It's not every day that you see Norwegians in our state. Okay, well, maybe it is a common occurrence, but I'm talking Norskis straight from the old country here.
This morning I was interviewed by Norwegian journalist Harald Maaland accompanied by his photographer Jon Ingemundsen from the Stavanger Afternblad, an evening newspaper.
They're in Wisconsin for a week covering the presidential election, and are interviewing former politicians who are Democrats and Republicans. They were led astray by someone who suggested they talk with me, and I put them on to respected Republican and former state Senator Brian Rude.
I warned them that they don't make guys like Brian anymore. A reasonable, moderate Republican who could work across the aisle. But he's Norwegian, so they wanted to talk to him anyway.
After they got done interviewing me and my friend Harald Jordahl, who I brought along both for his insight and to give him the chance to sharpen his Norwegian, I turned the tables and asked them about what the election meant to Norway. They told me that Norwegians strongly support President Obama, as do most Europeans. They just see his approach as closer to their own and ultimately better for the world.
They didn't express dislike or fear of Mitt Romney and the Republicans -- it was more puzzlement. They couldn't understand how a movement that questions evolution and global climate change could exist as a major political force. I could not help them explain this.
I'm always struck when I travel abroad or talk with visitors from other countries about how much the U.S. matters to them. Harald told me that before World War II, it was Germany that dominated Norwegian culture. Since then it has been America. People watch American movies and TV shows, eat at McDonald's, and speak English.
Yet, we're a country that, for all of our influence, seems to carry ourselves with a dim and sometimes absolutely blind view of how our actions affect the world. For a nation that needs to constantly tell itself that we are the "envy of the world," we don't seem to pay much attention to how we impact that world.
Our Norwegian visitors clearly were enjoying their trip to America. I met with them at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to show it off to them, and they headed up to Mauston to see some of Norwegian-settled rural Wisconsin. For my money, that is the most beautiful part of our state.
But on their way, they wanted to stop at a gun shop where they could get some pictures. I suggested the Ace Hardware in Sauk City, where I get my own rifle serviced.
They thanked me.
They want to try to explain to their readership the prevalence of guns in American culture. Good luck with that, I thought.