Down The Path of Humaneness

The mass murder in Aurora, Colorado has produced the now all-too-predictable reaction from one pillar of the Democratic Party news media – ABC News and its “investigative reporter” Brian Ross, who reflexively went on the air to link the Tea Party to the murderer.

I doubt that ABC and Ross’s apology will deter the usual Democratic Party media hacks, like Paul Krugman and Frank Rich, from trying to make a similar political connection. And I am also certain that the Obama team is, as I write, trying to come up with some very tasteful and nuanced talking points that somehow implicate the Republicans in the murders. Something like: You didn’t do that, the Republicans did!

So before we go off on another deep search into the long dark night of the American soul, we should ponder what the Wall Street Journal‘s Sohrab Ahmari wrote about the trial of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik:

…There was something very dignified about [the trial]. Breivik’s guilt was established beyond the shadow of a doubt; he readily confessed to his crimes. The point of these proceedings was to officially and in the name of the court memorialize the lives that could have been had Breivik not cut them short.

Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people last year, makes a farright salute as he enters the Oslo district courtroom at the opening of his trial.

The Norwegians are a famously austere people, not prone to emotional outbursts. The trial of their greatest mass murderer reflects the Norwegian national character.

“Every single person who’s dead needs to be presented,” Shabana Rehman Gaarder, a Pakistani-Norwegian comedian and writer who has been covering the trial, told me. “Norwegians are not giving Breivik one single feeling. They’re not looking at him, they’re not showing even a tiny bit of their anger. It’s a proud way to say to Breivik, ‘You don’t exist.'”

The Norwegian way of justice has its limits, too. “You Americans could never handle a trial like this,” a German television reporter sneered at me during a smoke break. Like many Europeans, he looked down at the U.S. justice system for its supposed violence, including the persistence of the death penalty here.

But then it’s worth remembering that the maximum sentence the court can impose on Breivik under Norwegian law is 21 years, with the possibility of renewing his detention if it’s later determined that he remains a public danger.

Norwegian prisons are often described as the world’s nicest. And as the London Telegraph reported in May, prison officials may even hire outside “friends” to keep Breivik company. Norwegian law holds that no prisoner—not even Breivik—should ever find himself in total isolation. That would be too cruel.

All this sounds outrageous—and it is. Norwegian society has advanced so far down the path of “humaneness” that it cannot put someone like Breivik to death, let alone jail him for life. It’s a society that can only deal with evil on clinical and judicial terms, not moral ones. That sensibility has never sat well with Americans, but it’s increasingly making inroads among us. The very term “evil” sounds old-fashioned. But that’s exactly what Breivik and the Colorado killer represent.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: