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Contentions

Evil in Norway

The monstrous events today in Norway—as of this writing, word is that a gunman slaughtered at least 30 kids at a youth camp who had gathered to hear about the earlier bombing of government offices in Oslo—have stirred in me a kind of rage I haven’t felt this viscerally since the days after 9/11, when my apartment in Brooklyn Heights looked out directly on the violent purple gash in the sky that hovered over the wreckage like a demonic counterimage of the holy cloud that followed the Jews through the desert in the aftermath of the Exodus. Perhaps it is that my own daughter is, as I write, at her own day camp outside New York City, and so there is something visceral, primal, in my sense of connection to the dead and dying and their parents. This rage, which is accompanied by all manner of violent thoughts about what should be done and could be done to the living body of the depthlessly evil monster who committed this Satanic act, is disturbing in its intensity. I would like it to go away. But it won’t, and it shouldn’t, because without it–without a stark response to something so purposefully awful–we are unilaterally disarming ourselves. The monster and his comrades have the passion to commit their foul deeds. If we respond with dispassion, we are ceding to them part of the animating force that makes us human. If we decide to intellectualize our emotions rather than allow them to influence us, we are turning our back on our responsibility to those whose lives were stripped from them.



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