On Saturday I woke up with a knot in my stomach. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day full of colours, I had a fun event to attend in the evening and plenty of free time before that. But the knot was there, beause a Swedish nazi orgainzation was set to march in town, police from all over the country was setting up barricades days ahead of time, debates were raging about the rights and wrongs of giving permission for the demonstration in the first place and nobody knew how anything would end up. Many gatherings, counter-demonstrations and other events were taking place to protest and spread positive values instead of fear. But again, nobody knew how anything would go. So, knot in my stomach. It would have been easy to completely stay out of town and feel assured others would deal with the situation. But if we all did that the nazis would march unopposed. And so I found myself biking downtown, still buzzing from morning coffee, parking my bike and navigating around all the barriers to join the largest counter-demonstration.
It was the best thing I could ever have done with the day. Instead of sitting indoors, thinking myself into the belief that the world is dark and fearful, I was outside in the sun with thousands of other completely normal people, confirming and strengthening the fact that most of us are on the side of peace and understanding. Following the events through media of any kind would not have been the same thing either, I needed to be there. So, clearly, did everyone else, and we all are better for it.
There were speeches by various people. There were organizations and words I do not normally agree with, some I may even strongly disagree with. There are many discussions worth having about that. But there is still a great deal of beauty and importance in the fact that so many differences can be put aside and reached across on a sunny Saturday.
(Now, can we all learn to do it on every other day too? Then we are really winning.)
Some wrote afterward that it felt as if the city was under siege. I say it was much more of the calm before the storm. Everyone and everything was bracing for impact, and one of the best things about the day was that the storm never came. The nazis tried to diverge from their assigned route and break through the police lines and were stopped dead in their tracks before even reaching the starting point for the demonstration. Almost every single counter protester was calm and civilized too. I was not near where anything happened, but a friend was and sent me some video of how calm things were even very close to the police lines.
It was a good day.
There are so many good people.