Tuesday, July 26, 2011

for those who no longer have words

One of the stories that has haunted me (along with the rest of the world) is that of Anders Behring Breivik. The first photograph I saw of him showed me a good-looking man, some might even have said beautiful. He has well-defined bone structure, good skin and golden blonde hair with deep blue eyes. He was dressed as a policeman when he stood on a rock and beckoned the young adults, who were swimming around the island to come towards him. Even in South Africa, I believe, where many of us fear the police, he would not have seemed a threat. After all, for many people (Annelie Botes and Donald Trump among others), a brown skin is the first signal of danger.

There have been many articles about him: his extremism, his religion, his Islamaphobia and the possibility that he is clinically insane. He is living proof of the damage violent extremists do to everyone, even their "own kind" (whatever that is), the ones they profess to be protecting.

But he still has words and voices at his disposal. The dead do not. Their stories are the ones that need to be told.

When the people at the camp swam towards the handsome, beckoning "policeman", he opened fire on them, killing sixty-eight people. His bomb killed a further eight people (at last count). The number is equivalent to over two South African government school classes, or three private school ones. If you go to the Guardian Online website, you can see the pictures and read some information about the people who are dead or missing presumed dead to have been identified thus far.

There is one man (barely a man, he is only twenty-three) named Gunnar Linaker. He has a roundish face and flushed skin that makes me think he was once part of a debating team. He positioned himself in front of the younger people (most of the dead are teenagers) to shield them. He survived the attack but died in hospital.

Hanne Annette Balch Fjalestad was one of the older people who died in the attack. She had come out to the camp from Denmark with her twenty-year old daughter. She also died protecting the younger ones, including her daughter, who survived. Hanne leaves beyond four children.

Ismail Haj Ahmed had appeared on "Norway's Got Talent". His picture is a publicity shot and he has a fresh Disney smile of an untarnished High School Musical star. His brother found his body on the rocks.

The photographs and the anonymous silhouettes where faces should be looks eerily like facebook: a group of smiling young people and a few of their parents. No doubt if the camp had a facebook group the album photographs would look something like it. Except that this is a group of people were put together because none of their smiling faces are alive anymore.

In South Africa - I am not sure why - when something bad happens to someone, even if we did nothing to cause it, we say sorry, perhaps because some hurts move beyond complex statements of compassion.

So I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm so sorry.

1 comment:

  1. What a horrific thing that extremist did, and what makes him so scary is that he doesn't even see the people as living, breathing souls but as means to his end.

    A heartfelt piece, Clea. Thank you for writing it, because someone needed to focus on the dead more than the crazy fuckwit who lives on.