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Our National Insanity

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Published as the students from Marjory Stoneman Johnson are speaking in Tallahassee FL.

Previous related posts: Feb. 14, Feb 15, Feb. 17 (two posts)

Today is one week out from the massacre at Parkland, Florida.

In the last 48 hours came two items that especially drew my attention. There are many, many more such items, granted, but I’d recommend these two:

1. The Washington Post (WaPo), on Monday morning, simply listed the names of those killed in mass shootings in the United States since Columbine, April 20, 1999. I hope you read it, here.

But only one week after the carnage in Parkland, FL, on Valentine’s Day, we seem generally back to our “normal”: A kind of national insanity, hopelessness. Outrage replaced by resignation…except for a few very brave souls.

2. Then there’s the plague of misinformation: Newsweek Online, scroll down to the article “The social media psy op that took down Al Franken“. These days it is hard work to decide what to believe. Is everything “fake news”. No longer is it a foolish question. Can I even trust “Newsweek”?

Newsweek. I subscribed to Newsweek for many years, at minimum through 2004 (I have hard evidence of such here in my home office). But Newsweek the magazine no longer even exists. Thankfully there’s a wiki article about Newsweeks changes in recent years.

WaPo, too, has gone through major changes in ownership. Washington Post is a part of the Amazon empire.

Then there are local entities, like the Minneapolis Star Tribune, to which we have long subscribed, but which I rarely read these days. It is a shell of its former self, and the most recent years ownership reflects a different ideological slant from years ago, when I was first subscribing.

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And how about your social media choices? As we are learning through the Russia indictments (and the Franken gambit, above referenced), social media is a major problem. We are living in the “wild west”, open to being duped. No one can blame anyone else for their personal gullibility. We need to be our own gatekeepers, when responsible gatekeepers are few and far between.

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How to be an “informed citizen”?

It is one thing for a “tweet” to reflect the tweeters own “truth”, which may or may not have a shred of truth within. A tweet is a headline with no content, no substance. Gullible consumers can take that tweet, etc., and create their own fantasy reality.

As a society, today we are in very, very dangerous territory. We are susceptible to addiction to deliberately false misinformation.

Informed and engaged are ever more essential. Like most everyone, it is easy for me to become almost paralyzed by the blizzard of information (and, especially) mis-information swirling around. There is no more important task, now, than to stay on the court.

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I come from an era where there was a reasonably safe presumption that your “mainstream” print media gave a reasonably decent shot at “fair and balanced”, or at least was basically truthful (in the religious sense – lying was once a big deal).

I recall touring Harry and Bess Truman home in Independence MO with my Dad, in 1983. The guide pointed out the kitchen table where Harry read – if I recall correctly – 5 newspapers every day, including the local Independence publication.

There was a television in the living room. Harry died in 1972, Bess in 1982, and the best guess is that neither spent much time in front of the tube whose programming was, then, very unsophisticated compared with today.

(If you’re in the Twin Cities make it a point to see “1968” at the Minnesota History Center. It will give you a window into communication and events of that watershed year in our history as a nation. You have 11 months, still to see it. It is very worthwhile as a thought-provoking place.)

I didn’t see television until my junior year in high school, 1956, and then it was a single channel with awful reception on only during the daytime and early evening.

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As for today, watch very carefully your own choice of “news” tomorrow. I don’t care your ideology. Watch it carefully. If you’re one of those who still get newspapers, note what you read. Note what it includes, and by extension what it excludes.

If your major source of news is other media, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or similar, notice what you choose to open. What do you know about the source of that news, if anything? What do your choices say about you?

Not all of you are on Facebook. Daughter Joni’s post on Thursday (here) has received a lot of attention. Yesterday, came another Facebook post from Joni, referencing something which had moved and inspired me many years ago.

Double click to enlarge the screen shot. Here’s the pdf: Joni on Risk003

As best I can discover, this inspirational saying is attributed to William Arthur Ward.

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Always informative: Just Above Sunset for today: “On Being Oblivious to Humiliation“. Consider subscribing. The price is right: free.

POSTNOTE: As I’ve previously noted (Feb. 15), I was more than a far-away spectator of Columbine High School, April 20, 1999. Little did we know, then, the future. Yes, there were outrages before: the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City by white anti-government types April 19, 1995, comes immediately to mind.

Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Johnson HS has much more potential for long term action than the earlier Columbine. For one thing, communication means are now universal. Columbine was before iPhones (2007); as well as the other technologies previously mentioned (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter).

Columbine could reasonably be viewed as an aberration at the time. No longer.

I applaud the kids who are getting in action. And everyone else who has the courage to speak out.

(2) “Editors Update” notes” for February 17:

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Once again the ‘gremlin’ said ‘no’ to some important updates to the previous post, dated also today (see updates below). This is the fourth post in this “thread”: Feb. 14, 15 and earlier today. When I contemplated the Valentine’s Day post, and the Ash Wednesday connection with it, I could not have conceived of what has happened since then. The temptation is paralysis. But this is a time for action, not passivity. And we all need to work as individuals and together for positive change.

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UPDATES to earlier Feb. 17 post
See also February 15 post, “Guns, again” here; and “#MeToo” for Feb. 14 here.

This time of year, in 2001, we heard about a public preview of a new movie, Bowling for Columbine, at a large Presbyterian church in St. Paul. We stood in line, got seats, film producer Michael Moore was there, and talked about the film. The place was packed; they did a second showing that night. The film was released in 2002. Of course, the film garnered controversy. It is worth seeing again, or for the first time.

A year ago, March, 2017, I once again walked up Cross Hill above Columbine High School. There is now a permanent memorial to those who died in 1999. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Denver Post after we returned home: Columbine – Denver Post. They considered publishing it (they contacted me) but to my knowledge it never appeared in the paper.

POSTNOTES:
If you missed the preview week of “The World Is My Country”, and now wish you’d seen it, here’s another opportunity, till February 21. Password: wbw2018 (lowercase)

Today’s Just Above Sunset, The Hammer Drops. The Mueller Indictments of the Russians. Here are the actual indictments as printed.

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SOME ASSORTED COMMENTS:

from Fred: Your daughter’s comments are telling. I hope they get broad circulation.

It is interesting to me, [my friend] Dave as well, that we taught in a “high crime” area in a large metro area for many years. We saw horrible crimes take the lives of our students: the February 1994 gang firebombing of a house across the street from our school that killed five children, including two of our students, and the murder, by their disturbed mother, of six children, again including two of our students, quickly come to mind. Shooting were not common but the a neighborhood grocery clerk, a block from school, was shot and killed in a robbery. Same goes for an SA clerk four blocks north of our building.

Crime was a fact of life at our school and something that we dealt with successfully as a faculty, neighborhood and student body. My use of the word “successfully” refers to the determination of all involved to keep the kids safe and productive while inside the school. We had security in the school—front door monitors, sign-ins, police on duty for night meeting, etc.—from the early ’90s on. Unwelcome outsiders caused problems but not often. Nevertheless, I remember an armed robbery in the parking lot and a few stolen cars from the lot (including mine) over the years.

But we never needed to consider what your daughter contemplates on a daily basis: a well-armed intruder bent on killing. I see columnist Max Boot, no liberal snowflake he, commenting about an American “suicide pact” with the NRA and the gun lobby. I fear that the pact is yet unbroken, but am hopeful that the growing outrage in the nation will finally coalesce and produce change.

from Jeff: Gov. Scott of Florida called for the FBI Director’s resignation because of a field office mistake (NYTimes Feb. 16), to which a letter writer responded: “Please do a full piece setting out all of Florida’s gun laws, especially those enacted under Rick Scott’s “leadership”. Eg. at 18 you can buy an AR-15 but not a hand gun; you can buy a gun without photo ID but you can’t vote with out it; you don’t need a license or permit to buy or sell a gun; you don’t have to register a gun; police can only act if there’s an immediate “mental health crises” at the time of interaction between the “suspect” and the police. Compare the list with the rules and requirements of dog ownership.”

from David: You would think that America valued it’s children, its future, more than anything. Not true. America has decided that children, whether they are in a Florida school or on the mean streets of Chicago, are merely collateral damage in the sacred fight to preserve “Second Amendment Rights.” Politicians have climbed into bed with the NRA ghouls and seem to be able to wash the blood off their hands with “thoughts and prayers.” The public seems to have become numb to whatever latest slaughter turns up on the nightly news. We mumble something to the effect that “someone” should do something but then change the channel and move on. Dead children at Sandy Hook? Dead children in Florida? Dead children on Plymouth Avenue? Someone should do something about this. Meanwhile, I’ve got the Olympics to watch.

from Fred: Well said. I think the general cultural temperature is rising these days thanks, in large part to our leader, AKA The Great Uniter. The center grows restless and sullen, the left angrier, and the right ever more defensive. Raft loads of bad news washes up on the shores of Fortress Maralago. The Emperor has no clothes and even some of his rabid followers are taking notice.

from Carol: Al Hoffman, a big GOP donor in Florida, has notified the Governor and other Rs in the state that he will not be writing any more donation checks until a ban on assault weapons is in place.

from Kathy: Hopefully the young people’s uprising will be big enough to get background checks and not more assault weapons into legislation. Our generation sure has not been able to get it done.

#MeToo. Time for honest conversations…lots of them.

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sometime before she began first grade in about 1913 my Aunt Lucina got a Valentine from a young friend, Stella, who lived on a farm a couple of miles down the road in Henrietta township North Dakota.

(click to enlarge illustrations)

Valentine

Her friends Mom helped make this card for her daughter. Most likely it was delivered in person by horse and buggy. A year or so earlier, rural telephone (“two longs and a short”) had entered the vocabulary of these country neighbors, but in those days the phone was “party line” for everybody, and not for casual use. Stella was apparently missing her young friend down the road, my Aunt Lucina.

Valentine’s Day has a very long history. You can read about it here; (do a quick scroll to “Modern Times” for the more contemporary history.

All of the following are Valentine cards from the Busch farm in ND, which I had borrowed from Uncle Vince and Aunt Edithe, and scanned years ago. They were in a box, and I wrote a bit about them a dozen years ago. My post says there were 19 Valentine’s in the box. I scanned the nine you see here.

The remaining illustrations in this post are all from that same box, that same scan, just waiting for the appropriate time to see the light of day, albeit on a computer screen in 2018.

Valentine

Valentine

Valentine

Valentine

Valentine 1911

Valentine 1913

Valentine 1913

Valentine

POSTNOTE, “#MeToo”:
The following are my scattered/random comments as we wade through the swamp of #MeToo. #MeToo is about relationships of one sort or another gone awry. It has overtaken most everything else in the national conversation the last few months, but if you think about it, the high profile #MeToo’s are very few and very rare.

What follows are some personal unpolished thoughts out loud, hopefully to encourage other thoughts out loud, but mostly to encourage people of different genders, ages, points of view, to discuss together, in person, the “#MeToo” issue. There will be squirming and defensiveness, but the conversations are worth having, far better than the insanity we’re going through today.

I have relevant experience with this, beyond simply being a human being.

As a teacher union staff person from 1972-2000, I and my colleagues had plenty of experience with the “sex” issues of those days: accusations similar to todays, most in the area of inappropriate contact between student and teacher; often front-page news. They were also rare, mostly men were accused (but not all), and mostly there was provable guilt to some degree (but not always). There came to be instant and severe punishment: almost automatic loss of the license to teach.

There was an over-reaction by society generally, and by the teacher community. Some saw individual incidents as opportunities to tar the entire teaching profession, particularly the Unions (including myself) whose duty was to represent our members. At the height, my own union adopted a “no touch” rule for members to avoid problems. It made sense at the time, but was also crazy (such as the female kindergarten teacher afraid to help tie a kindergarten boys shoes).

“Innocent until proven guilty” was not part of the conversation. I’d say it was impossible to get a fair trial that ended with exoneration, or rehabilitation. Once charged, you were presumed to be guilty.

How little we have learned EXCEPT that “sex” has become a very useful political tool….

Fast forward to today, very, very briefly: Full disclosure: two of my personal heroes, Al Franken and Garrison Keillor, have been felled by the recent rounds of #MeToo. Again, once accused, convicted. The “whole truth” unnecessary; all that matters, the result. If you like the outcome against one person, be aware, another person you like, including yourself, may be next on the chopping block.

For some reason I kept the Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 Minneapolis Star Tribune, whose top of the front page headline was: “Most believe Franken’s accusers“, with subhead “But nearly half of voters say senator shouldn’t have stepped down.” This was a month after the first allegation against Franken was made, for something which occurred before he ran for U.S. Senate, an accusation accompanied by a single photograph suggesting…. Then came some other allegations, “anonymous”. Then the “court” of public opinion:

(click twice for additional enlargement)

We may as well dispense with hearings or courts or privacy: just take a poll and publicize it…the sample will render the verdict. This is a dangerous way to do things.

I did watch 60 Minutes Sunday night, the “#MeToo” topic was one of the segments. I’m sure you can still watch the segment on-line. Now we move, righteously, to kill sexual harassment. It is a wonderful idea. So was prohibition, and the move to eliminate abortions, or to keep slavery, or get rid of illegals…the lists of schemes to prohibit go on and on and on.

To #MeToo as an issue: I read, and I talk to people of other genders with possibly differing points of view…. “Sex” is a part of every one of our beings. It has a very long history. In our country, there is a fascination with sex, as practiced by someone else.

The objective must be to make things better, rather than to attempt to make things perfect.

Then there is our national moral and legal arbiter Donald Trump. While there is much talk about the sanctity of “due process”, including from me, there is no level playing field when it comes to Trump. It is hard to imagine that he will ever be found guilty of anything. He is a proven serial liar – nothing he says can be taken at face value, even in writing, most certainly not in court, and sexual harassment is generally a very personal deal, rarely public, subject to interpretation. He needs only to deny…and countersue.

Lots of people who should know better, say what he allegedly did happened long ago…we should get over it. (There is something of that mantra about Judge Roy Moore, whose incidents happened, they say, “40 years ago”.)

Trumps reputation as a very rich man is that he is one who can afford to, and does, counter-sue almost at every opportunity. If you have power and lots of money, you can buy much better “due process” justice than if you are poor or less powerful or one of those teachers I used to represent.

With Trump, we have what we deserve, and we’re probably stuck with it. Make it a learning opportunity.

A NEW FAVORITE BIBLE STORY comes via an evangelical guy who attends an every Saturday Bible Study one table away from me at coffee. There seems to be an intended public witness by the half dozen men who usually attend, all nice guys, and knowledgable.

Anyway, a few Saturdays ago one gentleman – likely a PhD and a very decent man from all indications – was saying he’d been at something or other and the speaker talked about the first two commands in the Bible: “have sex and eat“. It got a good laugh from the assembled Christians….

Comments are welcome, but probably this forum is not the best – engage with others where you live.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And Ash Wednesday, too.
dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom

COMMENTS:
From Norm: Those old valentines brought back many memories of my grade school days when we used to exchange them I school. As I recall, there was usually a box set-up in our home room that had been decorated by our creative peers with a slot on its top for us to insert the valentines that we had brought in.

The box would later be opened on or close to Valentine’s Day and its contents distributed with all of the be my valentine messages on them.

I can even recall a few valentines that had a small red sucker attached to them as well.

Thanks for bringing back those special memories, Dick.

from Jeff: I think you make a good point, and one often pointed out, that if you are able, you can buy more due process if you can afford it.

I think the #metoo is a good thing, but while he said she said isn’t always right, sometimes it is (Aziz Ansari)

The World Is My Country

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

PRE-NOTE Jan. 27: I watched the on-line version a few hours ago. Note PS in this post if you experience any difficulty with your computer. The on-line film is perfect quality. (Do watch all the way through the credits, and complete the evaluation found there.) Free through Feb. 1. My e-mail: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

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It’s arrived! The free week on-line full length preview of “The World is my Country” begins Friday, January 26, through Thursday, February 1, 2018. To watch it go here, and sign in. Then enter your access code CGS2018.

You are welcome to share that special code with all your friends, on Facebook, Instagram or whatever. It can be played as many times as you want but only during the free week.

Not sure if you want to take the time to watch a movie? Then please take just 2 minutes to watch the short video about the standing ovation and excitement generated by the film when we showed it at the World Premiere at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International film festival: here

I have literally watched this film evolve over the past seven years since I learned of the project, and from the beginning I have been impressed with the rich and little known historical story the film tells, and its appeal to those from high school age to senior citizens. From the beginning I’ve been a volunteer champion for it. Give the film 84 minutes of your time this weekend. I think you’ll want to encourage others watch it as well between now and the end of the preview week February 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if you watch it a second time.

In my opinion, this is a film that is ideal to watch in a group setting, among people of varied ages and similar or differing points of view. It encourages reflection leading to rich, civil conversation. It is about past, present and future…and our role. It is not a “birds of a feather” presentation. Yes, it has a point of view, but open to differing interpretations, on serious contemporary local and global issues.

Yes, the film is “free”. But nothing is ever free – you know that. I’ve watched Arthur Kanegis, the director of the film, put over a decade of his life plus all his resources into making this film to save this important story from the dustbin of history. He’s making this preview available to you in the hopes that you’ll help sponsor it at more film festivals or hold your own mini-fest of films for a better world. Please consider making a voluntary donation to help pay for final licensing and related costs so that this film can play on public television stations and be publicly released. This is a film deserving to be seen now and for years to come. You are part of its future.

Here is a flier I put together which can be shared: The World Is My Country006

More information about this 84-minute film is here.

Comments/Questions? dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

Enjoy the show! (I’m quite certain you will.)

PS:
To show the film to your friends using your laptop and a projector or television:
1. Make sure your laptop has a strong WIFI signal to be able to stream the video without hesitating.
2. Connect your laptop to the TV or projector using an HDMI cable, description here.
(If you have an older laptop that lacks an HDMI port then ask a techie about other connection options)
3. Plug a good speaker into the headphone jack of your laptop or of the TV so you can have louder and clearer sound.
(you might have to use the “sound” control panel of your PC to choose if the sound goes right from the laptop or goes through the HDMI cable to the TV or projector.)
4. Enjoy! And invite everyone who watches to let the filmmakers know how they feel by filling out the survey here.

A long-ago Blizzard

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

This morning a blizzard began in our area. We knew exactly when it was coming, and pretty accurately what it would be. There’s not much unpredictable in the present day.

It wasn’t always that way.

I grew up with blizzards, the ferocious snow storms of the dry high plains. North Dakota.

Out at the farm home near Berlin ND was a trove of “junk”: albums, many photo portraits, and large numbers of old photographic negatives taken with two box cameras. In the collection, of the 110 year history of the farm, were two negatives that are especially intriguing, taken the same day, most likely about 1916 or 1917, just over 100 years ago.

Here are rough paper prints of the negatives. Click to enlarge.

After ND Blizzard 1916

After a 1916 Blizzard

Negatives aren’t labeled, of course. I think these are the winter of 1916 or 1917 because they show my grandmother, then about 32, and her four oldest children, Lucina, Esther (my mother), Verena and Mary. There was a fifth child by the time, George, but he would have been too little to frolic in the snow the day after the blizzard passed into history.

Prairie blizzards of my memory were ferocious affairs, sometimes several days duration. They differed from todays storms only in that the habitants of the prairie knew they were going to happen sometime, but had no idea exactly when or how severe they would be – there was no Accuweather then. The prudent settler prepared for the inevitable. Winters were not a time to take risks.

The storms pitted humanity against nature, and when they ended, it was time for a victory lap for the survivors. Photos like these were probably not uncommon.

This particular farm (pictured below about the same year as the blizzard) is one I know well, though it would be 24 more years before I made an appearance there.

Busch’s had some milk cows, then, and milking twice a day was mandatory. It could be a dangerous trip from house to barn; whiteouts could be disorienting. They also had a chicken coop, and the job of chickens was to lay eggs, which needed to be gathered.

(click to enlarge)

Busch farm 1916

The house was small and cramped and a challenge to keep warm in this time of cold temperatures and high winds. There was no electricity, no television or radio, no insulation, no indoor plumbing. One can only imagine living through a blizzard.

But as these photos show, there were celebratory aspects. The dry granular snow drifted into virtual bricks, well suited to tunnels, and igloos if one had the interest. Post-blizzard could be fun for kids.

There were no machines to move the snow on the farm, no trips to town by car for groceries or whatever. People knew, of course, that what came, would ultimately go, and the snow piles would melt…on nature’s timeline.

I can imagine the day of these photographs was something of an exciting day at the farm. I can imagine, too, that some reader memories will come back, looking at these photos.

Happy winter! For me, for years, spring has begun February 1. Yes, I know. By then the worst is past, I reason.

COMMENTS:
(most of those commenting grew up or have some roots in North Dakota)
From Bob: Your blizzard memories are similar to mine, having lived on a remote farm through the 8th grade, one room school house and all. As you said, no electricity, television, central heat or indoor plumbing. And too often lots of snow to shovel by hand.

Young folks today grumble about the horrible winter and tough conditions but don’t know how good they have it compared to earlier generations on the open prairie.

Now we winter in Arizona, so really are spoiled. No blizzards or snow to shovel. Just oranges to pick, and sweep occasional sand off the patio adjacent to the 6th green on our 9 hole golf course.

from Laurie: Wow what a storm that was. Hard to imagine living back then. Life was so hard, today’s kids couldn’t handle it! Most likely I would have a very hard time too! Fun to see all of this info! Thanks for sharing!

from Beth: Loved that post. Blizzards are different now, even from when I was a kid. Hope all is well with you and yours!

from Darleen: The blizzards of yesteryear that I remember are one in the late ’40’s when I froze my nose and the one in the mid 60’s when the drifts were so high between the house & barn that a person could not see over the drift. During that one my mother was in the hospital in Jamestown so my dad was on the farm by himself…Dick the memories are endless of the blizzards. In MN we have not had the depth or low temps that I remember we had in ND. I also remember when the wind was strongthere were snow drifts on the window sill of my bedroom. I was snuggled under one of
my mother’s sheep wool quilts & was warm.

from Jim B: These are awesome, to think I was complaining about a little cool weather here in Florida the last couple weeks…..

from Fred: Thanks for the memories. I grew up on a farm near Lidgerwood (SE North Dakota) and I do remember some of those barn burner blizzards. Dad had a loader on the tractor and was able to dig us out. Another thing I remember is the cold. Twenty below seemed colder back then that it does now. Maybe because of the coats, heaters and furnaces that we have now. I enjoy your reminisces.

from Jim D: Thanks for sending this. I’ve been through a few of these including the March 1966 blizzard, the snow/dirt storm of 1975, and the late April blizzard of 1984 plus a few more. Always exciting!

responding to Jim: I’m wondering if the March 1966 blizzard you refer to is the March 1965 blizzard I remember when I was a teacher in Elgin ND. That was a terrible storm. My wife, and one year old, and I lived in an upstairs apartment. There was no school, of course, and there was nothing to do. I remember sitting at our table and cobbling together some research about “Changes in Small Schools in North Dakota”. I had enough data to do this. Here is the resulting article: Dick Bernard 1965 School001. The Grand Forks (ND) Herald did an editorial about the article a short while later! The project was just something to do during a blizzard….

Dick, from Jim D: Proof of the 1966 blizzard, here

from Dave: Very interesting, since my Mother was born in Illinois in 1909 and moved to Devil’s Lake [ND] when she was two. They moved to Wisconsin in 1921. She had fond memories of her childhood. I never visited Devil’s Lake while at Valley City. I have a 97-year old Uncle who was born in ND in 1920. He was a C-47 crew chief and flew many missions from D-Day on. His life’s story was just published in a book, “Clear the Prop.”

Wonder if ND gets the cold spells like we did in the 60s. I recall 40 below and 40 mph winds. Walked seven blocks to the [Valley City State Teachers College] cafeteria (in the basement of one of the girl’s dorms) and did not care to walk eight.

from JP: Brought back a lot of memories growing up in the Red River Valley in Southern Manitoba in the 1940s & 1950s.

from Leo: The storm I remember was 4/5/6 of Feb. 1947. All the roads were blocked. The main roads were open in a few days but the side roads were blocked for about two weeks. Dad took us to school in a wagon with runners pulled by a team of horses. Many kids never got to school. My mother said that main street in Fingal looked just like it did when she was a child. Teams of horses in the street. There was a drift by the trees north of our farmhouse that was within three feet of the power lines. Dad drew a line in the snow and said if I went over that line toward the power lines I would get a licking. I used my sled to go off that huge drift for a least a couple of months. My memory was that the total run was about a hundred yards. I would pull my sled to the top and the dog would get on the front and I would kneel on the back of the sled and down we would go, My recollection is that about ten people in the region died. I think Dad had twine or small rope between the house and barn to follow so he would not get lost in the storm. That was the worst storm during my youth. After we moved to Valley City in 1956 the storms were less significant.

from Dick: Leo’s memory prompts me to include this story of a northeast ND blizzard of Nov. 1860, as recalled by the legendary Father Joseph Goiffon, who lost his leg as a result of the blizzard. Here is his story: Blizzard of Nov. 1860001

Martin Luther King, a look back to 1963…and forward.

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Free preview, inspirational film “The World is My Country”, January 26 – February 1. Details: To pre-register for the free week click here and spread the word. More here.
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Today, I find myself wondering what Martin Luther King Jr. would be saying to us on his 89th birthday.

Ten or so years ago my friend, Lydia, sent me a small book which gave me some clues. The book was “Why We Can’t Wait”, by Martin Luther King Jr., about 1963, published just months after John Kennedy was assassinated. Dr. King was just 34 years old. 1963 was the year of the Letter from Birmingham Jail; and the “I Have a Dream” speech on the Washington D.C. Mall.

The book is still in print, and well worth a read.

Even at only 34, by 1963, King was a veteran as a leader in a difficult and indeed dangerous struggle. He was already a national figure, known to U.S. presidents (a chapter is devoted to the political process, with people like Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson mentioned specifically.)

Being a leader was not easy. King’s was a lonely job.

It’s been a long while since I read that book, page by page.

What I think was on King’s mind back then in 1963 was that it took more than one person to make a difference in civil rights or anything else. That everybody had an important role to play. That leaders faced difficult decision making, agree or disagree.

May we all take our own leadership role in the days, months and years ahead.

As Gandhi so famously said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
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Check in on that preview full-length film mentioned at the beginning of this post, “The World Is My Country”. You’ll find it inspiring.

“The World Is My Country” , an inspirational film.

Friday, January 5th, 2018

One Page flier here:World Is My Country004The World Is My Country002 Jan. 26 – Feb. 1.
Sign up for pass code here. Include “CGS” in registration box.
You can probably watch the film on your home television. Everybody’s system is unique. Ask your nearby tech whiz – grandkids are great sources – to help you connect one to the other. Here’s an on-line tipsheet.
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January 26 through February 1, 2018, the new film, The World Is My Country, will be available, free, on-line, in a special password-protected site for Citizens for Global Solutions. You’ll be able to share the CGS password with others, so they can see the inspiring story of Garry Davis, “World Citizen #1”. I strongly encourage you to at minimum view the film, and to share this communication about it.

I first learned of Garry Davis and plans for this film project in 2011, and from early on have remained active as a volunteer in, and contributor to, the project.

In the fall of 2012, I showed a very early draft of the film to a dozen high school students in St. Paul – I wanted to see how they’d react to a story told by a 90 year old man, about his adventures which began more than 50 years before they were born. It was there that I observed that this story would attract and keep the interest of young people. The World Is My Country is a permanent demonstration to today’s and future generations that citizens can and do make a difference.

All ages, I have learned while watching subsequent audiences view the film, find the film both interesting and inspiring.

The World Is My Country is the story of a young song and dance man who enters World War II as a bomber pilot. His experiences caused him to rethink the notion of war as a means to solve problems. Garry Davis is that man, and he tells his story in person at age 90. The film features rare footage of events like the opening sessions of the United Nations in Paris in 1948, and the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More than half of the film is devoted to addressing the idea of solutions which are open and usable by ordinary citizens as ourselves.

Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), an organization in which I’ve long been active, has been involved since the beginning and sponsored the very successful World Premiere of “The World Is My Country” at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in April, 2017. The filmmakers were very pleased with the success of this CGS sponsorship – as you can see here. That’s why they are offering this free week – to invite others to help sponsor the film at other film festivals, or even hold their own mini-film festival showing three or more uplifting films about global solutions. The free-week movie will state that it is a Film Festival Screener and can’t be copied or reproduced.

I helped arrange for Twin Cities public TV (TPT) to see the screener – and they liked it so much they want to broadcast it. However, TPT can’t do so until the filmmakers raise $35,000 to upgrade rights to the historic footage from “Film Festivals Only” to “All Rights and Media.” Arthur Kanegis, the director of the movie, explained to me that footage houses have preserved all the amazing historic footage in cold storage over the decades. Therefore, they charge high prices for filmmakers to license it. His plan is to raise the money by getting lots of people involved in showing it in film festivals around the country. He hopes viewers will pre-order the DVD and buy screening kits, T-shirts and other items to raise the funds needed to be able to show the film on PBS stations across the country, show it in theaters, and distribute it on sites like Netflix and Amazon.

To pre-register for the free week click here and spread the word. Also, look for the website and password at this blog on January 19. This special film will accessible to anyone with the password and access to the internet from January 26 to February 1.

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The most recent newsletter of Citizen for Global Solutions MN can be read here: CGS-MN Newsletter 2018 January final. The national CGS website is here.

POSTNOTE

Coincident with the film is a year long exhibition entitled 1968 at the Minnesota History Museum in St. Paul. It is a very interesting exhibition.

Directly related to both the film and the exhibit was a project of a bipartisan group of Minneapolis-St. Paul area leaders from 1964 forward which directly connected with Garry Davis, including in 1968. You can read and watch evidence of this project here (Lynn Elling, and the film Man’s Next Giant Leap); and here.

A history of Minnesota’s efforts with World Citizenship can be read here: Minnesota Declarations002, especially pages 3-10.

Related Post, Sunday Jan. 7, here

The French-Canadians; The Franco-Americans

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Years ago I signed up for a workshop – I think it was titled “Family of Origin” – and the first assignment was to find out what we could about our ancestors, something which I had never explored before.

I was 40 at the time.

My parents took the bait; I found that my Dad was 100% French-Canadian, with very deep roots in Quebec, though near lifelong North Dakotan.

There are millions upon millions of people with French-Canadian ancestry today; hundreds of thousands of them in my own state.

“Quebec” (name first established in 1608) long pre-dates use of the name “United States of America (1776)” and “Canada” (1867). Here’s a National Geographic map from my copy of the Historical Atlas of the United States, Centennial Edition, 1988 (p. 96). Note the extent of “Quebec”. This was before the naming of “Canada”

(click to enlarge)

My first French-Canadian ancestor was in North America in 1618, and French-Canadians have had a very rich subsequent history all across North America.

I stay active in the quest to keep this rich culture alive, and yesterday prepared a reintroduction to be sent to our local mailing list. The 9-page mailing is here: French-Canadian001

If you wish, open and just scroll through the link. I’d especially recommend the last four pages, a recent essay entitled “Why Are Franco-Americans So Invisible?” by David Vermette, which appears in the Winter (Hiver) 2017 edition of Le Forum from the state of Maine.

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I dedicate this post to my great-grandparents, Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette, who married at what was then called St. Anthony, soon to become Minneapolis MN, in 1868; thence 1875 to the Dayton MN area, thence to Oakwood (near Grafton) North Dakota in 1878.

Below is the tintype photo of them about the time of their marriage. Clotilde would have been about 5 when they arrived in Minnesota Territory from eastern Ontario in the early 1850s; Octave was about 17 when most of the Collette family moved from St. Lambert QC to St. Anthony (later, Minneapolis) in about 1864.

(click to enlarge, double click for close-up)

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1869

I also dedicate this to my grandparents: Henry Bernard, born 1872 and raised in rural Ste. Sylvestre Quebec, coming to North Dakota in the 1890s; and Josephine Collette, born 1881 at the now disappeared Red River town of St. Andrews, where the Park River enters the Red. They married in 1901 at Oakwood ND.

Henry Bernards of Grafton ND about 1920, with visitors from Winnipeg. Henry, Josephine, Henry Jr, Josie, and Frank Peter are center part of photo. Their home was on the bank of the Park River, then 115 Wakeman Avenue.

Learn from History

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

My friend, Madeline, sent this to her Facebook group yesterday. It had originally circulated a year ago, right after the 2016 election. My opinion, this is a particularly useful reflective reading, given our continuing political experience beginning with the electoral campaign in 2016. It is a personal opinion. There is much food for thought.

We have had the good fortune of knowing well someone who learned from life experience in Nazi Germany. Annelee Woodstrom spent most of her growing up years in a small Bavarian town; the last 70 in the United States. She was 6 when the Nazis took control in Germany, and joined all Germans in the desperate quest for survival as WWII ended in 1945. We have talked a great deal about this topic, and she has written about how it was for ordinary Germans, then.

My brief personal comments at the end of this post.

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We must learn from history:

This is sobering advice from historian, Holocaust expert and Yale Professor Timothy Snyder posted to FB on Tuesday Nov 22 [2016].

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

POSTNOTE from Dick: The two photos are from Annelee Woodstroms “And So It Was”, and date from the mid-1930s in Nazi Germany. I wrote about this book, her latest, on Saturday. She speaks from experience as an ordinary person, in Germany and in the U.S.

Nazi Germany is a topic not to be politically spoken in the U.S., unless related to “enemies”, as anointed.

There are big differences between Nazi Germany and today’s United States, but be very careful. What became Nazi Germany was a place full of people just like ourselves. It happened there; it can happen here.

Just two comments, relating to Annelee’s experience in a small community in particular:

1. The horrors of Nazism crept up on people, as they prospered under the Nazi war regime, particularly if they became party members. But the dream of a Thousand Year Reich lasted about ten years, beginning to collapse, according to Annelee, about 1943…. We in the U.S. have too much of a tendency to believe our notion of American “exceptionalism”. We are not exceptional at all, except to have been very lucky so far.

2. The Nazis were masters of propaganda, through the means of communication available and utilized at the time. Much of their learning came from the United States propagandists at the time of WWI, and following. Communication today, such as it is, is technologically far advanced, with accompanying enormous potential for misuse and abuse, as we see every day. Each of us can pick and choose what it is we choose to accept as “information”. I read an interesting commentary this morning, which is worth the time, about the present day phenomena. See Project Veritas Fails.

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’, George Santayana said. This is one of first sayings I saw when I visited Auschwitz in 2000, and it bears repeating now.

World War I, and War, generally.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Saturday, Nov. 11, turned out to be a very significant day for me.

The intention was to be at the Veterans for Peace Bell Ringing at the Minnesota History Center (MHS), and that was accomplished. The same day, the 99th anniversary of the end of WWI, at the same place, was the final day of the excellent “WWI America” exhibit. Later that afternoon, the outstanding film The World Is My Country, about Garry Davis, a WWII bomber pilot who gave up his U.S> citizenship, disgusted by war.

Those who lead wars always portray them as necessary and thus good (our “side”) versus evil (theirs). It is politically useful to have an enemy. War is not nearly as simple as that. It is the young who go to die “for our country”; and who are proclaimed “heroes” when they do…. In this modern age, it has been the innocents who are slaughtered.

The entrance to the WWI exhibit at MHS said it pretty well:

(click any photo to enlarge)

The bare basics of WWI are simple: 1914-18, the good guys won, the bad guys lost. The truth is not nearly so simple. Part of another side of WWI came from my friend, Michael, who sent a long article from the Guardian newspaper expanding on the story of WWI. It is not politically correct from those who have written the official narrative of WWI, but it is very interesting. You can read the long article here.

In the hall outside the WWI Exhibit, Vets for Peace remembered Nov. 11 as Armistice Day; elsewhere in the building was a lecture about aspects of the War. In England, the day is now called Remembrance Day.

The local Vets for Peace especially recognizes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed 1928, which was supposed to end war permanently. The Vets for Peace podium had this explanation of Kellogg-Briand:

In “The World Is My Country”, Garry Davis went to war on a B-27 as part of the U.S. Army Air force after Pearl Harbor. In the end, his conscience couldn’t square killing innocent German people from a U.S. bomber over Germany to avenge the loss of his own brother, killed aboard a U.S. Destroyer in the European theater in 1943. At 26, he gave up his U.S. citizenship, and became a stateless citizen of the world.

Davis’ story is riveting and keeps everyones attention, and especially well suited for young people of today. The film is not yet fully released, but watch for it when it is.

Back at the Vets for Peace, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Bellringers rang their bells 11 times to commemorate the end of a terrible war in 1918. This is a long tradition of the local Vets for Peace. I have been to many such remembrances since 2002.

Back in the nearby WWI exhibit down the hall were three displays which particularly spoke to me: the first of the Treaty of Versailles, which helped lead to WWII; and the second which needs no explanation, coming as it did before woman gained the right to vote in the United States.

At the time of the Treaty of Versailles

Both my mother and grandmother contracted the influenza but survived. The hired man on the farm went to war and died.

The most powerful songs I know, about WWI, and the folly of war are “Waltzing Matilda”, and Green Fields of France. Give a listen.