July 22, Norway
Seven years ago today, far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Oslo and Utøya and injured dozens more. It still feels like yesterday in many ways.
I escaped the explosion downtown by leaving work half an hour earlier than normal. Half an hour after I had cycled home through Grubbegata, the terrorist parked in the same street and blew up his van 50 feet away from where I'd locked my bike. I keep thinking about how lucky I was. Since the person I wanted to talk to at the end of the day happened to have left the office, and since I decided not to pick up groceries before I got on my bike, I made it home to hear the explosion only as a muffled thud.
I’m also lucky because I didn’t lose anyone close to me. But I know so many people who did. Everyone does. Norway is such a tiny country, and we were all affected.
However - we were NOT all attacked. This was NOT an attack on Norway, as some people still try to insinuate. The terrorist targeted the Labour party – and specifically young people – in an attempt to wage war on diversity, multiculturalism, feminism and socialism. Let’s not forget that.
On a day like this, it makes me extra angry to see how the extreme right/alt-right is advancing both in Europe and in America. Anders Behring Breivik may have been a “lone wolf” in carrying out the attack, but there’s nothing about his thinking that makes him singular. The terrorist is in prison and will never get out, but the fight against the hatred that drove him to kill, is far from won. The fact that someone like Steve Bannon is now trying to gain a foothold in Europe, is extremely worrying.
It's no secret that I'm passionate about the fight against the alt-right, and some people might say that I'm now trying to "use" July 22 in order to shine a light on political issues that I care about. Right-wingers in Norway might indeed say that I'm "pulling the July 22 card" or "trying to politicise the tragedy". But Anders Behring Breivik's attack was political, and his manifesto is still seen as a call to arms among far-right extremists and fascists worldwide. Steve Bannon and his ilk may not directly condone Breivik's actions, but there is no doubt they share a lot of the same views.
So let's all stay vigilant - let's all do our part in fighting the advance of the far-right in Europe and the rest of the world. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Norway, the world remarked on how Norwegians supposedly 'answered hatred with love'. While it did feel like there was an outpouring of love in Norway at the time of the rose parade, that kind of solidarity and warmth is always temporary. And I can't help thinking that it's unhelpful to repeat cliches about love being stronger than hatred. I don't think that's the case. I don't think love always wins. When it comes to fighting the far-right, not being complacent - and actually doing something! - is far more important than swimming around in a feeling of love.
For me, fighting the far-right means fighting Brexit. I know this might sound strange to Norwegian ears. When I talk about it to people at home, I am often met with disinterest. This worries me a lot, because I believe that turning a blind eye to the anti-EU elements of the far-right movement, is very dangerous at this time. So my way of lifting a red rose is to fight the nationalism of the anti-EU movement.