Log Cabin Chronicles

Letter from Norway

BERIT LUNDH

i left Canada and moved to the land of my ancestors - Norway. There came a time in my life when my need to explore and experience my past and my heritage transcended my need to make sense of what was going on in my own country.

Although my Norwegian lineage is pure and goes back many generations - in fact centuries, Canada was and still is "my country." I've become passionate about my new home but the fact is, Quebec's Eastern Townships fills a huge place in my heart and still, after two years in Norway, not a day goes by without a little lump in my throat or more happily a butterfly in my stomach reminds me of children and dear friends left behind, autumn's brilliant outbursts of colour, wild garlic and fiddleheads, French, vast and glorious spaces, free enterprise, ardour and so much more.

As an employee of Canada's foreign service here in Norway, I am fortunate to have access to mountains of information coming out of Canada and am privy to some "inner circle" albeit unclassified material. Canada and Norway work closely together on issues of human rights, anti-personnel landmines, the environment, the middle east peace process and much more.

Norway and Canada are "like minded" and by working in these circumstances I am privileged to feel as though I am, even in an infinitesimal way, a part of this process, however clerical it might be.

North America is so enormous, so vast. Battles, crises faced in the United States and in Canada, be they man made or natural are invariably "fixed" with available manpower, insurance, wealth, might - you name it, the Band-Aid exists.

I've been in Norway two years. Norway's media is more inclusive than that in North America and covers "the world" much more intensely. The world does not revolve around the U.S. and I've become painfully aware of the horrors which exist in the world.

Millions starving in the Sudan, in South Korea, children playing in active minefields - losing limb and life, 250 million Chinese displaced by flooding, two thirds of Bangladesh under water, millions of Russian workers, unpaid for months, fires destroying lives and the Indonesian economy, child soldiers protecting things they don't even understand, painful rites-of-passage operations on millions of adolescent girls, child prostitution and need I go on. I realize this is covered in North American media but no where near to the extent is covered here.

The average North American has no clue. As a Canadian, I certainly didn't before I came here and it's probably unfair of me to "judge". However - Canada's biggest issue at the moment, aside from the perennially sliding dollar, is unity.

It is legal for Quebec to secede unilaterally? Can the province be divided? Who will Canada's native community join? Should signs be unilaterally French? Linguistic school boards? Such an enormous waste of energy, of time, of money. The American's biggest issue is a horny president. The money spent on President Clinton's inability to keep his pants up could have fed thousands of people in the Sudan. Bouchard's need to affirm his native tongue could have rebuilt schools flattened in Kosovo.

I know Canada is a donor country to many and God bless the thousands of Canadian troops who spend months and years of their lives improving the lives of others. But they are not part of the general public nor are they, for that matter, appreciated by their fellow Canadians for what they do.

The point I am trying to make is that, as large as the North American continent is, its only point of reference for unthinkable, unimaginable, unspeakable horror is Mexico. And even then, it's still a vacation hotspot. Close your eyes, tighten up those blinders and you won't notice the fear, the dread, the panic.

Mind you, Canada is, once again and for the fifth year in a row, the number one country to live in - Norway came in at number three. So, who am I to talk - I still live in relative wealth and certainly don't have to consider starvation, bombs, landmines and child prostitutes.

But, I am physically closer, geographically closer to all of that and it impacts me daily. It is almost impossible to deny, the way one can in North America, that human suffering exists and it's almost next door. Rich people do get richer and the poor simply expire.

If our planet is to survive, let's contribute to saving the environment, to conserving peace, to maintaining dignity for mankind, and above all, to individually give a part of ourselves to someone or to something needing encouragement, comfort, protection, education or strength.

Our children depend on it.

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© 1998 Berit Lundh/Log Cabin Chronicles/9.98