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My challenge to Storberget

Book debutant Adelheid Seyfarth Gulbrandsen has this autumn been highly praised for her novel "Fars hus". But she's not happy about it. Not until the Minister of Justice Storberget shows that he has understood the seriousness of it, she writes in this week's Ny Tid article.


When Knut Storberget took over as Minister of Justice, he did something that must be called uncommonly beautiful for a Norwegian politician: The gift the incoming minister gave the incriminating was the novel Father's House. I call it beautiful – not as a quality assessment of my own novel, but as viewed by a top politician who in this way recognizes the ability of art to convey human reality. Now we are waiting to see if we will also see Storberget complete the act.

With modesty I call Father's House art. Less modestly, I recall that the novel points to conditions in our society that Storberget has in practice signaled that he will pursue. In all likelihood, he has become too big a boy to enjoy himself with foreplay just for the sake of his ... At least in the long run.

I Father's House the main character Mina finally wanders around in almost self-destructive desperation. There will be something very close to the story, some reviewers state. The restless confusion can also be compared to the Hunger figure, although this figure's confusion can, in many people's opinion, be read regardless of social conditions.

Of course, I am humbled when referring to the people of Kafka, or not least when the literary critic Bjørn Gabrielsen in Dagens Næringsliv mentions Father Hus as literature for a world larger than Norway. But all the attention about my romance debut has yet to make me happy. This to many people's disappointment or surprise. They only knew that in reality, not least after Gabriel's strong praise, I was lying across the table, crying until I broke.

In early February 2001, young boy Benjamin Hermansen was killed by Norwegian nynasists. A few years earlier, Arve Beheim Karlsen had mysteriously drowned somewhere else in Norway. This tragedy was also linked to white Norwegians' reactions to dark-skinned citizens.

The lawyer Storberget was relevant in connection with the Beheim Karlsen case (which defends for one of the two defendants, ed.). A young and sincere journalist then asked me to criticize Storberget, which I refused. Storberget operated within the limits set by the Norwegian judicial system. When Benjamin Hermansen was killed, however, there was no doubt that could legally save the perpetrators.

The perpetrators were both convicted and probably also pre-convicted. And Norway took the opportunity to mark the distance from the assault in a way that, absurdly, can almost be called the celebration of one's own nation and this nation's goodness.

The difficult questions were avoided then, but also in hindsight. What is it in our society that can help legitimize negative actions against people with dark complexion? Were Hermans's murderers (I keep Karlsen's case out because of this case's formal outcome) solitary busmen almost with a different DNA structure than the torch-bearing shocked typical good Norwegian Norwegian?

No one, regardless of skin color, can share the grief of Marit Hermansen, Benjamin's mom. And a death like this is just not a party political issue. On the contrary, all typically good Norwegian Norwegians as representatives of a number of parties and organizations must be held accountable for our attitude towards dark-skinned.

Norway has long defined the "foreigners" as somewhat problematic. In Dagbladet (19.9.2005, ed.), Stian Bromark and Dag Herbjørnsrud summarize the arguments for the introduction of the immigration stop, introduced by a Brattli government in the mid-70s. We also live in a society that regularly presents dark-skinned people as a burden. In the 80s, the guidelines for the Immigration Act states that the police are encouraged to deal with environments and individuals who do not look like the typical Norwegian. This time too, now under Gro Harlem Brundtland, the guidelines are being nourished by the Labor Party's chest.

In my own home district we are now delighted by the Dutch who want to settle in our forests. At the same time, my own municipality has said no to more refugees. Rural Norway badly needs every flying Dutchman, but what I miss on behalf of my daughter, and what excites me intellectually, is the demanding diversity that refugees represent. Perhaps the municipality is wrong when it thinks such a rejection decision is a reasonable investment. Maybe some of us choose to travel if we can only hold out a white hand when trying to convince City and Land to hold hands.

Being a real guy – and not just accepting neighbors and peers, it costs.

The main character at Father's House is wandering around in a cafeteria cacophony of everything and nothing. The protagonist's state of mind and despair can also be seen as a result of the way the society around her has decided to treat her. It is this one the despair that is most relevant to Knut Storbergets i hans new position as Minister of Justice.

In my own life I have fully experienced the political priorities that lie behind the everyday dark-skinned meetings in Norway. In the book Norway, a small piece of world history reminds Bromark and Herbjørnsrud of how the labor movement has no better tradition than the bourgeois parties with regard to how to deal with issues that specifically concern the dark-skinned. In later chronicles, they have shown how the doubt about the immigration stop could be just as great outside the labor movement. For the socialist-oriented reader, it should be worrying that a "true liberalism", which we hardly find practiced in any Norwegian political party today, can soon be perceived as a proper ideological alternative for growing groups of dark-skinned people.

In the latest issue of LO-current, the trade union movement acknowledges that it has a serious problem with regard to its relationship with Norwegians with “an ethnic background other than Norwegian”. Furthermore, it is admitted that these Norwegians live with very special challenges. Trade unions could acknowledged reality a decade or two ago. Studies have long since come in the same direction, also with regard to the views of the LO organizers in particular. The information was rejected, at best they ended up under the blanket. Today, the newspaper Vårt Land can make reports that the bodies of the trade union movement have fewer dark-skinned people on board than the Progress Party.

The attitudes of the trade union movement – the labor movement – have not least been to great self-harm, at the same time as it has of course helped to legitimize attitudes towards dark-skinned, attitudes that "no one" identifies with and "everyone" engages against – as soon as they get a torch in hand. LO, for example, is among important contributors to Benjamin Hermansen's memorial fund. The contribution is without a doubt given in sincerity.

But those who are black and have experienced LO-organized customs, or police based on their own "profile analyzes", know that the walk really begins where the torch trains end.

The question of genuine liberalism has more ideology to offer black Norwegians than a worn-out labor movement should not be left open for long. Father's House connects the fate of Norwegians with dark skin with the lives of other people who live under demanding social conditions, most of them from the traditional working class. Historically, these people have been Storberget's core voters. These voters will soon no longer exist. The new core voter will not allow himself to be bound by references to the solidarity with which the labor movement has a historic property relationship. In our culture, few political movements can be said to have an equally glorious history as the Norwegian labor movement – if we only go far enough back in time. And few movements have such a reactionary potential if we only look quite briefly into the future.

An increasing number of voters will be dark-skinned or close-skinned. It is these voters, voters who can hardly take the train to Oslo without being harassed, also by public officials, Storberget already represents.

Now we must hope that he completes the deed, that he takes the real grip, so that our descendants perceive that the life and reality we give them are conceived in joy and solidarity.

But the thought of the two boys Benjamin Hermansen and Arve Beheim Karlsen will forever make us cry.

Adelheid Gulbrandsen is a writer and writer, current with the book Father's house.

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