One of the things that we have up here in the North Country that connect us in all of our Northern Crossings, is our unique cultural heritage of “Norse” folk. Norse folk are considered Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Faroe Islanders, Icelanders, and some consider Germans part of that as well. I am not sure the Germans do.
In this crazy political year many crazy things are going on. For instance, I saw some of the protests taking place in which huge Mexican flags were being waved amid, well, protests. This is the time of the year that there are two competing flags. The Mexican flag will be out in force on Cinco de Mayo and wherever Donald Trump comes to speak. Then there will be the Norwegian flag on Syttende Mai.
Since Americans don’t care about anyone’s history but their own, and they really don’t care about that either, a bit of explanation is necessary. Cinco de Mayo, May 5, is not at celebration of Mexican Independence as many Americans and American educated Mexicans believe. It is a celebration of a battle. The Mexicans had been fighting each other for many years over – get ready for this one – the separation of Church and State. They fought so hard they ran out of money and pulled a “Puerto Rico”. They defaulted on their debts and basically told everyone to whom they owed money to take a hike. The French, not fond of hiking, took their Navy and invaded Mexico to get their money back and were defeated at a place called “Puebla”.
Being Americans, we don’t care about history but there was a possibility that if the French had won this battle, the North might have lost the American Civil War. That is another story for another time.
Syttende Mai, May 17th, is Constitution Day for Norwegians. The constitution of Norway was signed to keep Norway from being taken over by Sweden even though the Norwegians and Swedes were working together in a kind of “pact Scandinavic”. Typical of both sides, rather than fighting, the Norwegians signed a piece of paper declaring themselves to be independent from the Swedes and the Swedes said “that’s alright, just don’t talk about it”. It is called Norse conflict management. Don’t talk about it.
In this crazy political season in which America seems to be governed by tantrum, I wondered what would happen if Norwegians would protest. What would a Norwegian riot look like?
First of all, there would be no huge flags being flown and waved. That is too showy. Those little flags that Bronco fans put in their car windows and drive around town waving are about right. It screams “here I am, notice me, but don’t get upset, I like the Vikings too”.
There would be no stopping traffic on major roads or jamming up sidewalks like Occupy Wall Street. Norwegians don’t want to put anyone out. Norwegian families who were mourning their loved one’s have been known to park their cars 4 blocks from the Church so that visitors from out of town could park closer.
There would be no Molotov Cocktails. I know Norwegians that shot off their fireworks before the Sun went down so as not to keep the neighbors awake.
Police would need no pepper spray. They could simply wave some empty burrito sacks in the air and the crowd would disperse because Norwegians have an aversion to “food that hurts” (see John Louis Anderson’s “Norwegian Humor and Other Myths”).
The ancestors of the fierce “Vikings” that terrified Europe and showed up in Minnesota before it was Minnesota don’t seem to have it in them to riot, or even protest. My Grandfather, a German with a fierce temper told me that the only way to know if a Norwegian was mad is if they didn’t ask you to the lutefisk supper, and if you showed up anyway they would give you minced ham.
I think I might have been present at a Norwegian riot. It was a covered dish dinner in a church basement that inexplicably and disastrously ran out of coffee before the dessert was served (lefse and rommegrut). There was a sinister threat in the tap, tap, tapping, of empty coffee cups on pressed board tables. Someone on the kitchen crew, with a look of terror ran to the nearest “Piggly Wiggly” and brought back 3lbs of coffee that was quickly brewed in boiling water with egg shells tossed in. When all the cups were recharged one particularly rancorous individual stage whispered, “Uff Da, that’s vat they call one them fox paws”. Time and study have lead me to believe he was referring to “faux pas”.