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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Decompressing in Oslo

OSLO – Dec. 9, 1:25A, local time

Just taking a moment to breathe. Still processing it all. It has been an incredible 48 hours. So in a look back, I'll start with the Nobel Peace Center, a pure delight. That they are going to open it free to the public from Friday until Dec. 30 is a lovely present to those who live in Oslo or would travel to see the exhibits.

Interactive doesn’t begin to really underscore how cool the features of this museum are. Touch screens. Music. Video. Photos. And scores of tidbits written in both Norwegian and English make it fairly accessible to people of all ages. Given that it is under five years old, the concept and output are outstanding.

From King to Obama
builds on themes of buses and communication. One being symbolic of social status denied, the other the weapon used to fight back, peaceably. Snippets of both King and Obama’s lives are juxtaposed throughout the exhibit. Especially cool is a reel of King that runs in black-and-white on a 21st century monitor housed in the casing of a vintage television. The museum is filled with cool touches just like that. Attendance numbers comparing this October to last showed nearly double the interest, museum officials said. Clearly the message espoused by both of these leaders resonates. And scores of school kids visit. There are some 12 to 14 school groups in and out daily, museum officials said.

Also impressive are the features for kids.  The exhibit designers keep the wee ones in mind, providing things for them to touch and see, too. I love the Dream Trees that line the stairwell. You can scribble your name and a dream for peace on a leaf, and then tie it to the tree, so that it dangles amid the other dreams for peace. too.

How often do we sit and meditate on what it means to be at peace? To attain peace? What is peace? Is it tangible? A state of mind or a state of being? Transitory or permanent space?

These are reflections I’m considering more as the debate continues as to whether President Obama “deserved” or “earned” this honor. The opinions on both sides are no less heated here than they are in the States. This is a broad, sweeping observation, fraught with plenty of exceptions. Still, I’ve noticed that by and large, African Americans who supported Obama but live abroad – at least here in Scandinavia – are more apt to offer pointed criticism of him and his policies as compared to African-American supporters of Obama who are stateside. That was one contrast that came into sharp focus during tonight’s discussion at SpringBok. (Left, my host, Phillip Louis, wrapped up conversation with members of Baltimore City Women for Obama with a photo session.) At this ultra-hip, way trendy South African-themed cafe (recommended: zucchini muffins with a side of cream cheese; yum!), I joined a group of African Americans who felt compelled to participate in Obama's election and have ongoing interest in the Nobel Prize celebration. One man, who currently lives in Norway, offered a perspective that was counter to the prevailing Obama-is-the-man-for-our-time-and-should-be-awarded-the-Nobel view around the table. No blood was shed, and everyone parted as friends, but it got me thinking.

Perhaps there is a sense of luxury afforded by distance to those who are here in Europe that can allow for less “solidarity,” with more emphasis on faults than celebration of being. It could be argued that they now have more dispassionate and objective insights. Others could counter that it’s simply contrarian and irresponsible, tearing down someone who has plenty of enemies doing just that daily. Besides, they'd point out, what's the alternative?

It’s open to both debate and interpretation and in weighing both sides, a fascinating discourse, no matter your view.

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