Monsters Among Us
I was born in Oslo. In recent years I’ve grown to know and admire the city I left as a small child. I have travelled the world in my adult life, seen every continent except Africa (it’s on the list) and enjoyed the people and the variety of cultures that give richness to life, around the world and in the social mosaic of Canada.
Perhaps more than anywhere else I know, Oslo is a people city, where history and culture combine with modern conveniences and a richness of international cultures brought home by Norwegian travelers since the age of the Vikings.
Karl Johan’s Gate, the pedestrian only main street leading up to the royal palace and gardens typifies the people friendly atmosphere. In the harbour area the shrimp boats arrive by lunch time with shrimp cooked on board and people gather in the outdoor cafes of Akerbrygge or in the spacious plaza between City Hall and the harbour. There is a European atmosphere but with a decidedly Norwegian taste. The city boasts a myriad of parks and wide open places where people can meet and talk or walk, serviced by a public transport system that is second to none in the world.
The Norwegian parliament seating is not along political party lines but based on the region members represent. A more sensible arrangement if your government is interested in people not power.
In Akershus, the 800 year old fortress overlooking Oslo harbour there is a museum dedicated to remembrance of the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II. It reveals the dedicated spirit of Norwegians for freedom and independence; it also shows the futility of an extreme and dictatorial government trying to control an educated population.
May 17th is Independence Day, celebrated around Norway, not by processions of army bands and commercial floats but by parades of school children in a tradition that goes back beyond the time when my mother paraded. Christmas Eve brings its customs of family gatherings and traditional foods, Easter in the mountains and summers by the sea all contribute to a way of life that is the envy of those in the world who ever think of Norway. It is the traditions that bind our families, and families that bind our nations.
A cowardly monster was at large in Oslo last week; the result of his rampage was tragic and devastating to all who are connected in any way to the proud and strong but quiet nation. I have spoken against the death penalty since I debated the issue in high school when I was 16. On July 22nd when I heard of the attacks in Oslo my position waivered as anger took hold. But I cannot let a monster change my values, nor can he be allowed to change the culture and the openness of Norway’s society. My hope and belief is that through the strength of families in Oslo the value of openness, and the expectation of peaceful enjoyment of all Oslo has to offer will result in the people insisting that monsters can’t change their society and life will go on.