I know people out on the west coast. They in turn know people, who ended up in Norway.

With all the stuff that went down out there towards Seattle, my people were emailing their people. Those people sent my people an email. It goes like this;

Yes, we have seen this tragic story. I follow the news, US and world, very closely and this story is being fully covered nationally and somewhat internationally. It is a tragedy for the individuals, their families, the police force and the community.

Over the past two weeks I have exchanged emails with a friend. She and her family have lived not far from the scene of the tragedy for decades and are active in the community. This tragedy is impacting her very hard. One of the victims was a classmate of her son.

My friend’s grandmother was born in Norway, so she could return and easily become a citizen. She has been asking me many questions about our life here and what Norway is like. One of the issues she asked a lot about is crime and specifically about homicide rates and prevalence of handguns. Norway has the lowest homicide rate in Europe and one of the very lowest in the world, according to Wikapedia. So far in the 18 months we have been in Bergen, population 250,000, there has been only one homicide. The police, except for the equivalent of SWAT teams, do not carry guns, or even mace. A friend of ours was in the Norwegian Military Police and he never was issued, or allowed, to carry a gun or mace.

Amazingly, you do not even see aggression, verbal or otherwise, expressed by anyone. We have yet to see one act of aggression by one person toward another not on the roads, in crowded areas, in long lines, toward kids or by kids. When you see parents treat kids with incredible patience, for example ALWAYS walking down a street at the pace of the three or four year old rather than the child being dragged at the pace of the parent, it helps to understand the origin of the amazing patience/tolerance adults show toward each other.

Another amazing phenomena, related to aggression, is that children do not have temper tantrums. We have yet to see a temper tantrum and I see many kids of all ages with teachers or parents everyday. In fact, I began to talk about this with my Norwegian friends, some being parents, and they did not know what I was talking about. When I explained it in detail, they said no they had never seen or heard of that. WOW!

Quite simply there is a very different culture here with respect to trust in others (a recent survey showed 80% of Norwegians to fully trust others, 10% to trust others most of the time and 10% to sometimes not trust others), honesty and social responsibility. Norway is certainly not perfect, Oslo is having some significant increases in crime as the former Eastern European immigrate population has grown, but it is very different from the US. Young children, elderly and women walk the streets and ride the busses in safety anytime of the day or night. Personally, I have never felt safer in my life.

I hope the US will reach for and achieve such a level of safety, trust and social responsibility. I do not know what it will take to bring these changes. Even the horrific schools shootings have not resulted in any important changes. Still ending the high level of senseless violence in the US must be everyone’s hope. We too find it hard to understand or accept the tragic events in our former home and community. We wish healing for those most directly impacted as well as for the community.

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