The tragedy in Arizona three years ago has affected me deeply from that time, not in the way I expected, but much more profoundly. To fully understand what happened, let me go back, way back to my days in Sweden as an agnostic liberal, for most Swedes are liberal or socialists. We still had the hope of a better world under the careful and wise guidance of the United Nations, under the excellent leadership of the Swede Dag Hammarskjöld. After all, the evil of the second world war was over, and the innate goodness of all men was destined to be triumphant. Peace, love, equality and solidarity were to be the guideposts for our future. Medical and technological advances would abound, President Kennedy had just said: Let us go to the Moon! And then, he was shot! We got a comedown, a jolt. But it must have been some of those evil, reactionary, racist Southern Democrats that did it. Yeah, except for those reactionary Democrats people are still basically good, especially the Northern Democrats. And it was America. We Swedes were ages more advanced in our understanding of true freedom and Social Justice.
A few years later I attended a debate between the Social Democrat Olof Palme and a moderate, whose name I cannot even remember. Palme was by far the better debater, speaking of income transfer, social contract, solidarity and social justice. The moderate tried to put forward individual responsibility and reward for work, freedom and the likes, but he was quickly neutralized by Palme’s oratory. I decided, this will not end well, so I made up my mind to try to emigrate from the cradle of freedom, enjoyed since Viking times.
The year was 1968, the papers were in order, the lung X-rays paid for, and I stood at Kennedy Airport in the immigration line. The officer took the tube of immigration papers, looked through all the papers and held up the x-rays to the light. A long line waited impatiently after me, but he took his time. Then he gave me a big smile and a hand shake: Welcome to the United States of America! A few weeks earlier Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. When I checked into my room at the YMCA in Rochester, N.Y., I found out that Robert Kennedy had been killed. I looked around the lobby of the YMCA. What have I done? Why did I get here? Even though I was an agnostic, I knew in a strange way I was on a divine calling from destiny. My wife and I were married a few days earlier, and she had yet to get her papers in order. She, a Dane was going to go on the Swedish quota, for the Danish quota was full. But to do that I had to be in the U.S. with work, so she could not follow on our honeymoon. Everything was accomplished before July 1 1968, when they abolished the quota system. She came, and we have been together ever since. Then followed the normal life of newlyweds: Traveling, dreaming and building a household. We got beautiful children, a boy and a girl, a large house with a two car garage, a good income, in short, a dream-life. But my wife grew more and more unsatisfied. Something was wrong. “I have everything I thought important, and yet, I am unhappy. What is wrong?” she asked me, day in and day out. Well, you do the best you can, right and truth will prevail, and this earth will be a better place. “And then what?” she countered. I had no idea. This was as far as I could think. Everything else is pure speculation. She went to a discussion group about great literature, and for some reason the Gospel of Matthew was in it. She read it and concluded those ideas were too far-fetched to really believe. Better stick with more sane philosophy. She had a neighbor that had taken an interest in her, for she “Had just found Christ”. She used to be an Episcopalian, but had married a Jew, so officially she had become a Jewish convert. She asked her to come to a bible study to find out. My wife was good at excuses, but after a couple of months, she just said: “Yes, I have lots of questions for the teacher, so I will come with you once. If I don‘t like it, don’t ask me again”. They went, she had lots of questions, the teacher was patient and answered as much as she could in a very loving way. So my wife went again to find the answer to the rest of her questions. And again she went. Then she tried the teacher’s answers on me, and we had many long discussions. One day she just decided to believe, and she started to work on me, since I did not have any answers. I thought; this is good for her, her problems are solved, this is good alternate reality building, but it is just that. We all need an alternate reality to be able to cope with this brave new world.
We had tried to try to go back to Sweden or Denmark, but the doors were closed. Coming back to U.S. after four weeks of vacation my wife decided to take up aerobic exercise and the local Baptist church had started aerobics. The old friend was there to prod her along. I did not think favorably of Baptists since childhood, after my father, a secondary school teacher had had a student, a foster child that was kicked out after he started smoking. “They did that, because they were Baptists.” Those prejudices from youth linger. But it was free, so I said: go ahead. Then she started to attend church, first alone, then with our children. One day she came home after church and said: We didn’t have any choir today, for there were no tenors.
I smiled. Then, that Monday night I had a problem from work I took home to try to flowchart and debug. I put on the record changer and put on a record I had received as a farewell gift from my choir in Sweden. The music was Bach cantatas. I did not notice the record changer kept playing the same LP over and over again. Suddenly I looked up. I had solved the problem. And it was three o’clock in the morning. Waking up I realized: Bach knew something I don’t. I better find out what it is. So on Thursday I said to my wife: Are there any regulations to join the choir? She jumped on the phone and asked the secretary. “Can he? He is not saved?” Wel,l the secretary said, I never heard this before, but you don’t have to be a member to join the choir, so I guess it is o.k.
That Sunday, my first Sunday in church, I sang in the choir. After a few months I started to feel like a hypocrite. The pastor spoke, everybody prayed for me, but it was still all an alternate reality. I thought to myself: I better find out once and for all if this is real. So I started to read the Bible, King James Version. Since my wife had read the Gospel of Matthew and rejected it, this was a good place to start. That would give me time, and yet I would be doing what I could. So I did. Everything went fine until I came to Matthew 27, the place where the Pharisees ask Pilate for a guard. “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: So this last error shall be worse than the first.” That’s when it hit me. That is exactly what I had done. By denying the reality of Christ, and his resurrection I was still locked in my alternate reality. This changed everything. He is Risen!
Fast forward to Sep 11, 2001, the day that changed reality again. The forces of evil are more active now than at any time in history, and we will never look the same at the world again. But I got back to normal. A few years passed.
My wife is Danish, so I follow the Danish news. The newspaper Jyllandsposten had issued a competition for the best cartoon of Mohammed. This was in response to a threat from the Muslims. There had been an honor killing in Denmark, and the Danes decided: We will not put up with this. So they gave lengthy sentences to all six involved, including the taxi-driver, since he too was in on it. They got death threats for the way they reported it. So they decided: We are not afraid. Over a hundred deaths have occurred since the publication of the cartoons. The Danish flag now has the honor of being burned together with the Israeli and U.S. flag.
I followed in horror. Is this the face of Islam? Why do they not condemn the insanity of it? I told the Lord in prayer. I am going to find out about the Muslims. The Lord answered: You may do that, but first you must learn the Holy Bible fully. So I put the Bible to Power-point, 11000 slides and growing, then I put the Koran to power-point, 2040 slides. I was disappointed in it. The message from Mecca is peace and tolerance. The message from Medina is War, holy war, arbitrary laws(sharia), and mind-control. This is evil.
Last year came the latest installment on my transformation. When the news of the tragedy in Arizona broke I immediately jumped on the internet to see what my friends and opponents in the blogosphere had to say about it, and a frightening picture emerged. In less than two hours over 50 entries blamed it on either the tea-party or Sarah Palin – or both. I was running behind. Nobody knew anything, but whatever it was, Sarah Palin and the tea-party were to blame. It was as if I was watching a well orchestrated conspiracy. This is not possible, I muttered to myself. My wife got worried. “Who are you talking to? She asked”. Nothing important, nobody, I answered, still staring at the screen in disbelief. Then it hit me. Yes, it is this bad. Islam is one force that is trying to take over, but this may be even worse.
After three days of watching the news develop, the acts were found to be performed by a pot-smoking Marxist anarchist with paranoid schizophrenia. Sarah Palin was still to be blamed, for “she is an idiot and does not know what she is talking about.” All she had done up to this point was to send out a short condolence, on her usual communications media, no direct contact with the press, which they complained about, and they were going to let her have it.
Sarah put out an 8 minute compassionate video, a vigorous defense of free speech and constitutional principles, but she acknowledged no guilt in the tragedy. MSNBC proclaimed the end of her political career. So I watched the video for myself. This was pure Sarah. With two words she managed to change the whole tone of the dialog. This time the two words were “Blood libel”. I had no idea what that meant, but it must be bad, because the media said it was a very inappropriate choice of words. So I looked it up on Google, and my eyes opened wide. Never in my life have I seen more apt words to describe the happenings of the week. One by one people started to defend Sarah. After the obligatory “I am no fan of Sarah” they grudgingly acknowledged that in a wider context this is probably the most fitting term possible to describe this type of false accusations. Again, having been low for three days I raised my chin: Yes things are still possible in America, but only if we fight back, not with violence, but with words that cut and heal, and with votes.
Later that night at the memorial service President Obama held a rallying speech complete with t-shirts depicting “Together we thrive” thereby starting the 2012 election campaign.
By the way, “Together we thrive” correctly interpreted means that an individual is important only as part of a collective.
I now know we have a tough row to hoe, but it must be done, or the weeds will choke what is left of our freedom. With the words of the original Liberty bell:
“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (part of Leviticus 25:10)