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Five Citizens Reflect on the Vietnam War

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Your comments are invited for a follow-up post: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. Please include your permission to include in a post.

Following are some thoughts about Vietnam, prior to the beginning of the 17 hour film series on PBS, Sep. 17, 2017 7 and 8:30 p.m. CDT. Here’s the schedule of programs following Sep. 17 (see pages 21 & 25): PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

(click to enlarge all photos)

photo copy of Padre Johnson sketch from 1968, used with permission of the artist.

Re the sketch, above: I’m proud to count the artist as a friend, Padre Johnson. He was a field medic in the Mekong Delta in 1968, among other vocations in life. He sketched the incident, and describes it here: Padre J Viet Combat003.

Padre is one of many Vietnam vets, including conscientious objectors and protestors, I have come to know either in person, or through others. There are many “truths”, and perhaps the best we can do is to acknowledge differences, while working to learn from the past.

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from Jim, Sep 10: Fifty years ago my brother was in Vietnam. During the spring and summer of 1967 he saved lives, both American and Vietnamese. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and had tremendous empathy for the people even the so called enemy soldiers. He was soft spoken, kind and generous and very much a hero. He was honored this year in Washington on June 17th. I included a short summary on the Minnesota History Center’s Vietnam Story Wall: here.

As I said in my writing, I grieve for his loss every single day.

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from Norm, Sep 10: I am looking forward to watching the series as I am sure are many, many other veterans who served in SEA during that war let alone many others as well.

Burns has always done a great job with his previous efforts and I expect that this one will be done well also.

There was a series (TPT) on the VNW [Vietnam War] several years ago that I thought was very good as it included perspectives, experiences, reflections and remembrances from people fighting on both sides and in between, i.e. the Montagnards, the Bru, the Sioux and the Hmong, the latter working with the CIA in the “secret war” in Laos.

The feelings about the VNW were still kind of raw at that time so I was aware of many folks including several veterans that were not comfortable with the series as it included comments and perspectives from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, including general Giap. In addition, it showed some of the destruction caused by the B-52’s when they “went north” over Hanoi and Haiphong in the early 70’s coming from Andersen AFB(Guam), Kadena AFB (Okinawa) and Utapao (Thailand) where I had been stationed with the BUFF’s(Big Ugly Flying F…….s)in the late 60’s.

The B-52’s had been involved in the Arc Light operations for many years bombing sites in that theater before going north and encountering SAM missiles in or near North Viet Nam. The BUFFs took heavy unsustainable losses early in the effort to go North as a result of the SAM [Surface to Air Missile] missile defenses around Hanoi and Haiphong as they would initially come in on predictable routes over those two cities.

Several of the crews became residents of the Hanoi Hilton albeit for relative short times compared to Alvarez (seven years) and McCain (five years) as the truce was signed not long after the bombing of the north began and the prisoner exchange began.

Some of the crews who survived being shot down in their B-52’s were rescued by the Jolly Greens (helicopters) and the crews of medics. Several BUFF crewman did not survive either hits on the aircrafts by the SAMs, the subsequent crash and/or their injuries from received from one or the other or both.

One of the BUFFs from Utapao was hit by a SAM when over the north and limped back to its home base before crashing just outside its perimeter as it made its final approach to the runway.

I am definitely looking forward to watching this important series.

I am sure that Burns will feature the unrest within our country related to the VNW as well which is of less interest to me as that has been so well and so often documented so many times already.

I am primarily interested in learning about what other veterans were doing in that theater at the same time that I was there, it, 1967-68 as well as when my brother was there as a helicopter pilot in the early 70-‘s working with the “little people.”

I really don’t care about the impact of the war on the domestic side of the equation for various personal reasons.

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from Larry, Sep 11: My “perspective” on War in Vietnam, with direct link to my story on the “wall”, here. And Aug 31 a radio interview at KFAI.org (here).

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from Susan, Sep 11: My husband, Tom Lucas, served four years in Vietnam. He worked in Supply, so wasn’t in the trenches. But he flew in helicopters from time to time and experienced ammunition fire.

Tom loved the children and visited orphanages often. He knew that often children were sent into areas with bombs attached to their bodies. (You probably know all about that.)

I’m sure he knew of other atrocities but never once mentioned any.

In the 37 years we were married he rarely spoke about his time there, and I never once asked him about it. I knew it was too painful for him to discuss it. Once in a great while he would be in contact with someone who also spent time in Nam and did engage in some conversation with that person. But I was not present. Tom had two photo albums he showed.

He left them laying in the living room after their meeting, and he didn’t care if I looked at them. Shortly after our first child was born I received a call from the government asking about Tom’s possible contact with Agent Orange and whether or not our child suffered any disability. Tom was not in the jungles so wasn’t in contact with Agent Orange.

That’s about all I can remember. He did receive a couple of Commendation letters, but right now I cannot recall what they were for. I know you will sum up the whole Viet Nam experience so I’ll let you add the descriptions of that war. Tom died one day short of his 62nd birthday. He planned to retire at 62. He will be gone 9 years the end of October.

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Dick Bernard, Sep 12: I am a Vietnam era Army veteran, which means I was in the service after Feb. 28, 1961. Truth be told, at the time I entered the Army, Jan. 11, 1962, I had no idea of the future significance of that time in history. A vivid memory from early in my Infantry days is of a long time Platoon Sergeant hoping to get assignment to Vietnam duty because he’d heard Saigon was good duty.

Draft Card. I must have lost the original.

I had volunteered for the Draft. At that time, we were required to register for the Draft and carry Draft cards. There was no patriotic impulse: it was something I thought I’d have to do anyway, and may as well get it out of the way. I had just graduated from college. I could have qualified for Officer Candidate School, but declined as it would have required me to extend the two year tour. I had no thoughts of conscientious objection, or alternative service. My family history has many military veterans.

My service time began at Ft. Carson, Colorado (Colorado Springs area), mid-January, 1962. My memory is that the night before we boarded a bus from Fargo ND to Ft. Carson, my roommate and I went to a movie down the street, Bridge On the River Kwai.

Ft. Carson, then, was primarily a Basic Training base for the Army. Midway through Basic Training the announcement came that an Infantry Division was being re-activated at Ft. Carson, and after we completed basic training we were virtually all transferred into this new 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). I ended up in Company C, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry of the 1st Brigade (if memory serves) of the 5th Infantry (Mechanized). I became Company Clerk. My recollection is that there were perhaps 140 or so of us in the Company, which shared a block with Companies A and B, and a headquarters Company.

Our routine was no different than anyone else preparing for combat.

Some years ago I contributed some pictures to a website which still exists, here.

Ft. Carson CO. Best I recall, Co C was at the NE corner of the 4th full block up. This photo is from the south and dates from 1962 or so. The church we attended (all denominations) was at the very end of the base.

Succinctly, we were, at that time, a peacetime unit being prepared for war. But if there was talk about a coming war in Vietnam, I don’t recall it.

I left the Army at the end of my tour, just before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

Co. C continued, and ended up in Vietnam beginning in 1968. By this time, I was back home, with a “row to hoe” – working to raise an infant. My first wife had died in 1965, and our son was 1 1/2. I saw the war develop on the news, but that was all. I had no connection to protests, for no particular reason other than home duties.

In 1967 and 1970 my two brothers entered the Air Force as officers, and the war became much more personal to me.

About the same time, Company C became heavily engaged in combat in Vietnam, though I didn’t know that till years later.

The war ended in April, 1975, thence out of sight out of mind. In mid-November, 1982, I happened to be in Washington D.C. for meetings, and while waiting for my flight out of Washington National learned that the Vietnam Memorial was being dedicated that very weekend. I went there. It was a very powerful and emotional experience. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

It was not until last week, when I revisited the unit website, that I learned that my Company C, that small group of about 140 men for whom I had done the Morning Reports for nearly two years had, in four years between 1968 and 1971, lost 37 men in Vietnam; in all the casualties of the Battalion which had earlier shared my block at Ft. Carson totaled 145. War was, indeed, hell. I just happened to get lucky.

May my comrades rest in peace, and may we intensify our efforts for peace.

POSTNOTE: I am always conscious of people who I know are veterans, particularly so at this moment in time – that is a benefit of this 17 hour film by Ken Burns.

Yesterday I was at my barber, a retired guy who works out of his home. I’m a long time customer and we’re good friends. He’s a combat Marine vet from Vietnam – assigned as tunnel rat, at times. His brother, another Marine, was killed at 18 in Vietnam about 1968. His name is on the Wall in Washington, and here on the Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Last Thursday at the preview of the film at the PBS station, my brother, John, was with us. He was an Air Force officer, a navigator on C-141 and other transport planes, for a year or more detailed on flights into Vietnam in the early 1970s, at least once drawing heavy ground fire.

The stories go on and on. I had a chance to say my piece on film at the preview, and I said that while I didn’t think war would ever end, we certainly can do a great deal to keep it to a minimum. There are no “winners” in war, only losers. We all lose.

I stay a committed member of Veterans for Peace. I am also a long-time member of the American Legion. VFP is my personal preference. There is no perfect organization, but such groups are important.

9-11-01: An Important and Refreshing Perspective 16 years after 9-11

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune carries an opinion column which I found to be refreshing, and I offer it here without additional comment>

The below photos (click to enlarge) are snapshots I took in late June, 1972, on my first and only visit to New York City. Only one of the Towers had opened at that time.

The article here (Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001 is the single newspaper article I have kept all these years. I was in the 6% minority….

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

Twin Towers nearing completion late June, 1972 (see construction equipment on top of one of the towers)

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

PRE-NOTE: Yesterdays post now includes details about Ken Burns 17-hour, 10 day film about The Vietnam War. You can check the schedule and get other information here.

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The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg University, Minneapolis, convenes this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16. All details are here.

The Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg began in 1989 and has a long history of excellence; it is the only international adjunct of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which has administered and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its beginning in 1904.

The other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden. It has never been clear why Alfred Nobel, whose fortune funded the prizes, reserved the Peace Prize for award by Norway.

John Rash wrote an interesting commentary about this years Peace Prize Forum in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune. You can read it here.

I have been actively engaged with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum for quite a number of years. I have never been disappointed. There is a great deal to be learned, both from the sessions themselves, and the other participants. Check it out.

POSTNOTE: For those with an interest, Dr. Maureen Reed, for several years Executive Director of the Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg, will be teaching a four session series, “Of Courage and Controversy: Women and the Nobel Peace Prize“, at the University of Minnesota Oct 3 – Dec 5, 2017. All details, including enrollment information, are accessible here.

Ken Burns “The Vietnam War” film series on PBS September 17-28 ; plus other notes

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

We saw the one-hour Preview of Ken Burns Vietnam Thursday night, September 7.

Twenty four hours later, I attended a rather remarkable event at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where a distinguished speaker, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a distinguished responder panel talked about “The Past as Prologue: the Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”. In between was eight hours on the road, yesterday, with my brother. Suffice: it was a rich and exhausting 24 hours or so.

And, of course, devastating Hurricanes continue ‘front and center’ on news pages.

1. Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War screens on your local Public Broadcasting Channel, beginning Sunday evening September 17. There will be ten nights of programs, with the final segment on September 28.

I have always had feelings about this topic, as I’m an early Vietnam era Army veteran (1962-63, stateside), and my two air Force brothers served in southeast Asia war during the late 60s and early 70s.

I will write specifically about Vietnam War from my perspective in a few days. (In Vietnam, the conflict is called “The American War”). Whatever its name, the conflict covered a thirty year period, beginning 1945, and ending April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon. “There is no single truth in war” is an apt introduction, in my opinion.

I urge everyone, particularly high school age and young adults, to view and discuss this entire series. Our moderator on Thursday said he was six months old when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. He’s 42 now…. Vietnam began over 50 years ago. Burns Vietnam is no abstract war film. It shows the reality of the times; the reality of war.

(click to enlarge)

Here is the PBS magazine, at least the pages which talk about the programming upcoming: PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

Here is the schedule of the ten episodes (each program is shown twice on its evening):
Sun. Sep 17: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 18: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Tue. Sep 19: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 20: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 21: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Sun. Sep 24: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 25: 7 and 9 p.m.
Tue. Sep 26: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 27: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 28: 7 and 9 p.m.

2. 500 Year Anniversary of the Reformation. “The Past as Prologue. The Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”

Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN Sep. 8, 2017

In my growing up, as Catholic, I could not have conceived of a gathering such as I attended on Friday night at Basilica of St. Mary, the co-Cathedral of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

There were over 70 in attendance, including as speaker the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, and the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Bernard Hebda. Here is the program for the evening: Past as Prologue001

Everyone has their own opinion about religion, relationships between churches over the centuries, and the often less than benign role of religion in war itself, including today. Christianity in substantive ways has been at war within itself.

As noted, twenty-four hours earlier I had been to the preview of Ken Burns “The Vietnam War”. As noted in the above photo, the complexity of the debate about “Truth” in War was stated, and even within the audiences on Thursday and Friday there was likely a long-learned sense of conflict about “who is right”.

How can there be different “truths” about War? Or Christianity and religion generally? Well, there are differences. And pretending there is only a single valid “truth” is not productive, in my opinion.

The Reformation raises the same intense question about “Truth”. For 500 years within Christianity itself, there have been differing interpretations of Truth, often intensely expressed.

I thought the evening to be very stiumulating, and I plan to attend some of the ongoing events, which can be reviewed here: Reformation001

3. The March of the Hurricanes: About two weeks ago I used this space to follow the story of my nephew Sean and family in Houston.

It seems like ancient history, and the recovery is still at its earliest stages in Texas. This becomes a lonely time, when it seems no one is interested in the plight. Harvey is old news, shoved off the news by Irma about to reach Florida, or other crises du jour. And there are new hurricanes in the wings, and, I suppose, Typhoons in the Pacific area. Very soon Florida will be old news.

The immensity of the tragedies is beyond simplification.

On Thursday, the tiny island of Barbuda, a place I had never heard of, was basically destroyed, and its entire population evacuated to nearby Antigua. Barbuda’s website remains frozen in what it was before the hurricane destroyed the tiny country.

Friday, I picked up my brother at his hotel near the Mall of America, and he said that he had been chatting with a couple from Ft. Lauderdale Florida area who, when the prospects of hurricane hitting Florida crossed their screens, called the airport, made reservations for the next plane available. It turned out to be Minneapolis and so they came here for a vacation. At the time, Florida was anticipating the possibility of Category 5 Irma and the Atlantic coastal side. Apparently they could afford the potential disruption at home.

I don’t know if their property will be damaged by the storm, but I was struck by the contrast between the people of Barbuda, traveling in an open tow boat to some refuge on Antigua, and the couple who could take a vacation far ahead from the troubles back home in Florida.

All is so very complicated, and made to sound so simple.

Keep everyone in your prayers and do what you can to support the recovery efforts wherever they are.

Dick Bernard – A look at immigration, past….

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

POSTNOTE: Flo offered this comment on Sep 6: “Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.” My position, too, though it’s mighty hard to understand an opposing position when it conflicts with so much of what I understand to be the truth!”.

Dick: In a way, this mornings Just Above Sunset addresses the the quandary: “The Power to Hurt Others”. And Neal Gabler offers an excellent commentary which relates: “The Conversation We Should Be Having”

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There is a long list of self-imposed crises for Congress to deal with in Washington this month. The most recent is yesterdays bizarre action about the Dream Act (DACA). Atty General Sessions being designated to publicly announce Donald Trumps decision, rather than the President saying so himself, says a great deal about this President-Who-Loves-Publicity.

You can read a more lengthy summary about the pending demise of DACA, etc here.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. We all are rooted elsewhere. One of my grandfathers (Bernard) was an immigrant; four of my eight great-grandparents (Blondeau, Collette, Busch, Berning) immigrated to the U.S. Four of these five were men; the fifth a young girl.

Then there are the great-great grandparents…. We each have our own stories.

Even Native Americans, if one goes back far enough, immigrated to what is now the U.S. They had a very long head start on the rest of us.

Collectively, we have plenty of low marks in our history, subjugation and virtual annihilation of Native Americans, and Slavery for our early history two primary ones. But generally, as a nation, we have tried to improve over time, to learn from our mistakes. We are better than we were.

What is happening now is backsliding, an outrage.

Where is the welcome mat today? Congress has avoided dealing positively with immigration reform for years. What chance is there that the next few months will be any different? Who knows what is in Trumps mind? It’s up to each of us to make that difference. We each have to be that “member of Congress”, rather than somebody else.

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Yesterday’s announcement caused me to dust off a family history I compiled several years ago, including interesting detail about my great-grandmother Clotilde (Blondeau) Collette’s early history in Minnesota, including the citizenship paper for her father, Simon (name recorded there as Blondo – not an uncommon error). (Much of these pages are with deep thanks to cousin John Garney, and friend Jean-Marc Charron.)

(click to enlarge)

Blondeau, misspelled. This was very common in documents, for varied, reasons, including, very often, illiteracy (Simon was illiterate).

There are eleven pages, here: Blondeau 1850s U.S.001.

Succinctly, Blondeaus arrived in the U.S. somewhere in the early 1850s, in the Minnesota Territory no more than a couple of years later. (Minnesota became a state in 1858. Ellis Island opened in 1892.)

In 1868, in St. Anthony (now Minneapolis), Clotilde married another immigrant, Octave Collette. Here is a tintype taken somewhere around the time of their marriage. These are two of my great grandparents

(click to enlarge)

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1868

WHAT TO DO? JUST AN OBSERVATION, ROOTED IN MANY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:

These polarized days, when I hear people talking about issues, they’re talking to/with people who agree with them. Their position, of course, is not only correct, but it is the only position articulated; except that the other side is wrong, without need for rationale.

For 27 years I worked in an arena where arguments, regardless of how petty, started with both sides certain that they were right. Of course, two opposites can’t be correct.

The effort was to find resolution, not winning.

Consider the possibility: when you make a mental note of all the reasons your position is “right”, spend an equal amount of time consider the opposing position.

Attorneys, whose business is “winning” and “losing” are well advised to know the oppositions “side” as well, or even better, than their own.

Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.

Beginning a New School Year…and a “Sha Na Na”….

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Thursday I dropped off a small gift for my daughter, Principal of a Middle School in the school district I live in. It was a 2017-18 computer produced calendar from the always popular Education Minnesota booth at the Minnesota State Fair. “Happy New Year” I said. Teacher workshop week was about over, and school begins (in almost all Minnesota school districts) the day after Labor Day. Here’s the Education Minnesota “welcome back” ad for 2017. Here’s more.

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Education Minnesota booth at Minnesota State Fair. Corey Bulman, 2017 Teacher of the Year, was guest in the booth.

(Best as I recall, the photo calendar idea began as an expensive experiment in about 1990, which was the first year digital imaging connected to computer became commercially available (see history of digital imaging here). Back then, the organization was named Minnesota Education Association. It was, as stated, an expensive experiment, but as best I know every year since the photo calendars have become very popular, a tradition for many, and, I suppose, less expensive, too. It is a great connection of educators with the community.)

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In one way or another over 50 million students are beginning their public school year (in Minnesota, this happens tomorrow). Here’s another view of the same data. Another 5 million or more public school employees (teachers, administrators, secretaries, cooks, bus drivers….) enter school with them. In all, that’s about one of five Americans.

All, beginning with school bus drivers, will have (or already have had) the annual nervous night before the first day of school as they arrive at their assigned places of work. Remember your own first days of the school year: new everything, starting a new year.

Of course, many other students attend parochial, or charter, or home school…but by far the largest, always, is the public school whose charter is to serve everyone, never a simple task.

Daughter Joni (referred to in first paragraph) is beginning her 14th year as a school administrator. Time flies. One of her major tasks, in addition to being Principal, is to supervise the completion of a new Middle School, which will replace her 1951 building in 2018. She’s equal to the task.

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I’m biased towards public education. Both parents were career public school teachers. Six Aunts and Uncles were public school teachers, most for a career…. I was involved in public education for 36 years – junior high teacher (9 years) and full-time teacher union representative (27). As mentioned, one daughter is, and has been for many years, a public school teacher or administrator. Nine grandkids are veterans of public schools. Another daughter was a school board member, very active in her local public schools.

Such a huge institution as “public education” is easy to criticize. All you need is a spotlight and a single someone on which to focus criticism, and a microphone to publicize it. With over 50,000,000 potential targets, there is someone there who will be in the negative spotlight.

But look at the totality before embracing the criticism….

Public education is a noble institution whose mission is to take all, and do the best they can given scarce resources: often too large class sizes, infinite varieties of individual differences and dilemmas, from family crises, to differing abilities, and even personality conflicts between human beings (teachers and students and other school employees are human beings too, after all).

Welcome back. Our country is a richer place because of public education.

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As noted, I have been very fortunate to be associated with public education my entire life.

A down side of this, as one ages, is to be witness at endings. Within the last month, I attended three memorials of public school teachers I knew, each unique persons. About seven people I knew were at the most recent reunion of the junior high school at which I taught in the 1960s and early 70s. The most recent death, Jim Peterson, former Fridley teacher, was the teacher I knew the least. His wife preceded him in death by a year, and he was felled quickly by a disease lurking inside him, so he didn’t have much time to say goodbyes.

I wrote the family afterwards that I had been to many memorials, but Jim’s, which he planned himself, was the most memorable, in all sorts of ways which don’t need to be described, except for the final song at the time we processed out of the sanctuary for the church ladies lunch.

The singer, who said she knew Jim as a neighbor and almost like a Dad, said he’d given her two songs to sing at dismissal.

The one I’ll always remember was the last, a delightful rendition of the “Sha na na” song. Not familiar with Sha Na Na? Here’s the YouTube version sung by the composer of the song back in 1969, and here’s the wiki story about Sha na na.

Imagine yourself walking out of church after a memorial service with this send off!

Do you know a teacher or a school employee or a student or one who has been? Wish them well, as this New Year begins.

POSTNOTE: My message to public schools, from “outside the walls”, remains on-line as it has been for many years. Read the message at Rethinking Community here.

#1290 – Dick Bernard: “Judge not….”

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

POSTNOTE Sep 7: Kathy recommends this article by Neal Gabler, “The Conversation We Should Be Having”.

Today’s newsletter at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis had this headline:

(click to enlarge)

After Mass, I told the writer I considered the column a “home run”. You can read it here, and come to your own conclusions: Judge Not001.

And while I’m on the topic, beginning this Friday, September 8, there will be a several part series entitled “From Conflict to Communion”, surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation: 1517-2017.

The details are here: Reformation001

Reservations are requested for the first program. The program will open with a welcome from Abp. Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

In peace.

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


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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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

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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.