February, 2014

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#851 – Dick Bernard: Haiti, remembering a December, 2003, visit to Port-au-Prince, and the time before the overthrow of the Jean-Bertrand Aristide government February 29, 2004.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

UPDATE: Yesterday my friend Jane Stillwater reported on a recent short visit to the same area I visited in 2003. You can read her comments, and see some photos, here.

Map of Haiti, December 2003

Map of Haiti, December 2003

Port-au-Prince Dec 2003

Port-au-Prince Dec 2003

Back in the spring of 2002 my new friend, Paul Miller, began to lobby me to join him on a trip to Haiti. He’d been there several times, and while I knew where Haiti was, and that it was a very poor country, that was about it.

Paul kept working on me, and during most of 2003 we read and talked about Haiti, and on Dec. 6, 2003, we landed in Port-au-Prince for an astonishing and eye-opening week [Basic itinerary at end of this post]. I wrote here about that experience on the 10 year anniversary.

We had a full and extraordinarily rich week, ending December 13, 2003. At the end of December, 2003, I reflected on my experience in Haiti.

Our associations that week were with people who supported then President Aristide, and were attempting, successfully, to make positive changes in the lives of the poor. We knew Haiti as one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere and the world; nonetheless we saw hope and pride as Haiti prepared for the bicentennial of its achieving independence from France in 1804.

A few photos from that amazing trip floated to the top of my collection when looking for symbols of Haiti in December, 2003:

(click to enlarge)
Haiti Sculpture Dec 2003005

The Presidential Palace, Port-au-Prince, December 8, 2003

The Presidential Palace, Port-au-Prince, December 8, 2003

At Ste. Claire after Mass Dec 7, 2003

At Ste. Claire after Mass Dec 7, 2003

There are many more photos, of places and people, all conveying pride and even optimism. Nobody expected the end of poverty, but there was discernible pride and optimism, amongst the poor, to at minimum be working towards poverty with dignity; the more real possibility of they and their children becoming literate; and of being recognized as free citizens who could and did democratically elect their President and other officials, etc.

At the end of our week, we stayed the last night at the Hotel Oloffson, made famous in Graham Greene’s novel, “The Comedians”. We sat in the bar listening to RAM, the band of Richard A. Morse. It was in itself a powerful evening. You could almost feel the increasingly intense political intrigue in the bar and on the veranda.

RAM at the Hotel Oloffson, about Dec. 12, 2003

RAM at the Hotel Oloffson, about Dec. 12, 2003

The next day we left, flying to Miami, picking up the Miami Herald story about storm clouds gathering in Haiti: Miami Herald 121303001.

The building storm was, of course, a fact known to us.

While we viewed the common folks going about their lives, we were hearing from the rich assortment of people we met with about the storm clouds gathering which, less than three months later, would end with the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, being flown out of his country by U.S. aircraft, victim of a U.S. sponsored and supported coup d’etat.

“Freedom” and “Democracy” in Haiti were too much a threat to be allowed by the United States of America.

It was a harsh lesson for me, then and now: my own country could do this to not a dictator, but a democratically elected President of an independent country.

The coup happened officially on Feb. 29, 2004, denying even the ability to commemorate an anniversary at its 10th year, 2014.

Back home, as the coup happened, and the stories abounded, I tried to make sense of what I had witnessed, trying to find some facts among the sea of fictions that flowed, especially, from my own United States government.

In March, 2006, I took another trip back to Haiti. In the time period before I left, I condensed my concerns into a letter to the leaders of three major political influence entities in the United States, and even submitted a proposed op ed to the New York Times (not printed). For those interested, my thoughts remain on line here.

Life has moved on, and my several feet of files relating to Haiti have lain undisturbed for several years.

But this anniversary brings the memories back, and the lesson learned is to be less than trusting of “truth” conveyed through official or even news sources.

A healthy skepticism is deserved.

I was last to Haiti since 2006, but still keep in touch.

Keep seeing Haiti.

The travelers above Petion-Ville, December, 2003.  Leader Paul Miller is at left.

The travelers above Petion-Ville, December, 2003. Leader Paul Miller is at left.

The General Itinerary as I recall it:
Stayed at Visitation House
The entire week was jam-packed.
We saw many of the places in the booklet Chemen Kwa Pep Ayisyen, in English, here: Haiti Stations of Cross001
Sunday, Dec 7, Mass at Ste Claire’s, Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste
During the week, some specifics:
Driving tour of sights in the Port-au-Prince area
Dinner at home of our driver above Petion-Ville in Mont Calvare area.
Morning and lunch at BAI, advocacy group for victims of violence, primarily women
Visit Fonkoze, then beginning to mature into the major micro-finance organization it is today.
Visit Methodist Church under construction
Lunch at one of higher-end hotels above Port-au-Prince
Visit Hospice St Joseph
Visit SOPUDEP School Petion-ville
Visit the national television station/studio
Visit Fr Michael Graves at Orthodox Church
Visit President Aristide’s international press liaison
Visit Methodist Church Guest House
Visit Orphanage some distant into the countryside around Port-au-Prince
Overnight at Olaffson Hotel

COMMENTS
from Peter B, Mar 1 (in 2003, this would have been Feb 29, the day of the coup):

In case you still want to put something in there about this:

The evening of the Haiti Coup I got on the phone with the State Department’s “Haiti Desk” and spent at least thirty minutes talking with a guy who was of course parroting the party line written by the Noriega character (not the Panamanian drug king, the State man in charge of the Caribbean)). I tried my best to explain that everybody knew (everybody who looked beyond the Washington Post and the New York Times that is, and could spell Haiti) that the thugs on the border in the DR were about to slam into Haiti, murdering, raping and pillaging, freeing the Duvalier Tonton Macoute killer police to add to the rampage, and destroying a functioning democracy.

He was polite and uncaring through out. I was not hurried off the line. I still can’t figure out how the single phone line to State about Haiti could be tied up by a citizen for that long in the midst of a very big military operation to capture a head of state and deport or kill him. But that’s how it was.

And of course my fears were fully realized, far worse than I ever imagined at the time.

I now understand that the cultural rules of “Market Rule” require that no successful alternative economy be allowed to function, let alone achieve a reasonable life for the citizens of any country. I now understand that the punishment meted out by Washington will be destruction, chaos and unimaginable slaughter. There is no place I am aware of today that is not subject to this other than (perhaps) Russia, which as an oligarchy, plays the game quite satisfactorily with the “Western Powers.”

I further understand that we don’t have a vote that counts on this. And that our elected officials are helpless to change it, because they are immediately drummed out of the halls of government, and if they won’t shut up, they find themselves standing next to a spouse at a news conference apologizing for human trafficking.

We’ve seen it all before. We might possibly escape total enslavement, but probably because the environment will drop on the population first, and we will be once again reduced to roving bands of hunter-gatherers.

Gloomy? So what? Show me some evidence to the contrary. Hunker down. Gonna be a long hard one. The old folks hereabouts say they never have seen weather like this. When Vermonters complain about the weather you know something is up.

#850 – Ed Ehlinger: It’s the Little Things that Count

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Every now and then a true gold nugget appears in my in-box, and this evening was one such nugget, from Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health. His commentary is presented here with his permission. Wonderful Sharer of Story Anne Dunn, to whom he refers in his writing, is a long-time good friend of mine, and she has posted on several occasions at this blog. You can access her posts here.

Dr. Ehlinger, shared Feb. 23, 2014:

Greetings,

“I will tell you something about stories . . . They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.”
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

I was worrying about all of the big things that were facing me in the upcoming day when I left home on a recent sub-zero, cloudy, and dreary February morning. It was one of those days that prods one to question the reasons for living in Minnesota. To make matters worse, I was now stuck in a traffic jam on Interstate 94 where it crosses Hiawatha Avenue. Most of the gray exhaust rising from each of the cars idling on this highway turned parking lot was creating an environment that was not quite pea soup but more like dirty dishwater left in the sink overnight. The remainder of the exhaust was freezing on the pavement creating a black ice that made whatever movement there was hazardous and stressful.

The longer I was trapped in this traffic jam the more irritable I became. It was dawning on me that I was going to be spending a large chunk of time in my car in one of the gloomiest parts of town on one of the gloomiest days of the year. The irony of the presence of such ugliness as I sat stranded over a street named after a famous American Indian, whose name evokes images of nature’s beauty, was not lost on me and made my frustration even more intense.

That thought, however, momentarily took my mind away from I94 and Hiawatha Avenue and transported it to a storytelling session that I had attended over twenty years ago. Despite the fact that it had occurred so long ago, I could vividly recall the setting – a small cottage nestled in a small clump of trees in the middle of a preserved patch of prairie just south of the Twin Cities. The cottage was decorated with hand-crafted furniture, fabrics, and art. It was a magical place that gently coaxed stories out of people. It was the antithesis of I94 on this gloomy morning.

One of the storytellers made a particularly vivid impression on me. Her name was Anne Dunn, an Ojibwe woman from Cass Lake, MN. She had made the trip to the Twin Cities solely for the storytelling session. She knew it didn’t make any sense for her to come all that way just to tell a story or two but she had a feeling that she had to be there – so she was.

Her story was about a young man who had gone on a Vision Quest. Just before he departed, an elder approached him and advised him that over the next three days he should pay attention to the little things around him because they might hold something special. The young man said that he would and then departed with hopes of having a great vision that would give him some purpose and direction in his life.

When the young man reached the top of the hill that he had chosen for his quest, he set up his camp and began the fasting and prayer that he hoped would lead to his vision.

For three days he waited. No dreams came while he slept. He looked for signs from eagles, wolves, bears, or deer but nothing appeared. He gazed at the sky looking for clouds or thunder and lightning but nothing was visible to him. He looked at the trees and the rocks and the hills but he saw nothing but the landscape. He prayed, and even begged, for a sign but nothing came that he could recognize. Finally, exhausted and in despair he gave up his quest and headed back to his people.

Upon entering the village the young man was met by the elder who had talked with him before he left. The elder asked about the Vision Quest. The young man dejectedly replied that it was a failure; nothing had happened. He felt depressed and cheated.

The elder asked him about the bird. The young man replied that there were no birds.

The elder asked him again about the bird. The young man again replied but this time with some impatience in his voice that there were no birds. He had looked diligently for three days for signs of eagles, hawks, loons, or even owls but none had appeared.

For the third time the elder asked him about the bird. By this time the young man was beside himself. He screamed that there were no birds, that the place was barren, and that his whole Vision Quest was a waste of time.

The elder quietly asked “what about the bluebird?”

“O, that pesky little thing,” the young man replied. “He kept bothering me. I tried to chase it away but it kept coming back. After a while I just had to ignore it because it was interfering with my Vision Quest.”

As he was talking, the young man suddenly remembered the words of the elder before he had left on the Vision Quest -”pay attention to the little things.” With great despair he realized that he had disregarded this advice. The bluebird was trying to tell him something but he didn’t pay attention because he was looking for something more dramatic and spectacular than the appearance of a lowly little bluebird.

The young man went away and cried with the realization that he had wasted a golden opportunity.

Just then, I was jolted back to the present by a horn sounding behind me. The traffic had begun to move and, for the person behind me, I had been too slow to respond. I slowly pushed down on the accelerator and caught up with the flow of traffic. The cars were now moving but the murkiness and glumness of the surrounding city-scape remained. My mind went back to the advice of the elder in the story – “Pay attention to the little things around you. They may hold something special for you.”

At that moment I looked up through the dirty gray air toward the sun that was slowly rising directly ahead of me. Around the sun a glorious rainbow had appeared and was forming an arch over the road. The rainbow was created by the exhaust and polluted air which moments before I had been cursing.

I began to smile as I noticed that the most vibrant color of the rainbow was blue – a blue that matched the hue of a bluebird’s wing. At that point I knew that I was one of the reasons Anne Dunn came to the Twin Cities. I needed her story even though it took 2 decades to understand that. To paraphrase Leslie Marmon Silko, I needed her story to fight off the frustration and stress that was not leading to health. Her story also assured me that the big things in my day would take care of themselves if I stopped worrying and simply paid attention to the little things all around me.

It turned out to be a great day.

The 2014 legislative session starts this week. That’s a big thing. While we deal with that, let’s be sure to pay attention to the bluebird on our shoulder.

#849 – Dick Bernard: A Family Story: A 50th Birthday, The Beatles Invasion, “Forever Young”, and “The Station”

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

UPDATE: Here is a December 17, 2010, post which directly relates to the below.

Today, February 26, 2014, is son Tom’s 50th birthday, as well as my wife’s birthday, and a daughter-in-laws…and my Grandfather Bernard’s 144th. Saturday night, at another birthday party, daughter Joni took this picture of me with my 13-year old grandson, Spencer, who has that pride of catching up and now passing his still- 5’10 1/2″ Grandpa in height (you can “measure” us by the door frames behind us!). (The Facebook wags have had a bit of fun with the photo.)

Dick and Spencer, Feb. 22, 2014

Dick and Spencer, Feb. 22, 2014

Those who follow this blog know that what appears here is “potluck”. Since initiating this site five years ago, I’ve written about whatever happens to be of interest at the time.

From day to day, I don’t even know what my next topic might be, or even when.

Perhaps I might subtitle these “Thoughts Towards a Better World” with “Life Happens”.

So, in the last week or two, while the death of my 93-year old Aunt Edith on Feb 12 took precedence, other ‘side’ events diverted my attention.

During Aunt Edith’s last days, the daily CBS news was recalling the first visit to the U.S. (see “British Invasion” here) of the new phenom band from England, the Beatles, and their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show February 9, 1964, 50 years ago. Not long before that electrifying national event, I had first heard them on car radio, driving between Grand Forks ND and Hallock MN.

It is odd how this specific event sticks in my mind, but it does all these years later.

At the exact same time my wife, Barbara, was pregnant with Tom, our first and only child, who is 50 today, the Beatles made a triumphant appearance on U.S. shores.

Long ago, I gave Tom almost all of the photos I have of him from that era. Here is one of the very few I kept, this from the fall of 1964 in Elgin ND. Tom would have been about 9 months old, then. It appears we may have been watching a football game on television…. Either his Mom, Barbara, or I took the photo.

(click to enlarge all photos)

Tom Bernard Fall, 1964

Tom Bernard Fall, 1964

Of course, as everyone in our family knows, Barbara, then 21, had only a few months left to live, passing away of kidney disease July 24, 1965.

So, “Forever Young”, and “The Station”.

Another idol of mine, Bob Dylan, wrote and sang another anthem about living life which has gripped me over the years, Forever Young. (More about “Forever Young” from Pete Seeger and school children in his home town of Beacon NY, here. Pete was a year older than Aunt Edith, and passed away just days before her, January 27.)

Dylan composed that powerful song sometime when Tom was very young.

I also thought, today, about an old Ann Landers column I had first read in 1997, and saved, and saw again, and also saved, in 1999.

It is called “The Station”, and has some suggestions for living life along it’s road.

Here are the columns: The Station001 They are short and well worth the time.

So, farewell, Aunt Edith (and Pete Seeger), and Happy 50th Birthday, Tom.

It is a good time to reflect on the meaning of “Forever Young”, and of “The Station”.

August 2, 1995, at the Grand Tetons, from left, Flo Hedeen, Tom Bernard, Mary Maher, Dick Bernard, Vince Busch

August 2, 1995, at the Grand Tetons, from left, Flo Hedeen, Tom Bernard, Mary Maher, Dick Bernard, Vince Busch

On-site sketch of the Grand Tetons by Tom Bernard August 1, 1995

On-site sketch of the Grand Tetons by Tom Bernard August 1, 1995

POSTNOTE: Aunt Edith and Uncle Vince come from a farm family that loved music. And the February 15 funeral included several old standards, movingly sung by Norm and Sue Goehring. The Busch family loved music. So does son Tom, so do I.

Norm and Sue Goehring at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, LaMoure ND, Feb. 15, 2014

Norm and Sue Goehring at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, LaMoure ND, Feb. 15, 2014

Tom (at right) and fellow musicians, Denver, March 8, 1997, photo by Dick Bernard

Tom (at right) and fellow musicians, Denver, March 8, 1997, photo by Dick Bernard

Most of the Busch and Bernard families at the farm, June 1941

Most of the Busch and Bernard families at the farm, June 1941

Above is a family photo taken on Mothers Day, 1941, including both set of grandparents of Richard (the one year old in the photo), at the Berlin, North Dakota farm. From left, back row: Ferd and Rosa, Edith, Mary Busch, Lucina Pinkney (I think), Josephine, Henry Jr (“Boy”, my Dad), Esther and Henry Bernard, Duane Pinkney, Vincent Busch and unknown. At front Art Busch, Richard Bernard, and (I believe) two from one of the Berning families.

Only three survive at this date in 2014: myself (the one year old); Uncle Vincent, second from right, then 16, now 89; Vince’s cousin Melvin, next farm over, was then 13.

It occurred to me, when looking at the photo, that the oldest person in that photo, my Grandpa Bernard, next to my Dad (the tall man at center) was then 69, four years younger than I am now.

Life travels on.

Have a happy 50th birthday, Tom!

Dick, Tom and Barbara Bernard Summer 1964 Valley City ND

Dick, Tom and Barbara Bernard Summer 1964 Valley City ND

Dick and Barbara Bernard as Godparents, March, 1965, four months before Barbara's death.

Dick and Barbara Bernard as Godparents, March, 1965, four months before Barbara’s death.

#848 – Dick Bernard: “Vatigate” on PBS Front Line

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

We just watched a powerful hour and a half about the Catholic Church – my lifelong Church – on PBS’ Frontline.

Do take the time. You can watch Secrets of the Vatican here.

I will comment later.

UPDATE: Sunday, March 2, 2014

A week ago, prior to knowing that this program would play, came an unusual announcement at my Church, Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Next Sunday (today), it was announced, was the day of the Annual Catholic Appeal, a long-standing program to raise funds for certain programs, like helping Catholic Schools and the like. Very normal. What was unusual is that the Priest emphasized that this year a specific Foundation had been set up to receive donations so that 100% of the funds would go to the appeal. Trust in the Archdiocese by potential givers is apparently perceived to be low, and they wished to create a firewall of sorts to assure contributors that donations would not be used for other purposes.

Later in the week, the Diocesan paper, The Catholic Spirit, made the same declaration, and today it was repeated again.

How much, if anything, Frontline had to do with this is unknown to me. But it certainly had to have been known as an upcoming event.

We watched the entire Frontline program, and it was indeed compelling.

At the same time, I viewed it from the context of having been an advocate for teachers for an entire career.

Mischief can be made with how data and images are used.

I recall a pretty successful attempt to demonize teacher unions (my own career) by making examples of outrageous teachers who, it was suggested, couldn’t be fired. These few bad examples were made to misrepresent the entire profession, and the union to which they belonged.

In a country with several million public school teachers organized into teacher unions, it is absolutely certain that there will be bad apples somewhere in the batch.

But do they represent the entirety of the profession?

Absolutely not.

And do they at least qualify for due process? Of course.

With this in mind, I watched the kinds of incidents that were the focus of Frontline; what kind of film clips were used, and how often these clips appeared; who spoke and what they said….

Doubtless the program was “fact” based, but was it objective? That is not so sure.

It is possible to cherry pick facts to create a story that is not, in fact, truthful.

And as we who still go to Church know, the Catholic Church, like any institution anywhere, is a complex institution, and it is no more fair to typecast it on the basis of some truly outrageous incidents and people who might in reality be aberrations, rather than representative of the whole.

I have no problem with exposes, but there has to be better context.

The importance of the new Pope to me is that he can, and apparently is, working quietly but publicly to change the tone of leadership ‘at the top’.

This doesn’t mean that his predecessors were evil people.

What it might mean is that things they let fall through the cracks, or may not have felt were important, were crucial oversights, and have created the black-eye that my diocese and the Vatican itself has to deal with.

UPDATE Tuesday March 4, 2014 viewing the film, Philomena:

This afternoon we finally took the time to see the film, Philomena, the extraordinarily powerful film about the efforts of an older woman to find her out-of-wedlock son who had been taken from her at birth at a Convent in Ireland, and was later adopted by Americans.

If you’re one of those who’s been curious about this film, but have not yet seen it, take the time.

Philomena lays out the complexities of humanity, and indeed the dangers of labeling a larger group (say “church” or “nation”) without regarding the individual parts of a whole: the people themselves, at various stages in their own lives.

Life is not simple.

Personally, as I watched, I kept thinking of a statement I had made to a friend a few days ago on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Haiti.

I had been there before the coup, and met several people who were adversely affected, some murdered, or character assassinated or imprisoned for one reason or another, including alleged personal failings.

I remarked, in an e-mail to my friend: “we all have our public, and private, and hidden, lives, I suppose” as simply a general caution, including to myself.

As Philomena and the others portrayed in the film demonstrated powerfully, each of us have our own aspects, unique, and changing over time and circumstance.

Judging becomes risky, but at the same time is unavoidable, and sometimes justified.

See Philomena if you can. You won’t regret it.

#847 – Dick Bernard: 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Augsburg College Minneapolis MN March 7-9, 2014

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Hidden in plain sight in Minneapolis MN is the annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College. Here is the link for the final three days of the Forum (The first day, Peace Day on Saturday, March 1, with the Dalai Lama, is sold out.)

Now in its 26th year, the Forum annually calls attention to the urgent mission of peace around the world, as envisioned by Alfred Nobel. Every day has a different theme:

Friday March 7 is Law and Business Day,
March 7 is also Peace Prize Festival for School Children (over 900 attendance, this event not open to the general public)
Saturday March 8 is Science and Health Day
Sunday March 9 is Global Day

Each day has internationally known keynote speakers (this year, several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are in attendance); and very interesting breakout sessions on the theme of the day.

Of specific general interest to the general public is Global Day. Among this years presentors is Ms Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate from Liberia who is a Peace and Woman’s Rights advocate.

I have attended the entirety of the last three Peace Prize Forums*, and they have been uniformly excellent and intellectually stimulating. In addition to the sessions themselves is the opportunity to network with persons with similar interests.

Do take the time to browse the Forum Website; let others know, and plan to attend yourself.

A recent blogpost about this years Forum can be seen here.

* – Until 2011, the Peace Prize Forum alternated between five Midwest Norwegian Lutheran Colleges, Augsburg, Concordia at Moorhead MN, St. Olaf in Northfield MN, Augustana in Sioux Falls SD, and Luther in Decorah IA. In 2011 the decision was made to permanently have the Forum at Augsburg College.

#846 – Dick Bernard: Why “I Breathe Union”. The invisible but real long-term consequences for America symbolized by the VW vote.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

After workers at the Chattanooga TN VW plant barely voted down the United Auto Workers a few days, I sent a message to my own mailing list. Part of that Feb. 17 message was this: “The vote doesn’t surprise me at all”. (The remainder of that message is at the end of this post; a link to a longer discussion of this issue can be found here.)

Most of my career I was Union staff: my full-time job was representing workers (in my case, public school teachers). One would be hard-pressed to find anyone more certain of the value to society of organized Labor Unions than myself. I do “breathe union”*.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the workers in that Chattanooga plant, as a collection of individuals, made a very bad group decision. It was their individual decision: more “no” than “yes”. They need to own it and build from it. It can, some day, be reversed. A majority of the workers chose to lose for reasons known to each one of them, personally, including those who chose not to vote at all.

They represent the inherent weakness of our reverence for individualism in our society: while we insist on marching to our own individual drummers, we are ever more separated into balkanized special interests, including our own.

It would be one thing if all individuals were created equal, but this is not so in our society, where some individuals are in a position to do much more damage than others. The greater the gap between the haves and those who have less, the greater the problem, for everyone, including the rich. As a few rocket up in wealth and perceived “power”; the rest spiral down.

Workers in particular need to relearn the value of sticking together for the greater good. It will again be a long, hard, but essential process.

(There is an interesting distinction between the words “choice” and “decide”: Decide has the same root as suicide, etc. Choice gives other options…. Someone who commits a homicide (a decision) has at least a short term feeling of satisfaction, of having done the right thing (in his or her mind). But it is a decision with consequences.)

There is a reason the Power Establishment wants to keep unions away from the bargaining table. A good union, with members who understand and appreciate the principles of working together, tends to increase wages and benefits which, in the long term, benefit everyone directly. Unions made the middle class, which in turn made the prosperity we have enjoyed in this country.

By far the biggest losers long term when organized labor is defeated is everyone of us, including the Senator Corker’s and their ilk who try to cover their collective rear-ends in the novel ways they try to use words to mask their stupidity.

The argument that lower wages and benefits in some way help our consumer economy thrive has never made sense to me. The workers in Chattanooga retained their rights to earn lower wages, essentially without rights (a hallmark of “right to work” laws). Their “no” vote makes for something of a pyrrhic “victory” by their enemies. Their loss translates into less money for the local economy, and less (rather than greater) security for everyone.

The last chapter relating to this decision is yet to be written. At some point, the people who make this country, the workers who earn the money to spend, will take stock and enough of them will decide that they need to rise up and take action, one town, one place at a time. The revolution will be a quiet one, largely out of the public eye, but it will happen.

For me, it can’t happen too soon. For the anti-union folks who try to keep workers down, this radical development, this quiet revolution, will be a blessing, not a curse….

THE UNEDITED E-MAIL I SENT ON FEBRUARY 20, 2014
There is a lot of chatter about the defeat of the unionizing effort at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, especially since the company was not against the union – in fact, tacitly favored it. The big opposition was from politics and business, it seemed, and, of course, the majority of potential members who voted no.

I’m an old union organizer guy.

The vote doesn’t surprise me at all.

We are a society of individualists, and belonging to a union is a group activity, and of course, there are dues. The most virulently anti-union guy I’ve come across in my own family network was – it turns out – a retired Union guy, and his wife as well (meat-cutter and teacher in Iowa). Why? You can name the excuses he has for hating unions now, when he benefited directly from one for his entire career as a rank-and-file member, and benefits now in retirement….

But, of course, the big losers are business. Higher Wages are synonymous with Union; higher wages are also synonymous with more money to spent in the local economy. Higher wages have a tendency to ripple up to other sectors, with the same positive effect.

So, why is business against higher wages? You can name the excuses.

And the politicians fear monger against “union bosses”, and make “union” a synonym for “Detroit” (which itself is more a reflection of management lack of foresight than anything else).

Don’t just blame the UAW for lousy organizing, or the “no” voters for being stupid.

In my retirement, in volunteer organizations dedicated to peace and justice, I see the same short term thinking as exhibited by a majority in the VW election. People like to be free agents because they don’t have to compromise, which is the nature of organizations, like unions.

So, in one particular alliance of 75 organizations I’m very familiar with, there is long standing and thus far successful resistance to change the alliance to an organization which will have far more power than the sum of its parts. I doubt it will ever cross the bar into being an organization.

Rather than share resources, and help each other, and compromise a bit on very similar ideals, for the greater good, the choice, rather, is to compete for already scarce resources, and everyone gets weaker and weaker.

It makes no sense at all, but it is how the world (at least in the present day U.S.) works, I guess.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

COMMENTS:
from Bruce F, Feb. 20:
The ideology of American Exceptionalism, in my opinion, had a lot to do with what happened in TN. To be truly exceptional, one must be a free, independent, autonomous individual. That is how the work force in “right to work” states see themselves. They are essentially independent contractors unconnected to & in competition with other workers. They are able to sell their labor to the lowest bidder if they chose because they are free, independent, and exceptional. I think they feel they’ve fought and won this battle of the continuing battle to separate the American frontier from evil European influence that America had separated itself from in the 18th century. The irony is sad.

The struggle for worker rights is important & shouldn’t be marginalized, but the larger issue of VW’s, as the world’s second largest auto manufacturer, connection to the auto/fossil fuel complex is pushed aside in this story. If you want to separate labor from larger existential issues use jobs as a wedge. This was evident to me last April at the State Department’s only public hearing on the KeystonePL in Grand Island, NE, where organized labor was out in force in support of the pipeline, which was based on jobs that would be created.

from Fred H. Feb 21: Nice job with this piece. I just saw Illinois Gov. Mike Quinn (think I have that right) get into an edgy discussion on the auto worker organizing vote with the Tennessee Gov. on tonight’s News Hour. Quinn roasted the Volunteers Gov. on the vote and the minimum wage issue as well.

Your wrote about the veneration of the individual by some in our society. These are folks who no longer trust government to do anything (unless they’re in need of its assistance and except for government programs that benefit them). To me, idealizing the individual, their aspirations and goals whatever they might be, creates a class of iconoclasts that “stand their own ground” on any issue they stake out. No compromise, no prisoners. There was a time when such thinking was the rage with Alaskan hermits and Idaho loners who created their own isolated two-acre empires and reserved meaningful interactions for squirrel and mushrooms. Now such folk seem to some to be just the right kind of people to be running the country.

* – The writer of this post:
* My opinion is no more or less relevant than any other. It seems relevant, though, in this case, to at least qualify myself as one who has knowledge of things relating to Unions.

Behind me every minute of every day that I sit at this computer is an honor I received in May, 2001:

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Text: AHEM [Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota] Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Dick Bernard to Honor Outstanding Union Leadership 2001

I did not expect to receive such an Award, which I received the year after I retired. Bob Marcotte, another long-time Union leader in the same local, and myself, were the first recipients of this Award, which is now given annually to a union activist by the Union in the largest school district in Minnesota.

I’m proud of this Award.

I began teaching in 1963, in those good old days before things like collective bargaining and such came to public education. Yes, there was “bargaining”, in the sense that a teacher committee could (as sometimes referred to) “bring and beg” requests for a raise. It was my parents lot in life as teachers for their entire careers, which spanned from 1929-72: all single year contracts “at will” to renew or non-renew as the School Board saw fit.

The road to that Award of mine began in the spring of 1968 when I made a decision based on an observation: my teaching colleague, local Teacher’s Association President Ron Swanson, was carrying a cardboard box full of Association files, and in addition was complaining of severe migraine headaches. It was at that moment that I, a young member, single parent of a four year old, decided that I needed to help out in some way, and so it went for over 30 years, most of that as Teacher Union staff. As the saying goes, “been there, done that”. (As an aside, at that time, I was driving the first new car I’d ever owned, a plain-Jane 1965 imported Volkswagen which I purchased, then, for about $1500. It served me well.)

Today’s unions deal more with an entitled generation who have been led to believe they are above things like organizing into groups. There has to be more person-to-person “scratch” organizing than what we became too accustomed to in past years.

There is something to be learned from the past.

POSTNOTES:
1. The organization which gave me the Award in 2001 is part of the organization which is the largest single union in the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Education Minnesota.

2. By coincidence, the beginning of my staff career in the Union in 1972 coincided with the first collectively bargained teacher contract under the Minnesota Public Employment Relations Act (PELRA). The original Act, which remains in effect to this day, included a specific provision for “Meet and Confer” which seems, on reflection, to be quite similar to the Volkswagen Labor-Management Council. “Meet and Confer” gave no decision making rights to the union or employees, but was, and continues, to be an excellent forum to discuss and seek resolution to problems.

The bi-partisan group of legislators and Governors who created PELRA in 1971 knew what they were doing, then.

3. An excellent contemporary “primer” on the psychological underpinnings of keeping people down in a subordinate position is the recent movie, “Twelve Years a Slave”, about a free New York Negro who was kidnapped and sold into slavery 1841-53. The film is based on his own accounting of his experience as a slave in Louisiana (more about that, here).

As we all know, from life, “slavery” manifests in many ways, in many contexts, and can afflict us all.

#845 – Dick Bernard: Edith Busch, another reminder of the enduring value called “Community”

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

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The home where Edith was born and lived till she was 71, artist rendition by Karen West of Petaluma CA 1993

The home where Edith was born and lived till she was 71, artist rendition by Karen West of Petaluma CA 1993

Fr. John Kizito of St. Helena's at Ellendale ND presided at Edith's Funeral Mass.  Father Okafor was on retreat in Israel and could not attend.

Fr. John Kizito of St. Helena’s at Ellendale ND presided at Edith’s Funeral Mass. Father Okafor was on retreat in Israel and could not attend.

Yesterday was Aunt Edith’s funeral. My post on February 14 as preliminary is here. It was an inspiring two days. Seven of we nieces and nephews made it to LaMoure (and skated part of the way home afterwards!) and in all about 40 or so attended a most appropriate funeral, and a wonderful lunch followed, as always. Three of Edith’s nieces remembered how she impacted on them, individually, as a role model. For a sad occasion, nothing much could be better.

Our family is a far flung crew, so relatively few could make it back for Edith’s funeral.

My sister, Mary Ann, left a phone message from Vanuatu in the south Pacific, where she is serving in the Peace Corps.

Vince and Edith’s “double cousin”, Mel, who grew up next farm over, wrote from Eureka CA on funeral day, and summed things up well:

“Thanks for the update on the funeral plans. I hope that you realize that we could not attend due to time and distance , but my thoughts were there remembering the youth times of our lives and the great memories of that special time. I am sure that Vince will sorely miss the love of his sister for all of these years and [we] will keep both of them in our hearts and prayers.

As the passage of time is inevitable we will sometime all be together again. Of the original 21 young people reared in the old homestead, only 3 of us remain, Ruby, Vince and myself.”

Re “double cousins”: the “old homesteads” were adjoining farms, ten miles northwest of LaMoure. Brother and Sister Buschs and Sister and Brother Bernings in the country neighborhood between Cuba City and Sinsinawa WI married in 1905 and 1906 respectively, and took up farms very near each other. Thus all their kids were “double cousins’.

One of Mel’s nephews in Iowa, in another e-mail, described the close relationship well: “Regarding Edith’s photo in the obit … it was quite a shock to see it for all of us. She resembled our sister Marianne so much … Marianne passed away a few months ago at the age of 79.” Edith and Marianne’s mother, Lillian, were “double cousins”!

Below is my favorite photo of Aunt Edith with her sisters, in 1968, at her sister Florence’s farm near Dazey ND. There was a sixth sister, Verena, who died at age 15 in 1927. All of the five knew her as well. (There were three brothers, two younger than Edith). Bernings were similarly a family filled with girls, and only two boys. Another “double cousin” trait.

The Busch sisters summer, 1978.  Edith is second from right.

The Busch sisters summer, 1978. Edith is second from right.

Death is the great leveler. None of us escape. Funerals are reminders of deaths inevitability. They also remind us of coming together: community.

Twenty-one years ago we had a Berning-Busch family reunion at the Grand Rapids ND Park (a photo of most of us who came is below). You can find Edith in the front row towards the left; Vincent is near the back on the right side. Family members who look at this photo will find a great many pictures of people now deceased. It is a reminder that if you are thinking of doing a reunion, do it now.

The Berning-Busch Family Reunion, July 1993, at Grand Rapids ND Park

The Berning-Busch Family Reunion, July 1993, at Grand Rapids ND Park

But “community” is far more than just family. We all know this.

Friday night, Valentines Day, we arrived and gathered for dinner at 5:30 p.m. at LaMoure’s Centerfield Restaurant We had no reservations. No room at the inn, so to speak.

The hostess didn’t know us, asked why we were in town, “for Edith Busch’s funeral”, and said “wait a minute”. They set up a special table for 11 of us in the back of the restaurant.

I could relate many other similar happenings in these two days, and at other times, and so can you. A list would start with the personnel at St. Rose Care Center, and Rosewood Court, and Holy Rosary Church, but would go on and on.

In our polarized nation and world, where we are separated so often into competing “tribes” of all assorted kinds, the fact remains that we are really one community, and we never know when we will need that “other” who we choose not to associate with.

All best wishes, Vincent. Your sister, Edith, is at rest.

And if you’re ever in LaMoure, stop in at the Centerfield Restaurant, where hospitality is at home.

Centerfield Restaurant, LaMoure ND, February 14, 2014, 6 p.m.

Centerfield Restaurant, LaMoure ND, February 14, 2014, 6 p.m.

Wild Roses at corner of Hwy 13 at the road leading to the Busch farm home July 2013

Wild Roses at corner of Hwy 13 at the road leading to the Busch farm home July 2013

POSTNOTE:
The front page commentary of the Basilica of St. Mary newsletter this morning seems to fit the “community” theme: Basilica Welcome 2 16 14001. And Fr. Bauer’s commentary on the todays Gospel, Matthew 8:20-37, the business of laws and lives generally, seems to apply as well. I always hesitate to interpret others expressed thoughts, but will take the risk here. As I heard the gist of Fr. Bauer’s remarks, the Law is fine, but essential is one one lives in relation to others. So, he seemed to call into question anyone who has a pure idea of what is right, and what is not…. But that’s just my interpretation.

#844 – Anne Dunn: A Minnesota Ojibwe Woman Remembers a 2003 March for Peace in Toulouse, France and “The Children’s Fire”

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

On February 15, 2003, the day after Valentines Day, peacemakers began a march that encompassed the world in an international protest against war! In almost 800 cities in 60 countries from 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 people took to the streets with a collective purpose.

At least one million marchers turned out in Britain, one million in Italy and two million in Spain, as people expressed their anti-war sentiment. Two hundred thousand rallied in San Francisco and New York. About 100,000 turned out in Paris, France. [Ed. note: see photo of the Minneapolis protest on Feb 15, 2003 at end of this post.]

The protests were organized to “follow the sun” from Australia to the US. Across the world the challenge came in many languages.

They say it was the first global demonstration, and the cause was to prevent war against Iraq. The war had not yet begun! No, the world was saying, we will not endorse Bush’s War. But the rubber-stamp congress would.

Although it was unseasonably cold, about 12,500 marched in the streets of Toulouse, France, to support the effort that encircled the earth. They came with balloons, banners, bulletins, badges, and babies. Quick-stepping mothers were pushing bundled babies in covered prams and fathers were carrying rosy-cheeked toddlers on their shoulders. White haired couples held hands as they strolled along.

Protestors came from across the social and political spectrum. There were representatives of democracy, socialism, communism, anarchy, business, labor, civil rights and the environment. There was at least one Anishinabe/Ojibwe Grandmother Storyteller from the Leech Lake Reservation marching the cobbled streets that day.

Yes, I was there in a borrowed ski jacket! Helene bought me a red and white checkered keffiyeh for the occasion. I tied it around my neck as I marched for solidarity and peace!

The keffiyeh is a scarf traditionally worn by Palestinian farmers to protect them from sun, cold and dust. During the Arab Revolt of the 1930s it became a symbol of nationalism. It’s prominence increased in the 1960s with the Palestinian Resistance Movement and its adoption by Yassar Arafat. He usually wore one of black and white.

From time to time the marchers joined their vigorous voices in loud anti-war chants. The words bounced around in the long stone canyons and shivered against the high windows. Some downtown residents opened their doors and leaned over their balconies to wave at the passing crowds.

As a river of people filled the streets of downtown Toulouse, traffic was brought to a standstill at several intersections. Drivers sat inside their stranded vehicles waiting patiently for the masses to pass.

Police kept a low profile and no law enforcement brutality was reported.

A statement was released the following day which proclaimed: We don’t just say ‘no’ to war, we say ‘yes’ to peace, we say ‘yes’ to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say ‘no’ to war – we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.”

At one point in the march a man approached me and said his friend wanted to be photographed with the Ojibwe woman from Minnesota. Although I was quite surprised that my presence had been so noteworthy, I was more than willing to accommodate the man! Soon a short man with white hair, rosy cheeks and a cheerful smile was standing beside me. We shook hands, our photo shoot was over and he melted into the crowd.

A man standing nearby asked, “Do you realize who that was?”

“No,” I replied, ”I do not.” I had no interest in his identity. For me, it was just an encounter with a friendly stranger. It had no political significance.
But the man wanted me to know, so he went on speaking. “That was the chairman of the communist party!”

It was of no importance to me for I was marching with my friends, who were Socialists.

I flew home the following day. Like everyone else that had participated, I was exhilarated at the prospect of peace instead of war. But the leaders did not heed the wisdom of the people. So the infamous, barbarous, illegal, unnecessary and poorly conceived ‘shock and awe’ began. We became hopelessly entrenched in an unjust war. Children who were just 7 years old then, are old enough to enlist now.

Bush and his cohorts were beating a big war drum and telling loud and careless lies to the American people. The mainstream media did little or nothing to promote truth, justice and peace. Journalists simply swallowed the party line. Now we all know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and there was no reason to destroy their homeland and murder their children with bombs.

Many will say we failed to purchase peace with people-power. They will say we did not avert the disastrous invasion and bloody occupation of Iraq. They will say we did not sustain the momentum of the march. They will say we went home and gave up.

But we are holding the ground for future generations to stand upon by protecting their constitutional right of dissent. We continue to confront our communities on the issue of unsustainable militarism, which is buried deep in the bloody earth upon which this nation has been built.

For the welfare of unborn generations we must redirect military spending to create jobs, invest in schools, housing and renewable energy.

Solidarity requires that we communicate with other peoples of the world, not the rich elite who are planning for their own continued dominance! We must lift ourselves up high and stand tall enough to see beyond the barriers of tribe, race, language, culture, class, and nations.

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Anti-War Demonstration Minneapolis MN Feb 15, 2003

Anti-War Demonstration Minneapolis MN Feb 15, 2003

UPDATE from Anne Dunn, February 17, 2014

The Children’s Fire
Anne Dunn

Like many people today, I’m deeply concerned about the land and have often wondered what kind of a world we are leaving to our grandchildren. Anishinabeg were told by Creator that we were the caretakers of this land and for thousands of years our ancestors took care that the resources were not exploited. But that position was usurped by the European invasion.

Since the Leech Lake Reservation is located within the boundaries of the Chippewa National Forest, there are many Anishinabeg who feel it is time that traditional standards of stewardship be adopted here and now.

Because… in the beginning there was the land, seemingly endless stands of white and red pine, innumerable streams and sparkling lakes; and there were the peoples of the land… the Anishinabeg. The great forests are gone now, plundered for profit… the streams and lakes are under siege. The peoples of the land stand poised and expectant… awaiting their season of respect and restitution. When a new and honorable history can be written with dignity and truth.

For decades, environmentalists have warned that our planet has limited resources. Yet, we continue to destroy that which we must preserve if our children and their children are to live well on Turtle Island.

The beautiful balance of nature no longer exists. Animal habitat is steadily encroached upon and the plant kingdom is increasingly threatened.

We can no longer allow our ecosystems to be compromised. We cannot allow the fate of earth, our island home, to be determined by the well-funded lobby of powerful corporations motivated by selfishness and greed.

The Hopi tell a story of The Children’s Fire, which promotes the concept that no one should be allowed to do anything that adversely affects our children.

It is said that the children’s fire must be forever guarded by the elders… the grandparents. But how do we guard the children’s fire? By getting out of bed and doing what has to be done. By standing alone in difficult places to give the children of tomorrow a good life in a good land.

One day the children will know that in the beginning… man, animals, birds and plants lived together on our Turtle Island in a beautiful balance of nature. The needs of all were met in the bountiful world they shared.

However, man became increasingly aggressive and began to abuse the rights of the plant and animal kingdoms.

Therefore, the harmony between them was destroyed. Many animals died needlessly and whole families disappeared.

But man continued his exploitations until he brought great hardship and strange diseases upon himself.

We will tell the children how the plants, which had remained friendly toward man, responded to his needs by providing remedies for all his diseases. Every herb and root produced a cure for man’s many ailments.

But, as was his nature, man’s aggressiveness and greed threatened to deplete the natural supply of health-giving plants.

If we continue down this road we will undoubtedly succeed in creating an environment so hostile that the survival of mankind will be jeopardized. It will be said that this generation extinguished the children’s fire.

Sunrise Oct 2014

Sunrise Oct 2014

#843 – Dick Bernard: Valentine’s Day 2014

Friday, February 14th, 2014

(click to enlarge. Stella and Verena were on neighboring farms, perhaps first grade age, when this card was made and delivered about 1920 or so.)

Homemade Valentine from Stella to Verena Busch about 1920, ND.

Homemade Valentine from Stella to Verena Busch about 1920, ND.

Today is Valentine’s Day. I wish you a good day today. For us, life has other plans, and the dinner we’d planned to have at a local restaurant is replaced by an unplanned trip to LaMoure ND for the funeral, on Saturday, of my Aunt Edith Busch, who died at 93 early Wednesday morning.

Such is how life often goes, unplanned. Hard as we try to control things, things happen. Usually we dust ourselves off, and some semblance of normal reappears. For Edith, life’s troubles are behind. At the funeral, those of us in attendance will try to put ourselves in the shoes of Edith and her brother, Vincent, who occupied the same space with her for all of his 89 years, most of those years on the Pioneer Farm where their parents broke the first ground in 1905 (at top left of the below photo you can see a portion of Grandma and Grandpas wedding certificate, which still hangs on the farm house wall 99 years later.

Grandma Rosa and Uncle Fred married in rural Wisconsin near Dubuque IA, Feb 28, 1905, and within a month took the train out to their undeveloped piece of land in North Dakota. They were 25 and 21 respectively, so the hard work was an adventure of youth. Together they raised nine kids, all but one surviving to old age.

Daughter Verena died in 1927 at age 15 from a burst appendix. Edith was 7 and Vincent 2 at the time. This was a hugely traumatic life event for the Busch’s. When I was checking on burial plots in the country cemetery in nearby Berlin, I found that Grandma and Grandpa had purchased ten adjoining plots then, the first for Verena, later for the two of them, and the rest of their other children living at the time.

Edith, and sometime in the future Vince, will be the 4th and 5th occupants of the space at St. John’s Cemetery. All the other siblings are buried elsewhere.

Here’s the photo I’ve picked for this Valentine’s Day.

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Edith and Vincent Busch, December, 1996

Edith and Vincent Busch, December, 1996

(The photo is as photos were in the pre-digital age, when you didn’t waste film and didn’t know what you got till it was developed, and that included expressions. The photo was taken in December 1996. I picked this photo specifically because of the heart on Edith’s Christmas sweater. You can click to enlarge it. You’ll see it has an American Gothic kind of theme, appropriate to Edith and for this occasion.)

Their town, LaMoure, is a town of about 1000, like all small towns so familiar to me on the midwest prairie. Those of we nephews and nieces who can make it to the funeral will have dinner at the local restaurant, Centerfield, which is, true to it’s name, just beyond the center field fence of the local Baseball diamond. It is a nice restaurant, and it will probably be packed. Probably Uncle Vincent will join us, then we’ll go back to the Nursing Home with him to just sit and reminisce, and have some dessert, brought ‘potluck’ by the guests.

Then, the next morning we go across the street, literally, to Holy Rosary Catholic Church for the funeral; the Church Altar Society will have lunch and there will be more visiting, and back in the car for the 315 mile trip back – that is always the constant.

None of Vince’s close relatives live in the town, and he’s now the last sibling, and only one sibling spouse survives. His “children” are we nieces and nephews, far flung as we are from the area he’s lived his entire life.

Sometimes we don’t think about that. The St. Rose Nursing Home staff and the local LaMoure caring infrastructure now become Vince’s family for his difficult emotional times ahead. I’m grateful that Vince and Edith lived there, and previously at Rosewood Court Assisted Living next door.

Valentine’s Day is today. I can’t say that it is a “Happy” Valentine’s Day for us, but then it is a day for friends and family to gather and remember.

Farewell, Edith.

All best wishes, Vince, as a new time in your life begins.

#842 – Dick Bernard: An Evening with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall; and watching a family wind down….

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

The “filing cabinet” on the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout is here.

Thursday, February 11, 2014
We attended the first post-Lock Out Concert at Orchestra Hall on February 8, 2014. This was an evening of immense emotional energy, with the Orchestra led by the father of Orchestra Hall, Maestro-Emeritus Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. The entire program, eight pages, is here:MN Orch Feb 7-8 2014002 This concert, and the one to follow this weekend (we attend on Feb. 15) seem to be “bridge” concerts between the 488 day Lock Out and a to-be determined future of this “family”, which is the Orchestra Management (MOA), the Orchestra itself (including the Conductor), and we in the Audience.

The Minnesota Orchestra is the essence of the perfection of a team sport: excellent players, outstanding conductor and an engaged audience make the team. The team was cooking on Saturday night.

On Feb. 8 all was in resonance.

I hope the good feelings continue, but….

I didn’t write immediately after the concert as the last three days have been devoted to family matters in ND. My Aunt is, as I write, near death in a fine nursing home. She is 93. In the next room is her 89 year old brother. Neither ever married. They are the last living members of Grandma and Grandpa’s family of 9.

There’s was a musical family, as country families often were. Their Dad was a school-trained fiddler and had a small band for local dances. To this day, Vincent is an excellent singer. Many of the kids and descendants of my grandparents are musical.

For their entire lives until 2006 Vince and Edith lived and worked together on the pioneer farm built by their parents, and when heart problems ended the farm career for my Uncle in 2006, they moved into Assisted Living, and then into the Nursing Home in nearby LaMoure ND. [Note 9:20 a.m. Feb 12: Aunt Edith passed away at 1:05 a.m. The funeral is Saturday. We’ll have to miss the Saturday concert, 5th row center. Anyone interested in the tickets at cost? Inquiries welcome. dick_bernardATmeDOTcom.]

My Uncle and Aunt are very familiar people to me. Often I would spend a week or more at the farm in the summer, helping out with whatever.

They were like all families: connected, yet disconnected. They had different personalities and different skills and different interests. They had their resonances and dissonances.

In other words, they were like the rest of us, regardless of what relationship we might have with some significant other.

With all the magnificence of the evening inside the hall on Saturday night, my thoughts following the concert have more focused on what recovery from the long lockout will ultimately look like for the big “family” that is the Minnesota Orchestra community.

Most of us with any seniority in living a life in any “community”, be it marriage, employment, brother and sister (like Vince and Edith) etc., etc., have at one time or another experienced peaks and valleys. I don’t need to be specific. Think of some instance where you, personally, experienced some huge hurt, followed at some point, and for some reason, by reconciliation.

The reconciliation is its own temporary “high”.

But it is a very temporary high; and to maintain and rebuild and improve requires a huge amount of work and compromise by all parties to have any sense of permanence at all.

So it is going to be with the three-legged stool that is the Minnesota Orchestra: the musicians/conductor, the management, the audience.

If last weekend, and the coming one, are considered to be the end of the past, everyone is sadly mistaken. They are only the beginning of the beginning of a new era with the Orchestra, and everyone will be on edge as this progresses…or not.

There can be no “business as usual” if this enterprise is to succeed long term.

In Saturdays program booklet, I was most interested in the words on the “Welcome” page (page two), pretty obviously written by committee consensus, and I read with even more interest page seven, about Beethoven’s Eroica. Whoever chose Eroica to highlight the first concert back in Orchestra Hall probably chose this work intentionally. Read especially the second paragraph of the descriptor, and the last.

The power of the Minnesota Orchestra to come is going to depend on a true spirit of working together by all three legs of the stool: orchestra, management, audience.

We’ll see how it goes.

And Peace and Best Wishes to Aunt Edith, and to Uncle Vince, in this time of transition for them both.

(click to enlarge)

Uncle Vince "fiddles" with his Dad's farmhouse fiddle, Oct 1992.  Grandpa had a country band and learned violin by use of sheet music.

Uncle Vince “fiddles” with his Dad’s farmhouse fiddle, Oct 1992. Grandpa had a country band and learned violin by use of sheet music.

Aunt Edith's flowers August 1994

Aunt Edith’s flowers August 1994

The Busch family 1927 "PIE-ann-o" (Vincents pronunctiation) August 1998

The Busch family 1927 “PIE-ann-o” (Vincents pronunctiation) August 1998

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house.  She is at peace: July 20, 1920 - February 12, 2014.

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house. She is at peace: July 20, 1920 – February 12, 2014.