August, 2017

...now browsing by month

 

Sustaining compassion – nearing the end of a week….

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Prior posts on Houston flood: here and here.

*

This mornings e-mail included a photo with very brief text from Sean in Houston at 6:48 a.m.

(click to enlarge)

Houston TX 6:45 a.m. Aug. 31, 2017

The message was terse: “18 wheeler loaded w fans at Home Depot at 6:45 a.m. Thirty people in line.”

As Sean was sending the photo, I was at my favorite waking-up coffee shop. It was 57 degrees here, and sort of chilly and breezy, but otherwise a beautiful, carefree sunshiny day. Today was our day to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and as I was looking at the photo, I was thinking about how to dress for the Fair – should I wear a sweater, or take a jacket?

There was a certain incongruity: Down in Houston there was apparently a run on the market for fans.

For us, the prospect of an almost perfect day.

It is simple, I think, to retreat into ones individual circumstances, especially if carefree, even temporarily. It is not helpful, either, to get overwhelmed by every one else’s problems. Somewhere there needs to be found a balance.

The tropical storm that hit Houston and a very large area is an immense and continuing problem. Today’s front page in our local Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Health risks luck in Harvey’s water.” We see only the tiniest snips of the reality within which people in Houston are living.

What to do? Going forward: Sean made a good comment about what we could do a couple of days ago (see end of the link).

Today at 4:03 p.m., Sean’s Mom in Rochester NY (and my sister), sent her own e-mail, as follows: “Hi all…communication into and out of a disaster area is lumpy at best but Sean did send a note Wednesday (yesterday) and of course just re-confirmed the reality of impact and anticipated long process of clean up. I don’t expect to hear much, just continuing to trust that they are able to stay safe in their home and will not see the immediate area flood again as the reservoirs are de-stressed.

Houston certainly looks clear and sunny today but I have to take the TV commentaries in small doses – always a surreal feeling for a mom and grandma to know loved ones are impacted and truly not be able to physically help.

Thanks so much for your notes and your thoughts and prayers. That’s a big piece of the answer to the question ‘how can we help’. I am personally humbled by the numbers of friends I have who have family in the Houston area and by the sporadic reports of the positive community efforts in the face of this enormous tragedy. As you, I am doing what I can through trusted relief agencies and churches. The needs will continue for a long time.

I know Sean and Simone have many priorities right now but that they appreciate the time we are taking to think of them and their community. I sincerely believe that they are progressing on the return to whatever the new normal will be in their neighborhood.

And in their lives.”

*

Personally, I say we’re all in community, everywhere, and we best never lose sight of that simple essential. What affects others, affects us.

We can’t solve everybodies problems, but we certainly can do small and large things to help make our world a little bit better every day.

(And by the way, the State Fair was good too. The annual “fix” is over for another year.)

I suspect that the better instincts of “community” will stick together in all sorts of ways to keep helping out Houston…and Mumbai…and Bangladesh (both suffering their own tragedies from water in recent days.) Yes, there will be abundant scams and outrages and all, but let’s look at the good.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

from Sean, 6:48 p.m. Aug 31: “People were walking house to house delivering pizza and chocolate chip cookies (different people) everyone just trying to help.

Need to gut our old house tomorrow-surreal. I would send pics but I feel like a ghoul.”

from Sean 11:47 a.m. Sep 2: People delivering hotdogs.

(click to enlarge – enlargement will rotate to proper configuration)

from Mary, 6:14 p.m. Sep 2: Hello to all…cloudy and rainy here in Fairport New York as some of the remnants of Harvey make their way into our atmosphere. Otherwise, our info on the aftermath continues to be snippets and sound bites from news briefs.

I did speak with Sean for a few minutes this afternoon . He and [family] are still at home o… and one of the biggest residual storm impacts right now is first a ghost town of a neighborhood and second the sporadic internet, telephone and television services. They have electricity, they have water. Many of their immediate neighbors have been able to relocate themselves to apartments in the area and will use them as homes until repairs can be approved and completed. Most anticipate months before a return to living as it looked before Saturday, August 26. Waters in the area are slowly receding but still impact activity.

Sean and friends worked yesterday with demolition contractors as their ‘old’ home on Linkwood was gutted. I can only imagine how surreal that experience is….to have eaten pancakes and taken baths in a home that was beautiful ranch home and now looks to be in the very early stages of sloppy construction. Mold threats are very real in this area and the sooner the ‘wet stuff’ is removed, the better.

Sean and Simone are optimistic that school … will start again this week for [the kids]. Be good for the kids to get back to a routine.

Sean does send all of us a big caution, however, and that is a very real awareness that there will continue be a serious interruption in gasoline production and distribution and as the supplies run low..likely within a week, the lack of gas and the increase in price will be realities all over the United States. I am not seeing much about this on the news channels but I do not doubt for a minute it is real….energy is Sean’s business and he watches it closely.

Message: Fill up and stay put! Road trips need to be on the way back burner….never mind the rest of the energy sucking activities that we become complacent in doing.

They continue to find support from the outpourings of good will as you can see by that impromptu delivery of hot dogs and cookies that was random, unsolicited but meaningful and appreciates. As with other tragedies, the struggle is to remember those impacted over the long haul.

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.

from Sean, 9:52 a.m. Sep 3: Some areas will have water for another two weeks – west Houston is still under mandatory two week evacuation. Far from normal.

155 schools had severe damage – some won’t open this year. Will send pics of our gutted home later today. Along with the “before” pictures.

NOTE from Dick: Houston is semi-tropical climate, and the threat from mold is ever present, which means that flood damage has to be removed as quickly as possible.

(click to enlarge all)

One of several photos from Sean, 9:52 a.m. Sep 3

from Sean 2:17 p.m. Sep 3:

from Sean, one of 15, 6:42 p.m., at their former residence:

Houston at Day Four; and an unrelated “heads up” for Ecumenical Christians….

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Nephew Sean sent a couple of photos taken on his Houston street today. You can view them here. At the end of that post he answers a question of mine, “how can we help?”. (More on that below the graphic.)

The two photos in Sean’s neighborhood suggest a normalcy that isn’t…. That neighborhood, Houston and area, east Texas, the Gulf Coast, all are a long, long way from recovery. It is easy to let up, and move on to the next crisis of the day, and pretty soon Houston will be old news (it has made the front page four days in a row up here; that’s pretty much saturation. Something else will take its place.)

from Sean 5:41 p.m. Aug 30: “We got power back quick and everyone has running water. It won’t be normal here for a while. At least forty of the fifty houses around me need to be completely gutted or torn down. The streets will be lonely. My house is truly an anomaly in the area and thankful for it.”

I sent to Sean and his Mom an old graphic that has always made sense to me, even though it dates back to the early 1970s. I’ve used it on this page several times, most recently 2013, but it is timeless and pretty straight forward. Sean worked in NYC at the time of 9-11-01, and lost a number of colleagues and friends in the Twin Towers, I think, so he’s seen crises up close and personal.

(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

I wish everyone the very, very best. I really like Sean’s suggestion, yesterday: “So, how does someone help outside of Houston? Well, the Red Cross will be taxed – so volunteer, donate to local chapters in honor of Houston, have your church find a sister church and send supplies directly to them. Financial to Red Cross, etc. But by helping them in other regional areas it will allow them to draw more supplies. That is the best thing I can think of right now.

*

NOW, a quick pivot to Religion, especially for those in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, at Basilica of St. Mary, a handout caught my attention. It is two pages, and you can read it here: Reformation001

Gracing the front of the handout was a familiar face, though not in a Roman Catholic Church:

(click to enlarge)

If your interest is even a little peaked, take a look.

I come from the olden days where Lutherans wouldn’t darken a Catholics door, and vice versa.

Things change, and I’m delighted they have.

And I expect I’ll be attending more than one of these programs.

“And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-37) – Houston and TX

Monday, August 28th, 2017

UPDATE from Sean, 3:30 a.m. Tue Aug 29 – see end of post

UPDATE from Sean, 2:02 p.m. Wed Aug 30: Have had 4 sets of people randomly walk up to help. Two photos of the street today.

Two Photos of Sean’s Houston street today, Aug 30, 2017, from Sean.

Second photo

*

Yesterday was a very pleasant day here. There was some rain, but it was of short duration, and gentle, without thunder and lightning or wind. It has been a good year for rain, here. The temperature was perfectly warm. Everyone who likes flowers, and green, would like it here, now.

I noticed such things as I was sitting, visiting, with our elderly friend, Don, on his deck across the street.

A young girl roller-bladed past us on the street below; a young woman was walking her dog, who “met” a neighbor dog across the street. They apparently were friends, just a dog version of “hi, how are you?”. A few obligatory sniffs, no bark, and back to walking.

Back home, an e-mail from my sister, whose son and family – my nephew – live in the Bellaire section of Houston TX, a few blocks from a major bayou. “M” lives in suburban Rochester NY; her daughter and family live in the San Diego area.

3:47 pm. CDT: “Hi all and thanks for the notes…[son and family] are certainly in the midst of what you see on CNN or FOX or wherever. They are in their home but there is significant flooding with water up to the second step. According to [sons] last note about an hour ago (3:34 pm CDT) they had lost power and so cell phone use is pretty limited and I will not be calling for updates. He has said he will text when he can. They do not plan to evacuate – they really cannot evacuate unless by boat. Ironic because they are in a quiet residential area but of course all are in the same situation. They live … about five long block from the bayou. They just moved from their ranch home to the three story a few months ago and that area, [3xxx] Linkwood [Dr], is much messier because it is closer to the bayou and one of the reasons they moved was because of the flooding. It is still raining there. [Daughter-in-Law] had said they were stocked with water and food but of course we hope for the best with them and with all of the neighboring families. I know that you all will keep … family and your own friends and families in your prayers. It is a mess and likely to get worse – It is a real tragedy. I will keep you updated when I can, tornadoes are also a problem in the area. M

Mary gave me a different address than I had in my address book. I wrote back. She responded at 9:30 p.m.:

Hi all..it is 3xxx Tartan Lane…Houston. If you google you will see the area is very residential. Not much to do but wait for more news but as far as I know, the family is at home on Tartan Lane. Last I heard around 4:30 PM EDT there was no electricity in the area and the cell phones had lost power. And it is still raining very heavily I suspect as soon as they can be evacuated they will try and get to a hotel as it will be very difficult to stay on Tartan Lane. Long night ahead for everyone in the area. It is going to be hot and humid and even though [my son] had said (at last communication) there was no structural damage to the home, it is flooding and of course their cars were not protected and are probably under water. I will send a note as soon as I hear from them again, in the meantime lots of folks need thoughts and prayers. Unfortunately, they had no idea that this catastrophic flooding would occur in their area. More later…unfortunately. M

For a time, I sat transfixed to the Weather Channel, one of whose reporters was in the very area where my nephew and family live. The first smatterings of stories were being told.

I wondered who was living in their former home on Linkwood Drive, which was apparently even more vulnerable than theirs.

For me, as for my sister, and the rest of our family, what was very abstract had become very real…and continues to be real, as I write in the middle of this night in suburban St. Paul.

We live in a connected world. The latest tragedy anywhere is connected to us almost instantly, and, usually, it is some tragedy, somewhere…..

But those other events are abstract. Thankfully it’s not me, in my neighborhood. For most of us, today will be a nice day, with assorted but tolerable variations from one home to another to another.

I thought to myself, “who is my neighbor?”

“Everyone”, I answered.

I will add to this post as I receive updated information. Check back.

UPDATES:
5:15 a.m. Monday from M: Note from [daughter-in-laws] mom last evening. Their home is just outside Austin. “[We] are visiting friends in Solana Beach just south of San Diego! We were to return yesterday but rescheduled for Tuesday due to the hurricane. The last I heard was that they are safe and can go to second floor if needed….no power so don’t want to waste power on cell phone. Another family of five showed up at their door and took shelter with them. The water had not entered the house yet but both cars are flooded. That is about all I know now. I will let you know if I get any updates. So far our place [near Austin] is okay according to our neighbor and we have not lost power.
Pray for all

11:47 a.m. Monday from M (Mary) re son and family (Sean): Hi Dick…you do such a nice job with blogs!

Sean did send a brief text this morning stating they are able to remain at home for now and are staying in place on Tartan Lane and that the waters had receded slightly. It is still raining, of course, and there are likely to be community service issues for quite a long time. I would imagine restoration of electrical power is not on the top of the list! They should be fine but certainly there will be a lot of difficulties in the next few weeks and months. It is ironic that I planned to go down to Houston next week and spend some time with the children while Mom and Dad traveled on business…those plans have changed!

It is so true that the probing fingers of tragedy dig quickly and deeply into wide circles – and in the process draw so much diversity closer together. Have a great day – I will keep you updated. M

from Sean, 3:30 a.m. Tue Aug. 29, 2017: I am just seeing this as power was restored late yesterday for us. The damage is incredible and it is not often you see coast guard helicopters and boats doing rescues from your front steps.

Our house made it through with no water and we only lost power for about 36 hours. We were a refuge for never before met neighbors – seven people and two cats – as they saw 4-5 of water enter their homes. The devastation here is only surpassed by the true feeling of community and outreach for support. There is no shortage of people helping, offering to help or the like.

The storm took many by surprise as it escalated from a TS [Tropical Storm] to slow Cat[egory] 4. Friday at lunch time many people were gregariously laughing. Saturday, [our kids] had a swim play date with two friends. 20 hours later one of those friends was being rescued by smashing a hole through a second floor wall to escape the flood waters. We lost a car and a bunch of ancillary items in the garage but the devastation is real – our old house (we moved in June) which we still own and were going to rent or sell – had four + feet of water in it. I have pictures but they are not connected to this computer.

I cannot stress enough that the unselfish assistance being offered at the drop of a hat with no wish for acknowledgment has been refreshing. Community as it should be – working together – not tearing apart. I will never look at another’s tragedy or disaster the same way again.

Thanks for your notes and messages of support. We had our house blessed the day we moved in and the holy water sits on a shelf in the living room. What if we did not move this year, what if we did not bless the house – a lot of what if’s…but we all know where the answer lies – Above.

God bless,

Sean

Sean included a link to Houston Chronicle website, with this note: “…some good photos about the devastation many of these are a number of these are within a mile of our home. Pull up a map and look at Corpus Christi, to Beaumont, to the Woodlands to Katy. It would take about 9 hours to drive the circumference.”

From Sean, in response to question “how can we help?” 4:28 p.m. Tuesday: It is a great question and frankly one we wrestled with down here amongst members of our church group. There are a lot of volunteers and supplies are coming and then logistics get bad, etc. So what do you do? We walked the neighborhood (my street) this afternoon and just started helping people cart stuff out.

So, how does someone help outside of Houston? Well, the Red Cross will be taxed – so volunteer, donate to local chapters in honor of Houston, have your church find a sister church and send supplies directly to them. Financial to Red Cross, etc. But by helping them in other regional areas it will allow them to draw more supplies. That is the best thing I can think of right now. I will come back with more.

Dick Bernard: The Nine Percenters

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

NOTE: A friend had a front row seat for a perfect view of the Eclipse last Monday. I added her comment to my Monday post, here.

Earlier this week came an article: A recent poll finds that 9% of Americans are okay with white supremacist or neo-nazi views.

It was a troubling article – 22 million Americans (9% of adults) is a lot of folks.

I try to keep it in perspective. 9% means 91% are not in this exclusive club…. My townhome association has 96 units and perhaps 150 adult residents. It wouldn’t surprise me to find 13 or 14 of the residents as sympathetic to “white supremacist or neo-nazi views”. My suburb is over 60,000 population. Similarly, 5,000 with those kinds of views, here, would not surprise. I don’t know who they are. They keep to themselves. If some of them want to play war out in some woods, so be it.

Tomorrow is our Woodbury Days Parade and I doubt I’ll see a unit of neo-nazis on the march. I doubt I’ll see a neo-nazi or white supremacist booth on the ground.

I temper my fear of potential ascendancy of these folks by keeping in mind that I rarely if ever see someone who is actively espousing those views, in public, anyway. To be overtly radical fringe is frowned on in our civilized society (the good news). We mostly see it in television clips involving the President of the United States (the bad).

*

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, there was an advertised “free speech” gathering in Boston. The neo-nazi types gathered inside a rather small gazebo; the counter-protestors, at a distance and peaceful, numbered in the tens of thousands, according to reports, and verified by news helicopter film.

Then there’s the President of the United States, in the Friday news dump yesterday pardoning Joe Arpaio, the modern day Bull Connor of Maricopa County Arizona, who stepped over the llegal line with overly diligent and abusive law enforcement, and was finally retired by the voters, and found guilty in court. On the same day Trump decreed no more of those transgender types in our military, even though our military is far beyond those olden days. (More on each, here.)

Then he wanders off to Camp David, wishing the folks in the path of Hurricane Harvey good luck.

Trump is no surprise, neither are the nine percenters.

A year ago Trump ran on fears and prejudices, and he picks up his cues on public policy pronouncements from them, out on the fringe. The “authentic” Trump is the one at those rallies, such as the recent one in Phoenix. He doesn’t have an authentic bone in his body, I reckon, so he just relays whatever it is that they want to hear. They are his “base”. His authenticity.

I have long thought that Trumps reliable base is about one-fourth of voting Americans, including, of course, those nine percenters…but that leaves three-fourths – the rest of us.

But every day of poisoning the political atmosphere is more and more dangerous to the continuance of a free democratic republic which we so value. Every person who gets turned off by politics contributes to the problem.

*

Tomorrow in my town is the annual Woodbury Days parade. Normally I’ve been in the cadre of the local DFL (Democrat) legislators, wonderful public servants. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just observe who passes me by, a spectator.

Stay – or become – involved.

Stay tuned.

COMMENT
from Paul: Thanks, Dick, for another thoughtful piece.

I have not been surprised to see the neo-nazis and white-supremacists surface recently. I recall in my late teen years learning about the alt-right of the early 60s, the John Birch Society. Then as a young college student at North Dakota State University (1964-68) George Lincoln Rockwell came to campus to speak. He was the founder of the American Nazi Party. I attended that speech, not to cheer, but to look the devil in the eye. Most in attendance had the same motivation and reaction against his brand of hate. Then in the late 60s and 70s there were the militias and survivalists out in the forests and mountains playing revolution with their guns, planning for either an armed rebellion or an active resistance to the U.S. Government and United Nations World Government that they feared.

I view this latest as another round of these dangerous fanatics that crawled out when Trump and his followers kicked over the rock they typically were hiding under. The resistance to these hate groups is strong and confident. I do not believe the right wing fanatics will win this struggle in the end even if they have a few victories along the way (like the Arpaio pardon, the transgender ban, the immigration restrictions, etc.) Two steps forward for every step backward. At least I still hope for that.

Dick Bernard: Solar Eclipse Day in the U.S.

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Back of U.S. Postal sheet for the Eclipse August 21, 2017


(click to enlarge)

As I write (6 a.m. CDT on August 21, 2017), my son and spouse, Tom and Jennifer, are enroute to the Twin Cities from Denver. They left at 2 a.m., Tom said, so as to reach a particular point in Nebraska to catch the eclipse.

Daughter Lauri and the four kids are probably ready to head out for somewhere in Illinois to do the same thing.

It will be an exciting day, hopefully no cloud cover (odds against that), and even more hopefully, no accidents doing serious damage to eyes, for anyone, anywhere.

Me? I’m off to coffee as usual.

Twenty years ago I would probably be doing the same thing as the kids.

I had some interest in these kinds of occurrences. We all have our own. I still do. But, as the saying goes, “there’s a time and a place for everything”.

My Dad, 20 years gone Nov. 7, described the change well: “now I do my travelling through National Geographic”. And he was adventuresome in his own way. Twenty five years ago he “bussed” from St. Louis to Fargo ND for the ordination of the son of a long-time friend. She is now 91, and she reminded me of this event a couple of evenings ago – one of those calls out of the blue.

Dad was 84 then, and he said he was coming to Fargo for the ordination, and I worried about him taking that long a trip unaccompanied. So I met him in Fargo. He was a bit miffed, I recall. He wanted to prove to himself that he could still “solo”! But we had a nice time.

I am reminded of another celestial event. It would have been sometime in about November, 1957, I was a senior in high school, and it was on the lawn of my grandparents farm home near Berlin ND. It was one of those intensely bright sky evenings, no moon.

Something called “Sputnik” had not long before gone into orbit, and in those days the newspaper gave its readers tracking information of where and when to see Sputnik in the night sky.

Sure enough, came a blinking light coursing across the sky, at exactly the time and place announced in the Fargo Forum. My recollection was that it coursed basically from SSE to NNW (though I might be wrong). It was tumbling through the sky, and the blinking light was reflected sun rays.)

Whatever the case, we saw it.

Have a good day.

The last stamp on the USPS sheet of 16 (see above). I bought 32 stamps and used 31 of them….

POSTNOTE August 23:

The Eclipse is come and gone. Nothing to comment on in suburban St. Paul MN – actually watched it on TV and at the appointed time, about one p.m., there was not much evidence outside our home that it was other than a normal day. A cloud cover was beginning to build, which not too long later would result in some rain. But were we living 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have known anything was happening.

My son reported little luck down in Nebraska either. We’ll get a fuller report this morning.

No word as yet from my daughter about her family experience in, I think, Illinois.

It seems, though, a worthwhile day overall…a good learning experience for anyone interested, or potentially interested.

from Kathy in Oregon Aug 24: My family – [six in all]; drove down from Portland, Oregon to Mt Angel on Sunday in anticipation of the next morning’s Solar Eclipse- the first time to be viewed from the U.S. coast to coast in nearly 100 years. Mt. Angel was in the path of the total solar eclipse and so Grandma’s home -a short 15 min walk to the Abbey hill, would be the perfect place to stay!

Next morning, with much excitement we made our way up to the Abbey (about 9 a.m.), stopping from time to time to view the progress of the moon’s eclipse of the sun through our solar glasses.
We found a great spot to sit on the north slope of this ancient hilltop, situated in the midst of Oregon’s north Willamette Valley. Monks, Scientists/equipment, seminarians back for their first day of school, professors, employees and friends (us) shared in this experience of a lifetime.

At total eclipse, we felt a collective sense of wonder and awe… a mystical oneness with all of God’s creation! At this moment of complete totality, in one voice, a spontaneous cheer erupted! The monks intoned the beautiful Salve Regina. After the brief 1.39 min. of darkness, the sun triumphed once again, spreading it’s warmth as the stars faded and the moon sailed on to the east.

I turned to observe my family next to me and saw tears trickling down [my] granddaughters cheeks beneath her solar eclipse glasses…(tears which in turn prompted more tears from her mom).
Along with the blessing of family- this magnificent display from the heavens, touched us all in a deep, forever, holy place….

PS. I was reminded later, as I observed my grandchildren, and then butterflies in the garden -doves on my patio, that the beauty and majesty of wonder of God’s creation is all around us every day in big and small ways …we need only to notice 🙂

Donald Trump/Charlottesville; Woodrow Wilson/Birth of a Nation

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

In memory of Heather Heyer, fatality at Charlottesville, and the other injured at Charlottesville VA.

Recommended reading: The Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra.

*

Sometimes it may be useful to consider a problem from a different perspective.

With all the justifiable horror of Charlottesville, I have been noticing, within my own circles, increasing attention to being positive; to be, as most of us have found most ordinary Americans to be, very positive people, accepting and generous – inclusive, not exclusive. A part of a global community, not an isolated island. Individual positive actions make a very large difference.

In the last couple of days I have seen references to a time about 100 years ago which showed us reverting to our worst – the Jim Crow era – and I want to offer an old book found in a shed as food for thought. (Here’s more about “Jim Crow”.)

(click to enlarge)

From the Birth of a Nation Reprint of the 1905 book, The Clansman

Recent talk has been about President Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) who had a particular affection for segregation. It was during his term that the racist film, Birth of A Nation, hit the screen. The silent film played in the White House.

You’ll notice that Woodrow Wilson was Democrat; and Jim Crow Laws were passed by Democrat legislators in primarily the deep south. Abraham Lincoln was Republican. We are often reminded of this. The shift in ideology (policies of exclusion shifting political party “sides” as it were) happened fairly quickly, most likely in the 1950s.) A pioneer in this shift was Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey in the late 1940s. Civil and Human Rights became largely a Democrat thing, and still is. The Party of Lincoln is now the Democratic Party….

*

We, regardless of party, like to pretend we’re insulated from racism – we’re not racist – but it’s helpful to be honest about this.

Out on the old North Dakota farm, amidst the junk, I found a book with an intriguing title, The Clansman (frontispiece of the book is in the photo above).

The Clansman is probably still available, and I’ve encouraged people to read it to get a taste of those horrid old days post-reconstruction. It is a nasty book, not pleasant reading, but very instructive particularly in these mean times exemplified by Charlottesville, Virginia.

The whites – the slave owners – were terrified of free blacks, seems the essence of the message of “The Clansman. What would happen now that slaves were free? Today, of course, our national leader has ginned up fear of others, generally: “Immigrants”, “Muslims”, “Mexicans”…. If you’re in one of these target classes, you know the feeling of contempt and fear. If you’re not – like myself – it is much harder to appreciate being excluded.

The ND farm “Clansman” was a re-publication, in about 1915, of the 1905 book. It was published during the Woodrow Wilson administration, most likely in conjunction with the release of Birth of a Nation (1915), since it includes some photos from the “photo-play”.

How did this old tattered book get on the farm? Why was it kept, to be found in 2015 in a shed? Lots of questions without answers, as all of the residents of the original farm are dead and gone.

The book was once property of the Moorhead (MN) Public Library about 120 miles away, and there is only one indirect family tie I know of there. Beyond that, everything is speculation.

Somehow or other, the fact of the matter is that The Clansman spent the better part of its 100 year history on a small farm in rural North Dakota.

*

The direction our country goes from this day forward is up to we citizens – every single one of us.

We’re the only ones who can redirect. A large part is who we choose to elect to U.S. Congress, state Legislators, Governors, etc. The heavy lifting has to be our own, much more than lamenting or complaining.

There’s plenty of information available about the problem. I highly recommend the Southern Poverty Law Center site. It has a long history of following hate in the United States.

Meanwhile, each day I am more and more aware of how kind people are being to each other…. I don’t think it is my imagination. I have taken time to notice.

It is time for some creativity to work to tamp down the cancer of racism which is, thanks to the current President, out of the shadows, a festering wound. Change happens by action of individuals, one positive act at a time.

Our entire national history is rooted in slavery: we’ll probably never eradicate this part of our national DNA, but we certainly can tamp it down, starting with ourselves.

COMMENT: Just a couple of data points relating to the shift to the GOP by the Jim Crow advocates, who when I was growing up were referred to as the Southern Democrats. When Ike was in office, these southern racists were firmly in the Democratic Party. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there was a significant movement by these folk to the GOP, largely during the 1968 elections. The most significant movement took place in 1980 by those referred to as Reagan Democrats. Those folks now call themselves Evangelicals, and they are the homeland of the majority of the KKK chapters. They make up approximately 17% of the nation population. Combine that with the 9% of moderate Republicans and you have the 26% of the population that currently make up the GOP base.

Another interesting point that I’m sure you are aware of is that Trumps dad was a Klansman. He participated in a 1920 or 1924 demonstration march. They didn’t dare go into New York, so the chose to do the march across the bridge in New Jersey.

POSTNOTES:

Related: Just Above Sunset summarizes the last few days at the White House.

The Philando Castile Memorial on Larpenteur Avenue, at entrance to State Fair Grounds, Falcon Heights MN August 10, 2017

I was in Roseville for a meeting on August 10, and had a few minutes, so drove over to nearby Falcon Heights to my old neighborhood to see the site where motorist Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop a year ago. The police officer was recently acquitted of wrongdoing in the tragic incident, which involved guns. I’m of the mind in this situation that the ease of access to guns made the incident more likely. I wrote about this here.

This incident does not relate at all to Charlottesville, except that fear and race quite definitely entered into the equation. I urge dialogue.

Sign on a lawn, the next block up from where I used to live, August 10, 2017

On Losing Hope…Don’t….

Monday, August 14th, 2017

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
(Proverb, uncertain origin)

As the awful days of 2017 drag on, I am very tempted to give up. Why bother? There seems little reason to hope for any improvement in our increasingly awful status quo – a fate we freely chose last November. If you watch the news only a little, you know what I mean. Here’s a longer version of the most recent, Charlottesville. Scroll down to the quote from “Daily Stormer”, the modern voice of the Nazis.

from Carol: a two minute film from 1943

The reason for my malaise is our national leadership – our President – and a largely cowardly “win at all costs” far Right government leadership who considers people like me the enemy.

But becoming paralyzed is not good for this country. I march on.

*

In my now long life, I have always emphasized personal optimism: that however bad things were, there was hope for a better future.

A friend once asked me how I came to this positive philosophy. The answer came to mind quite easily. Very early in my adult life, the short two year marriage of my wife and I ended with her death from kidney disease; and I was left with a 1 1/2 year old son, and truly insurmountable debts, mostly from medical costs.

Barbara was 22. We were in a strange place, surrounded by strangers. I was flat broke.

It was 1965, and survival was the essential; everything else was a luxury.

I didn’t give up, and with lots of help from some relatives and new friends and society in general (North Dakota Public Welfare in particular), things turned around, albeit slowly. I’ll never forget 1963-65.

Later perspective came from a career where my total job was attempting to help solve problems between people, not to make them worse.

It was a difficult job. Sometimes I feel I did okay; sometimes I was not so sure. But I gave a damn, and knew the difference between “win-win” versus “win-lose”. In “win-lose” everybody loses…. We have long been mired in “win-lose” in this country of ours.

*

So, I seek optimism even in the worst of times.

A few days ago I did a blog about Al Gore’s new film on Climate Change: “Inconvenient Sequel Truth to Power“, and highlighted a long and what I felt was a very positive interview with Vice-President Gore on Fox News a week ago; and then noticed on the jacket of his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” the highlighted recommendation, from Roger Friedman of FOXNEWS.com. Fox News? Yes.

Yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune had an Opinion written by the newspapers publisher, billionaire businessman and former Minnesota legislator Glen Taylor. You can read it here.

I sent the column to a former work colleague, now in Michigan, who knew Taylor in the 1980s when he was an up and coming business man, and who, herself, successfully used “win-win” in contract negotiations. She read the column and said, “He is so correct in his observations. For one thing, this approach is less likely to produce unintended consequences that can hurt either party. Because the potential solutions are freely discussed, those potential problem areas are more likely to be seen and avoided before they happen.”

*

“Win-Win” is not part of the current American environment.

But it is not time to quit. Just yesterday I was at a gathering where a current member of the U.S. Congress spoke, and he said that next week, August 21 to be precise, is when Trump has to make a crucial decision on CSR under the Affordable Care Act. “CSR”? More here about CSR and the implications of next week. Several times Cong. Walz said, yesterday, August 21 is very important. Express your opinion to your Congressperson and Senator.

Cong. Tim Walz, MN 1st District, at DFL Senior Caucus Picnic Aug. 13, 2017

*

Finally, the matter of “news”, generally, and what can one believe these “fake news” days, especially from the President of the United States? There is truth out there, but it takes effort to find it, especially now. I think it is prudent to believe nothing this President says; only what he and his lieutenants do, have done, and will do, and not as reported by him, either.

Facts are complicated. A couple of days ago my long time friend Michael sent an article from a technical publication about the N. Korean ICBMs. The article, here, is difficult, and it is technical, but was reassuring in that it came from someone who I’ve known for years to be not only a PhD, but a straight talker. We all know people like Michael. Value them. Here is how Michael introduces the article: “if moral analysis does not move you, maybe technical aspects can. Ted Postol [and others have] a super essay in today’s Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the latest NK missile launches of Hwasong 14, probably not quite ICBM missiles.”

N. Korea is a very dangerous situation, but consider the source for any information you see or hear about it. There are “facts” out there.

Here’s my Korea Peninsula region map, once again.

Personal adaptation of p. 104 of 7th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World

COMMENTS
from Fred: An excellent piece, Dick. In challenging times it is tempting to withdraw, hang on and hope for the best. We need to remember that the future is not linear; its unpredictably is about all we can safely predict. Of course, that can mean even more difficult days are in our future. You’ve reminded me that a pragmatic and persistent approach in working for positive change is a most worthwhile option.

Dick Bernard – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Minneapolis-St. Paul area: Here are the film showtimes for Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

*

We went to see Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power on Wednesday afternoon. Climate change is a topic that has long been of concern to me, and I have written about it before, here, and followed it quite actively since we saw Al Gore in person in St. Paul in 2005, and then saw the original An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning in 2006.

What a difference ten years make; what a difference ten years has made….

First, the bad news: Out of the gate, the film as measured by box office, as Fox News proclaimed, “bombs at the box office”.

But there are other opinions “headlined” on the internet search I did on Thursday: here, and here. And if you take the time to view the Fox News piece above, it is a ten minute segment featuring Al Gore on Fox News just days ago.

What difference does ten years make? While acknowledging his own dark times, Mr. Gore points out the huge successes, not the least of which is the COP21 in Paris, where 193 nations signed on.

“Don’t judge the book by its cover”.

Wednesday, there was only a single theater in the Twin Cities showing the film – the Uptown at 28th and Hennepin. It is an “inconvenient” place to see a movie. We were going to see the film Sunday, but streets were blocked by the annual Uptown Art Fair which basically surrounds the theater. Even in the middle of a rainy day, parking was an issue. I was actually surprised that there were perhaps 50 of us in the Theater for the 2 p.m. show.

On the other hand…Inconvenient Sequel is a film of substance. If you care at all about the future in environmental terms, the film is much more than worth the time. See it in person if you can. My high spots: the story of Discovr (not misspelled); and crucial parts of the ‘back story’ about the Climate triumph at COP21 in Paris in 2015. Mr. Trump may feel he’s dissing President Obama when he refused to sign for the U.S. as the pact continues. Rather, I think, he is dissing us all, including American business.

While there is a long, long, long ways to go, the movement to build awareness of the climate change issue is very much alive and well, and change is possible.

Inconvenient Sequel, more than anything, gives a sense of empowerment to “we, the people”, going forward. The future rests with us.

Take the time to see the film, and spread the word.

POSTNOTE:

In 2006, I purchased ten copies of the DVD, An Inconvenient Truth. I still retain one. As I have related before, we saw Mr. Gore in person in St. Paul a year before the film came out, and we were in the front row of a packed Woodbury theatre a year later to see the first run, and my wife almost yelled, “that’s me!” when she saw herself on the big screen, going up to shake Al Gore’s hand. It’s still there, less than five minutes into the film.

(click to enlarge)

As I was scanning the cover jacket above, I noticed for the first time the quote at the bottom of the illustration, by Roger Friedman, FOXNEWS.com. In the above segment with Chris Wallace on Fox News a few days ago, Wallace says that it is the first time in 17 years that he’s interviewed Gore. He says in the recent interview, let’s not wait 17 years for the next visit….

There is possibility out there. Go for it!

Semper Fi*

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Emblem of United States Marines


(click to enlarge any photos or illustrations)

Monday morning, 8:53 a.m., an odd e-mail from my daughter: “I have very few details and am “on call” today. Spencer is at his MEPS appointment this morning and will, at some point (likely Lester afternoon), swear in. I’ll do my best to keep you posted, but for sure this isn’t a “must attend” if you follow. Keep your phones close and if it works, great…if not, mark your calendars for July 9 which is his ship date!”

July 9 was last month. “MEPS”? “Lester”? We’ve all done rushed e-mails! (More later in this post).

I went on to my morning meeting where six of us were to discuss a film-in-progress about dialogue on how to help promote world peace and justice through suggesting positive changes in the United Nations.

Six people suggesting reforms to a 72 year old institution representing over 190 nations? The idea sounds preposterous, but I’ve been around long enough, and close enough, to know that bottom up ideas can and do make a difference. You just need to be patient, and never expect your name in “lights”. We are a global society, and if there is ever to be peace, it has to begin with all of us in each of our own small and larger ways. Indeed, world society is making positive progress.

Most of our Monday morning group had been at a small dinner the previous evening (below). Joseph Schwartzberg joined us on Saturday; Deb Metke couldn’t.

from left, David Lionel, Ron Glossop, Gail Hughes, Deb Metke, Nancy Dunlavy. Dick Bernard took the photo, and thus is the empty chair.

I stuck around till about 12:30 Monday afternoon, then excused myself.

There was a phone message from my daughter: “Spencer will be sworn in at 2 p.m. at Ft. Snelling. Come if you can.” “Sworn in”? “To what?” He’s just becoming a senior in high school. Once again, what was MEPS?… I called Cathy. “This is all I know. Do you want to come along?” “Sure.”

We were there in time. Seven others had come, on short notice, to be there for Spencer. Spencer was there to be sworn in as a Marine, with a report date of July 9, 2018. Three other young people were sworn in at the same time. MEPS turned out to be the Military Entrance Processing Station. As the blanks were filled in, it wasn’t a great surprise. Spencer, a great kid, has long had an interest in the possibility of military. This was his next step.

I was visibly emotional as he was sworn in. For me the emotion was simply recognizing another passage point for another of my grandkids, growing up. That he was enlisting in the military wasn’t a point of issue for me (a “peacenik”). The person swearing in he and three others, a 22 year veteran, a first class representative of the military, said only one percent of the U.S. population is in the uniformed services. I’d like for there to be no need for these folks. There is.

I’m a veteran myself, from a family full of military veterans, and while I see no good ever coming out of any war, and the young are always those sent off to fight, and die, there is sometimes a need. One can only hope that the current chain of command acts responsibly for Spencer and all of us. (In the entry to MEPS was pictured the Chain of Command as of August 7, 2017.)

August 7, 2017, MEPS, Ft. Snelling MN

Today I’ll be sending Spencer a copy of the orders to report for Army duty that I received back on January 10, 1962. Back then, they bused us to Ft. Carson Colorado. There were 18 of us. We didn’t know, then, that we were going into the Army at the early stages of what came to be known as the Vietnam era. Ten months later was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I learned about through President Kennedy’s address to the nation on a small television in an Army barracks a few miles from Cheyenne Mountain, a possible ICBM target.

(I looked at the map of military posts in the United States in the reception room, and apparently Ft. Carson is no longer a full-fledged base.)

One can hope that the service will never have to “bulk up” again.

It’s our responsibility to do our part to end war.

Meanwhile, Congratulations, Spencer! And I’d encourage readers to become interested in and possibly involved in my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, whose founders in 1947 were persons who had been deeply affected by WWII, and thought there was a better way than war and killing to solve problems. Some of us were among the ones meeting Monday morning (above).

Spencer, August 7, 2017

POSTNOTE: As Spencer begins his year preparing for active duty, here’s a graphic I gave him within the last couple of years:

(click to enlarge)
.

And as he signed his enlistment papers, the most difficult current hot spot is the Korean Peninsula, where difficult decisions will hopefully be made very, very carefully. In our democracy, we are the ones who select these decision makers….

Personal adaptation of p. 104 of 7th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World

These are the kinds of things a grandfather thinks about, when his grandson is about to be a member of America’s military.

Congratulations, and all good wishes, Spence.

* – Semper Fidelis

#1280 – Dick Bernard: “Age of Anger, A History of the Present”

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Some weeks ago a long-time friend told me about the book, “Age of Anger…”, which I briefly introduced in this post on July 21st.

The book was my vacation project this past week. I found it to be highly informative, and highly recommend it for book club discussion, or simply for individual reflection on the nature of human beings, ourselves, our systems, nations…. Marie, the friend who had recommended the book to me, said the book was being passed around among her siblings in various parts of the country.

There are many reviews of the book. Here are some.

The book has a very large “cast of characters”. After reading, I took an informal “census” in the index, and found about 380 characters in all, most of them actors with influence roughly within the 200 years between 1700 and 1900 [See Postnote 3]. Many have immediately recognizable names. Most, like the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio who leads the book, are more obscure, but nonetheless very influential, influencing later tyrants. Most of the key characters are men. The frame seems the philosophical differences between Francois-Marie Aroust (nom de plume Voltaire, 1649-1722) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).

Of the characters, only about 20 are women.

Tim McVeigh is in the spotlight in more recent history. ISIS makes the cut.

Before he is executed for his crime, McVeigh ends up as next door neighbor in a Colorado super-max prison to Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the architect of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. After McVeigh’s execution, Yousef says “I have never [known] anyone in my life who has so similar a personality to my own as [McVeigh].” (p. 288) In 2001, Yousef’s uncle “completed what [Yousef] had started: the twin towers’ destruction. [That Uncle, Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed, is now known as the chief architect of the 9/11 attacks….” (p. 285)

The cast of Age of Anger seems to center on characters who came to be of influence in 1700s France, then England, then the U.S., with many other important players, mostly leaders in places like Russia, Germany, India, Turkey. As we know, “countries” are basically personified by larger than life individuals who for good or ill are installed and enabled by their subjects. Our own country, today, is an example.

Reading Age of Anger helped me to fill in blanks in my own knowledge of historical events. “Ressentement” (resentment) is an important and oft repeated word, as is Individualism.

My opinion, typically – perhaps a human trait – we blame somebody, say Hitler, for the resulting disaster that befalls us. But it always comes back down to all of us who, in various ways, enable and indeed encourage the leader behavior which ultimately does us in. This is especially true in societies like our own, where we freely choose our own leaders, by our action (or inaction – non-involvement).

As I read, I kept looking for my favorite commentator on human insanity: George Orwell in his classic, 1984. Near the end of the book came a quote about the “Proles” (ordinary people) on page 325 (see postnote). The Proles of all ages, ourselves, in my thinking, have always been the enablers, the kindling wood and the cannon fodder for the assorted pretenders to greatness, the folks like Napoleon, Hitler and all their similar ilk. We meet the enemy; and it is ourselves.

The end result always, for even the most charismatic ideologues, regardless of ideology, seems constant and universal: defeat, often disaster. It is often the angry, dispossessed and impressionable young who are enlisted to do the dirty work in wars or whatever – look at the composition of our military, of gangs….

The Age of Anger is very well worth your time.

For me, I find myself thinking about how the book challenges me to do what I can to change for the better the tiny portion of the world in which I live. Our America – my America – seems to have had an exceptionally good and exceptionally long run. But the storm clouds, literal and figurative, are gathering.

Where do we fit in all of this.

POSTNOTE: p. 325 of Age of Anger: “So long as they [the Proles] continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern… Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”

In my recollection, Orwell leaves to our imagination the end of his story (published in 1949), which is set in England, but pretty clearly modelled on a totalitarian society.

Then, while technology was improving, no one could really imagine the presence days means of communication and thought and action control of ourselves, unless we take command of our own lives.

Absent our own actions, as individuals, our world will not end well.

Where do you fit in as the solution to our problems?

POSTNOTE 2: After publishing this post I read the Opinion section of today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune. This commentary by firefighter Peter Leschak seems pertinent to the conversation.

POSTNOTE 3: As I read, my own ancestry (French, English, Irish, German) came unexpectedly into more focus. My French-Canadian ancestors, all of them, arrived in what is now Quebec between 1618 and 1757, mostly missing the continental impact of the Enlightenment in France and England. As to the German ancestry, I knew for a long time of the German revulsion towards France, largely due to Napoleons adventure. My great-grandfathers brother, Herman Heinrich Busch, born 1852 in Westphalia, migrated to the U.S. in early 1870s, wrote back to the old country Feb. 14, 1924, about remembrances of his grandmother of Napoleon’s occupation of what is now Germany. He said, in part: “France’s history has always been full of war and revolution for the last three hundred years and Germany was always the oppressed, if they will ever become peaceful.” (p. 279 of Pioneers, The Busch and Berning Families of LaMoure County ND.). I knew Great-Grandfather Busch, first to come across, had migrated to the United States about 1870, the story was, for health reasons and to escape war. He was about 22, and his handwriting and text was extraordinarily fine and literate, though he was a farm kid. Age of Anger identifies 1870 as the formation of the Second Reich by Kaiser Wilhelm II (The First Reich is commonly considered the time of the Holy Roman Empire 800-1806). Part of the early Second Reich involved Germany’s temporary subjugation of France…. One chapter of history ends, and another begins.