Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

17th of May

It is a perfect 17th of May. Sun and a light breeze makes for almost too-hot-for-bunad-wearing weather. Pleasant, if we ignore the global warming implications, as well as the loss of an integral part of the traditional national holiday: sun, snow, sleet and rain all within a 3 hour period right around the time of the afternoon parade. There is something very non-Norwegian, or at least non-North Norwegian about such a mild day north of the arctic circle. The gold fish are basking languidly in their newly cleaned pond and the doors and windows are wide open to let the breeze through.

I shall go out in the garden before dark. Ha ha, internal joke as it won’t get dark until about early September. But I will go out today. Otherwise, I am enjoying the national holiday from the perspective of one whose children are so old that I do not have to make an appearance at the local parade. Have to and have to Ms. Blom. It has been a tradition the past 7 years to put a red white and blue ribbon on Hector and parade him down the hill. A dog the size of a pony always contributed to the festive mood, no matter what the weather. But this year there is no Hector, and Bia went bunad-clad off on her own to watch the city parade, and we are left to dwell in the luxury of sunshine, quiet, and the beginning of green all around.

A few weeks ago a book came out in Sweden that named Norwegian nationalism as dangerous. The author (his name is in my notes somewhere, but not, as usual, readily available from memory, but I know you will google and find him if you indeed are interested in the topic) suggested that there is a thin line between the 17th of May and Anders Behring Breivik. He concluded this based on researching comparatively the ideology of nationalism in many countries. Norway came out as being more nationalistic, and thus more at risk, than most.

What he failed to realize, as pointed out by a commentator whose name you will come across if you find the author and book and all the reviews (try Morgenbladet and Klassekampen) is that Norwegian nationalism as expressed in the 17th of May is quite unlike nationalism elsewhere. That nationalism is political. Norwegian nationalism is a folk tradition. The parade is not military, not corporate interests, not political lobbying. It is a parade of school children. Barnetoget. Indeed the bigger city parade (found in all cities) is called the parade of citizens, but it is basically the children from the city schools, clubs and organizations, and the famed if not infamous Russ dressed in their quasi painters’ costumes and celebrating the end of school and the beginning of their final round of exams: three 5-hour essay exams in subjects drawn by a lottery, and one half-hour oral also lottery drawn. It is gruelling, starting Tuesday, but I tell them they should be proud of their school system and the learning experience afforded by these exams. In many places, such as the one I come from, you never have a 5 hour exam that contains not one objective true-false, multiple-choice, fill in the blank variety question, but 2 essays. Ah, but I should’t taint the holiday mood by mentioning exams, even though I need to get their mock exams graded by Tuesday so they can use them to prepare.

I am hoping that the mayor who proposed that the children of immigrant origin carry their own national flag in their school parade was overridden. She thought that carrying dual nationality flags would make the so-called immigrant population feel more included. Uh uh. There was a resounding lack of immigrants, 2nd and 3rd generation Norwegians, non-ethnics, whatever you want to call people like, for example, my daughters, joining in to voice this opinion.

Leave Norway alone to be who and what it is. Watch Ole Hamre’s musical video composition of the national anthem to get a feel for what that means. It is the best, and most beautifully nationalistic response to the likes of Anders Behring Breivik a country could ever hope to produce.

I think it’s a cultural gem, musically and visually. Maybe you have to know the original song to really get it. Or listen to it while outside your window the glimmering beauty of craggy granite, blue sky and salt sea dazzles your senses. But I don’t think so. Wherever you are, I hope this video will bring you a glimpse of what Norwegian nationalism means on this, its 199th birthday.

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This entry was posted on 17/05/2013 by in Life in Norway and tagged , , .

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