture in, Syria by the U.S. And the list could go on and on.
Several commentators have pointed out that the “politics of hate” that the killer, Anders Behring Breivik, subscribes to, has moved from the fringe to the mainstream in recent years in both Europe and North America. Political scapegoating and demonizing of opponents is increasingly common place in Canada and is certainly endemic in the United States right now, as demonstrated by the rise of the tea party movement and the current impasse on raising the debt ceiling led by a Republican party intent on opposing President Obama no matter what the cost to their nation.
It is in this kind of atmosphere that a mentality that threatens climate scientists’ lives could thrive. It’s the kind of atmosphere that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News International, has fostered over the last three decades, Fox “News” being one of the most obvious and influential examples of this in North America. In the “politics of hate” world, it’s okay to spend trillions of dollars on wars that kill and maim and not on okay to spend billions on healthcare and clean energy.
Norway is showing us that there is another way to respond to haters. Norwegian Erik Abild wrote in Al Jazeera yesterday:
In Norway, many politicians and people state that “today we are all AUF” (the name of the youth party). And we are. Just as we all were Japanese when the earthquake struck, or as we all are Somalis when we read about famine. This feeling of community is a part of being human. And this communality, the shared experience of humanity, is essential to hold onto. In the face of inhumanity, we have to be more human. Because there is only this one world, brutal and beautiful, and we only have one fragile life to make our difference in the world we all share as home.