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  • What sprouted in my mind as I read Jenny Lindahl Persson's piece Committed was the feeling I had a year ago, as I sent my then 15 year old son with a colleague to be driven into Norway to live for six months as an exchange student. We were in Gothenberg, Sweden, and I had just said goodbye to him with a little music video at the end of the workshop I was leading. I was pretty deeply caught up in the emotion of saying goodbye to my son to be "on his own" for what felt like a enormously long period. I knew I was also saying goodbye to his childhood, and to my role as the father of the child Massimo, who would soon become the man, Massimo. And I knew this was a loss, an ending ... and as excited as I was about his opportunity, I took time that night to mark passage, and to feel sadness as an appropriate part of the parenting process.

    But I also felt relieved that my son would get a taste of Scandinavian social democracy, he would be in the country where people were a bit more rationale, a bit more in line with what I considered appropriate social priorities of health, education and welfare over militarism and fear-based policies of exclusion. I was also just happy for him to be away from the first person shooter games he seemed so happy to play, his xbox wouldn't work in Norway, and the family he stayed with didn't have those games.

    So suffice it to say, when four days after he arrived the events in Utøya suggested no country, no place, is immuned from this violence. I held my own loss in context, what if that had been my boy. My child. On that island. On that day.

    I was shocked and deeply drawn to the tragedy as a personal event for me. I scanned the Norwegian papers for weeks reading the stories of the individuals, of the families, of the communities, deep in their loss. I observed the dignity by which the official culture, the politicians and the media, in Norway, covered this story. I was moved by the way people spoke to the critical need for tolerance, even to the extent of honoring the due process for Breivik. I too, like Jenny, went to AFL-CIO youth labor camps in the US as a kid, and I had a very similar sense of feeling like this assault was on my tribe, my people, my youth, in particular. Were I Norwegian, Massimo very likely would have been to that camp. So I heard that voice of anger. In my head. Loud. But even as that reaction stirred, I also heard the committed voice that says the reason I work for an organization to support the sharing of stories, is that I truly believe hate is overcome with understanding. With listening. With stories. Like these.
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