My heart cried when I learned that the madman who orchestrated the two attacks in Oslo, Norway, had killed so many on Utoeya, many of them teenagers, the best and the brightest in Norway who had assembled to think and discuss and put their minds toward the world’s problems. I looked at my little girl as she slept and wondered what kind of world we were leaving her. One where zealots kill innocents to make some sort of bloody point that they say represents some mainstream religion. This one claimed to represent Christian values. Others have claimed to represent Islamic values. When, in reality, all they represent is hatred and fear.
Hopefully we can look at this latest incident in Norway and learn something. This is what happens when you forget that Christianity is supposed to value compassion, mercy and love. This is what happens when you try to impose your values upon others and try to make everyone act like you and believe what you believe. This is what happens when you try to create a society of zero tolerance rather than common sense. This is what happens when you forget that Jesus cared for the outcasts, poor and demoralized of society, that he was his brother’s keeper: he fed the hungry and healed the sick.
There are reports that Norway’s system of criminal justice could allow this person to be free in 15 years, and people say Norway should change. Why? Their system of criminal justice has prevented just such this kind of act of violence far more successfully than that of any other developed nation in the world. What other nation can claim to be free of such horror since World War II? No, Norway needs to keep doing what it is doing, because what it is doing works. In this case, the exception, the horrible bloody exception, proves the rule.
The best way to prevent another attack like this is not to crack down. Even though when I think about my own daughter, I would like to see her safely encased away from harm, I know that wouldn’t be best for her. I want her to be able to climb trees, ride a toboggan down a snowy hill, walk freely through the woods, travel freely throughout the world. The best way to protect my daughter is to make sure that all children have three solid meals a day, an opportunity to earn an education—a chance to make their dreams come true. But they cannot do that if their single parent is working two jobs to make ends meet, and they have to be latch-key kids because there is no high-quality affordable childcare around. Or there is no health insurance. Or no safe public transportation.
The best way to make sure my child has a decent world in which to live is to maintain the freedoms and rights of ALL people. The best way to make sure my child has a decent and safe world is to value common sense above zero tolerance.
As a developed society we have to stop stepping on the downtrodden and vulnerable. We need, each of us, to embody the values of compassion, mercy and kindness. We need to learn to love ourselves so that we can love others. That is not easy, and rarely, when I stop and honestly think about how I go about my daily life, can I claim success at making sure those values shine forth. But, wow, what an amazing world we would have if compassion, mercy and kindness were truly our guiding values for what we did day in and day out.
The tragedy in Norway was horrific, as are the almost daily attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the frequent attacks in India, the Middle East and everywhere else where people kill other people because they happen to look, speak or believe differently. It’s sad that we can’t all just get along. Pathetic, really, when you think about it.
Compassion, mercy, kindness, love. Those and nothing else should be our guiding principles.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.