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Saturday, December 12, 2009

An American Browngirl in Oslo

OSLO, Dec. 12, 1:05P, local time

After the hustle and bustle of the past few days, it felt good just to get out and amble around town a little bit. What's more, the sun made an appearance! I'd like to say it's just for me, a farewell kiss of sorts from Oslo, but I'm not that self-centered. Well, not usually, anyway. I'm honest enough to own some only-child-bratty behavior here and again.

Clearly, I didn't get to see all that I wanted to while I was here. There is plenty  of public art I'd still like to see. I missed the fjords completely. Then again, given the weather, it has been suggested to me that such activities are better for 50-plus weather, anyway. So that sounds like a repeat trip. Invitations already have been extended. It's enough to inspire me to hustle together some coin and take folks up on their extended kindness. I'd imagine this place is beautiful in the summer, no matter how short those days may be.

Spent most of the afternoon on major chill mode. That included wandering the streets of Oslo, and returning to the Nobel Peace Center. You could attribute it to the weekend, or to the fact that the museum is free until Dec. 30, but the foot traffic was considerably heavier than when I first toured the museum and previewed the Obama: A Call to Action exhibition. Many of the visitors were taken by the over-sized images in the foyer, collected and edited by Eli Reed. While tempted to go back upstairs to gauge reaction to the meat of the exhibit, the energy in this area conveyed enough information for my needs. There was an intensity, almost a hunger, in how people approached the information panels. Some chatter, some banter, but mostly quiet reflection, study.

It is so interesting to see how the president is perceived by others. The whole prophet-never-accepted-in-his-own-town thought comes to mind. Absence and distance both can make the heart grow fonder. But you wonder whether there is more to the international love affair with Obama. It almost hearkens back to Batman Begins, when Bruce Wayne discovers when you become a symbol, an idea, you amass true power. You are myth. You are legion.

Yet, Obama is a man. And painfully aware of that fact. Perhaps all those years of being a loner, of not quite fitting in, have prepared him for this moment in time.

The second coming? Of who? Of what? Of actually believing that change is not only possible, but attainable, and within our lifetimes? It is still mind-boggling the number of people I speak with, even this many months away from the campaign, that relate certain moments in their lives when they said, "I can do better. I can be better," all as a result of the 2008 campaign. Those sorts of feelings, that kind of conviction can be dismissed. It certainly was after the Million Man March, when death rates from black-on-black violence continued to escalate, when babies still came of age without knowing their fathers, when fear and shackles rose anew and chained minds and hearts of the men who gathered as well as those who watched, in hopes of making a change.

We live in such fear, as a nation, as a culture. We are afraid to believe, so afraid of the disappointment should our dreams, our hopes, not be realized. It stunts us, stifles what could be the best among us into accepting complacency and mediocrity as the accepted norm, the justifiable standard of living.

To live out loud. To be bold. To walk with confidence and to truly stand for deeply held convictions. Those are the feelings that Obama inspires, among so many, of all ages, races, ethnicities, genders. That's what resonated throughout this trip, throughout the interviews and conversations.

In a few hours, I'll return to Philadelphia, a city ravaged by violence at the earliest ages of life. I imagine I'll spend sizable hours pondering how peace can be achieved in this state of reality. It's about having the audacity to dare, to try and fail, but to keep running the race. Because you never know who might be transformed even by the slightest effort. Who can fear that?

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