Editor’s Note: Martine Aurdal is an op-ed editor and political commentator for the Norwegian daily newspaper Dagbladet. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.
Donald Trump wants America to have more immigrants from Norway in contrast to what he reportedly called “shithole countries” in Africa.
Although we love to visit America, Mr. Trump, it is highly unlikely that Norwegians are going to flow into the US to live. As a citizen of Norway, I can tell you we’re not flattered, but offended by the President’s eagerness to have us emigrate.
Even though Trump has denied making the particular comment, members of Congress who attended the meeting say that the reports are true.
The offer has left Norwegians offended, not flattered.
President Trump is judging immigrants by where they come from, and it is hard not to see this as a question of ethnicity. Norwegians have had a history of being positively discriminated for our race and have resisted those ideas before – we will do it again.
We like where we live. In fact, Norway is the happiest country in the world. We are that way because we live in an egalitarian society where we strive to give everyone good and equal opportunities – regardless of ethnic, gender and social background.
A century ago it was different. About 800,000 Norwegians migrated to the US, including my great-grandfather. We were a poor country, and the migrants were searching for opportunities and fit the phrase on the Statue of Liberty: They were our tired, our poor. America welcomed them, and they found what they were looking for.
Today, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, and we will not give up on our cradle-to-grave welfare. Our parental leave is a generous year, kindergarten is cheap, and our higher education is free. Health care is also free for every Norwegian citizen. Our society strives to be tolerant. Every political party promotes liberal values, gender-equality and human rights. The plumber´s son goes to school with the CEO´s daughter, and social mobility is high. Hence, our leaders have diverse backgrounds and anyone could meet the NATO secretary general skiing in the woods or our Prime Minister at the supermarket doing her own grocery shopping.
So instead of trying to import our whiteness, the US President should try letting some of our ideals in.
Also, immigrants have been and are shaping Norway. Our history is formed by migration, from the Vikings traveling the world to the German Hanseaten coming to Bergen, a city on the southwestern coast. Nearly 17% of our population is made up of immigrants or have immigrant parents. This includes Somalis, Eritreans, Iraqis, Syrians, Filipinos, and Pakistanis.
This is not to say that Norway is perfect – and Trump needs to understand this part too.
Radical ideologies are rising throughout the Western hemisphere and Norway has not been immune. We have experienced right-wing terrorism with devastating consequences. Neo-Nazis are increasing, and at least 100 Norwegian Muslims have been radicalized and joined the Islamic state since 2012. The white American supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, praised the Scandinavian neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement. It is a small, but increasingly visual group in our society. They promote despicable ideas that we condemn as a society. Our Prime Minister, who met with Trump earlier this week, does not say that there are “some very fine people” among the marching Nazis. She warns that they could rip our society apart.
The key to fighting against such tendencies is integration and equality. Encouraging a society where we judge people as individuals, not for belonging to an ethnic or religious group, is crucial. These are the same ideals that Martin Luther King Jr. promoted, and that Donald Trump, bizarrely enough, praised in his first meeting with the press after the comments on “shithole countries” and Norway.
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The UN has condemned the President´s comments as racist, pointing that the reference to Norway makes the context clear. Favoring Norwegian immigrants over to those from another continent cannot be read as anything but judging people by their race. We are proud of our country, but not because we are white. The historical connotations are unpleasant; Norwegians have been praised for our “ethnic purity” before. We resisted Nazi Germany, and the America that we love helped fight those ideas. So, thanks, but no thanks for the offer, Mr. President.