65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 11

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 11
up the eleven wagon train. They were eleven out of many thousands who creaked their lonely way across the face of America primarily in the latter half of the 19th Century. They lived in isolation as they built their com- munities, their schools, their churches, their roads, their government. Whether they were Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedes or Icelanders they brought with them their own Bibles and often their own pastors or priests. They often maintained their churches and schools in their own languages. They established their own newspapers printed in their native tongues. Only a handful exist today. My father coming from Norway in the late 19th century at the age of 20 attended an academy and later St. Olaf College where much of the instruc- tion was in Norwegian. Both institutions were only two of the several sponsored by the Nor- wegian Lutheran Church in America. I mention the Norwegians especially because I am best acquainted with their history. Parallel experiences are the history of practical- ly every other national group. Slight variants occur depending on region of settlement or their decade of arrival. Several factors contributed to the development of the vigorous adherence to isolationism. They are too complex to deal with in a short article such as this. The fact of the matter is that it existed to a very pronounced degree — With the advent of World War II and when many of these national groups saw their home- lands over-run, their mother churches debauched, and cruelties imposed on their ancient cultures — especially in the smaller nations — a reversal of feeling began to take place. To speed the process a new age group of leaders sprang up in the major political parties and our cultural institutions. Most, though not all, were men and women born in the Twentieth Century. They merged the old with the new. They recognized in the day of atomic energy, jet propulsion, space travel and sophisticated modern communication that they too must have their window to the world — a large, open win- dow. In many ways this too has been a part of the history of Iceland. No less an authority than President Asgeirsson said, “Our small nation was isolated for centuries in the middle of the Atlan- tic, out of sight and touch with other lands, some- what like the people of the Midwest, who did not see the oceans. Like the Midwesterners, we tended to believe in the security of isolation.” Then he went on to say, “No country can be isolated and self-sufficient in time of crisis. Friendly relations and security arrangements are necessary under present conditions. The lesson of the Second Worl War should certainly not be forgotten. Short memory is a serious fault.” Socially, economically, historically and cultural- ly coming from the Midwest we have then, it seems to me, had many similar experiences. As we descended through the brilliant early morning sunlit sky over Iceland and landed at Keflavik on May 4 we weren’t quite aware of all I have written. Gradually the answers begin to surface. Sometimes we find the wrong one — or have to sift through several before we find the correct one. Perhaps even some of the conclusions touched on here are in error — only time can tell. Of one thing both my wife and I are sure — the Icelandic people must rank with the warmest and friendliest. Just three days after our arrival my wife was taken suddenly very ill. Hospitalized, as she was for three weeks, we discovered their concern and compassion. Messages and flowers came from many quarters — a great number from people we had never seen nor met. Yes, the Rolvaags enjoy Iceland. You have made us feel at home. 65 9



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