Two days ago, I retracted my acceptance of a senior management position that would have made good use of my skills and experience, covered my health care expenses, significantly bolstered my retirement cushion and provided a salary commensurate with the high level of responsibility and expectations of the job.
I did this after two days in which I was subjected to questions about my political and personal beliefs and my professional associations. This followed the reactions of a handful of intolerant people who protested my appointment. They objected to the work of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), one of the world’s most principled humanitarian organizations, in a region of the world that is fraught with complexity and conflict..and, by my association with NRC, they objected to me. They questioned work I had done with the Norwegian Red Cross in the same region, work I am proud to have done and done well. They disapproved of people I have worked with, attacking views they had expressed with courage and conviction. I was destabilized. I was shaken.
Why this should have come as such a surprise to me is, well, surprising. From my comfortable perch on top of the world in social democratic Norway, I had followed the rise of fundamentalism in an increasingly polarized America. I have lazily expressed my outrage by reposting a Facebook article or a meme from those who have been raising the alarm of fundamentalism for many years. Such virtue signaling didn’t cost me anything.
On my return to the US, I naively thought that I could remain shielded from such narrow-mindedness and continue to express my outrage from wherever I sat comfortably perched. I never imagined that I would come face-to-face with it so soon and in such an unexpected way…or that it would be represented by so few who were given so much power. In the end, walking away from this was pretty easy.
There is nothing like a bunch of reactionary voices to clarify one’s own voice. This clarity came at a price, albeit a relatively small one for me. Others have paid a far greater price defending their beliefs and values. I do not presume to stand among them. Writing is my therapy and I really just needed to get this off my chest!