When Christy got married to her husband Carl, she kept her maiden name Olsen.
– It gives me a lot more legitimacy when working with Norwegian-American issues, she says. Christy’s children are named Carl and Bjorn, Bjorn being named to honor his Norwegian roots.
Today Christy is holding Bjorn in a carrier, and in her hand is a poster that says "There is no such thing as other people’s children". The entire family is attending a rally in Everett, north of Seattle, to protest the separation of families at the Mexican border.
– Two years ago, I’d never thought I’d attend a political rally. Never. But the way things have developed, I just can’t sit still and watch it any longer.
Christy comes from a conservative Republican family, with roots from the early immigrants to the Midwest. Her great great-great-grandmother was one of the early pioneers who came over from Norway in the 1870s. The family came from Hemsedal and Trysil.
– My mother still calls it "homeland". It’s a very deeply rooted vision of how we see ourselves. It sets us apart in a positive way, and we always manage to find other Norwegians everywhere we go.
As a child, Christy attended Norwegian camp and learned folk dancing and rosemaling, and heard tales about trolls. Later, as a young student, she investigated modern-day Norway and took an interest in Norway’s international peace work.
– I kind of fell in love with Norwegian political science. I couldn’t care less about Vikings and immigrant stories, and genealogy didn't catch my attention at the time.
She attended a program that sent her to Norway for four months, where she lived in Hamar. Here she met relatives who she still keeps in touch with. After her stay, she—among other things—wrote a senior thesis about janteloven, the "Law of Jante", the unspoken Nordic code of conduct of conformity. She spent several years working as a "professional Norwegian" in Seattle, including the position of editor-in-chief of the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper.
– Do you feel Norwegian or American?
– Before I went to Norway, I actually felt Norwegian. Being there made me realize how American I am. There’s a huge difference. The way I interact with people, I’d say I’m totally American.
Her trip to Norway and study Norwegian society has made her realize things can be done differently.
– The politics are extremely different. In Norway, you have loads of small parties, and here we basically only have two. I think our system makes a lot of people in the U.S. apathetic toward politics. I was, too, when I was younger. It wasn't until I went to college that I started thinking for myself and saw how Norway's political system takes care of people. With the Trump administration, I have become more of an activist. I want to show my kids how to stand up for what is right.