A friend takes me into a Muslim neighborhood, saying, “This is a part of Oslo that many people don’t want you to know about, and that many people pretend doesn’t exist.” Except for some signs with Norwegian words, you could be in a South Asian or Middle Eastern town. Some kids of the third generation do not speak Norwegian. And many women, in particular, aren’t leading anything like Norwegian, or Western, lives.
Some are not allowed to leave the home. Some have to endure “female genital mutilation.” Some are forced into marriages they want no part of. And are Norwegian political and cultural elites helping them?
Well, are such elites helping any Muslim women, anywhere in the West? Are they encouraging assimilation? Would they be so bold as to demand it? Or are they allowing continuing ghettoization and apartness — a little sharia on the side, winked at, when not ignored altogether?
A sad, outrageous story, in Norway and many other countries.
‐I interview Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress party. You remember how I said, early in the journal, that I heard someone’s cellphone go off, and it was playing “Morning Mood,” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt? That was in the Barcelona airport: in line at the SAS counter, where the Norwegians were queued up to go home. Well, Jensen’s cellphone goes off too: and plays that beautiful, very Norwegian tune.
‐The Progress party is a Reaganite or Thatcherite party — the only one in Norway. Jensen has been called “the Norwegian Thatcher,” not unjustly. Is this just an obscure little fringe party? Not on your life: It is the second-largest party in the Storting, the parliament, after the Labor party. Jensen expects to be prime minister someday. When, exactly? In 2013, following the next elections.
‐There are significant conservative and libertarian elements in this strongly socialist environment. And they are a joy to be around, these elements! I’ll write about them — and Jensen, and Progress — in a future issue of National Review.
Let me give you one tidbit: In Jensen’s office are a) a bust of Reagan and b) an Israeli flag. Ladies and gentlemen, I can’t tell you how shocking this is in Norway. I just can’t. The media would better respect a politician who had child porn.
‐Do you know about Vigeland Park, that site in Oslo featuring sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, Norway’s national sculptor (if I may put it that way)? I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a more beautiful park. It begins with the Main Gate, in granite and wrought iron — huge, and a work of art itself. Then we see a sculpture . . . of the sculptor. This is a self-portrait. You can say “self-portrait” when referring to a sculpture, right?
In it, Vigeland is wielding his hammer and chisel. Also, his head is streaked with pigeon poop, which is kind of a shame.
Then we see other Vigeland productions, scores of them, in all their glory. Many of the sculptures depict family life, from the appearance of them. And all of Vigeland’s people are nude. I don’t think he did clothes (except when engaged in self-portrait — self-sculpting). The men and boys all have their meat and two veg, and the women and girls have their stuff, too. Kind of weird — just a little.
The park has more than sculptures — it has . . . park stuff: a river (I think), bridges, ducks, geese, fountains, playgrounds. The entire place breathes peace, orderliness, beauty. You could relax here, you really could.
Do you remember how I said, earlier in the journal, that I saw a statue, outside the Storting, and thought at first that it was of Lincoln? Instead it was of Johan Sverdrup? Well, in Vigeland Park, I again think I see Lincoln, but say, “Nah” — I was fooled once. I must have Lincoln on the brain or something.
But I get closer, and, lo — it’s Abe. The plaque on the left says, Presented to the People of Norway by the People of North Dakota, U.S.A., July 4th, 1914. The plaque on the right says, Government of the People, by the People, for the People, Shall Not Perish from the Earth.
It’s just me, but I don’t see anything more moving in my entire stay in Norway. Every year, my admiration and awe of Lincoln increase. And I started, as a child, admiring and in awe. And some of the worst mail I get is from Lincoln-haters — either the saddest or the most despicable group on earth, I can’t decide which.
‐Feed you one more tidbit about Vigeland? He designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal — the only medal he ever designed. There are nudes on that too, come to think of it. (Classical figures, embracing, fraternally.)
‐I meet an American who has lived in Norway for about twelve years — is married to a Norwegian. Has Norwegian kids. (When he speaks English to them, they speak Norwegian back to him.) He’s an NR reader and a very, very sharp thinker and observer.
He relates something interesting about this question of integration and assimilation. (Everything he relates is interesting.) He says that he’s about as integrated and assimilated as you can get. He looks like a Norwegian (though he is of different ancestry). He speaks fluent Norwegian, with the lightest of accents. He has a Norwegian family. He blends (as they say in My Cousin Vinny). But he would never be accepted as Norwegian.
What chance do others — ones who stand out more, who blend less — have?
‐He tells me a funny story about a friend of his — another American married to a Norwegian. The friend met this Norwegian girl at school somewhere. Thought he had something really extraordinary: this beautiful, Nordic blonde. Then they went to Norway, and, at the airport, he discovered that many, many women were like that. “Hey,” he said. “There was no disclosure. Why didn’t you tell me that you were basically run-of-the-mill?”
He meant that in the most loving way, I’m given to understand, and still does.
‐It’s true that Norwegians are almost cruelly good-looking. (“Cruelly,” because this is unfair to the rest of the world.) I think of something I once said about the Austrians, when I first started going there, years ago. I said, “You can almost” — almost — “forgive them for considering themselves a master race.”
‐In Oslo, you occasionally see African women — black black African women, nothing café au lait about them. They, too, are beautiful, and stand out as brilliant plumes. The gaiety of their dresses helps, too.
‐I see some tough guys, some bruisers — big Norwegian men with tattoos and all. They look like you wouldn’t want to mess with them. But, you know? They’re carrying man-purses (as they said on Seinfeld, I believe). And it’s hard to take someone seriously as a bruiser when he’s carrying a man-purse. You know?
I don’t care that it’s Europe. Sue me for ethnocentrism. Attila the Hun would look laughable with a man-purse.
‐Taking a cruise on Oslo Fjord, I see that the environs look like Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The Norwegian immigrants must have felt at home in that region of our country.
‐A guide points out a house, or cottage, or something, that looks like a Greek temple. It was built in 1912 — by a Norwegian who had a Greek wife, who was homesick. Sweet.
‐Most of the many islands are owned “by the municipality,” says the guide, but there are a few private ones, including one with a golf course — not a common facility in Norway. I think, “You know, this island would be about right for me . . .”
‐Earlier, I mentioned a pile of something — modern art — opposite the new opera house. The opera house is by the water; the art is in the water. It’s not the worst thing in the world — not the worst pile of modern art you ever saw. But did anyone think it could improve on the water itself? This is not gilding the lily — it’s more like staining it.
Again, it’s not that the art is so bad. It’s that it’s so . . . unnecessary, and, you might say, arrogant: arrogant of man to think that he was making an improvement, even an adornment, even a non-detraction.
But then, I am out of step (the title of Sidney Hook’s autobiography, by the way, if I remember correctly).
‐A Norwegian comments, with pride not unjustified, on the peaceableness of the place: where the police are unarmed. Hope they can stay that way (if they want to be). And I hope that their lack of arms does not cause undue trouble to citizens, and crime victims.
‐I will remark once more on the friendliness of Norwegians: Even the teenagers smile at you and are polite to you, when working as cashiers, waiters, and so on. And teenagers, of course, are the most insolent people on earth. Insolence is virtually their right!
Here is a rule: If a country’s teenagers are friendly — that is one friendly country.
‐Can I give you some charming English, uttered to me by a Norwegian hotel clerk? She says, “You’ll want to take a taxi” from one company in particular, “because the other ones will rip you.” I appreciate her attempt at an idiom. But she needs the “off.” Otherwise, she’s saying that the cab companies will criticize me harshly!
‐As I leave Oslo, Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, arrives. He is just perfect for the Norwegians — I mean, for the Norwegian political elites: Third World, “indigenous,” not quite a commie, not quite a democrat, something in between. Perfect.
‐By the way, I mention to a Norwegian friend — a conservative-libertarian — that Barack Obama is the perfect U.S. president for the Norwegians. I mean, if there has to be a United States, and it has to have a president, Obama is perfect. My friend says, “He could be gay, too. Then he would be perfect.”
I stand corrected.
‐I have a thousand more items for you, but you’ve had enough, and I gots to go. Let me relate one more story — something that almost made me fall down. I mean, it’s something you might put in a movie. In a TV show.
As you know, Americans are big, big users of ice — ice in drinks. The rest of the world uses less ice (or none). You can always tell an American by the ice he requests. And I’m one of them.
All over Oslo, it has been almost impossible to get ice. And when ice has been available, they have wanted to give you a cube or two — more would be unthinkable, uncivilized. So this has been basically an iceless sojourn for me. That’s okay: When in Rome . . .
I get to the airport, to go home. It’s mid-morning. I walk up to this café-like place. The girl behind the counter — pretty, smiling — says, “Hei-hei!” I order a chocolate muffin and a milk. She says, brightly, chirpingly, “You want ice with that?”
Now they offer ice? With milk? Hell, I take it.
Thank you, dear readers — see you!