(Editor’s note: According to news reports, White House aides said that, on Jan. 11, President Trump questioned why the U.S would accept people from countries like Haiti; the U.S. should want more people from countries like Norway.)
By Rebecca Cook
This is what I know for sure: I know Norwegians. I have traveled to Norway once or twice a year for nearly a decade. They are great people, kind people, people of compassion. But they do not live in a perfect world despite their country being elected as the most desirable place to live on earth.
Their world is different than ours and I mean that in a differential, good way. Not different *better* but diverse in history and culture. My daughter is married to a Norwegian. They live on a farm that has been in the family for over 400 years. I have never lived any place longer than 10 years. Most Norwegians have always lived in Norway, some less than a mile from their birthplace. Their lineage is pure; they’re not part Irish, part Scottish, part American, but pure Norwegian. Most of us in the U.S. are from somewhere else. I’m English, Irish, Scottish, and Norwegian.
Since WWII, Norwegian society has embraced immigrants. Refugees from Africa, Iran, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Asia, etc. integrate into Norwegian society by undergoing extensive training to learn about the culture and language; they’re helped with job placement — the works. It is not easy to enter Norwegian society, but as my daughter can attest, it is doable.
Norway has socialized medicine. But it’s not free. Norwegians pay heavy taxes for those benefits. Their cost of living is roughly four-times the cost of ours; many make good salaries though, especially working in oil-related industries. But theirs is not a laissez-faire life. They work hard. Nonetheless, these people are happy and compassionate when it comes to welcoming strangers into their society.
Norwegians, for the most part, are fit. They exercise. They go outside and work their bodies regardless of the weather. They ski, play soccer, work on the farm, run marathons, hike the hills, hunt and countless other outside activities. You don’t see many sedentary Norwegians with fat guts.
That said, during WWII there was a powerful Nazi faction in Norway. Hitler eyed the country for its strategic position, sought and won over part of their society. Steinkjer, a town near my daughter’s family farm, was flattened by Nazi bombs. Flattened. The only remaining building after WWII is the rail station. There was, however, a strong resistance to Nazism and that resistance, along with allies were able to overcome Hitler and bring stability to the country.
So my point is: Norway is a good country, a strong country with its own economy. Few Norwegians want to exchange what they have for what we now have in the U.S. In fact, most Norwegians I have encountered are too polite to mention how concerned they are about our current president. The few who have dared to broach the subject ask me what I think before offering their opinion. I can tell you from our discussions that few Norwegians think highly of the man at the top of our government.
That is what I know for sure.
Cook is a long-time San Juan Island resident.