April, 2014

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#877 – Dick Bernard: A message to my 401 Friends on Facebook….

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

This afternoon my young friend, Raz, prodded me into action on getting out a Facebook notice about a special event on Thursday evening, May 1, at the Gandhi Mahal restaurant in south Minneapolis (27th at Lake Street). Here’s the Facebook entry (if you can access Facebook).

This will be a very special event, probably of interest to many, but for an old-timer (as I’m willing to admit being), getting the word out is rather tortuous.

I’m a main organizer of the evening, the main sponsor is GlobalSolutionsMN.org, but it’s been slow going, despite the strength of the program being offered. We’re still mostly pencil and paper folks.

Raz suggested Facebook. Here I am.

There will be five younger speakers on Thursday, from a couple of college juniors to a new PhD in her 30s, talking to us about a very simple topic: “How do you and the young persons you know see global relationships and interdependence at this stage in your life; and what are your hopes for the future of the planet?”

Indeed, they are only five speakers on a planet of over 7 billion people, but other than our own “kids” (which to me means my own children aged 38 to 50) there are few opportunities to listen to someone not ensnared in my own constellation of relationships.

It will be a delightful evening.

Facebook is a stranger to me. E-mail, and blogs, are yesterday to most youngers, I hear. They seem to speak more in short-hand and immediacy. “Let’s get together at 8 tonite”…none of this calendaring months ahead like we old timers.

Facebook should have been, should be, a no-brainer for me.

I opened Facebook and at the time of opening this evening, I had 401 “friends”, who are friends because I accepted their friendship one time or another, but as my family knows, I’m notorious at not being a friend on Facebook. I just don’t use it.

I have 43 photo albums there too. I just haven’t warmed to the great utility of the device.

So, I’ll publish this, and post it on Facebook, and if you happen to live within a reasonable radius of the Gandhi Mahal and are doing nothing else on Thursday night, May 1, drop over for the conversation (about 7:15 to 8:15, free) and, if you wish, the buffet beforehand ($20, RSVP to me, please, dick_bernardATmeDOTcom or 651-334-5744.)

And don’t worry, my 401 friends on Facebook. I won’t begin doing daily posts there.

I like blogging. Stop in once in awhile.

And thanks for the needed jog, Raz.

#876 – Dick Bernard: The new Saints…and the real ones.

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Two recent Popes were officially declared as Saints on April 27. Here is the flier which we Catholics could pick up yesterday at Mass, probably at all churches: Sts Jn XXIII and JP II001.

They’re very different folks, these two new Saints. John XXIII would be my fave by far. He became Pope five months after I started college, and gave meaning to the word “ecumenical”. Back in those good old days of the 1940s and 1950s, being Christian didn’t mean getting along in any sense of the word. Denominations emphasized the differences, and did things to ensure that their young uns had little to do with each other. Until mobility started mixing nationalities, even Catholic Churches (and others, too) were largely ethnic: Norwegian Lutheran; French-Canadian Catholic, etc. Times have changed, thank goodness. Things aren’t perfect by any means, but better, in my opinion.

I got closest, physically at least, to John Paul II. In the fall of 1998 I was in Rome, and managed to get a place next to the Pope’s route through St. Peter’s Square and got a closeup view of this increasingly infirm man. Two years later, late in the evening of early May 2000, enroute to Krakow Poland with a group of Catholics and Jews on pilgrimage to holocaust sites, soon to include Auschwitz-Birkenau (at Oswiecim), I convinced the tour leaders to have the bus go through Wadowice, Poland, to the very near proximity of the place where John Paul II grew up.

We didn’t stop, of course, it was late at night. Later I was to learn that Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and Wadowice (John Paul II’s home) are only 20 or so road miles apart, with Auschwitz actually a few miles closer to Wadowice. Of course, the Polish Jews were essentially obliterated by WWII; Polish Catholics were also killed by the millions. And after the war, Poland became a satellite Communist state of the Soviet Union.

One can understand how JPII’s attitudes developed (and were, in my opinion, manipulated) by the anti-Communist forces. He was never viewed as a particular friend of Liberation Theology in the Global South, for instance; and his ultimate successor, Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was even less so. As I say, “Communism” was a useful word….

But that’s a debate for someone else, some other time.

There are two new official Saints in the Catholic Church, both with their fan clubs.

Another publication caught my eye at Basilica yesterday.

It was the usual weekly newsletter and the cover story, by Janice Andersen, Social Justice coordinator, bears reading. Jackie under the bridge001.

We lose something in the adulation of certain individuals who are set apart to symbolize something or other, as is the case with the two Popes who were just canonized.

In small and large ways, every day, everywhere on earth, there are endless examples of ordinary people, Christian or not, doing extraordinary things, and thinking nothing at all about it. It is just who they are.

My guess is that most all of us once in awhile are in this category of “saint”. There are no books of miracles attributed to us; that’s not the point.

We put one foot in front of the other and do our best.

That’s sainthood to me.

#875 – Dick Bernard: Visiting History…including in the making

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

NOTE: See postnote about Hubert Humphrey at the end of this post.

Friday I decided to attend the Panel and Global Webinar “Living the Legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey” at the University of Minnesota Law School. The event celebrated the “35th Anniversary of Humphrey Fellowship Program..web-streamed for access by the other 15 Humphrey campuses and for Humphrey alumni around the world.” I expected an interesting program – previously I had attended the 25th anniversary in 2004 – but this years was particularly interesting.

The old history was recalled in a video by President Jimmy Carter (1977-81). The program was established in honor of Hubert Humphrey after his his death in 1978. In addition, Fridays program also recognized “the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Hubert H. Humphrey regarded the Act’s passage as a crowning achievement of his political career.” Seven of Humphreys family circle spoke as briefly as any Humphrey can speak (which is to say, 5 minutes means 10!) But everyone’s remarks were very interesting about their Dad, grandchild, uncle….

Two Humphrey alumni spoke (more a bit later).

Leading off the second panel was Bill Means, Lakota Elder and Board Member, International Indian Treaty Council.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Bill Means, April 25, 2014

Bill Means, April 25, 2014

Mr. Means, a powerful Native American leader, had just come from the Minneapolis City Council, which had just voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in Minneapolis. It was, he said, the culmination of 50 years of effort.

I was always aware of the American Indian Movement, but never an active part of it, but I recalled a May, 1990, Pow Wow I’d attended in Minneapolis, and a page of the program booklet from that day which I published in a newsletter I edited in the summer of 1990. It speaks for itself: Heart of the Earth My 90001

I had taken quite a few photos that day, 24 years ago. Here are two. I believe the lady in the wheelchair is the legendary Meridel LeSueur. The event apparently recognized The American Indian Movements Heart of the Earth Survival School

Possibly Meridel LeSueur, May 26, 1990, Minneapolis MN

Possibly Meridel LeSueur, May 26, 1990, Minneapolis MN

Speakers at Pow Wow May 26, 1990, Minneapolis MN.  Is that Bill Means speaking?

Speakers at Pow Wow May 26, 1990, Minneapolis MN. Is that Bill Means speaking?

Part of the backdrop behind the speakers, May 26, 1990

Part of the backdrop behind the speakers, May 26, 1990

Mr. Means gave a short but powerful talk on April 25. He along with other powerful Native American leaders like Leonard Peltier, Dennis Banks, the Bellecourts and many others, brought attention to the native community ‘back in the day’ 50 or more years ago.

He said, I recall, that there are about 375,000,000 Indigenous Peoples in the world today. That would be about 5% of the worlds population, and more than the entire population of the United States.

Another speaker, Kaka Bag-ao, a Humphrey Fellow from 2006-07, powerfully talked about her post Humphrey career in the Philippines, including a powerful video of a 1700 kilometer (about 1000 miles) walk to Manila by many indigenous farmers successfully protesting seizure of their small farms for use as a golf course. At issue, it seemed, was 144 hectares of land – about 344 acres. The powerless got the attention of the powerful, but it wasn’t easy. Hopefully, I will be able to include the link to the video at this place soon.

Edmon Marukyan of Armenia (Fellow 2009-2010) had a similarly inspirational message to this and previous years Humphrey Fellows.

Among the many Humphrey family members, the one who impressed me the most was the youngest, Jordan Humphrey, Humphrey’s grandson. He was born a number of years after Humphrey died, and he’ll be a worthy representative of his grandfather.

It was a good day.

I’m glad I went.

Jordan Humphrey, April 25, 2014

Jordan Humphrey, April 25, 2014

POSTNOTE: About the time of the 25th anniversary of the Humphrey Fellows program in 2004, I came across an old recollection about Hubert Humphrey, and his reflections on politics, competition, and compassion. It became my 2004 Christmas message, and it can be read here. (The link is immediately after the painting at top of the page.)

The three visitors were visiting then-Senator and previously Vice-President Humphrey about compassion in politics. They recalled Humphrey saying this: “Senator Humphrey walked back to his desk, picked up a long pencil with a small eraser at its end, and said in his famous high-pitched voice, “Gentlemen, look at this pencil. Just as the eraser is only a very small part of this pencil and is used only when you make a mistake, so compassion is only called upon when things get out of hand. The main part of life is competition, only the eraser is compassion. It is sad to say, gentlemen, but in politics compassion is just part of the competition….”

Humphreys was a powerful message: it takes more than being compassionate to implement a policy of compassion. Politics, with all of its nastiness and competition, is a necessary part of the process of successfully implementing compassion. Walking the talk can be messy.

But Humphrey lived compassion through his deeds, not just his words.

One family member recalled that when HHH was nearing death, he made a point of calling his archrival, President Richard Nixon, urging Nixon to come out of self-imposed isolation and attend Humphreys funeral. Nixon had for a short time been Humphreys U.S. Senate colleague and later defeated Humphrey in the 1968 election, and resigned from the Presidency in 1974.

It was not mentioned, and I do not recall, if President Nixon came to the funeral in St. Paul, but the point is that the gesture was made. Humphreys “eraser” never hardened.


Thank you for this message, Dick.

I took some time here to read your blog post.

Frankly, I worry that the way this has been “messaged” in the media, and even shown through your blog post about we have ‘changed’ the day for the city… we are adding to Columbus Day at this point, to add recognition of Indigenous Peoples. We haven’t changed it the way most people outright said. These small increments will take some time, and a part of me fears that the actual language of what was approved last Friday is not what a number of the public speakers in the indigenous communities have made it out to be. I hope that come October, folks don’t feel anyone has pulled the wool over their eyes, so to speak.

I really, really liked reading about the Humphrey event and your pencil message. I have written it down and taped it beneath my computer screen. “… it takes more than being compassionate to implement a policy of compassion. Politics, with all of its nastiness and competition, is a necessary part of the process of successfully implementing compassion. Walking the talk can be messy.”

Thanks for reaching out.
Yours in Service,

#874 – Dick Bernard: Craziness around….

Friday, April 25th, 2014

PRE-NOTE: I had completed the entirety of the below post on April 16, but decided to hold off publishing till after Easter. Recent events, particularly in the Nevada ranch situation, make this a timely post. The overnight Just Above Sunset has a good summary on the current state of affairs.

The recent incidents in Nevada (the rancher refusing to pay rent on public land), and Kansas (the gunman who hates Jews and blacks who killed three white Christians bring back some happenings and thoughts from a while back. (Anyone interested in a longer post about the meaning of the above, here’s a useful link.)

There’s always been the crazies around.

The first one I paid serious attention to was a guy named Gordon Kahl who told the national government to go to hell, and ended up dead in 1983. His particular road to infamy covered only a few months in 1983, when he got in a shootout somewhere between the tiny towns of Heaton and Medina ND, killed a policeman and escaped, to live on for a few months till he met his own end.

I suppose the box score favored Kahl: three lawmen dead, and himself. But in the end it doesn’t make any difference. He was dead, too, only to be followed by new generations of deluded crazies destined for the same fate.

Kahl interested me because he came to national notoriety as a farmer somewhere outside Heaton ND in 1983. “Back in the day” Heaton was a hamlet seven miles or so west of Sykeston, where I graduated from HS in 1958, and the place where my Dad and Mom banked. Even then, Heaton was all but non-existent, and Sykeston was not much bigger, but for me, the word “Heaton” made Kahl noteworthy.

These days, of course, the first and greatest amendment to the U.S. Constitution is considered by some to be the 2nd amendment, to keep and bear arms. We’re at the stage, now, where every citizen is always vulnerable to somebody packing heat, who’ll shoot you on purpose, or kill you accidentally. It makes no difference if you have your own arsenal. Usually, the element of surprise prevails.

There is a big problem, however, for those who, these days, think they are above the Law, and can act with impunity whenever and wherever they wish, especially with their arms.

In 1983, not that long ago, really, communications and intelligence were primitive compared with today. It was still a paper world, and help was still a phone call away, and bad guys (and gals too) could more easily blend in out in some woods somewhere, and possibly not be found. Evidence gathering and analysis were also pretty primitive.

There is also a fatal flaw in the argument of the gun rights promoters: if you actually use that gun to kill someone you run the risk of being tried for homicide. This is another set of laws not likely to ever be repealed.

Recently I’ve been re-listening to a Willie Nelson CD, which includes the ballad of the Red-Headed Stranger, who goes free after he kills a woman who was, it is said, trying to steal his recently deceased wife’s horse. Execution preceded Charges and a Trial….

Of course, Red Headed Stranger is just a ballad, but in the days of the wild west, probably not very far-fetched.

In the end, the rancher will lose his case and, probably his ranch as well. It will just take a while. He’ll have his 15 minutes of fame, and his fan club will be on to other supposed outrages.

As for the guy in Kansas, well, he was after Jews and he killed Christians, but in the end it will make no difference. He won’t be going free.

We are a country which is an imperfect community, but it is a community, and community is where Rule of Law still means something, imperfect as it is and will always likely be.


These days the public “conversation” seems dominated by people on the ideological fringes. Makes no difference who’s position is “winning” at the time, all is lost if there is no conversation towards reaching common ground. And even then, making positive change is never easy….

My great friend, Peter Barus, sent a link and a comment about this a couple of days ago. It seems to relate to the above, if you’re interested.

April 15, 2015
Uncharacteristically I send this link.

The writer and those he cites are, I think, experienced, active pioneers in new ways of being and living in community. His focus is on culture as the basis of societal conduct. Like Howard Richards, he is saying, can’t change behaviors without changing the cultural rules.

He comes close to, but falls just short of, explicitly distinguishing two aspects I think hold the best hope for human survival in these late times.

One is “in here/out here,” which refers to effective performance. If one wants to play a game or hold a conversation – or change the world – it works to be “out here,” among other players. “In here” is (even neurologically, or especially so) less likely to produce anything but re-runs.

The other is “way-of-being-and-acting” as correlate of “our occurring worlds.” That is, we behave according to our lights. Seeing is believing. To change behaviors, I must see the world differently. We have access to this through the ways in which we speak about life.

We experience life through language, and through language we can make substantive changes to our own perceptions, and hence our own behaviors.

What sort of language? That’s the intriguing part, and the article contains a good many examples, but you have to pick most of them out for yourself.



#873 – Dick Bernard: Easter, a Beautiful, Reflective, Complicated, Controversial Time

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

It is expected to be a beautiful Spring day in the Twin Cities today. Perfect Easter weather. Of course, not all Easter Sundays have been perfect. We dodged a lot of snow just a few days ago….

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Postcard saved by my grandparents at their North Dakota farm dated April 4, 1915.

Postcard saved by my grandparents at their North Dakota farm dated April 4, 1915.

(explanation at end of post)
Basilica hand 4-18-14001

Best I know, the Catholic Church does more with Easter week than most any other Christian denomination. My sister, Mary, near the end of a U.S. Peace Corps assignment down in the South Seas in the island country of Vanuatu, described Easter there yesterday, in an Easter e-mail from New Zealand. You can find her description here, at the very end of this now very long post, dated April 19, 2014.

Good Friday I volunteered to usher at the at noon service at my church, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. We ran out of leaflets – they had printed 450. There were perhaps 500 in attendance, more than anticipated.

The Stations of the Cross are always a reflective time. The phrase that stuck most with me on Friday was this, from the Second Station, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus:

“They shared one another’s life for some three years.
They talked together, ate together, traveled together.
That night, he came to Jesus and kissed him one last time…
no kiss of love,
rather, a kiss of rejection and betrayal.

To feel rejected or to feel betrayed is a painful experience.
To be rejected or betrayed by a friend hurts even more.

Who among us has never felt rejected or betrayed?
Or who among us has never rejected or betrayed someone?

Betrayal is an ugly thing.
Rejection tears at the very fabric of our self-esteem….”

You can read that reflection, and all the rest, here: Basilica of St. Mary 2014 Stations of the Cross Presider Book

As years accumulate, stuff happens…for us all. Hurt, and all the rest, is not only one way. Messes are part of everyone’s life.

After the Stations, I walked across Loring Park to have a cup of coffee with a good friend of mine. She’s Catholic, too. Earlier in the morning she’d had breakfast with a couple of Catholic friends, folks I know, who are disgusted with the Church, one because of the continuing unresolved scandal of sex abuse by some Priests (his was a painful personal experience some 50 years ago); the other because, apparently, there’s nothing in the church for her daughter, who’s becoming Episcopalian.

Earlier that morning I’d written a note to a friend who’s being baptized Catholic Saturday night but had almost dropped out due to the latest scandal news last Fall. We had long conversation at her time of crisis last Fall, and after that and many other conversations with other people, she chose to carry on with her desire to become Catholic.

My general advice to her, as I recall: do as you will; we’re a huge church, and the church is all of the people in it, not just some leader or bad apple.

Before I wrote to her, I’d written to the Priest who’s again in the headlines out here. I had and have great respect for Fr. Kevin – he was my pastor in the 1990s, and Diocese Vicar General as well – the point person on the then-abuse cases. A wonderful man.

Earlier this week he’d spent an entire day in depositions because of alleged mishandling of complaints somewhere back when.

I used to have a job similar to his, representing people in trouble, and answering to a boss, so I understand the dilemmas he must have faced when the scandals erupted years ago.

So it goes.

I have no problem admitting I’m life-long and still active Catholic. “Catholic” is, as already described, a very complex term. As usher, I see all sorts of “Catholics” entering the doors, and I will again at the 9:30 Easter Mass this morning.

It is the people who are the Church, and Catholics are a diverse lot, defying a standard description, from least to most exalted…. The U.S. is a diverse lot, too. Even families, as most of us know from personal experience.


A short while ago, on March 27, was when Pope Francis met President Obama in Rome. I was in LaMoure ND on that day, when the new Bishop of Fargo, John Fulda, came by. He was there for a meeting with area Priests, and the afternoon Mass was crowded.

Here’s two photos from March 27:

March 28, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune

March 28, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bishop John Folda at LaMoure ND Holy rosary Church March 27, 2014

Bishop John Folda at LaMoure ND Holy rosary Church March 27, 2014

If any two people know about differences of opinion and how they need to be respected, it is Pope Francis and President Obama. They represent immense constituencies where differences of opinion abound. I highly respect them both, and I think their common thread is their efforts to set a higher bar for a more positive tone of dialogue and understanding between and among people.

At their level, disagreement is assumed. Their job is to try to set the tone, and they both work on a positive tone.

Our society, of course, seems to place the emphasis on disagreement, “dissent”. When in doubt, go to war, with each other, or against some other. The fact of the matter is that these two international leaders, one representing people generally, and one representing a religious belief, understand another way of communicating: the importance of dialogue, of relationship.

I suspect the same has to be true of Bishop Folda, a youthful, new Catholic Bishop living in a world as he does where not even all Catholics agree with him, much less the rest of the population.


Which leads back to the hand leading this post: I was cleaning up after Stations and found the scrap of paper on the floor.

It was by a little kid, probably, doing some drawing of his or her family, including an apparently recently deceased pet, Buttercup. Somebody wrote in the names.

I like that illustration; no trash can for it! There seem to be seven people and one deceased animal in it, and behind the words are the real lives of these seven people, and all that surround them. Maybe, today, there’s an Easter Egg hunt at their house, or neighborhood. Perhaps candy. Hopefully something with family, a pleasant day (as we know, such days are not always pleasant for everyone.) Tomorrow is the future, and whatever it holds for all of them.

Happy Easter.

Another old Easter card from the ND farm, undated.

Another old Easter card from the ND farm, undated.

POSTNOTE: 9:30 Mass at Basilica was crammed with more people than I’ve ever seen there over the last 18 years of membership. The sanctuary was filled to overflowing by 9 a.m., and the supplementary overflow facility was also filled to standing room only. A far larger than normal crowd is always expected at Christmas and Easter. This crowd was considerably larger than usual.

Lee Piche, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, was guest homilist (sermon) and had an excellent message which I interpreted as advice to better care for not only each other but for our earth. I was impressed.

Everyone, of course, has their own story about why they attended today.

To me, the only story is that a lot of people showed up….

#872 – Dick Bernard: Listening to Adama Dieng, and A Musing about the United Nations in our ever more complex World

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

This evening I attended a talk by Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. As the speaker biography describes him, Mr. Dieng “is an internationally renowned human rights lawyer and expert who has spent his career working to establish and defend the rule of law.” A native of Senegal, “in 2012 he was appointed United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide…Mr. Dieng served as the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 2001-2012.”

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Adama Dieng in dialogue with Barbara Frey of the UofM Institute of Global Studies.

Adama Dieng in dialogue with Barbara Frey of the UofM Institute of Global Studies.

This month is the 20th anniversary of the horrors of the Rwanda Genocide in which, according to Mr. Dieng, “one million people were killed in the first 100 days”, and that was just the beginning of the tragedy. Introducing Mr. Dieng, Eric Schwartz, Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, reflected on his 25 years in public service positions, noting that more time needed to be devoted to “scanning the horizon”. As I interpreted his phrase, more of us need to have the vision to anticipate and mitigate problems before they happen; rather than be in a reactive mode as we so often seem to be.

Genocide is a prime example of recognizing a problem too late….

Mr. Dieng was most impressive, as one would expect a person of his credentials, and in his position, to be. His native language is French, a very common official in many African countries, and he would express his homey saying first in French, then translated into English. His English was impeccable.

As I sat there listening to this obviously brilliant and diplomatic representative of the United Nations and his native Africa, I mused about a question I’ve never heard asked: “what if the United Nations had not been created in 1945 or didn’t exist today? Where would we all be, now, in this increasingly complex planet?”

Ordinarily, if the UN comes up in conversation, it is the subject of general criticism, from being some sort of sinister world government scheme to at best being an ineffective representative on the world stage; a worthless collection of bureaucrats.

It is so often caricatured by use of bad examples of what it supposedly represents. This is not hard, because where the UN is found, there is often trouble which it did not create in the first place: Rwanda, for example, in 1994.

If there was no United Nations at all would we all be better off, or not?

Sitting there, just reflecting on bits and pieces I’ve seen and heard over the years, the United Nations has been a crucial instrument to help coordinate international efforts, and to act as a buffer, indeed, to act on occasion as a punching bag, in this ever more complex world. Let the UN pass away, and we would soon see what we were missing. Surely, it represents the imperfections of the world, but that is a main reason it exists.

It is an ever more essential entity in our ever-more global society of over 7 billion people.

People like Mr. Dieng deserve our thanks for their efforts to make this world a better place, one tiny bit at a time.

Adama Dieng, April 16, 2014

Adama Dieng, April 16, 2014

Giant Globe, Boston MA, 1972

Giant Globe, Boston MA, 1972

Late June, 1972, the United Nations NYC

Late June, 1972, the United Nations NYC

#871 – Dick Bernard: “The Mountaintop”, revisited

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Mountaintop MLK001

Sometimes seemingly unrelated events just fit together, like random pieces of a puzzle that together make a confusing mess make sense.

For me, such a convergence happened on Friday in three bits; preceded by two larger and more publicized national events.

I just happened to be at an intersection where they came together, connected, at least to me.

The events:
Friday morning, first, a briefing about education legislation at the State Capitol by the Executive Director of the outstanding parent public school advocacy group, Parents United.

Two hours later the appointment with the Tax Man, to square accounts with the IRS and the State of Minnesota for 2013.

Seven hours later, attending a powerful play about Martin Luther King’s last evening alive, “The Mountaintop”.

A day or so before came the resignation of Jean Sibelius of the Department of Health and Human Services. This was a hate feast for some; a celebration of the alleged failure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), when the actual results have been very much the contrary: millions more Americans now have health insurance despite desperate attempts to kill the beast labelled “Obamacare”.

(Of course, in these kinds of things, facts really don’t matter. I heard report of a recent survey done on the street: when asked to compare ACA and Obamacare, ACA was the winner – even though both are the exact same thing….)

And about the same time, the recognition of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, passed 50 years ago this year.

All these events fit together, at least in my seeing them converge on me.

The tax man told me that State and National government wanted about 20% of our taxable income (which differs, of course, from actual “income”).

Minnesota is a relatively high tax state: about a third of that 20% went to Minnesota; the other two-thirds to the United States of America.

That tax doesn’t seem excessive to me. Before the tax appointment, the early morning event talked about the state of legislation for Minnesota’s children in public schools – about one of every six persons in our state of well over 5 million.

Those kids range from those tiny few who recently got perfect scores on the ACT, to the 13 year old in our town who is in jail today for violence against someone in her family and hasn’t been in public school but a few weeks all this school year and whose self-made future is very much in doubt, out of control.

Triumph or Tragedy: all of those kids are our future, regardless of their ability or disability or where they happen to live. And this goes for most every other service to which we allocate tax dollars.

Certainly there are inefficiencies – show me the system, including the most outwardly perfect nuclear family, that is completely efficient…I doubt, frankly that such a family exists.

Government of, by and for the people makes for a civilized society; the opposite is anarchy, hardly a recommended route.

Which brings me to “The Mountaintop”, which has been to four cities now, and if it comes to yours, do see it. It’s at the Guthrie Theatre through April 19.

The 90 minute play explores what might have transpired on the evening of King’s last day alive, April 3, 1968, in a motel room in Memphis, between King and a hotel Maid.

Of course, no one knows what might have happened had MLK himself lived on – he would now be 84, by my arithmetic.

The fact is that he didn’t live on, except through all of us who learned from his message and need to carry it forward.

These are not especially good days for the Civil Rights ideals expressed back in 1964 and before.

But there is a base built, and with some conscious effort by those of us who care, there will never be a return to the terrible old days, even given the immense gulf now existing between rich and poor – far worse than then.

But it is each of us who need to be on that “Mountaintop” MLK left, April 4, 1968.

#870 – Anne Dunn: I Have Been Told. Advocates for Peace

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Ed. note: Anne’s always meaningful thoughts arrived at my in-box a couple of weeks ago. They are in synch with some other events upcoming in the near future: Shadow War information is here. Forty Years After Vietnam series begins April 10, details here. Also, just a couple of days ago, I learned of a book detailing a 1971 incident involving anti-war draft resisters and J. Edgar Hoovers FBI. The book is Burglary. A movie about the book apparently opens in limited markets on April 18.

Directly related, especially the section about Padre Johnson’s sketch with story (about mid-post), here.
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Storyteller Anne Dunn (center) with friend Patty Kakac (at left), Ashby MN, Aug 31, 2013

Storyteller Anne Dunn (center) with friend Patty Kakac (at left), Ashby MN, Aug 31, 2013

Anne Dunn
I often write letters to prisoners of conscience, incarcerated because of civil disobedience. I believe their jailers should know their prisoners have widespread community support. I began preparing these missives of encouragement when I worked for Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC), Minneapolis.

In October 1965, 100 clergy members had met in New York to discuss what they could do to challenge U.S. policy on Vietnam. Some of the founding members were: Dr. John C Bennett, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Fr. Phillip Berrigan, Fr. Daniel Berrigan SJ (Society of Jesus), Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They believed that a multi-faith organization would lend credible support to an anti-war movement often labeled as Communist.

When the group opened its membership to laypeople, they became Clergy and Layman Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV). In April 1967 King used the organization’s platform for his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, condemning the war.

Following King’s assassination CALCAV increased civil disobedience activities, protesting against Dow Chemical (producer of napalm) and Honeywell (maker of anti-personnel weapons, designed to incapacitate people rather than structures or vehicles).

“The war has come home like a stalking corpse, trailing its blood, its tears, its losses, its despair – seeking like an American ghost, the soul of America. We want peace, but most of us do not want to pay the price of peace. We still dream of a peace that has no cost attached. We want peace, but we live content with poverty and injustice and racism, with the murder of prisoners and students, the despair of the poor to whom justice is endlessly denied. We long for peace, but we wish also to keep undisturbed a social fabric of privilege and power that controls the economic misery of two thirds of the world’s people.” Daniel Berrigan.

Daniel was born in Virginia, MN, May 9, 1921. In 1967 he and his brother, Phillip (both Catholic priests), were put on the FBI 10 most wanted fugitives list for their involvement in antiwar protests during the Vietnam War. Phillip was arrested that same year and sentenced to six years in prison.

Daniel traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn during the Tet Offensive in late Jan. 1968 to “receive” three airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombings of that nation had begun.

The Tet Offensive was a series of coordinated surprise attacks by North Vietnam National Liberation Front on all provincial capital cities of South Vietnam. Tet refers to the date of the Lunar New Year.

By 1971 CALCAV had turned its attention to other social justice issues, including supporting the popular struggle in Latin America and struggles against colonialism and apartheid in Africa, challenging US military involvement in Central America and the role of corporations in US foreign policy, and changed its name to Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC).

In 1980, Daniel, Phillip and six others began the Plowshares international peace and nuclear disarmament movement. Phillip died in 2002.

“We spoke out, committed civil disobedience, and went to jail because the peace hangs precariously upon weapons costing billions to build and billions to improve – weapons which become more useless as we add to their destructive force. With this money we could have fed the world’s people. Half the children of the earth go to bed hungry – millions have retarding and stunting protein deficiencies. Instead of building peace by attacking injustices like starvation, disease, illiteracy, political and economic servitude, we spent a trillion dollars on war since 1946, (the cost of war has increased greatly since this was written) until hatred and conflict have become the international preoccupation.” Daniel Berrigan.

My dear friend Larry Cloud-Morgan was imprisoned for participating in the Armistice Day, 1984, Silo Pruning Hooks Plowshares disarmament action, in MO. Also sentenced were: Fr. Paul and Carl Kabot and Helen Woodson. For this, and other non-violent direct actions against war, Woodson has served 27 years in prison. She was released Sept. 9, 2011.

Larry was an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, born February 1, 1938 in Cass Lake. He also used the name Wabash-Ti-Mi-Gwan (Whitefeather).

While a student at Marquette University, Milwaukee, he was encouraged to become a priest and was, for a time, a seminarian at St John’s University (Collegeville, MN). Eventually he chose to pursue his artistic interests and moved to Chicago to study at the School of Art Institute. He returned to Minnesota in the early 1980s and devoted much of his time and energy to community involvement, social justice causes, spiritual mentoring, peace and disarmament activism. He was also a member of CALC.

Plowshares continued nonviolent but confrontational protests and acts of civil disobedience.

For his role in the Armistice Day disarmament action in MO, Larry was incarcerated at Federal Prison Camp, Terre Haute, IN, April 1985. He was transferred to Wyandotte County Jail, KS and released in March 1987. On Jan 27, 1989, he was convicted of violating the terms of his probation and sentenced to one year in prison. He was sent to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Rochester, MN, and released on Nov. 13, 1989.

Following his release he divided his time between Minneapolis and a small cabin near Ball Club [MN]. He died on June 8, 1999 (age 61) and is buried in Morgan Cemetery, Wilkinson Township.

I was one of many who accompanied Larry on several politically charged adventures. We were insulted, ridiculed, harassed and threatened. Larry was my mentor. His was the voice of reason. His was the heart of love. He laid his gentle hands on volatile situations and restored calm. If ever there was a peacemaker, it was Larry.

At his wake he was laid in an open casket made of simple pine boards, in the middle of the Leech Lake Veterans Memorial Center on a bed of cedar boughs. Chairs were arranged in a circle around him. He wore his ribbon shirt, beaded medallion and new moccasins. He was wrapped in his Four Direction Pendleton blanket. In the casket was a china plate with a painted horse on it, a doll, a stuffed black bear, his pipe and carved walking stick. He’d lost a foot and several toes to diabetes.

As I sat near his casket, I considered the items he’d selected for his journey to the other side. The plate was provided so he would have food for the 3-4 days it takes to get to that far place. But I also remembered a story he’d told me about his grandmother. When Larry was a small child she would put him on the arm of her rocking chair and he would pretend it was a horse. She told him if he wanted “cowboy cookies” he had to help her, by riding his rocking chair horse.

He’d made the doll himself and stuffed her with the bandages from his severed toes. When his dressings were changed, he’d kept the gauze, washed, boiled and saved it, until he had enough to make the doll.

At Ball Club he had a family of black bears that he fed. They came to his house for sanctuary and enjoyed feasting on large quantities of sunflower seeds. The stuffed bear represented his animal friends.

We all get a new pair of moccasins when we go to the other side and he never went anywhere without his elegant walking stick.

The lid for the coffin lay on the floor along the left side of the coffin. It had been padded and covered with a dark fabric. On the fabric were the dusty tracks of children who had stood on it when they said goodbye to their kind and beautiful friend. I thought it was a wonderful testimony of loyalty and love, of confidence and trust. I think Larry would have written a poem about those little footprints.

Minneapolis attorney Miles Lord said of Larry, “He had a dedication to freedom and free speech. He opposed tyranny.”

Larry… a patriot… a hero… a mentor… a friend.

Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has three previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.

#869 – Dick Bernard: The Robin

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Today, I happened across a Robin, busily scouting out a lawn along my walking route. Doubtless there have been other Robins around, though not many.

A robin, though, is a sure sign of spring for me. And this was the first one of 2014.

For some reason, this Robin brought to mind the first Robin I remember seeing. It was certainly in the 1940s, as I vividly remember it on the lawn of what we called the North House in tiny Sykeston ND.

Given the setting, I was probably about seven or eight years old.

There was the Robin on our lawn, busily disturbing an earthworm, pulling it out of its underground shelter.

I got as close as I could, and watched for what seemed like a long time, then, but probably only a few seconds.

But the memory stuck, and todays Robin brought it back, vivid as the day it happened many years ago.

It is odd how certain memories stick with a person. This memory begets others: the salamander invasion in Anoka circa 1977 comes to mind.

But rather than reciting my own, I invite you to remember some of your fond memories: those pleasant happenings that just seem to stick around for moments like I experienced a few hours ago.

Good day to reconnect with the old standard about living today, positively, “The Station”. Ann Landers printed in 1997 and 1999, and I kept it.

Have a great day.

#868 – Dick Bernard: A Declaration of INTERdependence

Monday, April 7th, 2014

It was a nice day on Saturday, and I had gone to downtown Minneapolis at the invitation of my friend, Lynn Elling, who gave a brief talk to Business students at St. Thomas University’s downtown campus.

(click to enlarge all photos)

Lynn Elling on April 5 at St. Thomas University Minneapolis

Lynn Elling on April 5 at St. Thomas University Minneapolis

His is a near life-long passion for peace, for survival of the human family. This was born of his experiences as a WWII and Korean Navy officer; later viewing Hiroshima in the 1950s.

He walks the talk. His is a story with many chapters, and hidden pieces continue to be revealed as he goes through the archives of his 93 years.

This particular day he had along a recently re-found Declaration of INTERdependence, authored by Henry Steele Commager in 1975, and co-signed in support by the bi-partisan political and civic establishment of Minnesota May 1, 1976: Decl of INTERdependence001. (Click on the document to enlarge it; a link with some of the history of Interdependence can be seen here. Scroll down for the Commager declaration, the one affirmed in the Twin Cities in 1976.)

This was not the first Declaration signed by these leaders or others. The first one he showed me back in 2007 was a Minnesota Declaration of World Citizenship (1971) 1971 film produced by Lynn Elling is here). In 2012 it was a Declaration of World Citizenship for Minneapolis and Hennepin County (1968). And the most recent earlier discovery was President Lyndon Johnson Declaration of the U.S. as a World Citizen (1965), also affirmed by Minnesota leaders of the time. All of these were largely the doing of Lynn Elling and another Minneapolis businessman, Stanley Platt. In the case of the Hennepin County, Minneapolis and Minnesota Declarations, the United Nations was given special recognition, accompanied by the flying of the UN flag at the Hennepin County Plaza (1968-2012) and also over the State Capitol in St. Paul.

Supporting signatures on May 1, 1976 Declaration of Interdependence

Supporting signatures on May 1, 1976 Declaration of Interdependence

What has struck me about each of these new (to me) discoveries, is that they happened at all, all coming during the era that we call “Vietnam”.

While the focus then was on making war (or anti-war); there was more than lip-service given to peace by political leaders, in this case, through acknowledging and building upon our InterDependence with the rest of the planet.

Today we remain mired in the era of presumed self-reliance, freedom from other than personal responsibility, victory by the strong, the vestiges of American “exceptionalism”. It is no accident that I publish this on the day of the NCAA Basketball Championship – celebrating the best of the best; only one in a series of such celebrations in our society, where individual or group excellence is rewarded, and national strength and dominance is hi-lited for a single winning team for one moment in time.

Commager and others back in a very difficult time in our national history set about to hi-lite another course; find another way for planetary survival.

We need to re-energize this ethic, for our survival as a planet.

Lynn Elling April 6, 2014

Lynn Elling April 6, 2014

After Saturdays meeting, I crossed the street from St. Thomas to Target Corporations World Headquarters, I paused to take a quick snapshot of downtown Minneapolis. Many of the conversations which led to those older declarations took place in downtown Minneapolis amongst business, political and civic leaders.

Back in that St. Thomas classroom, Mr. Elling reported later, many students wanted to meet him, having photographs taken with him.

Such conversations need to happen over and over again….

We have no choice. The survival of more than simply the human family is at stake.

Minneapolis MN April 6, 2014

Minneapolis MN April 6, 2014

A final thought: we are a country basically run by what is called the “business model”, primarily of, by and for the benefit of business.

There are many aspects to this “business model”. Ascendant, especially today, is power through competition – “winning”. Money is the primary value.

Between 1965 and 1976, in the Twin Cities and Minnesota in particular, a very large group of businesspeople and others apparently embraced the intent of the declarations cited above. For a moment in time there seems to have been more highlighting of the power of positive relationships, local, national, international

There remain, doubtless, very large numbers of businesspeople and others who would still embrace this, but a much harder edged individualistic winner take all ethic seems to have taken control, at least for the moment.

Here’s to a new Declaration Generation, where action goes beyond simply declaring intent.

I think the base is available for getting back to this idea….

POSTNOTE: the model which took substantial root in the Twin Cities and elsewhere back in the 1960s and 1970s was inspired by a national group called United World Federalists – not a political party, rather a philosophy of national cooperation. You can read the history of this national organization here (see WFA 1947-97 History). GlobalSolutionsMN.org is the local successor of WFA.