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Swedish Stabbing

By:  sleepy_lisa   (University of Metropolis) , 31 Dec 69

Foreign Minister Lindh Murdered in Busy Department Store

There seem to have been an awful lot of bystanders to Lindh's stabbing -- in broad daylight, in a crowded Stockholm department store, after being pursued by her assailant up an escalator. Granted that most of the people bystanding around were women, it still seems odd -- at least from this side of the Atlantic -- that no one attempted to intervene or halt the blood-drenched killer as he calmly left the store. I'm inclined to agree with Jimmy Hoffa that I'd rather jump a gun than a knife -- and evidently Jimmy's luck ran out eventually -- but, if just a handful of the dozens present, had acted rather than bystanding, Lindh might still be dead but her killer would be in jail and not en route, like the late Prime Minister Olav Palme's murderer, to becoming yet another man who got away.

''It's terrible wherever it happens,'' said Fredrik Sanabria. ''But you think you would be safe from this kind of violence in a country like Sweden.''

Really? Why would you think that? Sweden's violent crime and murder rates have been going up, up, up over the last quarter-century. But just about every Swede quoted in every news story seems mired in what National Review's Dave Kopel described, after 9/11, as ''the culture of passivity.'' The lone exception was Lanja Rashid, a Kurdish immigrant. ''If I had been there at the stabbing, I would have ripped his face off,'' she said. ''We Swedes have to think again. How could he have got away? How could people just stand back and watch?''

You can blame it on a lack of police, as everyone's doing. But Lindh's killer didn't get away with it because of the people who weren't there but because of the people who were: the bystanders. When I bought my home in New Hampshire, I heard a strange rustling one night, and being new to rural life, asked my police chief the following morning, if it had turned out to be an intruder whether I should have called him at home. ''Well, you could,'' said Al. ''But it would be better if you dealt with him. You're there and I'm not.'' That's the best advice I've ever been given.

This isn't an argument for guns, though inevitably Sweden has gun control, knife control and everything else. It's more basic than that: It's about the will to be a citizen, not just a suckler of the nanny-state narcotic. In Lee Harris' forthcoming book Civilization And His Enemies, he talks about the threat of societal forgetfulness: ''Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe.''

Lindh would have thought that was just American cowboy talk: too raw, too primal to be of relevance in Europe. But I don't think so. On 9/11 the only good news that lousy day was that the fourth plane never got to slice through the White House. That's because a bunch of passengers decided they weren't going to follow FAA regulations and outmoded 1970s hijack procedures but instead rose up against the terrorists. ''C'mon, guys, let's roll!'' said Todd Beamer. They could have used him in that department store.

That's the big lesson I took away from Sept. 11: Don't be passive. After 9/11, my wife bought me a cell phone, so that in the event I found myself in a similar situation I could at least call my family one last time. It's not much use up here in the mountains, so I never bothered getting it out of the box. If I ever am on a hijacked plane, while everyone else is dialing home, I'll be calling AT&T or Verizon trying to set up an account. But, of course, no one will ever hijack an American plane ever again -- not because of idiotic confiscations of tweezers, but because of the brave passengers on that fourth flight. That's why, three months later, the great British shoebomber had barely got the match to his sock before half the cabin pounded the crap out of him. Even the French. To expect the government to save you is to be a bystander in your own fate.

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