(Reuters) - Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik said he killed 93 people to spark a "revolution" against the multiculturalism he believed was sapping Europe's heritage, and experts say a frank debate about immigration may be the best way to prevent similar explosions of violence.Alas for Norway. Right-wing intolerance has struck that noble, peaceful nation and it makes me very sad. I would be less sad, honestly, if this had happened in the United States. In America, we've learned to live with this kind of insane violence. Events like this happen here with semi-regular frequency. And in the wake of each such event, right-wing politicians stir up nativist sentiments by identifying a scape goat (Muslims, Mexicans, and gays are recurring favorites) toward whom they can point to rally fanatical support. This perpetuates the cycle and fosters the cultural zeitgeist that makes such events more likely.
In some Nordic countries, and elsewhere in Europe, political parties have fed on rising public concern over immigration as economic conditions worsen and a drip-feed of Islamist attacks stokes fear and suspicion of new arrivals.
But experts argue overly aggressive political rhetoric and scare tactics have inflamed passions rather than address the many complex, underlying problems.
But I've been to Norway. I've seen that society, where all citizens have access to health care and higher education and where they live in a civilized manner. Frankly, Norway is far ahead of the United States, socially. It is sad to see such an enlightened and educated nation fall victim to the fear and race hatred that is so prevalent in this country.
In 1999, when I was in Stockholm, in next door Sweden, a group of neo-Nazis held a rally. But word got out to the general public and a counter-demonstration was quickly organized, resulting in the neo-Nazis being vastly outnumbered and more or less shouted down at their own rally. Quite a stark contrast to the rallies that occur all around this nation, where people tote guns and imagine that threatening violence against the government is patriotic.
The actions of Anders Behring Breivik evidence the fact that Scandinavia is not free of racism and xenophobia. But, unlike here in America, such attitudes are not celebrated or tacitly put forward as legitimate.
Norway! Turn away from the abyss! Don't end up like us!