Move over, Field of Blackbirds and Gates of Vienna. Here comes Orebro!
At Kosovo's Field of Blackbirds in 1389 and again at the Gates of Vienna in 1529 European Christians said to Muslim aggressors, "This far and no farther." Though defeated by the Moslems at Blackbirds, the fight was fierce enough to forge Serbian nationhood itself. Vienna had better luck. The Muslims never got past the city limits and that was the high-water mark of Muslim penetration of Europe.
Now comes a newspaper editor in a country not distinguished by defiance to aggression and shows us all, not just praiseworthy, but almost breathtaking courage. The town of Orebro, Sweden does not bristle with a Balkan or central European warlike attitude. About a hundred thousand people live in this idyllic community in the flatlands not quite two hundred kilometers west of Stockholm.
The town blossoms outward from a castle in the middle surrounded by a moat rippling with ducks even in wintertime. On many a morning on many a visit to Orebro, I sat in the breakfast room of the Grev Rosen hotel trying to learn Swedish by looking up word after word in the local newspaper, Nerikes Allahanda.
I remember thinking, if there were ever a high-stakes contest to select the best example of a "Nothing-Ever-Happens-Here" town anywhere in the world, I could win big by nominating Orebro. No more. Something monumental has just happened in Orebro.
The world is suffering millions of "silent surrenders" to Islam.
Since the knife murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on his bicycle in Amsterdam and the incredible overreaction of the Muslim world to the cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten the understandable urge to survive and the ease with which self-censorship is achieved combine to cause millions of incidents of silent surrender in journalism. "Your column, essay, comment, cartoon, editorial, whatever is good but why invite the wrath of Moslems who kill for things like this with little regard for whether -they themselves live or die?"
American troops may be fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan but we have case histories of American editors exercising their First Amendment rights not to annoy Muslims. ("You know what's going on in the world. Write, draw, say something else instead!")
In late August of 2007 Nerikes Allahanda ran a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad the Muslim community of Orebro found offensive. That by itself, after the Dutch and Danish experience plus 9/11 and all the other terrorist killings, should earn that paper a Profiles in Courage award, but it gets a lot better. Three hundred Muslim protesters gathered outside the newspaper's headquarters demanding an apology.
Nerikes Allahanda's editor Ulf Johansson agreed to meet with the protesters and later said, "I listened to their complaints. They demanded I issue an apology and promise never to do anything of that nature again. As a free journalist in a free country, I can't do that!"
At Boy Scout camp we learned the military bugle calls; wake up, go to bed, let's eat. Johansson's quiet dignified response to Islamic intimidation is a big bugle call calling on every journalist in the free world to rally behind him. Sex has the power to thrill. Sports has the power to thrill. Drugs have the power to thrill. Does courage still have the power to thrill? Don't count on it.
As boys we were thrilled by the Finns, with a population half that of Chicago, standing up to the Soviet Red Army and stopping it cold until they were finally overwhelmed. It took the Soviets a long time.
Two years later we were thrilled by the courage those same Soviets showed stopping Hitler's armies and destroying them on Russia's frozen battlefields. The courageous Greeks not only stopped Mussolini's troops as they invaded in 1940 from their bases in Albania but they actually chased the Italian army back deep into Albania. Thrilling, all thrilling as was England standing alone against Nazi Germany after the fall of France, Israel's spectacular victory in the Six-Day War, the hopeless stand of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and Yugoslavia's incredible guerrilla resistance to the Nazis.
In Scandinavia the Norwegian underground performed many brazen acts of sabotage against the Nazi occupiers including possibly denying Hitler the atomic bomb by destroying the Norsk Hydro heavy-water plant at Rjukan. The heroic Danes didn't have the woods and mountains that the Norwegian freedom fighters did, but their exploits of sabotage and espionage made Denmark proud.
The famous Danish physicist Niels Bohr was spirited out of Nazi-occupied Denmark over to England by the Danish Underground to work on the atomic bomb project. He absent-mindedly forgot his supply of heavy water back in Copenhagen. "No problem," said the Danish Underground's liason officer in London. "Where did you leave it?" "In my apartment in a Carlsberg Beer bottle on the middle shelf of the refrigerator near the back," replied Bohr. Twenty-four hours later the Carlsberg Beer bottle with the heavy water was in London, too.
Many young Swedes today show hostility at what they consider their elders' lack of courage by trading with Nazi Germany all through the war and even allowing German troops to go from Norway to the Russian front on Swedish railroads. I disagree.
If Sweden had not acceeded to Nazi demands they would have been swallowed up by German forces just like their Danish and Norwegian sisters. Swedish neutrality in World War II eased the suffering of many thousands of Jews and other refugees lucky enough to make it to Swedish soil and hundreds of American and British airmen who crash-landed in Sweden or Swedish waters or bailed out of their crippled aircraft after bombing raids on Germany. Indignant youth in Sweden also denounce their post-war government for refusing to join NATO to defend free Western democracies.
There again, I defend Sweden. If Sweden had joined NATO, the Soviets would likely have occupied Finland turning that free and courageous democracy into another communist satellite state. Besides, it was a poorly-kept secret that Sweden's huge defensive air force was informally linked to NATO and Swedish naval units even did coordinated exercises with NATO in the Baltic Sea.
Anyhow, thanks to editor Ulf Johansson and artist Lars Vilk, Sweden now stands unambiguously among the heroes. If not all Sweden, at least that placid little town of Orebro as represented by its major newspaper.
Intimidation always inspires the search for another costume. ("I'm not intimidated. I just don't want to run cartoons that offend groups among our readers!") My daughter Celia Farber, blogging on Dean's World (www.deanesmay.com ) saluted the heroes of Orebro where she lived from fifth grade through high school and denounced the success of Islamic intimidation elsewhere.
Celia's piece drew a volley of niggling complaints stating, "Before you can allege intimidation you first have to prove editors and publishers would have published that unpublished material if there had been no Muslim uproar!" Pitiful! Can you imagine an editor "not wanting" to run a picture of the Ku Klux Klansman with a noose or the swastika smeared on the wall of a synagogue or a caricature of a gay man or whatever it was that triggered a protest demonstration plus plus death threats plus the burning of freshly-printed newspapers awaiting distribution plus protests from the Iranian and Pakistanian governments?
Many years ago I asked a native of Orebro how the town got its name. "An ore is the smallest unit of Swedish coin currency, much less than an American penny," she explained. "and 'bro' means 'bridge'. There must have been a bridge somewhere around here that cost one ore to cross."
Johansson and Vilk risk paying a much higher toll.
Who will now follow Johansson and Vilk over that bridge?
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