Choose Love — Always

25 June 2022 at 6:02 PM

I just got off the phone with my best friend, crying. The mass shooting in Oslo, our hometown, has caused a rollercoaster of emotions. Hearing someone speak about a mass shooting in your own language, your own dialect/sociolect, where you were born and grew up, makes it hard to emotionally distance yourself and gives you a visceral reaction that is hard to describe.

Just like the white supremacist terrorist attack in Oslo in 2011, everyone you see on the news feels familiar, and the thought of who the victims might be hits you like a ton a bricks. Do I know them? Do I know people who know them? The probability is high. What do I do then? How the hell does life go back to normal?

Then I think of all my LGBT friends, how must they feel? Shocked? Scared? Devastated? Angry? My heart breaks. I can feel some of my closest friends, who I deem family, and my heart just shatters. They don’t deserve this. Love is love, and love is the opposite of hate. Love heals, hate destroys. Those who love are not the problem, those who hate like this are.

And then I’m suddenly reminded that I’m no longer on the “outside” of this group. As my sexuality has evolved to become more and more flexible and fluid as an adult, my foot is suddenly on the inside. And a foot means the whole body for those who hate those who can love someone of the same sex. And then I have to deal with this reality as well. I also could’ve been at these clubs. Previously as an ally, and now as someone who knows what it feels like — personally. What the fuck am I supposed to do with this information, this knowledge? This new reality that I haven’t had to live in before? What does this now mean for my life going forward?

And then I’m struck by the inevitable surge of racism, both nationally and internationally, that will come if this ISN’T an ethnically white Norwegian extremist THIS TIME. And I pray and I pray — as I know so many others did, as they did the two last times — “Please don’t be not-white. Please don’t be not-white.” But he was. He was a Muslim Kurdish-Iranian immigrant, and now we — meaning all people of color — will pay for it.

Because that’s how that works. Not a single white person had to feel or fear this when the perpetrators were blond, blue-eyed white supremacists, because white people get the privilege of being seen as individuals. But the moment a perp is not white-looking and/or has another belief than Christianity, any person who simply REMINDS them of this is guilty by default. And simply by searching the name of the perp, Facebook is already FILLED with middle-aged white Norwegians — mostly men of course — spewing their xenophobia, prejudice, racism, ethnocentrism, and islamophobia — even having the galls to demand that Kurds officially distance themselves from this attack. Were there a demand from all white Norwegians/people to do the same after 22 July or 10 August, or, or, or?

Right-wing and far-right groups all over the world will now exploit this tragedy for all it’s worth. They will want to use that fear for their benefit, to further their insidious agendas — and some will fall for it. Don’t.

My best friend, who is a brown-skinned man with an immigrant background, now had to call his family to see if they were okay, and warn them to be careful in the upcoming months due to the surge in racism.

I’m thinking about my own family, all Muslim, on my father’s side. Will someone hurt them? Will someone hurt my siblings? My father? What about my Muslim friends? How must they feel right now? Are they scared? Angry? Sad? Frustrated? Yet again, my heart breaks.

And then I think about how I recently decided to stay in Bergen after all and move back to Oslo at a later time, DESPITE the destructive and shocking amount and level of racism and xenophobia here. There will now surely be an uptick in these encounters and experiences. Racists who feel emboldened by this attack, feeling that their views and attitudes are even more justified, and who will feel even more comfortable than normal with attacking innocent people of color. We are now even LESS safe than before. What the fuck do we do now?

There are so many fucking emotions at once. This is such a complex situation, and affects so many on so many levels and in different ways. This is not straight-forward, this is not simple.

I urge you to be careful with your thoughts and words, for they will become actions. They want you to hate — don’t fall for it. Choose love — always.

To those who lost their lives, may you rest in peace. To those who lost someone last night or whose loved ones got hurt, may you find the strength to get through this.

To my LGBT friends, I love you. To my Muslim friends, I love you. To my immigrant friends, I love you. To my BIPOC friends, I love you.

I love you.

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Student, feminist, anti-racist, activist. Freelance writer and public speaker.

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Anine Bråten

Student, feminist, anti-racist, activist. Freelance writer and public speaker.