Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway Gunman Stole Lives, Hope From Many

By Mariechen Puchert
Senior reporter
CAPETOWN, Western Cape, South Africa -- I live on an island. Like the Norwegian island of Utoeya, it is locked in, seemingly safe.
Surrounding the little bubble on which a few thousand students work towards their future, lies a sprawling industrial mesh. To our left, a large academic hospital. Immediately surrounding us, a kind of aura of long hours and studies.
The first I hear of the Norwegian shooting is from an email to my smartphone much like how the victims on Utoeya reportedly received news of the bombing in Oslo shortly before the tragedy would migrate to them.
In the hours that come to pass, newsfeeds and twitter feeds have one thing to say: How horrible. How very, very sad.
We hear that the alleged gunman claims his actions were “atrocious, but necessary.” It appears to have been some kind of political statement against open immigration and Islamism.
I try, but I fail to understand what goal the gunman thinks he has reached.
I imagine a mother or a father waiting anxiously to hear if their child reached safely. Parents who, days before, had hugged their children goodbye, happy for their choice of summer destination.
There will be those who have the opportunity to embrace their traumatized child, forgetting all about messy rooms and loud music, for life is all that matters now.
But there will be those who have no good news awaiting them. Someone will have to identify a dead teenager. The messy room and interminable silence remain to remind them what has been taken.
We lost a relative to gunfire once. It is a different kind of trauma to understand. Those words: She Has Been Shot. Not taken, not passed on. Shot. It implies cold blood. It implies recklessness. As if a life was worth so little that it could be TAKEN; like an animal for the slaughter.
Accused gunman Anders Behring Breivik did not steal only the promising youth from their country and their parents. He stole security. He stole restful sleep. He stole a kind of innocence from Norway.
I think he knows that. What Breivik does not know is that he stole from all of the rest of us, too.
On my little island, so close to the hospital and poverty-stricken squalor, we sometimes hear gunshots. The characteristic double-snap has become known, but remains a source of fear.
When we work in hospital, we assist in surgery on the victims of such senseless violence.
South Africa knows violence, but clings to the hope of countries like Norway, with its low crime rates and good health care – and even 69,000 job vacancies, a concept unimaginable in South Africa these days.
The Norwegian gunman has stolen from countries like South Africa, too.
While we have lived in fear for some time, there was always the hope of someplace better. Hope, because there were countries such as Norway that proved “it can be done.”
When Breivik shattered the peace that Friday afternoon, he shattered it worldwide.

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