On the train ride to Västerås, I made some excellent jokes on Twitter. I got a text message from a good friend, who told me that in the context of what had taken place in Oslo, my tweets seemed a bit out of place.
As I read up, I realized that central Oslo had been blown up by a terrorist. It seemed unreal.
I thought of friends in Oslo, and started searching for news. I also saw that racists were on the move in social media and blogs, they had already established blame. They were spiteful as they triumphed in their ”I told you so”, because they believed it was an Islamic terrorist act. In anger, I wrote something about how they should wait for at least the slightest facts about who had done it, before they started to gloat in the misery.
As I arrived at the party, quite early, and helped blend the cosmopolitans, I saw the news report in my Twitter-flow talking about a shooting on the island of Utøya, someone killing young social democrats at their summer camp.
Ali, an old friend of mine, who twelve years ago succeeded me as president of the left youth league in Sweden, now lives in Oslo, and was reporting live on Twitter that he was hiding on the island from the shooter. Then we heard nothing from him for a very long time.
Hours later, he updated on Facebook:
I have been in the shooting on Utøya. My phone is dead as i jumped into the water when the offender came close. I’m safe and I am at an assembly hotel now. Many are hurt, perhaps also dead. But the offender, a fair haired man dressed up as a policeman or guard – is said to be captured now. Can consequently NOT ber reached by phone. Please someone who has my mothers phone number call her and tell her I’m safe.
During the whole chain of events, the long hours before they caught the terrorist, Twitter and Facebook were full of desperate cries for help from young people stuck in Utøya, as well as pleas from people not to call their loved ones phones, as they might be hiding from the shooter.
Up until that afternoon, I had great plans for summer, I felt energized and on top, and had a thousand projects launching in my mind. Afterwards, I was struck by grief. I only knew one of the persons that were on that island in person, but I felt that I knew them all.
I know everything about being on such a summer camp. About wet tents, new friendship, silly games, late night concerts with quite lame bands, contests between the regions, political debates, a couple of celebrity lecturers, mosquito bites, damp sleeping bags, the couple next to you making out way too much, campfires, night time swimming, learning thousands of new things, I know about everything. About the joy of trying to changing the world, and making friends and becoming a better person in the process.
The terrorist, Breivik, believes that he has done something important to save Norway from the threat of Islam. He believes the social democrats and the left and media in general are traitors who will destroy Europe and Norway if no one stops them. His beliefs are fairly common, and can be seen everywhere there is comment field on the Internet.
One of the terrorists planned targets were Marte Michelet, Ali's girlfriend, who was pregnant with their baby, who was born a couple of months later, and namned Leila. She is a particularly cute little baby who is still alive and well.
Today, Ali Esbati posted a photo on his Facebook and Twitter with these words: This is my back pack from Utøya. Marked ”Alive”. Feel that it commits. To thought, caring and struggle.
I have tried my best ever since last summer to do my part, there are a lot of haters in this world, who share Breivik's beliefs. I know that there are a lot more of us, we who want people to treat each other with love, and without prejudice. But when so many of us keep silent, the price for those of us who speak up is much higher. Some of us live under threat, some have been assaulted physically, all of us have probably been assaulted verbally.
The haters are loud, and there are quite a lot of them. But they would be vastly outnumbered if we all spoke up.
Why not try this: to make one single comment a day, either in comment fields, blogs, Twitter etc, or in real life, with the purpose of defeating haters and racists with love and solidarity.