Slaughter of Innocence

The UK newspaper The Telegraph has paid tribute to the victims of the Oslo and Utøya Island terror attacks by posting their photographs on its website. A great lump formed in my throat — a dam set up against a possible overwhelming flood of sorrow and tears — as I viewed the images in succession, and read off the names and ages of those who were gunned down.

One  photograph, however, transfixed me. The lump in my throat gave way and the dam burst. I was overwhelmed by all the back-pressure of my sorrow and sadness. I broke down. I cried. And I cried for a very long time. (Mr. Breivik and his minions will, I’m sure, feel immense satisfaction in that “success”, gloating in the suffering that has been wrought, and the human pain and tears that have been shed).

Hanne Kristine Fridtun, 19 years old

Maybe I’m transfixed by her loveliness because she reminds me of young love and of a woman I once loved. She radiates and bodies forth, in that moment when the picture is taken, the honest freshness, sweetness, and the childlike innocence of a young girl. Even though she is a woman of 19, I see in her the spirit of a still innocent and thankful childlike love and faith. A beautiful noble innocence. A beautiful loving grace. Her hands are folded almost prayerfully over the bouquet of freshly picked wildflowers that she clutches gently, even thankfully, near to her heart.

Maybe the wildflowers were even a gift from her boyfriend, who may also have taken the picture. And maybe her endearing and delighted smile is just for him. She exudes an innocent delight, love, and quiet joy in that moment without a trace of the lost innocence of cynicism and world-weariness that so often distorts and twists the faces of “adults” into something akin to a permanent grimace of pain or a death-mask.

She projects grace and gratitude, unselfconsciously, the very manifestation and proof of the truth that “unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. She is that Kingdom of Heaven. That unselfconscious nobility of spirit is genuine, like the bouquet of wildflowers she holds near. Unselfconscious like the proverbial “lillies of the valley”.  Mr. Breivik’s own pretended and pretentious nobility as self-declared “Justiciar Knight Templar” is merely a conceited and very narcissistic self-conscious pose in contrast to her innocent and natural nobility of spirit.

Her name was Hanna Kristine Fridtun. She was 19 years old when Mr. Breivik gunned her down.  Mr. Breivik did not kill Hanna Kristine Fridtun. He put his gun to the head of that hated innocence she represents and pulled the trigger. (He even sadistically injected his murderous dum-dum bullets with deadly poison to ensure that, if the devastating wounds they caused didn’t do the job, the poison in the tips of the bullets would finish his Christian “good works”).

The attack on this kind of innocence is why Breivik is now judged by some to be “evil incarnate.” He is, for that reason, morally insane. He is not “clinically” insane because psychiatric diagnosis has still not come to grips with the meaning of moral insanity, which is what we call “evil”. He is possessed by an extraordinary narcissism combined by an equally extraordinary calculating Mephistophelian cunning.

Hanna Kristine Fridtun, here, is the very contrary and contrast to Breivik’s nihilistic depravity and Mephistophelian moral insanity.

It is uncanny how “conservative Christian” Breivik’s slaughter on Utøya Island recalls the Biblical King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. Breivik and the Biblical Herod share the exact same motives and rationale. Breivik called his attack on the children of Labour Party members a “pre-emptive strike” against the future, which would deny the elders of the Labour Party a succession. Likewise, Herod, as legend has it, slew the children of Israel to prevent the prophesied rise of a king who would challenge his reign and usher in a new age and a new era…. the child Jesus. Breivik’s own rationale for his slaughter of the innocents are actually no different.

Afterwards, I came across a very moving article in The Guardian by Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbø. The article is entitled Norway’s Lost Innocence, and that is very meaningful in itself. Nesbø could have entitled it “Norway’s Stolen Innocence” or “Norway’s Murdered Innocence”, but that blame-attribution or ascription of evil to Breivik didn’t even come up in the article. That liberality and generosity of spirit that declines to despise and hate Breivik in return tit-for-tat and as vengeance for his own murderous hatred…  that liberality is truly Christian and faithful, and not the phoney and merely ideological Christianism that Mr. Breivik or his other false and faithless self-described merely ideological “Christians” espouse.

That is why Jo Nesbø’s article stands out for me. Reading it, I realised he could have been describing Hanna Kristine Fridtun when writing about Norway’s own loss of innocence. You could even use her name and “Norway” interchangeably in the article without much loss of meaning.

Other nations have the iconic female figures who represent the virtues or values or meaning of that nation — Marilyn Munro, perhaps, for Americans, the Greek “Spirit of Liberty,” Delacroix’s bare-breasted “Liberty Leading the People” of the French Revolution.

But for me, now, Hanna Kristine Fridtun is Norway, and Norway is Hanna Kristine Fridtun. The image of Hanna Kristine Fridtun is “Oslove” incarnate, and will forever represent a permanent objection, rebuke, and repudiation of the hate-filled rhetoric, destructiveness, and Mephistophelian nihilism of right-wing reactionaries like Anders Behring Breivik and his phoney “knights templar.” Her photograph I will now display prominently in my study and in my office to remind me of that. What she radiates and exudes in that photograph is truly angelic… is what some faithful Christians still call “Christian love”. Her nobility stands in absolute contrast to the dissembling posturing of the now widely disseminated and patently narcissistic self-portraits of so-called “conservative Christian” Anders Behring Breivik, by which he wanted to be commemorated, idolised and even revered as a reactionary saint and a nationalistic “saviour,” (even going so far, reportedly, as to get plastic surgery performed on himself so he could appear less goofy in his photographs and less ridiculous in his costumes, apparently).

But perhaps he will be revered and celebrated, now… by other devils. Some of whom have already referred to him as an “icon”, and object of veneration. It’s what he expected.

“…and he seemed to hear in his own true heart the measureless sobbing that stole out of the centre of the serenity around.” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick).


7 responses to “Slaughter of Innocence”

  1. Dan says :

    This has really touched me and in more than one way.

    I share a similarity in the fact that Hanne really stood out amongst the victims, all of which obviously represent the tragedy and innocence so well. However, the picture of Hanne Kristine Fridtun really spoke to me individually for similar reasons as you mentioned. The picture of her holding the flowers, but also the fact that she has a ridiculous resemblence to one of my closest friends and once love.

    On top of the photo, if you listen to her conference talk which is on youtube (first option if you youtube Hanne Kristine Fridtun) you can see her innocence and thankfully I feel that solace can be found in the fact that she died doing something she loved. We all listen and read about tragedies and we hear names of the dead, however it is not until you see photos or see a video of them that they are really personified. The thought of all of these intelligent children and young adults, which had such promise and looked to be important politicians in the future being culled like sheep is horrifying and disgusting. I would not wish this ordeal upon anybody, not even those who I strongly dislike, so to know that hundreds of young people, my age (17) and younger had to go through something so horrible in what, for some, was the last moments of their life.

    The saddest part of the story of what I have read elsewhere is that she sent a text message to her parents at just after 6pm on the 22nd saying that she was still alive and that the perpetrator was quite a way away from her and those hiding with her. With the questions being thrown around that the police response was very slow it just raises questions of whether Hanne, as well as many other innocent teenagers & young adults, would have survived.

    Anyway… thank you very much for writing this. You are an incredible writer and, although I don’t have a WordPress account, I am very much interested in reading more of your articles, if you write them. It made me tear up, in fact, at your description of what the picture could potentially have portrayed and what it means to you.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thank you for your comment, Dan. It was much appreciated.

      Sorry I didn’t get to it earlier, but we had an unusual fierce storm here just after midnight (some are saying it was a cyclone), the power was out most of the last 13 hours, and I’ve been cleaning up the damage. I lost a few great good friends in the form of some really majestic trees. Still have a lot of cleanup to do — say a requiem for the trees and inter them. At least they avoided hitting the house and the truck when they came down, but it was close.

      I still get a lump in my throat when I look at Hanne’s photograph. But maybe those deaths will not be in vain if it moves us to look honestly — perhaps even bravely — into the true nature of evil, and by extension, come to know the good.

      That said, Mr. Breivik’s worse fear, it seems upon reading his “manifesto”, is that people might dismiss him as a nerd. It’s probably even a more fitting way to memorialise Breivik and his act than as an icon of good or evil. He is a nerd. He also has some character aspects that remind me of the character in the film “American Psycho”. But mainly, he’s a nerd.

  2. A Friend says :

    As a friend of Hanne, I think it’s nice that other people are able to see what an incredible person she was, simply by looking at a picture of her. She exuded kindness and displayed a constant, natural and unified mix of compassion and understanding unlike anything or anyone in this world. Always with an everlasting smile on her face. Always working hard – mostly for the greater good of others. Truly a personification of everything that is good in this world, and everything with the potential to become so. May the rest of her journey be forever peaceful.

  3. Mark says :

    I felt the same way when I saw her picture, really brought a lump to my throat.All the losses that day are terrible, but seeing Hanne, it feels so much like an attack on the hope and innocence she represented. I also hope the rest of her journey is forever peaceful.

  4. amir (@Few_Humans) says :

    i think i have a little gift for you so can i have your e mail coz i cant post it here

  5. Øyvind W says :

    I’m a first-year student at the university college at Sogndal, where Hanne was a student. She was mentioned in the year’s opening speech — she would have turned 20 on that day had she been allowed to live. We had a moment of silence for her and the other victims and it was a very powerful moment. I wish I had gotten to meet her in person, because she comes across as a great girl. Found a YouTube clip of her ( where she speaks of elderly care and, in dreadful irony, gives a speech about how she wishes a long, good life.

    • Scott says :

      Thanks Øyvind. If you have a chance, it would be interesting for us to learn how the tragedy affected you, your friends, your country. We don’t hear much about it any more.

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