Bombing in Stockholm

Steve Nordin

Over winter break, I was in Sweden living in a small town just outside of Stockholm.
After I got back from a weekend trip to Helsinki – without cell phones or Internet access – the Metro, a Swedish newspaper, screamed “Hundreds Could Have Died” from its headlines.
An extremist had planted a car bomb on Stockholm’s Drottningsgatan, a popular shopping area. The bomb exploded around 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, wounding two passersby.
The terrorist himself expired when part of his homemade suicide vest prematurely detonated, luckily not triggering an explosion in his backpack, which was filled with nails and pipe bombs.
In my hurry to catch my ferry to Finland on Dec. 11, I turned the wrong way on Drottningsgatan and walked past both targets of the attack an hour before the bombs went off. Luckily for me, when it happened, I was on a ferry docked in Stockholm Harbor. I didn’t hear the blasts.
I will not pretend that this event is the formative event of my adult life or use it as an inspiration for bad existential poetry to inflict on my peers.
There are many other collegiate experiences that could be used to show my sophomoric intellectual sophistication, such as a flimsy analysis of Milgram’s “Obedience to Authority,” something gleaned from “The Daily Show” or a horrendous misinterpretation of a lecture by Dr. John Dreher.
The bombing is different. I felt threatened, afraid and irrational, as I had so many times as a child. However, the bombing justified those feelings for probably the first time in my adult life.
Those feelings were real and I saw them in those around me. All I wanted to do then is make those emotions go away, no matter how. It was different to wander about Stockholm after the attack.
Gamla Stan became my Islamabad, Djurpark my Kabul S”dermalm my Gaza. My wanderings became furtive dashes from Point A to Point B, despite the reassurance of every police officer on every street corner.
When I returned to my home in rural Wisconsin for Christmas, I thought about the Drottningsgatan bombing and compared “the new me” to my younger and angrily liberal self.
Whenever I hear my peers indignantly proclaiming that some law is “infringing on personal liberty,” I envision 16-year-old me with my copies of “The Communist Manifesto” and “Atlas Shrugged” – mostly for show and unread, respectively.
I remember shouting to my classmates that President Bush was going to destroy the Constitution and establish an authoritarian state run by Big Oil, the Skull and Bones Society and the banks. I also remember bad sweater vests.
It is by no means my opinion to have the Bill of Rights turned into Kleenex. Liberty is important, especially to the American cultural identity.
However, I believe that it is dangerously easy to pretend that the debate on security versus liberty is a “true/false” question, especially as an economically secure college student at a liberal arts school in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Every government infringes on personal liberty. Sometimes it is necessary to curtail a greater degree of freedom in order to protect citizens from greater threats.
Benjamin Franklin and many freshmen in Introduction to Political Science courses once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
I, as a simple Opinions & Editorials writer, do not wish to besmirch the name of that notable philandering founding father that abandoned his illegitimate son, William, over a political disagreement.
I, most humbly, offer a different opinion.
They that give up liberty for a little temporary safety are citizens of a democracy acting in accordance to their conscience. Their choices are as legitimate as those formulated by political parties, college students, the old, the young – of every race and creed.
Those who would discount the value of others because their political opinions are “insane” or “stupid” are acting contrary to the spirit of democracy, same as any radical or extremist.