Norway faces down terror with love care and roses

Norway Face Down Terror with love roses and songs #5Norwegians flocked to public squares across the country Thursday and lifted their voices in song. Inspired by a Facebook-organized protest tens of thousands gathered with the goal of facing down terror with the power of music.
Our target: the far-right fanatic terrorist from July 22 last year, now on trial for the bombing and shooting rampage that killed 77 people. Our weapon: A children’s tune that the terrorist claims has been used to brainwash the country’s youth into supporting immigration.

In downtown Oslo alone, some 40 000 people chimed in as the Norwegian artist Lillebjørn Nilsen played the song “Children of the Rainbow” – a Norwegian version of American folk music singer Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race”. Seeger and his music have been central in a myriad of social justice causes from civil rights to the environment. He sang out against the Vietnam War and more recently joined the Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan.

I was at this public square in Oslo called Youngstorget and it was a heart touching moment where people did everything from crying to laughing in the strong shared feeling of how great it was to fight terror with love, care, roses and a song:
Norway Faces Down Terror with love roses and songs #2
We sang the Norwegian lyrics by Nilsen:
A sky full of stars, blue sea as far as you can see – an earth where flowers grow, can you wish for more?
Together shall we live, every sister, brother, you and me – Young children of the rainbow, a fertile land and seashore

The direct reason for singing that song was that in testimony last week, the terrorist mentioned the tune as an example of how he believes “cultural Marxists” have infiltrated Norwegian schools and weakened its society. We, the people of Norway wanted to prove him wrong and “take back the song where it belongs!” I do hope you get an idea of the magical, non violent way it was done in this mixed vid I’ve made:

Defiant sing-alongs of “Children of the Rainbow” were staged in Oslo and other major Norwegian cities, while in court survivors of the terrorist’s attacks gave tearful testimony in the ninth day of the trial.

I care about the people who died and whose family members died. This march is about them and about our Norway, not his (terrorist’s) Norway,” said Peter Solberg, a 46-year-old office worker who survived the bombing in Oslo.
Eskil Pedersen, the head of the Labor Party’s youth wing, told this umbrella-decked crowd in Oslo (to be seen in the photos above) that this song held special significance for his group. “We aren’t here because of him, but because of each other,” he said.

Norway Faces Down Terror with love roses and songs #18And later, the crowd marched to the Oslo courthouse, where we laid a carpet of roses on the steps and the fence. Shocked by the terrorist’s lack of remorse for his massacre, Norwegians by and large have decided the best way to confront him is by demonstrating our commitment to everything he loathes. Instead of raging against the gunman, we want to manifest our support for tolerance and democracy.

Since he has admitted to the attacks, the terrorist’s mental state is the key issue for the trial to resolve. If found guilty and sane, he would face 21 years in prison, although he can be held longer if deemed a danger to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to compulsory psychiatric care.

I was at the courthouse the other day, trying to capture the flower power statement with my camera. So if a photo says more than a thousand word, I just say:
Norway Face Down Terror with love roses and songs #11

I will like to end this post with a quote that sums up the Norwegian attitude and how we like to deal with this tragedy. It was said by one of the survivors of the massacre: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we can show together”.
The tragedy of the 22 of July, 2011 affected all the people of Norway. However at times like this when I see all people joining together to show that we will not answer hate with hate and violence with violence, I feel happy to be Norwegian.

Roald Amundsen Norway first to reach the South Pole

Bust of Roald AmundsenThe Polar Explorer, Discoverer, Researcher and Pioneer Amundsen from Norway became the first person to reach the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911. Hosting a blog about Norway; our history, culture, traditions and habits, it would have been a disgrace not to mention it today – 100 years later. This year actually call for double celebration significance for Norway coincides: its 150 years since the birth of Fridtjof Nansen too! These two men played important roles as nation-builders and polar heroes and of course equally important were their contributions to science and literature, as well as Nansen’s humanitarian endeavours and his role as a diplomat and politician.

Planning for the North – going to the South Pole:
Amundsen started preparing for an expedition to the North Pole, but when both Frederick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary claimed to have reached the Pole, in 1908 and 1909, respectively, Amundsen secretly changed his plans. In Madeira he revealed that the expedition to the North Pole would go by way of the South Pole. The race was on with Robert F. Scott to see which of them would be the first man on the southernmost point on earth. Five weeks before Scott, who died on the return journey, Amundsen reached the South Pole 14 December 1911:
Roald Amundsen from Norway first to reach the South Pole
Norwegian flag planted on the South Pole (Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute)

The first to sail through the Northwest Passage:
In the summer of 1903 Amundsen sailed from Oslo with the ship Gjøa. The aim of the expedition was to find the Northwest Passage, for which the English had been searching for 400 years. Amundsen had a scientific goal: he wanted to measure the earth’s magnetic field and determine its exact location.
Winter Olympics Inukshuk from Canada in Norway #7
The ship Gjøa in front of Fram Museum

The expedition had a 23-month stopover in Gjøa Haven on King William Island. While there, Amundsen studied how the Inuit lived and gathered a prodigious amount of ethnographic material. In the spring of 1905, Gjøa sailed onward and emerged at the other end of the Northwest Passage in August 1906.

Norway marks Amundsen’s south pole feat 100 years on:
Today dozens of scientists and explorers joined the Norwegian prime minister to mark 100 years since Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to the South Pole. At the pole, PM Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to “one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind” and highlighted the importance of this cold continent in our efforts to understand the warming of the globe! He also said Amundsen’s polar expeditions “helped to form our new national identity”. You see, Amundsen’s arrival at the pole on 14 December 1911 came only six years after Norway had declared independence after a long union with Sweden. So there is a lot of reasons to celebrate this year and especially today you know : -)

Nobel Peace Prize from Norway to women rights activists

The Peace prize 2011 awarded by the Nobel Committee in Norway was to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. This important yearly event is of course to be mentioned here since my blog is about Norway: our history, culture and traditions and also since I often talk about how Social Media empowering people. This time we’re talking about empowering women – to get a better world – and I gladly support that. This year I really liked the Nobel Committee’s reason: “For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society”. Let’s hope it will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.

Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee and Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Photo: John McConnico/AP)

To recognize women rights activistsa:
Karman – at 32, the first Arab woman and the youngest peace laureate ever – is a journalist and member of the Islamic party Islah. She also heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. The prize is also recognized the Arab Spring movement championed by often anonymous activists from Tunisia to Syria.
Sirleaf is widely credited with helping her country emerge from an especially brutal civil war. She was elected president of Liberia in 2005 and won re-election in October this year.
Gbowee challenging Liberia’s warlords, long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters, who continued to prey on women, despite a peace deal that should have ended the 14-year civil war.

Nobel Peace Prize 2010 awarded China dissident Liu Xiaobo

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. From the committee’s announcement it’s written:”Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal and this status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lies down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens”. The whole idea by awarding Xiaobo, is to take the opportunity to focus on that – I guess.

Since my blog is about Norway: our history, culture, traditions and habits, this important yearly event is of course to be mentioned. However, since this is political dynamite, I shall be careful with my personal view on pro et contra – In my blog’s theme, I’ll give you some facts and reaction from the press in Norway instead:

The Committee’s independence:
Jagland with 2010 award winnerSome have the idea of The Norwegian Nobel Committee represent the official Norwegian Political authority – or in general the (whole) nation of people for that matter – It’s not so! In the beginning, the committee was filled with active parliamentarians, but ties were later weakened so that the committee became more independent. Now, active parliamentarians cannot sit on the committee, unless they have explicitly stated their intent to step down shortly. The committee have their own mandate and act as independents as the constitutional freedom of the press. (Photo: Andersen, Aleksander/Scanpix -> T. Jagland, the chairman of the committee with a picture of Xiaobo).

Comments and reactions from Norway:
Jonas G. Støre (Foreign Minister): “Liu Xiaobo has become a symbol of opposition to the Communist Party, which shows no signs of giving in to Western pressure to implement democratic reforms.
China has previously expressed a pressure against the Norwegian government and warned that Liu Xiaobo is awarded the Peace Prize. Minister stressed that the Nobel Committee is independent. There is no basis for China to take measures against Norway if they disagree with the price.”

Chinese in Norway: “We believe it is inappropriate. It creates more conflict between Norway and China, as Chinese officials have protested strongly against the deal” says Spokesman Ya Ming Yuen the Norwegian-Chinese Association. The statements came after both the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassy has protested against the controversial Nobel Peace Prize-decision.
– A peace prize is to create peace. If a price creates conflict, then it becomes a problem. Therefore, we believe the distribution is inappropriate, “said Ya.

A threat to trade between Norway and China:
It is not long since the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee was in China to establish a free trade agreement with the country. The theme for the meeting between the Minister for fisheries and aquaculture issues is the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, trade issues and resource management. Today, China is the eighth largest purchaser of Norwegian fish, and so far this year, exports of fish there for 1.5 billion.

Some believe this will have consequences for the relationship between Norway and China. There is no doubt about the leadership of the Communist Party feels humiliated and there will be a strong reaction, and they have a tradition of over-reacting. The question is how long the relationship between China and Norway will be harmed by the current allocation?

Is it worth the consequences?
Most likely, Liu Xiabos chair in the award ceremony at the City Hall December 10th, will be empty. Probably he will not be informed that he has won the award at all. Already now CNN’s broadcasts to China to be blocked (or was at the announcement this morning) – and his His wife sits in the practice of house arrest today.

There are plenty of other good candidates – also this year – for the peace prize. It would have been a lot more easy to award a less controversial candidate too – like last year. I am happy The Norwegian Nobel Committee make some unpopular decisions that at least set focus on delicate, political matters – small or big, local or global.

For those who want to stay neutral in comments on this; have you noticed the announcement of this award at all?

Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama in Oslo Norway

President Barack Obama received the Norwegian Nobel Peace Committee’s award for 2009 in Oslo, Norway yesterday. A lot of pro et contra has been said about this years award: “A Nobel for nothing”, “Too much too soon”, “Sorry, Obama, you don’t deserve it yet”, “Peace Prize to Obama, but it’s not his fault” etc. However even the wonder and critical American media lately have taken the Nobel Committee in defence. Like when CNN’s Fareed Zakaria rhetorically asks whether Mother Teresa abolished poverty before she got the Peace Prize. Further more he said: “Wiped Al-Baradei out nuclear weapons or did Woodrow Wilson ending all war? The prize is often given on basis of vision rather than goals achieved”.

Obama left this morning and it’s time for a bit of afterthoughts; what’s the impression – what does Norwegian think and did he convinced the people in Norway and around the world? Well, it depends on whom you ask I guess and again; not all people in Norway think the same or speaks with one tongue. It’s like other controversial matters, like death penalty or abortion: There are different opinions – in your country too (I hope!). So reading through the press tonight, here are some reactions and reflections:

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech made it:
Some says it was the best speech given in Norway and even more: this speech will go down in history as one of the truly great speeches of the Nobel Prize. Few have probably performed a Nobel speech at more convincing manner and he put it all in an ideal context, while he was talking about a real political world. He denied the gap that exists between the idealists and the realists who are very prominent in both the U.S. and in Norway which many thought was very liberating. Implicitly Obama demonstrated that he believes the war in Iraq is not a just war. By excluding the war in Iraq in his speech, Obama implied that he believes the war in Iraq is not a just war, like Afghanistan might be.
It was a wise speech in a “faded” voice – deep and principled and not a “Yes, We Can” speech – no reason for that under this circumstances. Also many pointed out that it was a good speech from the U.S. to the world. Obama for sure know how to do the right thing at the right time :-)

Continuing at the Grand Galla dinner:
In the evening, after eating reindeer fillet, smoked farm sand, fish and moose, Obama gave his toast speech – a Norwegian tradition. He opened to comment Thorbjorn Jagland – The Nobel Committee chairman’s – speech during the ceremony: “You gave a brilliant speech. I was almost convinced that I deserved award,”….. to laughter from all the guests at the Grand Hotel.
– Both my and Jagland’s message is to lift the people and things that are forgotten for up to an international level, as was done when Martin Luther King received the prize in 1964, said the president.
– The case of the civil rights movement was still uncertain, and no one was sure how it would evolve. How we thought of each other and in the minority.
– It helped to put wind behind the sails of the fight that make me and Michelle can stand here today, “said Obama.

Will we all gain from this prize?
A Norwegian journalist asked this question: How will you use the award and Obama’s answer was:
– It’s a big surprise to get the price. I have no doubt that others might have deserved it more. My task is to continue on a line that is important for the United States and a line that will ensure peace in the world: by fighting against nuclear weapons, combat climate change, creating stability in Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism.
– My goal is not to win a popularity contest or get a price.

There are still pro et contras left and the debate will go on. I think he increases his popularity in Norway and a lot of Norwegians hope he will send some more concretely and committed message to U.N. climate change meeting in Copenhagen.

My wife DianeCA, is an American who have lived in Norway for 10 years. You should also click to read her thoughts about Obama’s visit.
How about you: Did you notice that Obama was in Oslo yesterday – and the reason why?