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#1163 – Dick Bernard: 9-11-16, and the dark days of 2001-2009

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Friday, my wife and I and our 87 year old neighbor Don, went to the local theatre to be among the first to see the new movie, Sully, the incredible story of the emergency landing of an airliner in the Hudson River off NYC in January, 2009. “How can you take a 90 second event and turn it into a 90 minute movie?” my friend asked.

Very, very easily. Take in the film. The basic true story is here.

*

Of course (I’m certain), the movie was timed to be released on the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9-11-01, even though the near-disaster actually happened in January, 2009.

I have feelings about 9-11-01. At the end of this post, I share a few personal links from that period in time. I will always have doubts about certain and substantial parts of the official narrative about what happened that awful day, though that labels me as a “conspiracy theorist” I suppose. So be it.

*

But what occurs to me this day in 2016 came to mind a few days ago when I found a cardboard envelope in a box, whose contents included this certificate (8 1/2×11 in original size).

Notice the signature on the certificate (Donald Rumsfeld) and the date of the form printed in the lower left corner (July 1, 2001). (Click to enlarge).

cold-war-certificate-001

The full contents of the envelope can be viewed here: cold-war-cert-packet003

Of course, people like myself had no idea why the article appeared in the newspaper, or how this particular project came to be.

It is obvious from the documents themselves that the free certificate was publicized no later than sometime in 1999; and the certificate itself wasn’t mailed until some time in 2001 to my then mailing address…. The original website about the certificate seems no longer accessible, but there is a wikipedia entry about it.

When I revisited the envelope I remembered a working group of powerful people called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) formed in the late 1990s.

The group as then constituted no longer officially exists, but had (my opinion) huge influence on America’s disastrous response to 9-11-01 (which continues to this day).

Many members of this select group, including Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard B. Cheney, strategized to establish permanent U.S. dominance in the world, and had very high level positions in the administration of George W. Bush, 2001-2009. PNAC was no benign committee of friends meeting for coffee every Saturday. To cement the notion that to have peace you must be stronger than the enemy…there has to be an enemy. If not a hot war, then a cold war will have to do. Keep things unsettled and people will follow some dominant leader more easily.

Their Cold War ended in December, 1991, as you’ll note, which likely was cause for concern. 9-11-01 became the magic elixir for a permanent war with an enemy….

(I happen to be a long-time member of the American Legion also – the Cuban Missile Crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam era were part of my tour of duty in the Army – and much more recently, the Legion magazine
updated talk about the Cold War, here: America at War001.)

My opinion: there remains a desperate and powerful need by powerful entities to sustain an enemy for the U.S. to fight against and, so goes the story, “win”, to borrow a phrase and “make America great again”. As we learned in the years after 9-11-01, dominance has a huge and unsustainable cost. But the idea still lives on.

The mood of the people of this country is for peace – it is simple common sense – but peacemakers have to do much more than simply demonstrate against war to have it come to pass, in a sustainable fashion.

*

Yes, 9-11-01 was very impactful for me. Here are three personal reflections: 1) chez-nous-wtc-2001002; 2) here; and 3) here: Post 9-11-01001.

I have never been comfortable with the official explanations about many aspects of 9-11-01 and what came after. It is not enough to be ridiculed into silence. Eight years ago my friend Dr. Michael Andregg spent a year doing what I consider a scholarly piece of work about some troubling aspects he saw with 9-11-01. You can watch it online in Rethinking 9-11 at the website, Ground Zero Minnesota. Dr. Andregg made this film for those who are open to critical thinking about an extremely important issue. I watched it again, online, in the last couple of days. It is about 54 minutes, and very well done. Take a look.

Let’s make 9-11-01 a day for peace, not for endless and never to be won war. Humanity deserves better.

(click to enlarge. Photos: Dick Bernard, late June, 1972)

World Trade Center Towers late June 1972, New York City

World Trade Center Towers late June 1972, New York City

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972.  (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972. (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Here, thanks to a long ago handout at a workshop I took in the early 70s, is a more normal reaction sequence to a crisis. As you’ll note, it is useful to allow 9-11-01 to live on and on and on. It is not healthy.

(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

#1162 – Dick Bernard: Labor Day, back to school for most of Minnesota’s school kids.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

From Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about the recovery of Jacob Wetterlings body more than 25 years after he was kidnapped near St. Joseph MN and killed in October, 1979: here is the local news.

Jacob is at peace, and the lessons of his tragic death live on through the dedication of his family and many others who carry forward the message of his tragic death. Here for more information.

*

Most Minnesota schools begin on Tuesday, September 6.

In rough terms, it appears there will be about 900,000 students enrolled this year, with about 125,000 school staff, of which licensed personnel are about half. Roughly one of five Minnesotans will be in public school tomorrow. Here is a snapshot. Public Education is central to a functioning society.

Public Education has been an important part of my entire personal and professional life, from growing up in a family where my parents were both career public school teachers, to, this year, having eight grandchildren in Minnesota public schools.

Each year for many years one of my mandatory stops at the Minnesota State Fair is the booth of Education Minnesota, formerly called MEA (Minnesota Education Association) and MFT (Minnesota Federation of Teachers). This year was no different. Again this year I got my photo at the “Ed MN” booth (see end of post); Saturday, back again, I stopped in and took a photo of a couple of Minnesota Kindergarten teachers.

(click to enlarge)

Minnesota State Fair Sep. 3, 2016, Education Minnesota booth.

Minnesota State Fair Sep. 3, 2016, Education Minnesota booth.

I have great admiration for Minnesota Public Schools and the staff who are their face every day. Being a human institution, they are not perfect, but their charge is to serve children from early childhood through 12th grade. They do it very well.

My experience as a school teacher began in 1963; this year I choose to remember 1969, the year my oldest son began Kindergarten at age 5 in the explosively growing Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Tom attended Franklin Elementary School in Anoka. His teacher that year was Miss Murphy, an older lady who was very kindly and a magician with kids. She retired a year or two later.

Kindergarten at that point in time was half day, as I recall. (Full day kindergarten was years away; kindergarten itself did not exist in my own growing up years.)

In 1969, I recall that Tom’s kindergarten class included 36 youngsters. If you can imagine it, Miss Murphy had no classroom assistance. Her way of coping with this was to work with half of the students at a time, and in some magical way keep the other half occupied more or less by themselves in the same room, all by herself.

That is how I remember it.

Anoka-Hennepin was then an extremely rapidly growing school district, with a very low tax base. I can’t find fault with what today would be considered intolerable conditions. Young families moved in, and the district just couldn’t keep up with the growth.

Fast forward to today, and conditions are better.

And it is now recognized that the earlier a child is exposed to all aspects of education, including socialization, the better off he or she will be in the years that follow.

Money spent on children is money invested, not spent.

I wish all Kindergarten teachers, indeed all teachers, and all of their students, a good year. And I also wish that the certain unforseen events are minimal.

Happy New (School) Year!

Solidarity t-shirt, Fall, 1981

Solidarity t-shirt, Fall, 1981

POSTNOTE:

Sunday afternoon I flipped on the local PBS station, and happened across a sequence of three programs on early U.S. Labor Movement history: Minnesota’s Iron Range; Upper Michigan’s Copper Country; and West Virginia’s Coal Country. It was a gripping two to three hours, with characters like Mother Jones, and John L. Lewis. The programs may be repeated and are well worth watching.

Succinctly, management was terrified of organized labor.

In my opinion, in many ways it still is terrified, to everyone’s detriment, including management itself. (Organized Labor built this country’s middle class, which, in turn, built this country’s economy, both as producers and consumers. It is the most elementary economics.)

The programs caused me to revisit my stop at that Education Minnesota booth on Saturday: Education Minnesota is, I think, Minnesota’s largest single AFL-CIO Union.

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to revisit my own part in the labor movement, going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, now near 50 years ago. The short essay was not written for this blog, but nonetheless fits. Here it is, if you’re interested: UniServ, one persons experience, Dick Bernard Aug 19, 2016.

It is easy to criticize unions. As for me, I’m very proud to have been part of the organized labor movement. When Unions die, our society will die along with them.

At the Education Minnesota Booth, September 1, 2014.  The hat is for Sykeston ND, where I graduated from HS in 1958 - third in a class of 8.

At the Education Minnesota Booth, September 1, 2014. The hat is for Sykeston ND, where I graduated from HS in 1958 – third in a class of 8.

#1161 – Dick Bernard: Two deaths on a lovely and lonely beach.

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Thursday morning I woke up to a bit of news that two people had been found by a solitary kayaker, dead on a beach in Washington state.

Solitary Kayaker, from note card of Wenatchee Foothills published by The Trust for Public Land*

Solitary Kayaker, from note card of Wenatchee Foothills published by The Trust for Public Land*

Nothing about that kind of tragedy is particularly unusual: such events are every day on our news. It seemed to have been a murder/suicide. The death was 1500 miles and several states away from me.

But there was something else in this news: one of the dead was a teacher in a nearby Twin Cities suburb in which my daughter is a school board member. He was about to begin his 14th year as a teacher in an outstanding elementary school that has been attended by four of my grandchildren beginning more than 10 years ago. Indeed, two of them will return there with several hundred other students two days from now.

Over the years we’d gone to many school programs there; probably there will be more this year.

Last Wednesday all was probably normal over there. Overnight, everything changed in a single piece of news**.

This will not be a normal beginning to a school year for the young people or their teachers and other school personnel.

The teacher’s Dad had also once been Superintendent of the school district, and in fact, I had met him once or twice when he was employed as an administrator in another nearby school district. He was a decent person, doubtless a good Dad to this teacher who was now dead.

Succinctly, this anonymous tragedy far away had become, for me, a matter of family.

Now these deaths on a Washington beach intersected with my own “circle”, and with the circles of hundreds of others.

There was, of course, more to the story.

The deaths apparently were directly related to apparently credible allegations of sexual exploitation of at least one, and perhaps more, young people by those who were found dead. The couple were male, gay; their alleged victim, a minor male, also gay, probably high school age.

So, into the conversation comes the matter of sexual abuse by people – in this case, a teacher – of vulnerable children. And the business of sex, and gays…inevitable topics.

Suddenly, everybody in the circle becomes at least a little suspect…what did they know about their child, their colleague, their friend?

There is fear, and guilt and all of the attendant negative emotions.

For a period of time, everybody will be ensnared in the web which began for some reason at some point in the past.

Years ago I kept a handout from a workshop on how the response to such a crisis will go. It seems pertinent to share, now.

(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Other than offering support, as a parent, as a grandparent, there is not much I can do.

All I can say is that we are all family, far more than by the narrow definition (parent, child, house).

Life will go on in this fine school, and school district; for the affected families what was normal will forever be changed.

My hope is that there will be lots of serious conversations about how we all can do better.

And my best wishes go out to everyone who is now or will soon be in the schools of America and every country.

Give them even more support than usual this year.

* – Trust for Public Land sent this card some months ago as part of a fundraiser. Their website is here.

** – I am deliberately not printing specific names, places, etc. The news is very well known in this locality. It is the sad nature of the incident and its aftermath that is the topic.

#1159 – Dick Bernard: Ruby Fitzgerald. Farewell to a gentle lady.

Monday, August 29th, 2016

The note announcing the death of Ruby Fitzgerald, age 95, began with a photo (below) and ended with a brief note “The tiny plaque pictured on the front of this card graced Ruby’s kitchen wall for most of her life.”

(click on picture to enlarge)
Ruby Fitzgerald

Saturday, I was fortunate to be in a room filled with people who all were privileged to know Ruby over the years. I think Ruby would have been very pleased. Here is the written story of Ruby Fitzgerald as presented by her family: Ruby Fitzgerald002.

My mother and Ruby were first cousins; actually double cousins: their respective Mom and Dads were brother and sister, and they grew up on adjoining farms in rural Berlin, North Dakota.

As happens, family life paths diverged, and because of geography, they only rarely saw each other, and we didn’t get to know Ruby.

Ruby and my Aunt Edithe, born two months apart, graduated from the same high school in the Berlin High School class of 1938. Their families and many others had weathered the very worst of the Great Depression together. Probably from that experience came the significance of Ruby’s plaque pictured in the death announcement.

Ruby was an honor student, and had a scholarship to Jamestown College, but there was no money to go to college. That is how the Great Depression was.

In 1993, for a Busch-Berning family history, Ruby wrote a very vivid descriptive story of her years on the North Dakota farm . You can read it here: Ruby Fitzgerald 1993001. Anyone of a certain age, who grew up in rural North Dakota, will quickly identify with her description of rural life.

I only saw the Fitzgeralds a few times, but the visits are remembered fondly. For some reason, way back, I drove the then-country Jamaca Avenue west of Stillwater to visit them at their small farm. Most likely, then, I was starting my search for the family history of the Busch and Berning families. Their’s was a warm, hospitable place.

By good fortune, in going through my Busch family pictures this summer, I came across a photo of Ruby and her twin sister Ruth taken about 1921.

Ruby and Ruth Berning ca 1921 at home.

Ruby and Ruth Berning ca 1921 at home.

I took the photo to Ruby at the Ramsey County Nursing Home on Father’s day weekend, and she filled in the details of a fact I had known for years, without knowing the details. She was obviously moved by the photo.

She said that Ruth, her sister, had died at age 2 1/2 of whooping cough, most likely at the rural Cuba City WI farm home of her mother, Christina’s, parents, Wilhelm and Christina Busch. (After 13 years in North Dakota, the family went back home for the birth of the twins; thence they stayed in Wisconsin or Dubuque for another thirteen years before returning to the North Dakota farm, which they had rented out. The plant in which Ruth’s Dad worked had closed, and as I heard another family member say, at least on the farm they could have a garden, and eat. That is how it was.)

Three weeks after she saw the photo, Ruby died.

We all have our stories.

Ruby lives on through a wonderful family, and great memories.

I’m honored I could be present on Saturday. Ruby is at peace, and our world is the better for her having been with us.

Chritina Berning 1939

Chritina Berning 1939

August Berning 1941

August Berning 1941

The Berning girls 1977.  (There were two boys, August and Melvin, plus two young children, a boy and girl, who died very young.)

The Berning girls 1977. (There were two boys, August and Melvin, plus two young children, a boy and girl, who died very young.)

Ruby is 4th from left in the photo.

#1152 – Dick Bernard: The Newspaper; Government by Twitter

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Those interested in why I very strongly support Hillary Clinton for President can read my post from Sunday here. The post includes several comments pro and con as well.

Personally, I always find the perspectives of Just Above Sunset informative. The latest is here.

(click on all photos to enlarge)

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

Dubuque paper001

Monday evening came one of those far too infrequent “faceoffs” (as Dad would say) with my cousin and her husband from Winnipeg. We had a too-short but animated visit over dinner in Edina, and covered lots of bases, a small part of which touched U.S. politics, which is a natural point of interest (and concern) for Canadians, who share thousands of miles of border with us.

My relatives, who grew up in the border area just north of the Minnesota/North Dakota border, still speak their native French as first language. At the same time, they are equally fluent in English, and have been dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada for years.

The conversation drifted to Ovila, my Dad’s first cousin, and my cousins father, born in the early 1900s.

How did Ovila learn English in the days before television, living on a farm in a section of Manitoba whose first language has always been French?

The answer to this question is complex, but as I recall, the newspaper was a primary vehicle, and as I recall from my own conversation with him years ago, catalogs, a primary source of information about goods for the farm. He self-taught himself English.

Ovila read every word of the newspaper, as did his neighbors. They were very well informed. Made no difference who wrote what, agree or not, it was consumed.

It caused me to think about my German grandparents, whose now-former farm has been my preoccupation for the last two or three years.

Being male, my focus was on Grandpa. Their country mailbox was full of paper: the weekly newspaper from LaMoure; the Jamestown and Fargo papers; the Farm Journal; catalogs; on an on. And they were religiously read. People like my Mom occasionally contributed a piece of poetry; I have articles Grandpa wrote soliciting membership in the fledgling Farmers Union in 1928. And on and on and on.

Last year, while going through the abundant detritus after my Uncle died, we looked through a well constructed coffin like packing crate obviously used to bring possessions to the North Dakota farm from Wisconsin when Grandma and Grandpa moved there in 1905 (see photos above, and following). Among the precious contents (at the time), Grandma’s wedding dress, and assorted ‘stuff’, then to be saved, now of little interest, except in passing.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

In the box were two crumbling Dubuque newspapers, one in English; the other in my grandparents native German. Probably they had been delivered to the Wisconsin farm, and were handy when they were packing stuff for shipment to ‘Dakota. The articles in the English edition covered the waterfront (photo above); I’m sure the same was true for the German edition. What is certain, every page of each of these newspapers had seen many eyes. (Grandma and Grandpa married Feb. 28, 1905; he, his brother and his cousin came west first to build a house and such; Grandma came about six weeks later. The crate likely carried her belongings.)

Fast forward to today, August 3, 2016.

Those old newspapers, with readers whose education seldom was past 8th grade, were astonishing pieces of literature.

Today’s small town newspapers, like the LaMoure Chronicle, carry on the tradition of the past. They are a treasure to be savored.

But now we’re in the “Twitter Generation”: news by headline. I don’t need to define that any further. We can pick our own particular bias, and pretend that it is not only the only perspective that matters, but that it is the only perspective. We know that’s not true, but…. Our collective narrowness, made possible by infinite organs of “communication”, serve us ill. I think we know that, but it is easy to deny this reality.

Today far too many of us choose, freely, to be uninformed, EXCEPT to confirm our own biases. Our Elders had less means to receive and share communications, but in many ways they were much better informed and prepared to participate in a civil society than we are.

We are not at our best, these days: watch the political polemics. Hopefully we’ll survive our collective and intentional ignorance particularly of other points of view.

.

#1136 – Dick Bernard: The Man in the Background: Father’s Day 2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I continue to go through hundreds of photos left as part of the legacy of the North Dakota farm. Recently I was looking at this one:

(click to enlarge)

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

The initial focus was the women in the group photo. I didn’t know any of them, and I’ve sent them to a ND friend lifelong in that area to perhaps identify one or two or more of them.

But my interest turned to the guy in the background, who seems to be holding a stick, doing something.

On initial glance it looks like a stick, maybe a baseball bat. On the other hand, it may well be a croquet mallet for a lawn game popular back then. The stick may look a little fatter than in should because it is a bit blurred. If you click a second time over the man, you can almost see the croquet ball to the right, to his front….

Almost certainly the camera had caught a Sunday outing at the Memorial Park – the folks were all dressed up, as if after Church. Also, almost certainly, the women and men were farmers or engaged in agriculture in some way. Most were likely Moms or Dads, and Sunday was a day of rest.

If I’m right – that it is croquet I’m seeing. Not far away some more men were throwing “horseshoes” – real ones. And off to the left was the baseball diamond, where the town team was playing some out of town bunch, and there were kids, and people fishing, and visiting, and picnics and this and that.

As was (and is) most often the case, the old photos is not labeled as to year or people. It didn’t occur to anybody that somebody, 60 or more years later, would care who or what….

As I say, this was a farm photo, and there were hundreds of them, and I’m still going through them, and they won’t be thrown away.

Most were taken by a couple of versions of old box cameras, thence as time goes on, assorted new fangled cameras replaced them. Everytime we came to visit, Grandpa would gather us on the lawn for the traditional picture before we left for home. This was a Grandma deal as well, and their children followed suit.

The picture exists because somebody felt it important to not only record the moment, but to keep it for posterity.

The picture itself is just another moment in the life of some people out in North Dakota, among many moments in many days in many lives, filled with good times and not-so-good, crops, relationships, tragedies, children, whatever.

As we all know, some days are better than others….

Today at Basilica of St. Mary, Fr. Bauer asked all the men to stand up, and recognized every male there for whatever role they play in others lives. It was a nice touch, typical.

While this is a specific Father’s Day, yet another tradition in our society, all of us, regardless of gender, play a part in making our world a better place.

We are all fathers and mothers.

Have a great day.

#1134 – Dick Bernard: Grandpa Bernard’s Can of Pebbles

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Now and again in our growing up years we made it up to Grafton ND to visit Grandma and Grandpa* Bernard, who lived in a tiny house at 738 Cooper Avenue.

Grandpa, 68 when I was born, and 85 when he died, was a most interesting character, starting life in Quebec on a farm, then an asbestos miner at Thetford Mines QC, thence a lumberjack, a carpenter, and finally chief engineer of the Flour Mill in Grafton (he came from a line of probably hundreds of years of millers in France and thence in Quebec. His brother, Joe, was chief miller in Grafton.)

This particular day, Grandpa was sitting on his accustomed perch on the front stoop, basically exactly as shown in the old photo:

(click to enlarge photos)

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

I don’t recall Grandma being there, but we kids were, and at some point Grandpa looked over his shoulder and saw a dog trotting down the sidewalk.

“See that dog?”, he said. Then he picked up his homemade slingshot, and fished a pebble out of the nearby can and made sure the dog saw it.

No word (nor bark) was spoken.

The dog kept coming till some invisible “do not cross” line; at that point, making a hard right, trotting across the street; hard left past Grandpa; and on about whatever business the dog was about that sunny day.

Grandpa loved dogs, best I know, but there was a time and a place for everything, and apparently this neighbor had to be reminded, now and again, of the rules of the road at Grandpa’s house.

The parties understood the rules….

There are endless Grandpa (and Grandma) lessons conveyed to us, as we all know, once past a certain age. Things we just soak up, without realizing it at the time.

Not all the stories were conveyed directly, or even intentionally. For instance, across the alley from the tiny house was the Walsh county yard where things like snowplows and other public machines were kept. And down the street was the Courthouse, and the local Jail….

And there was the annual event at the Courthouse where the last remaining veterans of the Spanish-American War had an annual remembrance of their fallen comrades. It was always impressive and Grandpa was always in it.

There was something else about Grandpa, which you can see in the picture.

He had one leg.

The other he had lost to diabetes in 1946. Since he was a veteran, that leg was amputated at the VA Hospital, in Fargo; as was the second, at the time he died in 1957.

He used to entertain we kids with the stub of the missing leg.

Over time, I’ve come to learn that he lived to entertain us because a government agency, the VA, had saved his life; and Social Security, enacted about the time he turned 65, was what they had for retirement. His source of livelihood, the Flour Mill, had gone out of business on short notice right before the stock market crash in 1929; and at almost exactly the same time, the bank with nearly all their savings, went under due to fraud.

Overnite they went from regular middle class to dependent on others. It was the year Dad graduated from high school, and, of course, his plans on going to the University of North Dakota were dashed.

Of course, if there’s a grandpa, there’s a grandma.

Just yesterday I came across an old photo of my other grandmother, Rosa (Berning) Busch, with the Ladies Aid of Berlin North Dakota in September, 1946 (See below). Grandma is the lady kneeling in the front row at the center of the photo.

There are lots and lots of Grandma stories, as well as Mrs. Busch stories, even to this day.

No extra stories to be conveyed here, but an encouragement to remember your own, about those who came before you.

And to emphasize what is no longer often seen as obvious: we like to think we are, as individuals, in charge of our own universe.

What our ancestors knew, imperfectly, was that we all do better when we all do better.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946.  Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946. Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

* There exists, to my knowledge, a single film clip recording Grandpa Bernard and others “sidewalk superintending” in Grafton ND in 1949, when a crew was paving the Main Street. His moment of fame come at four minutes 15 second mark. You can view it here.

Of course, we all have two sets of grandparents, whether we got to know them or not. And there are all manner of other relationships which would take a long writing to describe in any detail…for each of us in our own lives.

In my own case, Grandpa Bernard died almost exactly on my 17th birthday, in 1957; Grandma Bernard died near my 23rd birthday, in 1963; Grandpa Busch died in 1967, less than two weeks after their 62nd wedding anniversary, coming up the stairs from the basement with some eggs for breakfast; Grandma Busch died in early August, 1972, at 88. Lore has it that she lingered on long enough so that her youngest son, my uncle Art, could make it from Chicago. He did, and she died very soon thereafter.

#1129 – Dick Bernard: In Praise of Exasperating People. A Thought for Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Last Sunday I had the honor of saying a few words at the celebration of the life of a friend who I’d known the last seven years of his near 95 years; and later that day more words at a now-annual dinner that wouldn’t exist were it not for him.

(More details on both can be found at A Million Copies, click on Lynn Elling, and, there, click on “celebration” in first paragraph at the top of the page.)

The real problem: how does one condense this guys life as a peacemaker into a few words?

I had four minutes.

At coffee over many days I made a list of experiences I had had with Lynn over the seven years. It became a very long list.

I finally zeroed in on a single vignette from another Memorial service I had attended in Comfrey MN at his request June 23, 2009. And within that visit, a single recollection from the piece of paper he asked me to read at that Memorial about the LST he and his friend, Melvin, had served on for two years in the Pacific in WWII. That summarized Lynn’s life for me.

(LST? Officially, that’s a “Landing Ship Tank”.

In his words, on his piece of paper from which I read, “LST” was a “Large Slow Target”. LST crew would understand…. Somebody in that congregation that day, a man, laughed out loud. He knew….)

As I prepared my list about Lynn, it dawned on me that Lynn was not alone as a positive example in my life.

I began another list, this one of people I’d known at many other points in my life who were in one way or another, like Lynn.

Then I decided to use part of those four minutes to talk about Lynn, the “exasperating” individual. He could be, I said, the kind of individual you saw coming, and ducked across the street to avoid. You knew that he wanted to tell his story, and that the pitch would include something he wanted you to do.

Some folks in the pews chuckled. They understood.

They were there because they knew Lynn.

I mentioned my new list of exasperating people, (the last entry was #27 – there are 14 men, 13 women.) They came from all points in my life. The list could be much longer.

That list is a keeper. You’d be honored if you were on that list!

From that list, last Sunday, I mentioned only Geography Prof. George Kennedy, who, back in about 1960, got very angry at me, calling me “lazy”, and that was for starters.

Well, that is exactly what I was: Lazy.

He knew I had talents I wasn’t using. I never forgot what Prof. Kennedy said, and how he said it. It was very pointed and very personal, and it changed my life.

Too bad I couldn’t tell him that he made a difference for me while he was still alive.

Exasperating people can be very irritating and annoying. That’s what the word means.

But if you take a moment, you can learn something about what you learned from them, about yourself.

Hopefully, I sometimes fill that role, of being “exasperating” to somebody else.

Exasperating. Remember that word…. At times, I fit that word. You?

Happy Mother’s Day May 8, to Mom’s (and all others who in one way or another have filled that oft-times exasperating role).

#1127 – Dick Bernard: May 1, 2016, May Day, World Law Day

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Tomorrow is May 1. May Day.

Since I was a little kid back in the North Dakota of the early 1940s, I learned there was something special about May 1.

Probably the first actual memory was of May Baskets, which had some significance, though I do not remember exactly why. And there were Maypoles.

(click to enlarge, double click for more detail)

A traveling May Pole in Heart of the Beast Parade, Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

A traveling May Pole in Heart of the Beast Parade, Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

As a lifelong Catholic I remember, for some reason, “Mary, Queen of the May”. And later, when the television age and the Cold War interfaced for me (that was 1956 when we got TV; we almost never were in real movie theaters with news reels) sometimes there would be a short film clip of those awful Communists parading their weapons of war in Red Square in Moscow on May 1…May Day.

May 1 has had a long history. Search the words “May Day”, and here is what you get.

The Wikipedia entry for May Day is most interesting.

May Day has come to be a multi-purpose day, fixed on a particular date (rather than day), and this year, since it falls on a Sunday, it is simpler to celebrate in our U.S. weekend calendar, especially if the weather is nice.

Tomorrow will be the annual May Day “Heart of the Beast” Parade in south Minneapolis, and this year it actually can be on May 1, rather than some other nearby date. Occasionally I’ve marched in that parade as part of a unit; occasionally, I’ve watched it as a spectator. It is a fun day with a 42 year history.

Heart of the Beast May Day Parade May 5, 2013, Minneapolis MN

Heart of the Beast May Day Parade May 5, 2013, Minneapolis MN

Tomorrow, however, Sunday, May 1, 2015, I’ll be heavily involved in two events honoring my friend, Lynn Elling, who died at 94 on February 14. One is a celebration of his life at 3 p.m. at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis (34th and Dupont), and the second, the 4th Annual Lynn and Donna Elling Symposium on World Peace through Law – “World Law Day”, this years event spotlighting solutions to mitigate climate change, presented by J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy.

The date of both events is intentional. May 1 was very significant to Lynn Elling.

He and others invented World Law Day.

“World Law Day” is yet another creative use of May 1.

The first World Law Day celebration was May 1, 1964, in Minneapolis, ten years before the Heart of the Beast Theater marshaled its first May Day parade. The co-founder of the event was Lynn Elling. As described in the brochure for this years World Law Day:

“World Law Day was a creation of Lynn Elling, Martha Platt, Dr. Asher White and others. The first event was May 1, 1964. World Law Day was an adaptation of Law Day, proclaimed by President Eisenhower in 1958, and enacted into U.S. Law in 1961. Law Day was the U.S. “cold war” response to the martial tradition of May 1, May Day, in the Soviet bloc.

The premise was peace through World Law, rather than constant war or threat of war.

Large annual dinners on World Law Day went on for many years in Minnesota and perhaps other places. At some point for one or another unremembered reason, the tradition ended, but Lynn never forgot.

In 2012, after the death of Donna, Lynn asked that World Law Day dinner be reinstated May 1, 2013 at Gandhi Mahal, he and Donna’s favorite restaurant.

At the time he was planning a major trip to Vietnam with his son, Tod, who had been adopted from Vietnam orphanage in the 1970s. Tod and Lynn arrived home only a couple of days before the 2013 event.

2016 is the 4th annual World Law Day, and the 52nd anniversary of the first World Law Day in 1964.”

As Lynn’s long and noteworthy life wound down, he was ever more fond of the mantra that today “is an open moment in history” for the world to get its act together for peace and for justice. His is a noble dream. We can help.

More about Lynn Elling, including his own memories on a 2014 video, here (click on “read more” right below his name.)

World Law Day May 1, 2013, Lynn Elling 2nd from left.

World Law Day May 1, 2013, Lynn Elling 2nd from left.

Lynn Thor Heyerdahl 75001

(More about Thor Heyerdahl here).

#1119 – Dick Bernard: The Armenian Genocide, 1915-23

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

(click to enlarge photos. This post includes two parts, with information from Lou Ann Matossian and Peter Balakian Updated May 9, 2016_

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

The internet brought an announcement of “A presentation and discussion led by Lou Ann Matossian on “Armenian Genocide Education and the Community.” I went to the presentation at the University of Minnesota last Wednesday evening, and learned a great deal about the delayed but active Minnesota response to the horrible Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during a year beginning in Spring 1915.

Here are some maps relating to the Armenian Genocide from the Genocide Museum in Armenia.

(click to enlarge)

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Ms Matossian’s talk emphasized the relationship of the Armenians to Minnesota and the Congregational Church in particular. You can read, here, the results of extensive research she did of Minnesota newspaper coverage of the Genocide in 1915.

I didn’t know, till Ms Matossian’s talk, of the historical Christian and Minnesota connection with Armenia.

I’ve long been aware of the genocide, but it is like numerous issues: I didn’t give it close attention…Wednesday it came to life.

When I left the gathering, I found myself thinking not only about the Armenian Genocide but other atrocities, including America’s own shameful record with people we in the olden days generically termed as “Indians”: a successful genocide at least from the standpoint of we beneficiaries, the descendants of the ancestors who got the land and won all the rights and privileges, guilt free.

Back home after the session I took out a 1912 public school geography textbook I had found on my ancestral farm in south central North Dakota. Was there anything about Armenia?

You can see parts of two maps from that book, above and below, which say a great deal. No question that there was a place called Armenia, more a question about its status, then, as a distinct state.

The wikipedia entry about Armenia gave further help. From the article: “Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In between the late 3rd century to early years of the 4th century, the state became the first Christian nation. The official date of state adoption of Christianity is 301 AD”.

A good general reference about the Armenian Genocide may be this one

The website of the St. Sahag Armenian Ch. in St. Paul gives some basics of the genocide.

*

April 14, 2016, I attended a second most enlightening talk about the Armenian genocide, by Prof. Peter Balakian of Colgate University. (Subsequent to the session, I learned that Balakian won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize.)

The photo which leads this post, of Armenian Churches existing, later destroyed, at the time of the genocide is from Balakian’s presentation.

Some comments which supplement Dr. Matossian’s:

Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in Totally Unofficial defined the word genocide based on what happened in Christian Armenia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Hitler used societies tendency to historical amnesia about the Armenian genocide to at least partially justify what he felt was the political low risk of eliminating the Jews: “after all, who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians.”

Balakian divided genocide into two general categories: “Barbarism” is the killing of people; “Vandalism” is the destruction of an entire culture, things like differing religious beliefs, churches, art and the like.

He further differentiated between destruction of cultures in the times of territorial expansion, more or less before 1900, and what he called the “modern modality”. I could see his point; however, indiscriminate destruction of some “other” is destruction nonetheless, regardless of rationale.

I found myself thinking about the possibility that the internet in particular has created a new, equally evil, post-modern modality. In this modern day, we don’t kill people physically, we assassinate them, particularly leaders at times of elections, such as the period we are now in. This is an enhanced form of “cyber-bullying”. “Truth” in this post-modern modality is completely irrelevant. The target lives, physically, but is nonetheless the motive is to destroy the target.

I had come into Prof. Balakian’s session early, and even preceding me, in the back row, were seated two women who very much fit the appearance of Muslims. They sat there quietly. The room filled, and I heard one man, in some apparent official capacity, come past me right before the event started and say: “I think I see trouble in the back row”. (It is hardly a risk to infer that he was referring to the women I reference.)

When I left, the two women were still there. There had been no incidents of any kind. But I did notice.

There exists, I think, a great opportunity for dialogue. I wish those two women, and that man, and others, could come together, just to talk.

*

Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for genocide in the hands of evil. Rwanda and Darfur are but two examples in recent history. But we need look no further than some of the present political rhetoric of U.S. Presidential politics where deliberate ginning up of hatred for others who are somehow different is effective. We have to be constantly vigilant and outspoken within our own circles in American society. The spectre of evil is always there.

The essential conversation continues: for more about Armenian Genocide, see April 14th program announcement here, the website of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

*

How bad was the Armenian Genocide?

I always try to put events in some sort of context, to try to better understand what led to/results from such events.

Of course, a post like this hardly is a pin-prick on a piece of paper about our awful history as supposedly civilized people.

“Our”, here, largely means those descended from European colonizers.

See this data set about the bitter fruits of people against people, generally, in the last 150 years.

The 150 years between 1860 and 2010 seem to be the deadliest era in human caused death and destruction from war. The Armenian genocide comes at about mid-point in this deadly era. It is one of many tragedies.

In the case of Armenia and the Ottoman Turks, the ancient and deadly Christian Crusades to control the Holy Land may well serve as a prelude – I’ve heard it argued that the Crusades essentially “birthed” the Ottoman Turks*.

The arbitrary carving up of the Middle East as spoils to the European victors in WWI is a postlude, which very significantly contributes to the chaos in the Middle East up to the present day (ISIS and the now global “war on terror”).

Scroll down in the above referenced data set to the “1.5” in the left hand column. You’ll find reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenian deaths between 1915 and 1923, the “First Genocide of the 20th Century committed by the Ottoman Government on Armenian Civilians.” Scroll down a bit further, to .75 (750,000) Greek deaths in the same time period for the same reason, and .275 (275,000) Assyrian deaths in Mesopotamia (now the general area of Iraq and Syria – places like Mosul, now ISIS territory.)

And there is more perspective in the chart: scroll up to the second entry in Genocides, and there is the estimate of 55 million deaths of native people in the Americas due to conquest and colonization between 1492 and 1691. As is noted there, there are wildly disparate estimates of the actual death toll then, 8.4 to 138 million, the actual number “which might actually never be determined”.

This genocide came at the hands of my people, white Europeans, in all the assorted ways we have heard from one time to another, the history slanted towards the winners, of course.

*

About 35 miles from that south central ND farm in which I found the old geography book with the maps shown here, is the Whitestone Hill Battlefield at which a large number of peaceful Indians on their annual buffalo hunt were massacred by American military in 1863. Twenty soldiers died; it is impossible to find a definitive number from among the several thousand Indians who were there*. The official story is vague.

I have visited that site often (two photos above and below), and today, as always since the early 1900s, the visible monument there is to the soldiers who died, with scarce evidence of a much later, very simple unadorned stone monument to the Indians who were on their annual buffalo hunt, killed in the deadly skirmish.

I mention this fact as Ms Matossian noted that today there are no apparent monuments in Turkey to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey, in 1862 officially called for either moving out or exterminating the Sioux Indians from Minnesota – a statement repudiated by Ramsey’s successor, Gov. Mark Dayton, in 2013. It is common to dehumanize the adversary. In such situations, this scenario is common.

One of my first Minnesota relatives, Samuel Collette, was part of Henry Hastings Sibley’s Minnesota unit in the 1863 war, reaching what was to become Bismarck ND in August 1863, “mission accomplished”. Their unit wasn’t at Whitestone Hill but that was only an accident of history. Nebraska and Iowa were at Whitestone.

*

If I am correct, that 1860-2010 was a particularly gruesome “round” of people destroying other people; can I hope that the next 150 years, from 2010-2160, can be, truly, a time of awakening that we are all family, together, on an ever more fragile earth.

We all need each other.

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

* – The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. There is plenty of blame to go around. A winner in one round becomes the loser in another, and on we go.

** – A well researched article about the battle from the North Dakota Historical Society is “The Battle of Whitestone Hill“, by Clair Jacobson, North Dakota History Journal of the Northern Plains, Vol 44, No. 3 Summer, 1977.

COMMENTS:
from Larry:
Thanks, Dick – excellent, informative article. I particularly saved this line: The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. That is SO true!

from David: Nice piece. There are so many important events in history that we have, at best, a dim memory of hearing about them.

from Flo: I remember praying rosaries for the starving Armenians, and being reminded of their plight when we fussed over the food served us at home [1950s]. I don’t remember any conversations about just who the Armenians were or why they needed our prayers. Do you?

from Bill: Great article, Dick. There was a secretary at 3M that was the daughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide. The world has never been able to get the Turks to acknowledge their role in this genocide.The USA has stopped doing so since we depend on our military bases in Turkey. I did read once that the Turks hated the Armenians for siding with Russia when Russia was attacking Turkey some years before World War I.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED.
I enjoy international topics, and often write my own impressions on international happenings.
Jan. 1, 2015, I posted a blog about the 70th anniversary of the United Nations here.. Much to my surprise, by the end of 2015 I had posted 55 commentaries about international issues. They are all linked at the post.

International related posts at this space since Jan. 1, 2016:
1. Jan. 22, 2016: Global Climate Issue
2. Feb. 14, 2016: Lynn Elling, Warrior for Peace
3. Feb. 29, 2016: The 3rd (12th) anniversary of the Haiti coup, Feb. 29, 2004.
4. Mar. 4, 2016: Green Card Voices
5. Mar. 6, 2016: Welcoming Refugees
6. Mar. 12, 2016: Canada PM Justin Trudeau visits the White House
7. Mar. 20, 2016. The 13th anniversary of the Iraq War.
8. Mar. 22, 2016 The Two Wolves…President Obama Visits Cuba
9. Mar. 23, 2016 The Two Wolves, Deux. Brussels