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We Choose Dignity

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ANDERS BREIVIK
AP

On July 22nd we lost some of our country's most precious assets: our youth. But we kept our dignity as a nation. Now we will find our way back to normality. But there will be new tests that are just as demanding as the ones we have passed.

I am proud of the way the Norwegian people faced this first big test. We were hit with a brutality that threw every one of us into emotional chaos. We could have gone astray. Instead, our people responded with roses and promises of more democracy and a more open society.

We passed the second test too. We bid farewell to our loved ones in an atmosphere of tranquility and respect. Every last goodbye requires strength. We stood together with those who mourned and needed a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.

Our third test is yet to come. It will also require a great deal of us, but in a different way. Slowly we are finding our way back to our everyday life again, but July 22nd has changed Norway forever. Yet, in time, we will again focus on work and school, TV shows and the weather. Some are already there, others need more time.

Remember that when everyday life resumes, some people will still be struggling. Those who have lost a family member or close friend. Young people who survived the shooting on Utøya and who in a few weeks' time will again have to focus on solving mathematical equations. Government employees who relive the explosion over and over again. Volunteers who are not finished telling their dramatic story. Others who are unable to rid themselves of the images of violence and death.

It is now that we must show that we are a nation that cares about each other. A nation where everyone is seen. Remember, too, that those who have no visible wounds are also suffering. They need our collective support. As a country we have built systems to provide services for people who are struggling. All those in need will be offered help from the authorities.

Just as important as our society as a whole are our small communities: our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. In the surreal weeks we have just been through, we have truly learned what caring means. A mother and father watching over their young daughter were moved by friends mowing the lawn for them. When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.

The public debate and the private conversations will also find their form after July 22nd. From the rostrum of the Storting, I asked people not to start a witch hunt, not to go looking for things that should not have been said. I repeat this here. I hope with all my heart that the seeds of decent dialogue and tolerance take root. We have heard and read that more people are now taking the time to reflect on their own attitudes. To think about what they have said and written in the past.

With July 22nd in mind, some people may wish they had weighed their words differently, and in the future will express themselves with greater sensitivity. As I told the members of the Storting, this is understandable. We must all be allowed to learn from the tragedy. We must all be allowed to say "I was wrong" -- and be respected for it. It is a worthy response to the attack on democracy.

I also want to invite everyone who takes part in online debates to reflect on his or her choice of words and form. The Internet is a democratic asset. In blogs and debates, we can all participate on the same footing. At its best, the Internet is impressive. It enables us in principle to talk to the whole world, but this opportunity also entails responsibility.

By voting we add our voice to the chorus that forms opinions and the basis for actions. I ask each one of you to think about how you choose to express yourself. Do you speak anonymously? How could the words you use affect those you write about? Families should discuss these questions around the dinner table. They should be debated in classrooms. In media houses. All of us should reflect on these issues.

I hope that we can take with us the spirit of the days following July 22nd when the political work now resumes. I hope we can exercise the same prudence as that shown by the Norwegian people. We will not put a lid on opinions. On the contrary, it is more important than ever that political debates are open and free, even on the most difficult issues. Especially on the most difficult issues. The task is to encourage controversial debates in a form that strengthens democracy. This is an invitation to a debate about the debate. Out of respect for those who died, we choose to respond with dignity.