Another kind of heat hits our world: a reflection on Norway

Posted July 25th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

The tragedy in Norway resonates across the globe, no? Something about this attack tells us something about our world. It tells us something about rising fears, a trend in racist and fundamentalist re-entrenchment, rightist groups digging societal foxholes and surrounding themselves with fierce defenses in order to ward off ‘the other.’ The ‘braver’ (or crazier) ones step out now and then with some of the weapons and explosives they have stockpiled and in a moment of ‘revolutionary’ fervor, commit mad and irrational violence.

From Oklahoma City to 9/11 to Virginia Tech to Ft. Hood to Oslo – it’s getting all so familiar. The pattern of threatened identity, the fear of the encroachment of other cultures, races, and ethnic groups, a world teetering on the edge of disaster, crowded, teeming with tensions and changes.

Kill them. Kill them all. Hurt them. Punish them. Whoever ‘they’ are. The government. The Liberal Party. Muslims. The wrong kind of Christians. African-American presidents. Immigrants. Mexicans. American Indians. The wrong kind of Jews. Palestinians. Shiites – unless you’re a Shiite, then it’s Sunnis. Secularists. Humanists. The Fed. The United Nations.

One big plot to create ‘One World Government’ under Sharia law with everyone having abortions and gays and lesbians running around married and having children, for God’s sake, and I mean for God’s sake, this has to be stopped!

Somebody get my world back in place! And no one can put that old world back in place. We have added 4.3 billion people to the planet since 1950 and will add another 2-3 billion by mid-century. We are crowded and spilling into one another all over the place. Cultures cannot build walls around themselves anymore. I hear languages other than my own all around me!!

[Side comment: When I walk out my door into South Shore Park on a summer weekend day, English is distinctly a minority language. Spanish and indigenous languages create a chorus of humanity, vibrant, shimmering with life, children, volleyball, picnics, salsa and reggae all in one amazing mix of humanity!!]

Terrifying! Imagine, now that we are so well armed in this country, now that my state caved in to the frontier backwardness of the rest of the country and allows concealed carry, imagine if someone like that guy in Norway decides to address this dramatic loss of white supremacy, of white-as-norm, this threat to their identity with a couple of high-powered weapons…

I have heard people express rage that anyone would dare speak a language that they do not understand in front of them or anywhere near them, as if it is some special highly personal insult.

Think of my Croation grandparents trying to learn English up there in the copper mines of Calumet…

As Franklin Roosevelt once said to the Daughters of the Revolution in 1939:

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionaries.”

The white racist groups in Europe and here in the U.S. have forgotten something essential here. They are speaking more and more of armed rebellion, or revolution, but their target goes to the very roots of us – immigrants. Once whites became dominant in Europe, once white Europeans believed themselves the holders of an intellectual elitism that made them superior to people of other races and cultures, and then empires were created based on this belief, justified by this belief, once our European ancestors came to this land and conquered native peoples, stole their lands, killed their animals, and enslaved Africans to do their work for them – the seeds of the Norway tragedy were planted deep in the psyches of our people.

Like it or not, this is part of us, part of our history. Want one measure of this? How comfortable do you feel saying out loud that a good deal of the intention behind destroying Obama’s presidency is because he is African-American? How much ridicule will such a comment elicit? And yet, and yet, we all know it’s true.

Are we ready yet to have this conversation? Doesn’t look like it, does it? And yet how we get through this era of ecological crisis, economic collapse, peak oil, looming scarcities of water and food, all on a more crowded planet, depends upon us being able to have this conversation. It depends upon us finding some way to get through this fear time when holding on to identities and certainty and old frameworks that provided us our sense of ourselves will no longer work, will in reality only increase the tensions.

It is a letting-go time. And it is a time when we must become fiercely committed to the very things this guy in Norway tried to destroy – multiculturalism, inclusivity, immigration, diversity, sharing of resources, welcoming the stranger, Matthew 25, and an openness to being changed by change itself – which is inexorable and upon us in ways that are leaving us reeling, dizzy, disoriented.

I look out on my world here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and it hardly resembles the place in which I grew up. Oh, the geography is familiar, for sure, but what is happening within that geography is a world that the 10-year-old me would hardly recognize. Would it make any sense to fight that? or to arm myself and start shooting at all the signs of change? or to build walls to try to keep it all at bay?

What I know is this: we are, in fact, all in this together. And setting up walls to divide us makes about as much sense as trying to put walls around the air we breathe. We need to be finding ways – urgently – to build the bridges that can defeat the racist, ethnic hatred that gets unloaded in a hail of bullets – this time aimed at kids!

We also need to be strong – psychologically and spiritually strong – because we are going to see more of this. If there is one thing we know now, after all these explosions of hatred in recent years, it’s that we are going to see more of this.

I continue to dig deep – deeper and deeper into that bottomless well of compassion. I have no other choice if I hope for this world to be able to still hold within it some kindness and generosity, some spark of the human spirit that is bigger than our small fears that get embedded in the surface of our skins, our religions, our fragile egos, our ethno-centricity. Change is about us and is us. Our identities are enlarging to embrace the world. We need open to that. We must open to that.


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One Response

  1. John Stewart

    Thanks, Margaret. And that hate-monger Glenn Beck is now trying to justify killing children at a summer camp. A couple of weeks ago I had the nice experience of unwittingly spending a few days in a neighborhood in Potsdam, Germany, that had been built as a reconciliation community 15 years ago, half West Germans and half East Germans. There are pockets of hope. Thanks again. BTW, Sally Hanlon is again in DC and will join us for dinner tonight. Hope.
    Much love, John