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

Monday, September 4th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But look at the totality before embracing the criticism….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1290 – Dick Bernard: “Judge not….”

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

The details are here: Reformation001

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

In peace.

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

Monday, August 21st, 2017

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


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

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

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

Me? I’m off to coffee as usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever the case, we saw it.

Have a good day.

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

POSTNOTE August 23:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

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

Recommended reading: The Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POSTNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

On Losing Hope…Don’t….

Monday, August 14th, 2017

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

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

from Carol: a two minute film from 1943

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dick Bernard – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Friday, August 11th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t judge the book by its cover”.

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

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

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

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

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

POSTNOTE:

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

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

There is possibility out there. Go for it!

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

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

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

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

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

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

Of the characters, only about 20 are women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Age of Anger is very well worth your time.

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

Where do we fit in all of this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dick Bernard: The I-35W Bridge Collapse, Minneapolis MN, August 1, 2007

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

We head to “the lake” today for our annual week at Breezy Point north of Brainerd MN. We have the same week each year. My computer takes a vacation, too. Likely, tonight, the local Elvis impersonator (he’s very good) will do his gig by the dock, and we’ll have an enjoyable time.

Ten years ago, August 1, we were at the same resort, watching the news, and up came an announcement of the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minneapolis. We first had to figure out what bridge it was – it’s not a normal route. In my computer photo file – the index says “Apple iPhone 6:38:13 pm” – someone, apparently at the Guthrie theater not far away, had taken a photo of whatever was happening just down the street, later sending it to me. I have a guess. See text below. In due time, the scope of the tragedy became known: 13 dead, 145 injured. The bridge took years to rebuild; there were lawsuits and financial settlements, and talk about our crumbling national infrastructure.

Thursday of this week I crossed the replacement bridge twice, to and from a 5 p.m. meeting at St. Anthony Main. The significance of ten years ago at this very spot didn’t even cross my mind. Life goes on, memories are short. So long as we avoid the personal potholes of life, we can, in our affluent society, largely ignore our responsibility for the greater reality around us. My opinion: our neglect of our infrastructure (which in my definition includes our inability to even work out differences of opinion amongst ourselves) is our slow-moving and continuing 9-11-01 – a disaster in progress.

(click to enlarge)

Photo of I-35E Bridge Collapse August 1, 2007 via iPhone, quite likely from the Guthrie Theater.

Back on August 1, 2007, I had an e-mail list – no blog – and there were a flurry of comments, from which I reprint two, below. A month later, when the area was reopened for people like myself who wanted to see the scene, I went down and took a few photos, three of which follow.

Here’s from Jody, August 1, 2007, 11:57 p.m.: Tonight, I took my kids to Minneapolis to see the musical 1776 at the new Guthrie Theater. I called it an early birthday present to myself, and their gift to me was to go happily from start to finish.

I decided not to take I-35W. It seemed, I don’t know, like the wrong road to take, though it would be my normal way into town. We took an alternate route and got off the highway at about 6:08. There had not been too much traffic and we were very early for the show. The road we were on, Chicago Avenue, went right downtown and suddenly, as best as I can describe — it was chaos. The fire truck that came by first just about pushed the SUV out of his way to get by. Emergency vehicles were coming at us from three directions. I hardly knew where to be — on the right, off the road, stopped — it was just bedlam. I finally got into the parking ramp where it felt safe. My adrenaline was rushing; it was pretty clear something was wrong. Some emergency vehicles had boats.

The Guthrie overlooks the Mississippi River. We joined an ever-growing crowd at the window. The theater has a long beautiful seating area, comfortable chairs, great view — and there we could see the bridge in the river. We could see the smoke from the burning tractor trailer. Emergency vehicles. People. And there was shock. Horror. Cell phones not working. Huge number of bystanders crowded the banks of the river from all angles to watch.

7:30 show time. The seats were not filled. We waited. The show started late which isn’t typical, I hear. We had front row seats, but the mood was subdued. We made an effort to become involved with the production, which was truly wonderful. Part of me felt guilty that I was sitting there. Why hadn’t we gone down to help — although I’m sure our help wasn’t what they needed.

I am only home twenty minutes and trying to catch up with what happened from the television vantage point.

We talked on the way home about the fact that while if I had taken 35W, we would have gotten off the exit before the bridge — but the family joke is that when I have both kids in the car I get to talking and miss my exit (one famous trip to the airport turned into a long trip).

We’ve had calls and emails from friends all over the place, so I thought I’d write. And now eat some ice cream.

I-35 Bridge scene Sep 2, 2007


(click to enlarge this photo, and you will see a black building closeby to downtown Minneapolis. That is the Guthrie Theater, and the vantage point from there would be very similar to the photo you see at the beginning of the post.)

from Mary, Aug. 2, 2007, 4:34 p.m.: My cousin Lois __ survived the 35 bridge crash. She is my mom’s sister’s oldest girl and we attended her [family] reunion together on July 22nd.

After work, most routes were congested and she tried 35 going north and found it stop and go, She was not able to get off because drivers would not yield to her signal. Fortunately, She had driven (inched) to nearly the north side and her maroon older sedan dropped 60 feet with the failing bridge, landed hovering on the frontage road. She walked out of the scene with a truck driver to the Lutheran Center and was taken to U hospital and treated for spine injury. She chose to go home and is recuperating in Arden Hills.

She is grateful she did not drop into the water and she notes her car has had national press coverage. I saw it in the NYTimes slide series. Sadly, her perception was that the car next to her did not make it. She welcomes prayers during this tragic time.

I drove to work under the bridge for 3 years choosing slow life. Last week I walked to my work at Ted Mann Hall a few blocks from there. To avoid the pollution of slow moving freeways, I use alternative routes often.

I welcome the wake-up call to invest in our infrastructure, protect our people and reevaluate transportation-work viability.

(The photo below is of the north side of the bridge, roughly where Lois would have been. The photo above shows a road going under the collapsed bridge which would have been Mary’s usual route.)

Collapsed I-35W Bridge, Minneapolis, Sep 2, 2007

Looking at the destroyed bridge, Sep. 2, 1007, from the parallel bridge just downstream.

POSTSCRIPT. There is a continuing tsunami of national news swirling around the current administration and Congress. A good summary of the last few days is here. I agree with the George Will “snip” which is included in this summary: “Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.” Every one of us has shirked our duties for far too long, expecting – and blaming – the President, whoever that might happen to be, for every thing, real or imagined. Ideologically I’m not a George Will type, though his opinion is well worth a read.

The Empty Chair

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

September 19, 2013, I was at the North Dakota farm of my Uncle Vincent and my ancestors. It was a place I had been many times before, and this particular day I took the below photos, and 29 more.

I had ridden out to the farm with Uncle Vince, then 88 years of age. We did this every time I came west during the years they’d lived in town, ten miles away.

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Sep. 19, 2013

I’m not sure why I made this particular trip. My photo logs around that date show no related trips connected with the specific visit to that home place 320 miles from where I live.

My photos that day were the usual ones of the ever more run-down farm. This day I took this specific photo of the metal shed, showing where Uncle Vince, in recent years, spent most of his time when he visited his life long home. I purposely showed the place exactly as it appeared. There was no staging. At the time of the photo, Uncle Vincent was down by the barn, turning off the water to the garden; preparing for winter, as he always did.

What I do remember about that day, and those snapshots, was that I felt I was documenting the coming end of the then-108 years old Busch farm.

Since 2006 Vincent and his sister, Edithe, lived in town in assisted living; Edithe had, about a year earlier, moved into the Nursing Home down the hall.

As had become normal, Vincent continued to come out to the farm to do something: on this day, turn off the water to the garden.

But something else was becoming more obvious. Once again, he had forgotten why he made the trip to the farm, and I had to remind him more than once about what he had come to do.

He was slipping. He was also more and more depressed. He’d just sit in that old chair at the farm and look towards the nearby house and yard he’d lived almost his entire life, and look beyond in the direction of the old hometown, Berlin ND, elevators easily visible, about five miles from the knoll on which the farm stood. He’d just sit there in his chair and look….

Sep. 19, 2013, Berlin ND from the Busch farmstead

I remember one other particular photo that September day. It is below.

Sep. 19, 2013

I was down by the old garden, and took a photo of the old barn – I’d done that many times before. This particular day, as I noticed the car by the barn. I realized with a start that given Vince’s short term memory problems, it was a real possibility that he might drive home to LaMoure without me, not remembering that I’d come out with him. So I hustled back towards the barn.

Visit over, I made the over 300 mile trip back home.

My photos show that on October 24 I was back in LaMoure, then again on November 10, to do the deed that many of us have to do with an elder loved one.

Vince and Edithe Oct 25, 2013

The folks in assisted living had determined that Vincent could no longer live semi-independently in his apartment, and on November 11, 2013, I had to give him the talk, along with the Director, that he had no real choice but to move to join his sister down the hall in the Nursing Home. I accompanied him on that short trip by wheelchair. It was not easy.

These are things that stick in one’s mind: those Fall days in North Dakota will be among my enduring memories.

Fourteen months later, Feb. 2, 2015, Vincent died, having just achieved age 90.

There was always a melancholy sense with Vince; that he felt he’d failed, somehow, let the family down. It’s easy to fall into that trap.

I know better. He honored his family and his community as well. He was a good man.

We’re all on the same train track called “life”, with all that entails.

Three days ago, I went to the funeral of David, a teaching colleague from 50 years ago. Funerals become regular social event for older folks like me. I sent along to the mailing list announcing David’s death an old Ann Landers column that has always been meaningful to me, and offer it to you, now: The Station001

All best for a good life.

NOTE: Here are the blogposts written about the Busch farm and North Dakota generally over the last few years: Dick Bernard Blog Posts on Buschs and N. Dakota

POSTSCRIPT:

Neither Vince nor Edithe ever married, nor had kids of their own, but there were those 28 of us who called them “Uncle” or “Aunt”, and saw them from time to time. Six of us preceded them in death.

Sometimes you wonder, did you make any difference at all? I’m pretty sure Vince, in particular, wondered about that, though he was close-mouthed about his feelings.

Lately, I’ve had a couple of pieces of “evidence”, among many others, that yes, they/we made a difference.

Earlier this month, daughter Joni, was appointed Principal of a Middle School near here. She’s been a school administrator for 13 years, and the new assignment is a particular challenge/honor: she takes the reins at a 66 year old school, while at the same time supervising the construction of its replacement school a few miles away. She’s earned the promotion to what is a difficult job. Here’s the article announcing her appointment: Joni Hagebock001

Just a week or so ago we got the latest issue of the Catholic Archdiocese newspaper, and the entire back page was devoted to Carrie Berran, who we immediately identified as the daughter of another of Vince’s nieces, Mary Jewett. As the article states, Carrie was honored as the national NBA Jr. Coach of the Year for the United States. Not at all shabby! Carrie Berran Jul 2017003.

Carrie Berran

Dick Bernard: Antioch, and a local Festival….

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

We were at the St. George’s Middle Eastern Festival in W. St. Paul yesterday. It continues today, noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Here’s the website, and schedule of events: St. George Festival001. I’m very tempted to go back. A few thoughts from yesterday. (St. George’s is just south of Butler, between Robert and U.S. 52 in West St. Paul.)

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Yesterday, our friend, Don, 88, expressed an interest in going to a church festival in a neighboring suburb, West St. Paul. It was a good idea, and a nice day. Don’s objective: to ride a camel, for the first time in many years. He felt he was up to it (he was), and off we went.

We were early, and went inside the Church which includes a display of icons. A parish member was there to supervise and answer questions. I had noticed that the Church labeled itself as Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church. I had a general idea of Antioch, and Orthodox, but asked the gentleman about Antioch and by extension “Antiochian”. Were the two related? Why “Antiochian”?

This was not a new question to the guide. He asked were we generally aware of Turkey and the Middle East? Surely. More or less at the elbow, where Turkey and Syria meet, is the city of Antioch.

(On the below map, note generally where Smyrna and Syria come together).

It was Antioch where this branch of Christian Orthodoxy began, but largely due to too frequent earthquakes, the headquarters of the Church was relocated to Damascus, Syria. “Damascus” brought up an obvious question from one of us, about Syria today….

(click to enlarge, double click for more detail)

But before that, here’s an article about Antiochian Orthodox.

The mere mention of “Damascus” brought a rapid fire, very civil, series of “one-liners”, overlooked by the assembled icons on display below a photo of the founding group of the local congregation back in the 1920a.

St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church Congregation 1920s

Damascus brought up the current Syria issue, which brought up Isis, which brought up Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s relatively benign treatment of Christians, and Mosul, and the Ottoman Turks and the Armenian genocide, and Ottoman Empire (basically the green portion of the 1896 map) and on and on an on. Into the mix came powerfully the less than helpful impact of powerful religious ideologues of all religions. And also into the mix came the issue of the French and British partition of what is now the Middle East in the wake of WW I: Sykes-Picot is how that is often characterized.

None of us were there to solve the middle east, or any other problems.

We were there for a camel ride, and it went well – Don can now cross it off his bucket list, to add to his real-life experiences with camels when he was much younger and a visitor to over 50 countries in the world (including Algeria and Morocco, where the previous rides took place).

But that brief conversation sticks in my mind.

July 14, 2017 W. St. Paul MN