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Truthdiggers of the Week: 40,000 Brave Norwegians

For proving that love for others, regardless of creed, gender or skin color, is still a powerful force in human affairs, we honor the 40,000 Norwegians who sang out in an Oslo square on Thursday against the violent dogma of mass killer Anders Breivik. They are our Truthdiggers of the Week.

Breivik slaughtered 77 people during a pair of attacks on a Norwegian government building and a youth Labour Party camp last July. Since the beginning of his trial on April 16, he has defended those acts as “necessary” to prevent what he thinks is the more “barbaric act” of Muslim influence upon European society. He has rejected charges of criminal guilt and claimed to be a true patriot, saying his victims betrayed their country by embracing multiculturalism, a set of ideas that seeks to promote social well-being through the development of tolerant, culturally diverse communities.

Unsettlingly, Breivik has his sympathizers. Massachusetts resident Kevin Forts, 23, in an interview with a Norwegian reporter, came out in support of the mass murderer at the beginning of Breivik’s trial, calling the lives lost as a result of his day of terror “a necessary political sacrifice.”

But for every declaration of support for the monstrous way in which Breivik expressed his views, there are untold vows of resistance. Fortunately, for those who seek consolation in the dark aftermath of the tragedy, 40,000 of those vows were made audible just outside the courtroom where Breivik stands trial.

Taken as a solemn pledge, the public chorus of “Children of the Rainbow,” a song based on a 1973 hymn by American folk artist Pete Seeger and led on Thursday by Norwegian folksinger Lillebjorn Nilsen, seems more like an act of affirmation than dissent. Shaken by the horrific violence, these people braved a cold rain to tell the world they want to live in a society where all people have the opportunity to find their place. And such an experience emboldens those who may previously have felt alone in the suffering they felt after Breivik’s massacre.

Beloved British folk-rocker Billy Bragg, writing in The Guardian on Friday, put things in perspective:

Protest music has a … unifying effect. When the majority of an audience sing along with a song attacking the government, critics dismiss such behaviour as “preaching to the converted”. While it may be true that those singing share a political outlook with both the performer and one another, the experience goes much deeper than simply affirming one’s beliefs. For someone who exists in an environment where their political views are in a minority, immersing themselves in an audience who are singing songs that articulate those views can be inspirational. To find yourself among other people in your town who share your views – people whose existence you may not have been aware of – offers a sense of social solidarity unavailable in internet chatrooms.

Lucky for you, the reader, you didn’t have to be in that crowd on Thursday to experience what Bragg describes. The video below will take you there right now. The lyrics immediately fellow. Sing along and see for yourself.

–Alexander Reed Kelly

One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I’ll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It’s too soon to die.

Some folks want to be like an ostrich,
Bury their heads in the sand.
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands.
Some hope to take the easy way:
Poisons, bombs. They think we need ’em.
Don’t you know you can’t kill all the unbelievers?
There’s no shortcut to freedom.

Go tell, go tell all the little children.
Tell all the mothers and fathers too.
Now’s our last chance to learn to share
What’s been given to me and you.

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