24 April 2012

We will never forget, but I don't want to understand

Last Monday I changed the mode on my alarm clock from "radio" to "bird chitter".

During the course of the morning I unfollowed on Facebook every source that used to update me on breaking news.

When I walked to work, I deliberately looked away from the newspaper stands outside of the shops I passed.

All of these actions were grounded in the same basic motivation: enough is enough.

Though in reality, it isn't enough. It's just getting started.

It seems we've become a country of reluctant news junkies here in Norway. It's been nine months, but the memories of the horrors of the events on the 22nd of July last year are as strong as ever. We've been through stages of shock, sorrow and anger, and now it is - perhaps - the time for comprehension. At least I think that is the reason why even those of us who rather would close our eyes to the whole thing still feel obliged to pay some attention to the circus that started last week: the trial.

It's absurd, of course, to even try to comprehend the - in lack of a better word - evil that lies behind the killing of 77 people in two coordinated attacks. One bomb. Several hundred gun shots.

I'm not sure, though, that it is beneficial to comprehend too much. It lies in our nature, perhaps, to try to figure things out, to understand, to explain. But in reality, I don't want to have to spend my time or energy on this man. I don't even want to hate him - what purpose would that serve? Reading about what he says or has written makes me feel ill. His picture too. That face I don't even want to know, but which has been etched in so that I will never forget the pudgy, pale, wax-like skin; the narrow, close-set eyes; the much-talked-about post-surgery nose.  The other day I made the mistake of watching a video clip of him to hear his voice - and I found myself thinking it was feminine and cold and disgusting. Objectively speaking, I am sure he looks and sounds no worse than the next guy, but I cannot be objective. And it bothers me, immensely, that I don't want to be. I want to feel physically ill from looking at him or hearing his voice, and consequently, I am letting him affect me more than he deserves.

The focus on him - the terrorist whose name I don't even want to say or write - annoys me. Obviously it's difficult to avoid, the attack having been a one-man-job. I get how this character fascinates people. The combination of a delusional self-image and extremist political ideas, plus the will and ability to go through with his [insert ten minutes worth of thoughts to try to come up with an adjective that accurately describes this. "Gruesome", "cold-blooded" or "morbid" didn't quite do the trick] plan. As a mental case, he is doubtlessly interesting. But I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm a regular person wondering whether it's really necessary to spend so much time, ink and words on a man who already hurt us all so much.

Ironically, here I am spending both time, words and the electronic equivalent of ink on him.

In reality, though, what ought to be the focus isn't him, or his wacked ideology. Rather, his actions should be. He will be prosecuted for what he did, not what he believes in. It seems the media forgot this detail.

I have faith in the system. I trust that the court will pass a fair judgment, under the available laws. I trust that this will mean that he will never again set his foot outside a prison as a free man. And that will be that. Until then, I don't need the details. I don't want to spend more time than necessary on this. I don't want to give him that.


Diana Wilder said...

I enjoyed reading this, and it made me smile because I had come to the same resolution a while back for complicated reasons. The world is every bit as unpleasant to live in now as it was, say, three hundred years ago. The difference is that communication advances have made it possible for you to sit down to your morning tea or coffee and be subjected to gruesome news from the other side of the globe that our ancestors happily did not have to look at. They encountered news that pertained to them personally, or that had some direct bearing on their daily lives. Some of it was horrific, but the constant, relentless barrage of details on things over which they had no personal control and to which they could contribute nothing, aside from horrified fascination or pity, was not there. Now I give the headlines a quick once-over, read the stories that interest me, and concern myself with my own life and the lives I have any say in.

Shaharizan Perez said...

Too often, the victims are forgotten. I agree that it is very evident in the media lately.

We are reading NIght by Elie Weisel and just finished his poem "Never shall I forget." Your writing of the Norwegian bomber very much reminded me of how the media focuses on the villains rather than victims of such atrocities.

Very well written and insightful!