Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

On football, guns and gammelost

This weekend Norway has received notice of a possible terrorist attack from Syria, where about 40 Norwegians are currently on humanitarian aid missions. Some would say “supposed humanitarian aid missions.” Aiding Syria has been controversial, and within the past year there are concerns that young Norwegians are being radicalized here and sent off to be terrorists there. There is no real logic as to why an Islamic group from Syria would want to attack Norway more than any other place, but news of the threat has gone around the world. My daughter reads to me from Facebook, where Americans are posting condolences and concerns:

  • “They will first have to try to find Norway on a map!”
  • “Norway is everyone’s little brother, c’mone guys let’s stand up and protect ‘im!”
  • “When the terrorists get there and find gammelost they’ll quickly go away…”

‘I think gammelost is maybe a reason to bomb us’ my daughter says, and walks away, still clicking buttons on her phone. I have not been watching the news on mine. She is always the more updated of us, tuned in as it were to social media, where all the news that’s fit to print gets printed first. Something in me is of the old world. I look to the skies and expect to see warnings there if we really are under attack.

I am about to step outside with the dog when I spy the neighbour hurrying up the road. He is a large balding man and he is carrying a very tall plant bound up in cellophane and ribbons. I put the dog back inside as the neighbour makes his way up our drive.

‘Are you bringing flowers!?’ I exclaim, stating the obvious in a show of appreciation. I know why he has come. We have been taking in his post for the past month (or Veronica has, I have only recently come home). It is a very large orchid, orange and white, and it towers over us both as he hands it over.  I reach – this surprises him – to give him a klem on the cheek. He is happy, He asks if we’ll keep collecting the post next week. Their summer holiday is still underway.

‘We drove over the border at Junkerdal yesterday,’ he tells me, meaning a border with Sweden. ‘Armed police were on guard.’

His smile is somewhat forced. There are several reasons awkwardness is at play here: to begin with, Norwegians are very nice, but private people. It is not common for neighbours to look after each other’s houses. In Wisconsin we had our neighbour’s house key and knew which cookie jar held a $50 bill in case of emergencies. In fourteen years of living on this street, this is only the second time a neighbour has informed us he is going to be gone, and the first time we are helping out with an errand. He obviously feels overly appreciative, if you weigh up the smallness of our task with the extravagance of this flower.

He is also slightly flustered because I have given him physical contact and shown effusive appreciation. He likes it, but people are not much for gushing and oohing and aahing around here. His eyes move from the ground to me to the door behind which the dog has been momentarily confined.

‘Even at Junkerdal?’ I ask, but I am not really surprised. We have been told for two days now that there are armed police at every border crossing. For the first time in man’s memory, as the saying goes, the entire country is armed and on alert. Just this morning, in the north tundra of Lapland, police armed with machine guns and shields descended on a group of darkly clad men who had been reported by locals to be ‘out and about at a suspicious hour… probably something to do with terrorists’. Turns out they were a group of fishermen.

Clearly, we are all on edge. The police in Norway don’t normally carry guns. After July 22, 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik massacred a small generation of labour party youth, masquerading as a policeman, there was a debate as to whether or not the police should carry guns. But Norwegians do not feel safer when the police carry guns. They feel insecure and unsafe, and they want to run the other way. Not because the police are dangerous, but an armed police officer means something terrible is underway right here and right now. The police know about it, and the rest of us need to get out of there.

I remember when Bowling for Columbine came out, and I took my classes of vocational electrician apprentices to see it. My daughter and her boyfriend, who were about fourteen at the time, came along. We had lived in Norway for a year or so, but my daughter was unaware that the police here do not carry guns. As I was briefing them about the film, this came up. Her reaction was to shout, “What do you mean the police don’t carry guns? I’d be afraid if I saw a policeman and he didn’t  have a gun.” To this her Norwegian boyfriend replied, “I’d be afraid if I saw a policeman and he DID have a gun.” Therein lay a major difference in the cultural backgrounds of these two youth, a difference which bespoke my choice to have my kids grow up here.

I hand my neighbour his mail and ask if the whole family is home. No, he says, their teenage daughter is on her way to Norway Cup.

“Oh, really? You’re sending her … way down there … anyway?” This international footbal (soccer) tournament, one of the biggest in the world, attracts young people from many nations, including teams from Kickers Korner in Madison, an indoor soccer gym run by the gym teacher I assisted as a girls’ basketball coach in 1985. It was from him that I first heard about Norway Cup. Now it is rumored to be one of the possible targets of the possible Syrian terrorist attack.

“Well, you gotta live,” my neighbour says, and I admire his nonchalance. He is also towing the line given to us by the authorities: Just live normally, they keep saying, while at the same time they are broadcasting the presence of an armed militia in every town, the need to protect the lives of their informants, and the fact that the Syrian terrorists are known to have left Syria and be on their way.

My daughter used to play football on the same team the neighbour girl does. Would I have allowed her to go to the Norway Cup?

Part of me wants to say, “Not without a gun!”

Ha, ha. That’s a joke. Of course. I am a declared pacifist. But I can also be a worrywortmom.

I would probably keep her home.


This entry was posted on 26/07/2014 by in Life in Norway and tagged , , , , .


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