Norway seeks to keep peace
People comfort each other outside Oslo City Hall as they participate in a "rose march" in memory of the victims of Friday's bomb attack and shooting massacre Monday July 25, 2011. Anders Behring Breivik has admitted bombing Norway's capital and opening fire on a political youth group retreat, but he entered a plea of not guilty, saying he wanted to save Europe from Muslim immigration. Police announced Monday that they had dramatically overcounted the number of people slain in a shooting spree at a political youth group's island retreat and were lowering the confirmed death toll from 86 to 68. (AP Photo/Erlend Aas, Scanpix Norway)
Confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik hoped to trigger a nationalist revolution in Norway. But his double act of mass murder and destruction seems to have stirred only dignified defiance in this wealthy, idealistic nation renowned for its commitment to peace.
The capital’s heart remains shattered and cordoned off following Friday’s car-bomb blast. Communities up and down this sparsely populated land of fir forests and mist-shrouded fjords have yet to bury their 76 loved ones, mostly slain as Breivik gunned down defenseless teens and young adults at an island retreat of the governing Labor Party.
But families, workmates and communities already are coming together to discuss the need for Norway to protect the best of what it is — a tolerant society open to the world. Many even express a paradoxical sense of relief that it was a local, not an al-Qaida outsider, who sought to turn their well-ordered world upside down.
“These quite unimaginable attacks have challenged our national character, but they will not be able to alter our national characteristics,” said Geir Lundestad, director of the Nobel Institute that helps select the winner of each year’s Peace Prize in Oslo.
“Even in these terrible days, we have seen some of our sense of openness, democracy, equality come to the fore. Even our king and queen show they are one of us, they weep with the rest of the country,” Lundestad told The AP in an interview.
Whereas other nations struck by terror have responded quickly with heavy security-force deployments and clampdowns on civil liberties, that is not apparent in Norway today.
What remains so striking to a foreign visitor is how calm, and how easily accessible, Norwegian citizens and institutions remain.
Those arriving at Norway’s airports still face only perfunctory ID checks. The pairs of soldiers who guard roads on the perimeter of Friday’s central Oslo blast zone appear to be the absolute minimum that Western societies typically deploy in the wake of a terrorist attack.
Perhaps most surprisingly, leaders of the government and the royal family continue to visit the scenes of greatest tragedy — the bomb zone, hospitals, hotels where parents still await news of their missing child — with barely a cop or bodyguard in sight. The security buffer between the ruling elite and common man appears nonexistent.
Instead, it is the public at large that has mobilized in support of the forces of reason, moderation and sharing the burden of grief. Central Oslo florists struggled Monday to maintain supplies as long lines formed outside.