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#1043 – Dick Bernard: Going to Peace. A Reflection on Detente with Iran.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

POSTNOTE, July 18: see “The Women in the Yard. Looking for Clara”, here.

Going through old papers and photos of a deceased relative can be tedious, but occasionally something pops up, as did this photo a few days ago.

(click to enlarge)

A farm family, the summer of 1943

A farm family, the summer of 1943

While not of my town, or my family tree either, I have some knowledge of this farm family in the summer of 1943. Sr. Victorine, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet in St. Paul, was a good friend in her last years. She passed on in October, 2010.

I never knew that her brother was Francis, at right in this family photo taken in the summer, 1943, in rural ND. (The entire family is in the photo, save their mother, Clara, who was probably taking the picture. On the back of the picture are written the names of the Charles Long family. From left, as identified by a family member, they are: Leonard, Clem, Marcella, Charles, Sr. Victorine, John and Francis Long.)

The 1976 town history (Berlin ND) says that Francis was “Killed in Saipan, July 2, 1944“. A short article from, likely, the Fargo Forum, says that Francis dropped out of high school to go in the service. In the Berlin history, he is listed as “deceased” in the class of 1943.

A letter from my Grandma Rosa to her son, my uncle Lt. George W. Busch, officer on the USS Woodworth in the Pacific, dated August 20, 1944, sums it all up well: “[W]e had a Memorial Mass for Francis Long killed July 2 on Saipan in action Sister Victorine was here to come to visit us on Fri afternoon is done with school now has one test to take then she has her Masters Degree in Science she did very well looks so good too but all felt so badly….

So goes war, willing heroes, full of all of the brash confidence and invulnerability of youth. Francis was probably 19, just starting life, when he died.

I think of Francis and family this day because this week a major agreement was reached between U.S. and Iran negotiators.

The media is full of commentary about this agreement, and people who stop by this blog can find far more than adequate information in other sources, on all sides about the technical details, and dead-certain positions and opinions about it.

President Obama framed this pretty well, yesterday: “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force through war.”

Either we figure out how to get along, or there will be more and more people with names who perish, and not only ours.

This won’t stop the drumbeaters for War, for unconditional surrender of the Enemy, whoever that happens to be at the time.

Peace is a very hard sell in this country.

Peace is, I think I can fairly say, considered by the traditional Power People in our country to be an instrument of terrorism…It threatens their prosperity or their authority.

For the media (and the people who watch or read it) Peace is boring as a generator of revenue (just watch your local and national news and see what is prioritized for coverage.)

Peace is costly – a competitor – for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so correctly identified as a big and looming problem way back in 1961.

For others, an enemy is absolutely essential to retain power and control. It is useful to keep people in fear, and portray yourself as the only safety buffer between “us and them”.

Eisenhower was as military as they come…he knew, however, a reality to which we’ve paid too little attention.

My friend, Tom White, who spent a great deal of time for many years establishing accurate numbers concerning military and other costs in this country always estimated that over half of the U.S. discretionary budget related to military.

He’s out of the card business now, but the general information on his last one is still pretty accurate.

All that military money goes somewhere, and the vast majority not for the peace and general welfare of our or other citizens.

We live or we die by our priorities.

Francis and millions of others have died defending the premise that war is necessary for peace.

*

A postnote from the present:

I’ve been a member of the American Legion for years. I’m a vet. The Minnesota American Legion seems to enroll perhaps 1 1/2% of Minnesota’s population. It is a small, and decreasing in membership (old soldiers do die), but still a powerful entity.

In the most recent American Legion newspaper, announcement was made of the 2015 Minnesota American Legion Convention, including the Resolutions it would be considering, among which was this one.

(click to enlarge)
American Legion MN 2015001

Are our (America’s) priorities:
“Constitution
Military Power
Faith
and
Capitalism”

as stated in the Resolution?

The drafter of the resolution seems to think so, and I can predict that this resolution will sail through. Look carefully at the four pillars of the resolution.

If we choose survival, we choose peace: that is my opinion.

And I thank the administration of President Obama for forcing us to begin this conversation, since an alternative to his forced choice is a third way, which he did not mention: to stay the course of our dismal reality of fear of anything and everything but war.

#1042 – Dick Bernard: Under Renovation: Two Flags, Two National Anthems, Two Nations, 56 years.

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Here is the video we all saw at Orchestra Hall on Sunday afternoon (see below)

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

Cuba flag at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis MN, July 5, 2015

Cuba flag at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis MN, July 5, 2015

July 1 found me heading east after a tiring three days in North Dakota. I stopped in Valley City, and decided to refresh by stopping at my alma mater, now Valley City State University, and walk around my campus from 1958-61 before getting back on the freeway. A major renovation of the old auditorium, in progress, which turned out to be accessible to this visitor, caught my eye.

Vangstad Auditorium under renovation, Valley City (ND) State University, July 1, 2015

Vangstad Auditorium under renovation, Valley City (ND) State University, July 1, 2015

Workmen happened to be testing lighting on the stage at the time I was there. Everything was a mess, as one would expect. One told me that their objective was to keep the auditorium appearance as it had always been. Back in my day, that auditorium was home for any college cultural event. I took photos, as I usually do, never expecting them to become relevant a few days later.

Then came Sunday morning, July 5.

Friend Bill Haring called and said they had two extra tickets to the performance of the the visiting Cuban group Coro Entrevoces, appearing with the Minnesota Orchestra*. Was I interested? No brainer. My wife couldn’t attend; so I asked if my granddaughter Kelly, who’s in chorus, would be interested. Sure enough, so off we went to what was an historic event, a real cross-cultural exchange between the U.S. and Cuba, brought about by a recent trip to Cuba by the Minnesota Orchestra back in May.

Core Entrevoces at Minnesota Orchestra Hall Minneapolis MN July 5, 2015

Core Entrevoces at Minnesota Orchestra Hall Minneapolis MN July 5, 2015

The performances, three sets by Coro Entrevoces interspersed with orchestral sets by the Minnesota Orchestra, was phenomenal, electric. During the performance I thought back to that recently visited auditorium in Valley City North Dakota. Back then, nearing the end of my college career in summer, 1961, a program called the Afro-Cuban Review came to the auditorium. It was written up in the college newspaper, the Viking News, on page one, and you can read the release here:

(click to enlarge)
Viking News, Valley City ND State Teachers College, July 5, 1961 page one

Remember, this was 1961, 56 years ago, and two years earlier revolution had brought Fidel Castro to power in Cuba. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion had happened a couple of months earlier. The Cuban Missile Crisis was down the road a year or so. We were in a war with our nearby neighbor. So, while the program was Afro-Cuban that day, there were no Cubans to be seen. One can never be too careful.

For 56 years that official animosity has continued. Now a welcome thaw is in progress.

We witnessed Sunday, and back in May, part of the beginning of a new relationship between two proud countries, the U.S. and Cuba. The diplomats: musicians and singers.

I’m a proud American, and have never been to Cuba, but the playing of the Cuban National Anthem with backdrop of the Cuban flag from the stage of Orchestra Hall was an emotional event for me, and I’d guess for others in the hall as well.

Yes, the Star Spangled Banner came first, equally rousing, but there was great symbolism present in Orchestra Hall on this pleasant day. It was good to see flags of peace on Sunday, rather than of war; anthems of pride complimenting, not condemning….

Friendship begins with engagement: you have to get to know a person as a person in person.

The same goes for countries. As a single citizen, I applaud what is happening now between Cuba and our country. And we need to continue similar rapprochements with other countries, Iran, North Korea, and on and on.

We are, after all, citizens of one planet, all of us on a single stage, depending on each other for survival.

U. S. Flag at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis MN July 5, 2015

U. S. Flag at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis MN July 5, 2015

* – The program notes can be viewed here: Core Entrevoces 7-5-15001

#1041 – Dick Bernard: “God Bless America”

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

“God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Thru the night, with a light from above….”

Thus Irving Berlin wrote, in 1918, the song that has become an anthem of the United States.

“…From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.”

Today is the 4th of July, the day of celebrating culminated by “bombs bursting in air”, as we will be reminded this evening by formal fireworks displays, and have already been reminded by early informal fireworks displays in neighborhoods.

“The Fourth” has a very long tradition. Here’s a photo of a baseball game from the 4th of July, 1924, at the Grand Rapids ND Veterans Memorial Park; one of the hundreds of photos found at the North Dakota farm I’ve so often written about in this space.

(click to enlarge)

Grand Rapids ND July 4, 1924

Grand Rapids ND July 4, 1924

I wasn’t around in 1924, but I’ve been to several July 4ths since 1940 at that very Grand Rapids park, and my memories are of similar rituals each time we went: the baseball game, fishing in the James River, adult games like horseshoes for the old guys (probably about in their 50s – time changes perceptions!), picnic lunches, lots of visiting…. A simple and nostalgic time, for sure. Elements of the old tradition remain, of course. But celebrating July 4 has changed in a great many ways as we’ve become a mobile and very prosperous society.

For me, the title of this blog comes from a particular use of the phrase “God Bless America” which I saw last Monday afternoon as I checked into a motel in Bismarck ND.

Bismarck ND June 30, 2015

Bismarck ND June 30, 2015

When I saw this truck last Monday, emblazoned also with “Support our Troops” on the back panel, I didn’t pick up gentle vibes.

There was less a “stand beside her and guide her” request, as there was a martial aspect to all of this, a demand: as it were, “God, bless us, as we command a subordinate world”. This ever more a dicey proposition; a fantasy. We still like to think we’re superior, among less than equals….

My perception on Monday was helped along by a large picture I’d seen two days earlier, of an American military man, one of those surreal “Transformer characters”, a less than human appearing being, a collection of technology and weaponry we see every time our contemporary GI’s are shown in a combat setting somewhere. Not really human appearing, as faced by a known enemy human in World War I or World War II, though similarly vulnerable.

Intimidating, but not.

We look tougher than we are.

But we like the omnipotence message conveyed by that truck in Bismarck earlier this week. The day before, a gigantic black Hummer vehicle passed me by, doubtless driven by some prosperous local citizen, perhaps even a lady. I remember when the Hummers became popular for those who could afford them, during the Iraq war. They’re seen less often now than they were then, there never were very many. But to me they always conveyed an in-your-face-message of omnipotence: “Look at me. Don’t mess with me….” A martial, war, message.

1924 was part of a rare interval between wars for the United States. We even tried to outlaw war with the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928. The time since WWII began for us in 1941 has seen only a single year without some war or another (see America at War001.

Our 4th will be a quiet one today, after a tiring week on the road. Tonights fireworks may wake me up, though usually they don’t.

But I’ll mostly think of that 4th of July I attended once in awhile at the Grand Rapids Memorial Park: catching a bullhead or two, probably some ice cream, some kid games….

A time of enjoyment and rest.

Have a great day.

God bless us all, everywhere.

An in-your-face "American" wears his patriotic jacket in rural Finland, June, 2003, weeks after the Iraq War began, and George W. Busch had just visited St. Petersburg.  Photograph by Dick Bernard

An in-your-face “American” wears his patriotic jacket in rural Finland, June, 2003, weeks after the Iraq War began, and George W. Busch had just visited St. Petersburg. Photograph by Dick Bernard

#1039 – Dick Bernard: The South Carolina Confederate Flag Debate

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

(click to enlarge)
The Clansman001

Last night I saw on television much of the remarks of South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, son of Strom Thurmond, making a strong argument for removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds. He seemed somewhat nervous, but sincere and impassioned.

A distillation of his remarks was in three paragraphs in the midst of a news report on Page A5 of todays Minneapolis Star Tribune. I hope the entire speech gets more publicity. If anyone was putting himself out there, personally, it is Strom Thurmond’s son, arguing against what was his father’s mantra for his entire career.

It is a good sign.

This is an issue – race – that will not go away, and it lives within all of us in this country in one form or another. It is part of our national tradition, our personal DNA.

We are steeped in the notion of superiority of the White Race and the inferiority of those whose complexion suggests Black.

A good briefing on the history of this issue was sent to me by my friend, Joyce, yesterday. You can read it here: In her note, she says “this was published almost a year ago, but it is well worth rereading”. I agree.

Indeed, it is helpful to look back.

Two years ago someone with whom I had common ties many years ago in small town North Dakota, stuck me on a list which turned out to be your basic rant-site against anything related to President Obama.

At an early point, I asked a pointed question about one particularly racist rant. Who would pass along such a thing. The writer, from Washington State, took the bait Nov. 7, 2013:

“Mr. Bernard, you want to know who [I am]. I don’t know about your back ground. But I can give you a little bit about mine. My real name is ________. My back ground is that I served this country for over 53 years. 23 as a Soldier, and 30 as a Civilian. I spent most of that time in Foreign Countries. I’m a Vietnam Vet. I am a Republican, although I have voted for a Democrat in the pass, (President Kennedy). By the was [sic] my Brother In law is a disabled (retired) Federal Park Police. So I know a little about the Park Police through him. As for this President. In my opinion The only reason he was elected, was the fact that he is half black. You never hear him talk about being half white. [emphasis added] One more opinion, I think that all US Citizens should fire both the Democrat and Republican Congressional leader and start over, including the President and his cabinet. Our Government Leaders should live under the same laws and regulation that the American Citizens live under. I think you would see a big difference in our laws that we would have to live with.

That’s just a little about me.”

Which leads back to “our personal DNA”.

I have been going through the endless task of sorting stuff at the North Dakota farm, and one day came across the book, whose cover photograph leads this post. “The Clansman” was published in 1905, the same year my grandparents came to that farm. But this book (see end photo) included many photos from the film Birth of the Nation, based on the book, from 1915, and also indicated that the book had once belonged to the Moorhead MN Public Library.

When did they get this book? Who got it? Why? Why was it kept for over 100 years? Why did it fascinate me sufficiently so that I now have it?

We didn’t talk about Black people out there. In my growing up, there were hardly any around to talk about.

There were, however, Indians. Different story.

All this and more part of the necessary conversation.

The Clansman002

COMMENTS:
from Jeff:
I am not sure what to make about the sudden GOP conversion. I suspect after 2 or three days of saying it was “up to South Carolina”, or
It was an attack on Christians… both of which were universally derided … someone who was doing polling figured out that stonewalling
Wasn’t going to help this time.

Although I think the smoke of removing flags… covers the issue of gun violence and right wing terrorism.

from Carol: Great job. I’d like to see that book!

from Peter: The “stars and bars” was a battle flag, not a national flag, and was only resurrected in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. It symbolizes anti-integration, racist sentiment, and nothing more, recent interpretations notwithstanding.

from Alberder: Thanks for this honest and candid post.

from Bruce: At some level, Dick, America is dealing with race. That’s good, but there is double standard going on, not the one you might initially think.

Remember Anwar Al-Waki. The Muslim American that without due process according to his & our civil rights was designated as a terrorist, sentenced to death & was murdered by the president.

Now, from what I’ve been reading these white supremacy groups are an international conspiracy to control, if not eliminate, people of color. For me, these are far more dangerous to the Homeland than the groups designated as terrorist organizations, which are called Islamic extremists.

If the these white suprematist organizations are labeled “terrorist”, will the president hunt down and kill their leaders without due process. I hope not. But the precedent has been set.

#1037 – Dick Bernard: Compassion and Flags and a call to action.

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

POSTNOTE: Sunday, June 21: This morning at Basilica of St. Mary, a two page handout gave q&a’s about the recent happenings in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis regarding the resignation of the Archbishop and one of the Auxiliary Bishops. The Priest, Ft. Greg Welch, gave his homily on today’s gospel, and as I told him afterward, he “hit a home run”. His message ended with spontaneous applause from the large congregation, and applause is very unusual at Church. Essentially, as I interpret the Priest’s message today, (and likely the reason for the applause), “The Church is the People in it. Each of us.” Here, in three pages, are the Gospel passage, and the flier distributed: Church Archbishop Change001 For those interested in the Pope’s encylical that is receiving so much attention these days, you can access it here.

*

Quite routinely, when I have a thought for a blog; I let it germinate a bit; do a draft; and if fits I complete it in my own always imperfect way.

So it was with the following three paragraphs and photo, which began June 15, 2015, with an e-mail comment from my good friend…and fellow Catholic, Jeff: “waiting for the Bernard report/comment” on the resignation of the Archbishop and one Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis; the latest chapter in alleged mishandling of sex abuse of a Priest by Archdiocesan officials. But no words came to fill the space till Thursday, and then I wrote the following, and closed the file again, till today:

*

June 18, 2015

A few days ago a good friend asked me if I had a comment about the latest turn in the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis where, that very day, the Archbishop and one of the Auxiliary Bishops had resigned.

Of course, I have thoughts and feelings, but not until today’s headlines did I find a peg on which to hang my feelings. It comes from neighbors on the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: a new interim Bishop arrives in Minnesota; nine people are gunned down by a lone gunman in a church in South Carolina. Those who watch the news probably know about both of these happenings.

Page One Minneapolis Star Tribune June 18, 2015

Page One Minneapolis Star Tribune June 18, 2015

These “twins” in an odd sort of way speak to our society at large in a way we likely don’t like to consider.

*

June 20, 2015

As a lifelong Catholic, and a career long representative of teachers, including during the days when allegations of sex abuse by people in power against subordinates (i.e. teacher/student, etc) became a white hot issue (ca mid 1980s forward), I have a reasonably well informed base from which to comment, thus Jeff’s query.

But that, like the scandals, is old news, still eagerly flogged back to life when opportunities present themselves. Short story: humans are imperfect beings.

But what happened in that Church in Charleston a couple of days ago, and subsequent events there, are potentially more significant in the very long term, not only for South Carolina but for our country. But only if people get actively engaged in the essential conversations, everywhere. Without those engagements, nothing will change.

What most struck me, post massacre in the Church, was the expression of compassion and forgiveness from family and friends to the perpetrator: “I forgive you”, rather than “string him up” in lynch mob parlance.

These were people walking the talk of the real message of Christianity in their moment of great grieving.

Certainly as news of Charleston goes forward there will be calls for the death penalty, and other “eye for an eye” responses, but those folks who were at the prayer service are for me the spokespeople for living lives together; to rebuild from tragedy.

There’s also the matter of that Confederate flag, unbowed even after this horrific tragedy because it is apparently against South Carolina law to lower it.

Flags through history have rarely been benign creatures, rather they symbolize unity, usually against someone else. “Battle Flags”. “Us versus them”.

I’ve learned this lesson over time, most recently in a very unexpected way over two years ago when I learned that the United Nations flag had been taken down, almost covertly, from Hennepin County Plaza, after flying there for 44 years, in quiet company with the U.S. and Minnesota flags.

There is a story* there, a very long and continuing story, which you can read here if you wish.

For certain, watch the Confederate Flag debate as it evolves in South Carolina.

And watch the narrative as it evolves about punishment, “us” v “them” and the like.

We all can learn something from Charleston.

Will we?

THE UN FLAG: The essential narrative: the flag had to come down because it violated the U.S. Flag Code. It came down. It did not violate the Code, but nonetheless it stayed down. The people who took down the flag (the County Commissioners) had a code of silence, and wouldn’t say who, why or whatever about the real circumstances of why the flag came down. At this writing, they think they have given up. Not so.

#1034 – Dick Bernard: Virgil Benoit on Minnesota’s Metis and French-Canadians

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

May 19, a jam-packed room of us were treated to a one-hour presentation by Dr. Virgil Benoit, a man who needs no introduction to those with background as Metis or French-Canadian.

The below photos are from the session (click to enlarge). Here is a one hour podcast of Dr. Benoit’s talk. It speaks for itself.

Dr. Virgil Benoit May 19, 2014, Rice Street Library, St. Paul MN

Dr. Virgil Benoit May 19, 2014, Rice Street Library, St. Paul MN

Some of the Audience at Dr. Benoit's talk.

Some of the Audience at Dr. Benoit’s talk.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

NOTE: I have known Dr. Benoit personally since 1985, and participated in many of his events in the Red Lake Falls area of Minnesota, and into North Dakota, particularly at Turtle Mountain. I wrote personal impressions of him some years ago. You can find that here.

I am also a member of the French-American Heritage Foundation, as is Dr. Benoit. Give us a look. Beginning Friday, June 4, 10:30-noon, for four successive Fridays, several of us will present a personal look at our heritage: “Minnesota History with a French Accent”. The series that will be presented at Washburn Library, located at 5244 Lyndale Ave South, Minneapolis on Friday, June 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Registration is free. Several of us from French-American Heritage Foundation are conducting these classes. We did the first series in April and early May, and will again be presenting them in the Fall.

For those with an interest, there is a fascinating story of Fr. Goiffon going on a Buffalo Hunt with the Pembina area Metis about 1860. You can find it here at pages 451-59 and 466. Also note the index relating to Fr. Goiffon.

#1033 – Dick Bernard: The Great Olden Days of the 1950s

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

A couple of days ago a friend sent me this forward.

It is an intriguing piece of video, especially for someone like me who was 10 in 1950 and 20 in 1960. It only takes two minutes to view. Take a look and return.

There is, of course, lots to agree with, especially if you lived through childhood and adolescence then. (I’m fond of saying that the real proof that there is a God, is any kid who survives childhood. I can tell my stories; you can as well….)

At about the same time the video crossed my threshold, so did the below 2×2 well worn time-damaged photo labelled “Berlin [ND] Picnic Sept 7 1952”. The handwriting is unmistakably my grandmother Rosa Busch (who is at left in second row behind the little child and, likely, the childs mother.) I have scanned the photo at high resolution so as to make it possible to easily enlarge it. Most likely, given the nature of that day, this is the Ladies Aid (or Rosary Society?) of St. John’s Catholic Church in Berlin.

Take a look at those Moms, in my Grandmas yard, September 7, 1952. Their’s are the faces of the good old days.

Berlin Picnic Sept 7, 1952

Berlin Picnic Sept 7, 1952

I took a look at mortality statistics for our country – sort of the marker for how it was, and how it is. Here are a couple of items worth looking at:
(1) a chart about developed world life expectancy at birth from 1950-present is in the upper right hand corner, here. (click on the chart to enlarge it) NOTE: the projection to the end of this chart is to 2045; notice the point on the chart for 2010-15.
(2) 75 Years of Mortality in the United States 1935-2010 from the Centers for Disease Control.

It would seem to me that a 12 year increase in average life expectancy from about 66 to 78 years over 65 years of history (first chart) is pretty significant.

Maybe there were some down sides to the good old days?

But maybe we prefer looking at the up-side of some of those changes which the video narrates?

Start with the photo of those women. In 1952, the status of “women’s rights” was much different than it is today.

Change didn’t come easy, but it came.

As for surviving, I’m one of those who lucked out, who made it through the assorted risks of growing up. There were far more risks then, I know. No seat belts in cars; you took your chances with drinking water and home-canned food. Who of my age does not recall the lines to get the Salk Polio Vaccine back in those early 1950s?

And the bomb shelters which reminded us that we were in some bulls eye for one of those Soviet bombs aimed at us (and we aimed our own bombs at them, I guess).

I watched Sputnik blink across the night sky at exactly the same spot as the photographer in the same yard of my Grandmas in the Fall of 1957. In those days, Sputniks path across the night sky was printed in the newspaper (it would have been to the photographers right, to the southeast), and on a clear night, as the saying goes, you could see forever, especially on the pristine prairie “back in the day”.

Now, I’m at the age where nostalgia tends easily to trump reality: it is fun to look back in memory to how it used to be (I think).

But not so fast: I see Johnny, in my North Dakota town when I was 10. In today’s terms he’d be so-called severely retarded. He lived at home, and he was older than we kids who used to persecute him till he’d chase us down the street with a bat, or a stick, or whatever. I was not “happy days” for Johnny (who’s still alive, I hear.)

In many ways we’ve over-corrected, I admit, but by and large I’d rather be where I am, now, than back in those olden days.

COMMENTS:
from Joyce, June 3:
Whenever someone waxes nostalgic about the good old days, I think about the plight of those for whom the ’50s were a horror show, in particular, African Americans, but also intelligent women who had few outlets for their intelligence, Jews (universities openly had Jewish quotas in those days and HR departments displayed signs stating that Jews need not apply) and all the people whose careers were destroyed by the McCarthy witch hunts.

from Flo: Thanks for bringing some reality to the good old days! Some kids who were tortured by parents, siblings, or bullies are the angry ones now torturing all of us in retribution!

#1032 – Dick Bernard: Catching a Moment in Time. Saturday, March 18, 1905

Friday, May 29th, 2015
Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John's Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John’s Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Seventeen of us gathered at the old Ferd and Rosa Busch farm in Henrietta Township on May 24. It was the end of an era: for 110 years the farmstead has been owned, and for the vast majority of that time occupied, by Ferd and Rosa’s family. Now the old place is up for sale, and at some early point new occupants will take over the newly re-surveyed 10 acre farmstead, 10 miles northwest of LaMoure, 5 miles northeast from Berlin, about the same southwest from Grand Rapids ND.

Saturday a few of us were doing the last run through of the artifacts now stored in the metal machine shed.

One item remaining was the formidable wooden packing crate which brought the Busch possessions from southwest Wisconsin via Dubuque in March of 1905. For years the crate resided quietly in the attic in the old house; thence in Vincent’s bedroom in the new. It had been opened previously, but not examined in detail.

This day, we took out everything, including Grandma’s wedding dress, in near perfect condition after 110 years.

But there was something else I noticed in a box within the crate. There were a couple of old newspapers, used for packing back then. I took them out: one of them was a pretty well crumpled newspaper in German from November of 1904; the second was the Dubuque Morning Telegraph for Saturday, March 18, 1905. Grandma and Grandpa married on February 28, 1905, and I knew they hadn’t left immediately for North Dakota. I can now deduce from the newspaper date that they probably left for the prairie shortly after March 18.

That was only the first piece of “news” from that paper….

(click to enlarge)

Dubuque Morning  Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

Dubuque Morning Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

There were four pages from the newspaper, pages 1, 2, 7 & 8.

The main headline on p. 1 immediately caught my attention: “GENERAL KUROPATKIN IS DISMISSED IN DISGRACE”, followed by the sub-headlines so common in papers of that day: “Gen. Linevitch in Suspreme [sic] Command” “…withdrawing what is left of the great Army of 250,000, men hemmed in on all sides, confronts him.” “Czar shows no signs of yielding” “Preparation for carrying on the war on a greater scale are made by Russians-Oyama in Mukden”.

The front page news in Dubuque was about a war being waged between Russia and Japan in the far eastern reaches of Siberia.

Places like Harbin and Vladivostok were mentioned. Dispatches were included from London and Berlin sources. You could see the same kinds of headlines in today’s newspapers….

In this issue, the Russians were – the Czar was – being defeated.

This defeat was a harbinger of the Czars becoming a thing of the past; Communists were a part of the future. The German-Russians, Lawrence Welk’s kin, probably didn’t know it yet in 1905, but they were all being squeezed out of Russia to new homes, a great many of them migrating to North and South Dakota.

The other stories on the front page had a deja vu aspect to them. A law passed in Delaware to “Abolish Pillory” “inhuman” punishment; in Peoria IL an oil “pipe line across certain highways” hit a snag (“Strikes Snag in Illinois” read the headline); there was a “scheme” by powerful interests “to grab Niagara” Falls, threatening the tourist attraction with extinction.

It was announced by Secretary Taft of the Theodore Roosevelt administration that the U.S. “will retain the Philippine Islands” for perhaps at least a generation. And a fascinating headline prominent at the top of page one said “Castro is preparing to send an Army of 30,000 to take New Orleans to demand Indemnity.” This was not Fidel Castro, rather the then President of Venezuela.

There were no pictures on this front page: it was all news. Other headlines at the bottom of the page: “Sold Wife for $10” (the deal was legal, and okay with the wife, apparently); “Missouri legislature Passes Law Against Bookmaking”. A Baltimore Whiskey maker won a trademark lawsuit against a clever impostor in Brooklyn who had borrowed part of its name.

And so it was, on and on, in Dubuque, Iowa, and the world right after Grandma and Grandpa Busch were married, February 28, 1905.

It was like opening a time capsule….

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24.  From left Pinkney's, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24. From left Pinkney’s, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

#1031 – Dick Bernard: Taps. A Memorial Day to Remember in LaMoure

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

POSTNOTE, May 29, from Kathy G: A one-minute ad without a single word, for Memorial Day. “This is a one-minute commercial. Not a word spoken and none is needed. Food City is a Southern grocery store chain with headquarters in Bristol, Tennessee.”

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

Reunion over, and about to leave LaMoure ND, we and my brother John decided to attend the annual Memorial Day observance at the LaMoure American Legion post. It is always moving and inspiring – an honor to attend, as is the usual observance by the Veterans for Peace in St. Paul MN which I had to miss this year.

I had been to several observances with my Uncle and Aunt in LaMoure over the years, so I knew what to expect, but brother John, long retired from a 20-year career as an Air Force officer, and long-time Californian, was deeply impressed with the local observance, as was my wife, Cathy. Neither had been there before.

Monday was an iffy day, weather-wise, but the place was packed as usual, with music provided by local high-schoolers, with the reading of names of departed veterans, and a couple of very good speeches. (I can’t name names: my program departed the car enroute home during a windy and rainy stop to change drivers at Fergus Falls.)

At the end of the formal presentation indoors, we adjourned to the vacant lot beside the Legion where crosses were planted, poppies affixed, an honor guard with flags and rifles for the traditional salute, and then taps, expertly played by a young woman, probably high school age.

We had a mix of near sunshine, and light rain, almost perfect.

It was all deeply moving.

(click to enlarge all photos)

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

Inside, the narrator had earlier read the names of all local military veterans who have died.

Even in this small community, it was a very long list of names, particularly for World War II, and World War I as well. As I remember: departed veterans were named from the Civil War, and the “Indian War” during the same time period; the Spanish-American; Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

This observance emphasized the physically dead. Back home in the evening I noticed that the national observance on the Capitol mall now recognizes also those veterans permanently physically disabled by war. The Vets for Peace recognizes all of these, but also those mortally wounded psychologically: PTSD, mental illness, drugs and alcohol, homeless….

Saturday, I’d seen the reader of names at the fish dinner at the same Legion, and he said that every year somebody mentions somebody not named who should have been on the list.

Little did I know that I’d be writing him my own letter today. He read the names of my uncles, Shipfitter Frank Bernard (USS Arizona), and Lt. George W. Busch (USS Woodworth); but not those of Uncle Arthur Busch (U.S. Army 1945-46), nor Art and George’s cousin next farm over, Capt. August Berning, Marine in the Pacific Theatre WWII, both deceased.

So next year, the narrators list will be even longer, thanks to me, and to others who also add names, and, of course, more veterans who have died in the days to come.

*

The recitation of names by War caused me to think about categories of Wars in which the U.S. been engaged, and how people have engaged in those wars. (In a previous post I included an American Legion summary of these wars: America at War001)

Of course, the early wars, including the Revolutionary, came as our country grew to today’s boundaries of the lower 48 states. Wars brought us into being, over 150 years ago, against England, etc.

But by far our most deadly war was our own Civil War: the same war which birthed the very concept of Memorial Day. We were at War against ourselves, then. It is not an abstraction to think that perhaps the current “war” between Sunni and Shiite centered in Iraq and Syria might not be such a novel occurrence. There are far more similarities than differences to our own Civil War. In our own country, the Civil War was brother-against-brother; slavery or not was the main issue; plenty of Old Testament scriptural basis supported slavery.

Then there were the Teddy Roosevelt adventures: Spanish-American War, Cuba, the Philippines, etc. That was my Grandpa Bernard’s War: North Dakota’s were among the first volunteers to go to the Philippines in 1898, and Grandpa was on the boat with the others.

The deadliest wars so far, WWI and WWII, the U.S. entered long after they began, reluctantly. There was debate whether we should have entered earlier, or not at all. Wars are complicated things, after all. In WWI my Grandpa Busch’s hired man, whose name I do not know, was killed. Grandpa wanted to volunteer, but there was the matter of his being ethnic German, which complicated things a whole lot for Germans in this country.

Then there were the anti-Communist Wars, like Korea and Vietnam, and the near miss with Cuba and Russian Missiles in 1962 (I was in the Army, then). It’s been years since the Soviet Union became Russia and other countries, but the “Communist” card is still played by some, perhaps yearning for the good old days of the Cold War. Wars have an unfortunate way of living on, far past their reason.

And there have been wars just for the hell of it (it seems to me): Grenada comes to mind. Remember the Grenada War?

*

Through Korea, Wars were very personal things: if you were at war, you were at war against someone who could shoot you dead. The days of massive standing Armies and compulsory draft are long past, the times when (as in my own family) we three boys all served; or four of my five uncles (the fifth was needed on the farm). The notion of a citizen Army (males of a certain age) ended with the end of the Draft in 1975 and (in my opinion) will never be successfully marshaled again, even in times of major crisis.

Memorial Day remembers old wars….

Now war has become a video game, threatening every single one of us, if we can’t figure out how to deal with each other, including the top guys who have led and will lead people into these ever deadlier things called war.

“Evil” will never end (not always restricted just to the “bad guys”). Yes, we can be the bad guys, and have been.

And, there is much to be said for “duty, honor, country”.

But the reality of evil, and those honorable concepts can be and are misused by all “sides”, including our own.

There are lots of alternatives to war, and while peace can be very messy in itself, it far exceeds the never-ending problems with attempting to win the peace by war. That has never, and will never, work.

Thanks, LaMoure American Legion, for a most respectful and sombre Memorial Day 2015.

I will not forget.

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Reader of the Names

The Reader of the Names

The Student Speaker

The Student Speaker

The main speaker

The main speaker

The traditional Salute

The traditional Salute

#1030 – Dick Bernard: Memorial Day 2015 Thoughts about the War About War

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

We’re out of state on Memorial Day so this year, for the first time in many years, I won’t be at the annual Vets for Peace gathering on the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds. Of course, the event doesn’t need me to go on. Here’s the info about Monday in St. Paul. This is always a meaningful event, of, by and for veterans.

Memorial Day with the Veterans for Peace
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Minnesota State Capitol grounds)
Monday, 9:30 AM
Music, poetry, speeches,
solemn ringing of bells,
and the reading of the names
of the Minnesota casualties
of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

(click to enlarge photo)

Entasham (at left) interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War vet Jim Northrup at the MN Vietnam Memorial Vets for Peace event, Memorial Day, 2014.  Cameraman fellow Pakistani, Suhail.  See Postnote

Entasham (at left) interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War vet Jim Northrup at the MN Vietnam Memorial Vets for Peace event, Memorial Day, 2014. Cameraman fellow Pakistani, Suhail. See Postnote

There are many thoughts this Memorial Day, particularly when politicians are attempting to justify war and blame someone else for it.

I’m going to propose taking some time to watch and read the items which follow. They will take some of your time, but you might find them both interesting and instructive.

Personally, I am a military veteran, from a family of veterans. I’m a long time member of the American Legion and Veterans for Peace. I have a grandson who’s in Air Force ROTC in high school, and I consider it a positive experience for him in many ways. This does not make me, or him, pro-war. It is helping him grow up. And he, too, is proud of his service.

My focus this weekend will be on a person I never met, the brother of my good friend, Jim, who died this year from the lingering and severe effects of exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam. His suffering is over. Our national confusion continues.

All this makes me a complicated individual when it comes to a conversation about this annual Memorial Day which is interpreted in so many ways (the Legion post in the town we’re visiting this weekend will be having a fish fry on Saturday night). Not all is somber on this day remembering death (though many victims of war are very much alive, though suffering PTSD or other long-term effects of war).

Here’s my recommendations:
1. March 20 I and many others listened to seven persons tell seven stories of the Vietnam War from their perspective. The film is excellent and runs for about 90 minutes. You can watch it here. I was there. It is a somber and thought-provoking presentation.

2. In recent months, out at the family farm in North Dakota, I have come across some very interesting and historical documents about World War II BEFORE Pearl Harbor. The American Legion has helpfully provided its summary history of American Wars. You can read these in the first section “POSTNOTE” here.

3. This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. On June 1 will be what appears to be a very interesting webcast of talks by many experts which at minimum I’d like you to be aware of. You can access the information here. Another perspective, by my friend and UN expert Dr. Joe Schwartzberg can be read at the end of this post from Jan. 1, 2015.

My friend, Lynn Elling, is fond of the mantra that we are in “an open moment in history” to change course.

I agree with his assessment, but even more so.

We will, collectively, decide on global progress towards peace; or continuing on a death-spiral for our entire planet through war, lack of attention to crises like man-induced climate change, etc.

We cannot pretend that the past is present; that simple belief about this or that suffices; or that there is a rosy future without deep and painful changes in our behaviors.

The mantra of the energy industry, for instance, pronounced over and over on TV ads, that we are energy independent and will be (it is suggested) okay for the next 100 years is very dangerous.

My grandparents were married 110 years ago, long ago, but a blip in human history. Who will be around 110 years from today who will remember us fondly?

It is long past time to wake up.

POSTNOTE: A year ago, this time of year, it was my privilege to meet Ehtasham Anwar, a Pakistani civil official in one of Pakistan’s largest city – as big as the Twin Cities. Ehtasham was completing a year as a Humphrey/Fulbright Fellow at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School.

We talked about many things in the month we worked together on his year-end project, on the issue of peace. And one memory is vivid in my mind, since he mentioned it to me more than once.

Paraphrasing what I remember, he said this: “Throughout this year in Minnesota I have been so impressed with how friendly and peace-loving American people are. Why is it that American foreign policy towards others in other parts of the world is so negative and dominating?”

Difficult question.

I gave him my answer, what I thought was our national problem. Hint: it is every one of us, our disinterest and lack of engagement in the greater questions of who we are with the rest of the world, even with our fellow Americans. We are individualists. Too many of us have had it far too well, for far too long. We feel we are entitled to what some call our “exceptionalism”.

What is yours?, I ask you.

Ironically, overnight came a personal commentary remembered from a fifteen years ago conversation in Paris by my favorite blogger, Just Above Sunset. You can read it here. Remember, this is from near 15 YEARS ago. While at this blog space, the previous several posts have summarized the last couple of weeks of posturing by presumptive U.S. presidential candidates for 2016 on the issue of war. The other columns are very well worth your time.