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#1005 – Dick Bernard: Photos of Positive People, and a Call to Act.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

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Park Rapids MN Mar 14, 2015

Park Rapids MN Mar 14, 2015

There are lots of good things going on in the world, every day, every where.

This fact is easy to miss in a contemporary media environment that incessantly emphasizes bad news. But all one needs to do is to look around, listen, and get engaged.

Here’s a little photo gallery, with small captions, from just one recent week, taken at a League of Women Voters Saturday afternoon workshop in Park Rapids MN, and at a meeting about overpopulation of the planet in Minneapolis. Most of the speakers were ordinary folks, just like the rest of us. But this gave particular power to their presentations, in my opinion.

And at the end, a recent article I spied in last Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about Climate Change, and something I wrote about the same topic 10 ten years ago.

The March 14 workshop in Park Rapids was about Sustainable Agriculture, and the citizen speakers well informed, and interesting. (In the end, my opinion, it is always ordinary citizens who will make the difference…and time and time again, I hear the “expert” speakers affirm that the essential folks towards positive change are the folks we’ve never heard of.


Sally Shearer, Park Rapids MN, Mar 14, 2015

Sally Shearer, Park Rapids MN, Mar 14, 2015

Sally Shearer talked about the history of Minnesota agriculture, beginning, of course, with the indigenous people. She especially referenced a particularly interesting older book, Helping People Help Themselves, by Roland H. Abraham, about the history of agricultural extension,

Ed Poitras, Mar 14, 2015

Ed Poitras, Mar 14, 2015

Ed Poitras talked about this experience, as a boy in WWII, with Victory Gardens in his home state of Massachusetts. For those of us of a certain age, we remember gardening, cooking, canning, raising chickens, and the like. These are lost arts which may well again become essentials.

Anne Morgan, Mar. 14, 2015

Anne Morgan, Mar. 14, 2015

Anne Morgan gave us a primer on garden seeds.

Les Hiltz, Mar 14, 2015

Les Hiltz, Mar 14, 2015

Les Hiltz talked about bees and beekeeping. Bees are crucial to sustinability.

Winona Laduke, Mar 14, 2015

Winona Laduke, Mar 14, 2015

Winona Laduke was the most high profile speaker, and she spoke with feeling and intelligence and intensity about the land and the traditional ways.

March 19 in Minneapolis, David Paxson gave a jam-packed session on the issue of global overpopulation. His website is worth a visit.


David Paxson, Mar 19, 2015

David Paxson, Mar 19, 2015

Finally, in the March 22, Minneapolis Star Tribune, in the Science section, I found an article about Al Gore and the issue of Climate. The article (pp 4&5), and some of my “history” with Mr. Gore (pp 1, 2 & 3), can be read here: Al Gore, 2005, 06, 2015002

In my opinion, Mr. Gore is a visionary, well worth paying attention to.

For me, personally, the solution ends up with those who are in the seats, listening.

Others better informed and in one way or another more “important” than us, may, in fact, know more than we do. But in the end it is every individual setting out to make a little difference, who will make the big and essential long term difference.

It is what we – not they – do that will make the difference.

Mar 19, 2014, Minneapolis

Mar 19, 2014, Minneapolis

#1004 – Kathy McKay: Going to Selma, 2015; Remembering 1965

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

The Selma, Alabama, march was actually two marches. The first, March 7, 1965, was the confrontation at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma; the second began March 21, 1965, and ended four days later at the capitol in Montgomery.

My friend, Kathy McKay, decided to go to Selma March 6-7 to remember 50 years ago. Following are her notes as she experienced Selma, and Alabama, in 2015.

Kathy McKay

Why go to Selma?

When I read a short note in January that President Obama was scheduled to go to Selma for the fiftieth anniversary march I knew I wanted to go too.

I remember the first marches in Selma with the really frightening pictures. Selma has become an iconic event of many occurring during the intensity of the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s and 70’s. It seemed like a way to remember these efforts, to underline their importance, and to participate in a public display of democracy given the challenges to civil rights still so with us. As Obama said in his speech at the foot of the bridge the US is still a work in progress. Democracy is still perhaps more of an ideal than a reality.

Another reason I wanted to go is that Lee and I own property in Alabama. Though I wholeheartedly embrace the unspeakable beauty of the island coast with its birds and quiet beaches I had not yet found a way to feel as though I politically belonged. I winched at statistics of poverty rates, anti immigration sentiment, disproportionate rates of incarceration and a general suspicion of pick up trucks with gun racks.

Perhaps traveling to Selma would expand my orientation to Alabama…give me a better feel…help me see if there is a way I can “fit” better into an Alabaman identity.

Montgomery, March 6th, night before Selma

Here I am at a Waffle House in a town I have never been to before. Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama is about 50 miles east of Selma and the closest place that I could find a room three weeks ago when I started calling.

This week end Montgomery has the Patti LaBelle celebration concert and the Grammy nominated Imani Winds doing a world premiere of a piece memorializing both Langston Hughes and negro spirituals in a nod to the 50th anniversary.

Montgomery has the Southern Poverty Law Center which was started by Morris Dees during the 60’s and is premiering a film highlighting several of the original local marchers.

There is a lot going on in central Alabama celebrating this civil rights event.

In March of 1965 I was living in a college dormitory of 600 women in Winona, Mn. Not only was there no internet but only one television in the whole building. We got our news and commentary from TIME and Newsweek sometime after the events happened.

I was stunned when I viewed the news reports and video on that TV of policeman attacking the citizens they were hired to protect, and the now infamous footage of rage and brutality against the non violent marchers. It is the deep disrespect and de-humanization this event represents that draws me Montgomery


President Obama was scheduled to speak at 1:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, March 7. I was 48 miles away in Montgomery. The news was saying security checks for the up close area would begin at 8:30 in the morning. I made a decision that I did not want to wait in an enclosed area with no water or seats for 5 hours so didn’t try for that deadline.

Wonderfully the Museum of Alabama opened at 8:30 on Saturday morning and had an exhibit of some of the Spider Martin black and white photographs from the first March. I headed to downtown Montgomery and entered the atrium of the museum a few minutes after 8:30am. Walking past busts of Alabama heroes I saw a military general that fought against the Spanish and one from the revolutionary war. I saw a proud bust of Booker T. Washington and one of George Washington Carver There may have been the expected Confederate generals but I did not see them.

Photo: Kathy McKay, March 7, 2015

Photo: Kathy McKay, March 7, 2015

The Spider Martin exhibit was on the first floor. A friendly docent welcomed me and directed me to the Milo Howard room where the large copies of pictures were hung.
Following this visit I headed for the highway to Selma figuring I would get there early and look around. Spring begins in late February in Alabama. The rolling hills had some green and the four lane highway with a broad grassy median was a pleasant drive.

As I reached the peak of one of the many undulating hills I noticed in my rear view mirror flashing blue lights. “Oh oh someone is getting a ticket” I thought. The blue lights persisted and then I notice motorcycle police leading a trail of vehicles. “Oh, a funeral procession.”I slowed slightly. As there were two lanes going in my direction no need to pull over.

Pulling up beside me going, perhaps 55 mph or maybe 60 mph, were eight large motorcycles with leathered drivers and blue lights flashing. Immediately behind them a long black limousine, and then one after another of black SUV’s with license plates 001, 003, etc. As I was counting the SUV’s and got to about seven or eight i was stunned to realize this is the president and his entourage…family, secret service, etc. I was overwhelmed with the impact of driving along side of the president to get to the Edmund Pettus bridge and the city of Selma. The symbolism of a black president coming to the sacred ground of Selma to honor the marchers, the people of Selma and to proclaim to America and the world “what happened here was so important”. I was in tears.
Later came a train of seven tour buses, the congressional delegates, with staff, I believe. About 12 miles from Selma the traffic slowed and for the next three hours we crawled toward the truck route into Selma. The main highway goes across the bridge onto Broad street, the main street in Selma.

The president’s entourage went into town over the bridge, the rest of us through the back door truck route. Along the highway at the equivalent of about every three blocks were municipal police or sheriffs or state police guiding traffic and answering questions. We were all patient. Some stopped at empty lots a mile or so out and walked in to the town. South High school, about a mile and a half out of town was charging a modest fee to park in their lot, a fund raiser. I stayed on the road and went into the heart of Selma arriving about 12:30. Magically I found the last perking space on Clark street in the residential area. I hopped out and headed for the center of town. Needless to say I had missed the opportunity to get up close to the bridge in the secured area. The town was packed with people, tour buses from Atlanta, New Orleans, South Carolina and places unnamed and thousands of pedestrians.

Broad street was solid people so I made my way up the next street over. I could get within a block of the river and there met barriers and secret service. This would be my place for the next couple of hours. Although the sound system was loud enough to reach our area the “noise” was not decipherable. We didn’t care. The music still worked. The cadence of John Lewis was unmistakeable and the instructive and insistent President Obama spoke clearly without the specific words. (we all said we’d catch the actual speech later on tv).

At Edmund Pettus bridge at time President Obama spoke, March 7, 2015

At Edmund Pettus bridge at time President Obama spoke, March 7, 2015

The crowds included lots of children, young people and old people. People dressed up and those more casual. No one seemed in a hurry to get anyplace. Everyone seemed happy just to be there…that was the point, to be there. The weather was friendly, bright sun and about 70 degrees.

After the speeches music played over the several blocks of milling people. There were booths selling food, I bought a roasted corn and then barbecued ribs from these ladies who were running a busy booth but consented to have their picture taken.

Post event hospitality in Selma, Kathy McKay March 7, 2015

Post event hospitality in Selma, Kathy McKay March 7, 2015

Chicken, grits and desserts were available. I bought a memory water bottle with Selma-50 Years written on the side. No one wanted to leave. People sat on the steps of all the churches, in the yards of the schools…everywhere they stayed around.

I, too, milled around feeling totally comfortable, not wanting to leave. I listened to an older gentleman singing tunes he was making up with recorded music background. I wandered back and forth down various streets, had a sweet tea and noticed the overflowing trash bins from all of the food that was being consumed.

As the sun’s light began to change I went looking for my car. Luckily I had written down the intersection and had my GPS with me. I walked by dozens of tour buses waiting for their travelers and got in line again to retrace my route out of town. The line was not as long leaving as it had been coming into Selma.

I left feeling proud, fulfilled, very American…we do create change, we have more to do, there are people willing to put their lives on the line to move the needle in the direction of justice, of fairness.

Alabama is different for me now. The people gathered at Selma both local and visitors enveloped me with assurance that there is room for me in Alabama…maybe, even, with my resist-the-status quo bent, a particular place for my perspective and my voice.

#1003 – Dick Bernard: A Remarkable Evening Remembering the Vietnam War

Friday, March 20th, 2015

UPDATE Mar 27, 2014: Bill Sorem filmed the entire event which is available on his vimeo site here. The entire program is about 90 minutes, featuring solely the seven speakers.
Tonight I was at a remarkable story-telling session in St. Paul. More later on that. There will be a continuation of the conversation on Thursday, April 9, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis MN. Several pages of handouts from tonight, including the the agenda for tonight, and for April 9, can be read here: Vietnam War Recalled001

(click on drawing to enlarge it)

photo copy of Padre Johnson sketch from 1968, used with permission of the artist.  See Postnote 4.

photo copy of Padre Johnson sketch from 1968, used with permission of the artist. See Postnote 4.

Personal background:

In mid-November, 1982, I was in Washington D.C. for a meeting of a volunteer board of which I was a member.

On Saturday, Nov 13, a member reported to us that she’d seen many veterans of the Vietnam War the previous evening, and they were in town for the dedication of the just completed Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall. Emotions were intense, she reported.

Sunday, Nov 14, 1982, I had several hours between the end of our meeting, and my flight back to Minneapolis from D.C.’s National Airport, and I decided to stop by this new monument. The visit to the wall was an intense one for me as well. I described my experience a couple of weeks later: Vietnam Mem DC 1982001 (See Postnote 1)

I’m a Vietnam era Army Infantry veteran, 1962-63. None of us in Basic Training at Ft. Carson CO ever left stateside; we were simply folded into a newly reactivated Infantry Division which, it turned out, was being prepared for later deployment to Vietnam. At that time, I recall my platoon sergeant wanted an assignment to Saigon. It was considered “good duty”. Later my two younger brothers were Air Force officers who both served in Vietnam, circa 1968 and 1971, one as an F-105 pilot; the other, navigator on military transport planes, some in and out of Vietnam airstrips.

It occurred to me that day at the Memorial that I had never welcomed my brothers home after their tours ended, so I wrote both of them letters in the plane enroute home. Ten or so years earlier they just came back, that’s all.

In more recent years I learned my former Army Company had been decimated in a 1968 ambush in Vietnam. My source was a colleague from the same company, from Sauk Rapids MN, who’d learned this from another veteran who’d later been in the same Company. As I recall, the vet said to my Army friend: “I’ll tell you this story once; never ask me about it again”. (See Postnotes 2 and 3)

Tonights gathering (see page two here, and photo below: Vietnam War Recalled001)

My words are superfluous to the intensity of the messages conveyed by seven speakers in 90 minutes tonight. Below is a picture of the printed agenda. Click to enlarge. I noted someone filming the talks. Hopefully the evening will be translated into an on-line presentation for others to see. Every presentation was powerful.

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Agenda, March 20, 2015

Agenda, March 20, 2015

Postnote 1: As I was preparing this post, I thought it would be simple to find a link that described the history of the Memorial. In the end, I had to use this Wikipedia entry as a source. Scroll down to find the early history of the Memorial and the controversy surrounding it. At this 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War (April 30, 1975), active attempts are being made to re-invent the Vietnam War as being something other than the disaster that it was. History is never safe, which is why the stories told tonight are so important.

Postnote 2: Some years ago I learned that someone had placed online a website remembering the history of the Infantry Battalion of which my Infantry Company was part. You can access it here, including some photographs I took as a young GI at Ft. Carson CO.

Postnote 3: On Monday evening, March 16, 2015, I was checking into the motel in LaMoure ND. The clerk at the desk, a Mom who I’ve gotten to know in the course of many visits to the town, felt a need to talk this particular evening. Just a short while earlier her Dad had died, at 65. He’d had a very rough life, spending most of his recent years on 120% disability from the Veterans Administration for severe exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. It was falling to her to clean up final affairs for her Dad, and it was not easy.

When I got home I wrote a note of support and condolence to her.

It only occurred to me tonight, writing this piece, that she, and my friend from Army days, were from the same town, Sauk Rapids MN.

Postnote 4: Artist Ray (Padre) Johnson is a great friend, and was a medic in Vietnam during some of the deadliest combat in 1967-68. You can read more about the drawing he did here. The section about the drawing is below the photo of the hearse….

COMMENT Mar 27 from Dick Bernard to Chante Wolf’s presentation: I’ve known and respected Chante for years; heard her speak in person on March 20, and just watched her and the others just now.

I can only speak to my own experience in an Army Infantry Company 1962-63.

In those days, our units were 100% male. I really don’t recall even seeing women. I was engaged at the time, and never “went to town” (Colorado Springs) so never experienced the more raw side of life there.

We were young men, then, and doubtless thought the same as young men of any generation. In my particular units, anyway, I don’t recall the raw sexual commentary even in the drill cadences. We lived in barracks, perhaps 20 to a floor, with zero privacy, one bed next to the other with a bathroom down the hall.

Had there been females in the unit, I have no doubt that the behavior we would have witnessed would have been the same as Chante experienced. But I can speak only from my own personal experience.

I did a quick google search to see if there was more information on the topic. All I can do is add the page of links, fyi.

#996 – Dick Bernard: Day One of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Minneapolis MN

Friday, March 6th, 2015

NOTE: Videos of many of the speakers for Mar 6, 7, 8 can be accessed here. See also, posts for March 7, 8, 9 and 10.

The opening of this years Forum began with an inspiring surprise: the “>1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by then 34-year old Martin Luther King Jr. This clip was especially appropriate given that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, for which King and others campaigned for many years; and gives particular context to the film, Selma, set in March of 1965, just months after Dr. King won the Peace Prize. (Tomorrow, Saturday, March 7, is the 50th anniversary of the first march in Selma, where over 500 protestors were attacked by the police.)

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from Martin Luther King acceptance speech, Oslo, December, 1964

from Martin Luther King acceptance speech, Oslo, December, 1964

Friday, March 6, brought eight hours of inspiration featuring numerous speakers (here is the day one program: Peace Prize Forum Mar 6001

Gro Harlem Bruntland, Daniel Wordsworth of American Refugee Committee, Monica McWilliams, all had inspiring messages.

Ending the day, 2002 Laureate Jimmy Carter, U.S. President 1977-1981, gave an inspiring talk. He is one of my all-time favorite Presidents, much maligned (very unfairly, in my opinion) when running for a second term in 1980; now without question one of the most visible and active retired world leaders post-term, working for good in the world. He and Rosalind’s Carter Center takes on the impossible, regularly.

The messages of President Carter, Elder Gro Harlem Brundtland and Monica McWilliams can all be viewed here. Several of the Saturday and Sunday programs will also be broadcast live on-line, and later on video as these talks are.

Each general session speaker had very strong messages of hope, built on the speakers very long personal experience dealing with very tough issues: realities, on the ground, in this imperfect world of ours.

Consistently, speakers such as these are quick to emphasize that the solutions to the major problems rest not with people like themselves, but rather with citizen activists, no matter how humble in circumstance, village by village, city to city, farm by farm.

Succinctly, we, each of us, not them, or someone else named on the news, are the real solution. A better world comes one small piece at a time, through us.

Time after time, over many years of listening to people who made a difference, I get the sense that they are simply courageous realists: they faced a reality that was impossible; assessed the environment; stuck their neck out beyond their comfort zone; and worked and worked and worked and worked…pragmatically…towards some ideal.

In some ways, it is a hard message, but consistently how success is finally achieved.

The Dialogue Session I chose was troubling yet very informative and hopeful: “The Dark Side of the Boom: Seeking Solutions for Human Exploitation and Trafficking in North Dakota’s Oil Patch” was a collaborative program of iEmpathize and North Dakota Force to End Sexual Exploitation (FUSE). As a son of North Dakota, who lived in “the oil patch” during its earliest boom as a 13 year old in 1953-54, I found the program of particular interest and the speakers to be very knowledgeable.

A new 26-minute video produced by iEmpathize was shown. Information about the video, including a trailer, is at their website (link, above).

The latest of President Carter’s many books, “A Call to Action. Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” gives 23 suggestions for anyone wondering what they, personally, can do as their own, personal “Call to Action”. The suggestions can be read, here. They are found on pages 196-198 of the book which is an excellent one for discussion in book club formats, as well as for individual reading.

Jimmy Carter, March 6, 2015, Minneapolis MN Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Jimmy Carter, March 6, 2015, Minneapolis MN Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Here are a few other snapshots I took during this first, inspiring, day:

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Deputy Chair of the Elders and former Prime Minister of Norway.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Deputy Chair of the Elders and former Prime Minister of Norway.

Daniel Wordsworth, President and CEO of the American Refugee Committee, which is headquartered in Minneapolis MN.

Daniel Wordsworth, President and CEO of the American Refugee Committee, which is headquartered in Minneapolis MN.

Timothy Pippert, Professor at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, coordinator of the program on the Dark Side of the ND Oil Boom.

Timothy Pippert, Professor at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, coordinator of the program on the Dark Side of the ND Oil Boom.

Anthony Baldassari, Christine Sambor, Brad Riley and Timothy Pippert, discussing the Oil Patch Human Trafficking problem.

Anthony Baldassari, Christine Sambor, Brad Riley and Timothy Pippert, discussing the Oil Patch Human Trafficking problem.

Monica McWilliams, former Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Signatory of the Good Friday Agreement.

Monica McWilliams, former Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Signatory of the Good Friday Agreement.

Tom Weber, Host of Minnesota Public Radio  News with Tom Weber, conducted post-speech conversations with most of the keynote speakers.   Monica McWilliams did the post speech interview with President Carter.

Tom Weber, Host of Minnesota Public Radio News with Tom Weber, conducted post-speech conversations with most of the keynote speakers. Monica McWilliams did the post speech interview with President Carter.

Post-note: President Carter’s Vice-President Walter Mondale was to introduce the President, but it was announced he had been hospitalized with the flu. President Carter, now 90, noted that he and Rosalind, his wife, have been married 69 years, and that he still does his “Sunday School” at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.

On Sunday, March 8, from 11:30 to 1 p.m., one of the dialogue sessions will be our long-time friend Annelee Woodstrom, who will speak about Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Annelee, now 88, lived the reality of Hitler’s Germany as a young person in a German small town, from 1933-45. She is very frank about what happened and why. I have heard her speak many times. She is well worth hearing. I think a few tickets for Sunday are still available. The Focus this day will be issues related to inclusivity. If you’re in the area, and free, come on down…but get your ticket first!

#990 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

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Feb. 5, 2015, Room 111 at St. Rose

Feb. 5, 2015, Room 111 at St. Rose

Uncle Vincent died Monday evening February 2. I wrote briefly about his death here. His funeral is on Tuesday in Lamoure. Details are here. The photo used there is one I took of him almost exactly a year ago at his sister, Edithe’s, funeral on Feb. 15, 2014. The one that people will see in the folder at the funeral Mass on Tuesday is of he and Edithe Oct. 25, 2013, couple of weeks before he joined her in the Nursing Home; and 3 1/2 months before she died. (That photo is at the end of this post.)

They lived together on the home farm for all but the last few years of their entire life. Nine children were born and raised there, and Vincent is the end of the line for “the Busch place” of Berlin ND. So is how it goes. There are lots of nephews and nieces, but we live all over creation.

There will be stories of course, some told on Tuesday. Others in other conversations.

My sister Mary and I went to clean out Vincent’s room last Thursday, reducing all of the possessions to a large box and some garbage bags. St. Rose provided a handcart to remove the possessions and as I was making my second and final trip a couple of staff opened the door for me: “Isn’t this as it always is: an entire life reduced to a few garbage bags….”

They see this trip quite often, of course. In one way or another, for all of us, it is the same. What we struggled for in this temporal life suddenly becomes irrelevant to us.

One of the possessions in the room was Vincent’s desk (pictured above), which I kept “off limits” till he died. It was important to him. It yielded an immense amount of stuff, which I have now been going through, piece by piece, to be sure that something of importance is not in hiding there. There are the usual questions, of course: “Why in the world did he keep THAT?” “Why is that pliers in here?” “Should I keep that 1987 fishing license?” And on and on.

Then there’s other stuff: an official document of a report on a U.S. Patent received by my grandfather Ferdinand Busch in 1925 for a “fuel economizer”. I knew Grandpa had a couple of Patents, in the 1950s, but had never heard of this one. It’s Number 1,541,684 if you’re interested. It expired in 1942, and already in 1925 many similar devices were being invented, so don’t presume you’ll get rich on it!

That this treasure appeared was not too much of a surprise. This desk had been Grandpa’s before, and had a very long history, perhaps going back to he and Rosa’s arrival on the ND prairie in 1905.

A folded and brittle piece of paper appeared in the pile of flotsam from the desk. It was from 1915 – 100 years ago – and was a detailed report on fundraising for the new St. John’s Church in Berlin (which closed in 1968). It was a single page listing of who contributed what to the construction of the church, and it appears from the pattern of contributions that the church was paid for in cash, $3,419.85. You can see the sheet here: Berlin St. Johns 1915001. It’s an important part of local history, perhaps inadvertently saved, but saved nonetheless.

Before we took down the pictures on Vince’s walls, I took photos (of the desk, and the other walls). Now, those things on Vince’s wall deserve the attention. What you see there is what was important to him….

On the way out of town, we stopped at the gas station and Mary Ann overheard an older guy (probably my age) talking to some of his buddies in a booth. They had seen the on-line obit, and he said: “I didn’t think Vince was that old.”

Maybe they’ll be at the funeral on Tuesday.

Vincent and Edithe and all of the family from rural Berlin are at peace.

For the rest of us, live well, but don’t forget the garbage bags who somebody will use when it’s your turn!

Feb 5, 2015 Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015 Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015, Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015, Rm 111 St Rose

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

from Annelee, Feb 8:
I just read “MY Uncle Vince”you revealed much of the love you had for him — it touched me deeply.

The photos also gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Uncle Vince was. Warm and honoring the past, but living in the present.

When you wrote about the garbage bag — being part of the end of one’s life —that is only part of what happens.

I will always remember (until I die) what my papa said to me as we hugged for the final time before he left.

As he turned away and left I called out, “Papa, Papa, please don’t leave me just yet!”

I still can remember him standing there, he looked at me with so much love and he said, “Anneliese, I will never leave you.”

“But Papa”, —-

“Anneliese” he broke in, “ you will remember what I said and you will do things like I taught you. You see, I will be with you more than you know.”

He kicked a solitary tree trunk and walked away without looking back.

He was mot even 41, he is gone for more than seven decades. But I still remember these words, —

I taught much to my children of what he taught me. I told them about Papa —what I remembered.

So you see, Papa and all he owned is gone —but he is still with me in memories — and he will be with Roy [my son] because I tried to instill
the values my Papa taught me—in him.

Love and blessings Annelee

response from Dick: Annelee is our dear friend who I’ve known since 2003 when I learned of her book, War Child. Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Her Dad and Mom refused to be part of the Nazis and as a result, he was drafted into the military engineers, and after the last visit home she describes above, her Dad went with the Germans into Russia and was never heard from again. They believe he died somewhere in Russia, but are not sure.

She will be speaking several times in the Twin Cities this spring, the next on March 8 at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis.

#987 – Dick Bernard: Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Day after Yesterday

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Last night I went to an outstanding program commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

This was a one-night program. The program booklet can be seen here: Auschwitz- Apollo 1-2015001. As the program booklet notes (p. 2) Dr. Sean Vogt, Director of the wonderful Apollo Male Chorus, was moved and inspired by a personal visit to Auschwitz in 2011.

The production was magnificent, including a premiered work, and deserves repetition. One can hardly imagine the amount of work that went into making “the Liberation of Auschwitz” happen.

There has never been a substitute for individual or small group commitment to bringing a goal to fruition. That was certainly true last night.

I sat there, last night, reflecting on our own trip to Auschwitz and other places of the Holocaust 15 years ago. I was intensely involved at every step of that powerful journey, and the combination of about 40 of us, mostly Catholic and Jew, had its own powerful (though mostly unstated) dynamics. There was, after all, a very long history of Catholic (and Christian, generally) teaching about the Jews which in the Catholic Church always culminated in the Good Friday recitation of the central role of the Jews in the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus. This theological history, in a very real sense, aided and abetted the Nazis in making the Holocaust possible in the first place.

The unworthiness of the Jews was internalized in Christian teaching.

On the Pilgrimage, we were all aware of this, and there was frequent talk about this, and we doubtless all reflected on this in differing ways.

We arrived home, and went our separate ways. In yesterdays post I summarized:

“[May 4, 2000] at the entrance to the first of the horrific exhibit buildings at Auschwitz, we saw, posted, with emphasis, the oft-noted quotation of George Santayana:

“Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it”

We arrived home in Minnesota emotionally and physically exhausted a few days later, and after a period of several months of reunion and passion, building on what we had experienced, our lives cycled back to normal – a usual pattern after such high (or low) experiences.

Then, little more than a year later came 9-11-01. I suspect we reacted, individually, and continue to react, in different ways. We’ve never talked about that, as a group.

What would we say?

Today, 15 years later, the memories of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau remain vivid.

But on this day of remembrance, and in all days, we humans are well advised to remind ourselves of what we, ourselves, are capable of, for good, and for evil.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a powerful reminder; 9-11 as well….”

Those 16 months between coming home and 9-11-01, and the many years since 9-11, have a cautionary message for all of us, that catastrophes can themselves be misused and abused for self-interest.

Some months after we arrived home, a suicide bombing, or several, in Israel, provoked what has become a common response: rather than “an eye for an eye”, or dealing with the suicide bombing as a crime, the issue became Israel versus Palestinians in Israel, and I remember vividly the general formula: one Israeli Jew killed translates to ten Palestinians dead, in response. It was like saying to me, in Minnesota, that if I didn’t stop the killing by someone I didn’t know 200 miles away, that I might be killed in response, or my house destroyed. The excessive revenge response made no sense to me, and I said so, and I was no longer considered an ally by some.

After 9-11-01 came e-mail “forwards” including photos of some apparent-Palestinians cheering the collapse of the Twin Towers. The Us versus Them theme intensified. The issue of Moslems as the problem entered the conversation.

Moslems replaced Jews as the problem….

In Sep., 2006 I was invited to the local premier of a widely circulated (and still available) “documentary”*, which featured film clips of a few radical Moslem leaders railing against the Jews. We have all seen such clips, carefully selected and edited, used to attempt to prove almost anything. The purpose is simple: to create an impression (much like the Christian teaching about the role of Jews in Christ’s death on the cross): “Crucify him!”

Or kill them.

In recent days there is, of course, the developing situation in Europe in the wake of “Je Suis Charlie”, seems to focus on demonstrations focusing against the Moslem immigrants, rather than the lunatics that actually did, and abetted, the killings in Paris. The initial issue in Paris focused on Freedom of Speech. But now there’s the less than subtle ‘spin’ that the killing of four Jews now represents a new rising of anti-Semitism, with the very recent matter of Bibi Netanyahu attempting to use the tragedy to seize the political advantage against the supposed threat of Iran, including involving the American Congress. Again, it is not a pleasant time, and perspective is lacking. Two violent incidents are being misused.

I could go on, of course.

Can we talk?

* I am not inclined to give free publicity to this film, which I consider a hate film, but in the interest of discussion, here is the wikipedia link about it. In my own “review” September 27, 2006, I said in part, this: “…It is a new but classical propaganda film…The tone of the film was such that you’d walk out of the theatre and almost be inclined to cross the street if you see a Muslim coming your way…that kind of ‘balance’.”

The person who invited me to attend the film was not pleased with my review…you can read the entire review here: Obsession Rev 9-27-06001 The Sep 2000 U.S. News and World Report article about American Neo-Nazis (referenced in review) is here: USNews-9-25-2000001

Of course, the film gives an obligatory disclaimer: “This is a film about radical Islamic terror. A dangerous ideology, fueled by religious hatred. It’s important to remember most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror. This is not a film about them. This is a film about a radical worldview, and the threat it poses to us all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.” But the emphasis is making common people fear and distrust all Moslems, not just the few. As we all know, this narrative played out well in Germany in the Auschwitz days, against another minority.

#986 – Dick Bernard: Learning on a Beautiful Spring Day at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

PRE-NOTES: 1. Auschwitz-Birkenau, air photo and description: Auschwitz-Birkenau001
2. Recollections of a GI who visits Dachau shortly after liberation in 1945 are at the end of this post.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

A quiet walk on a beautiful day May 4, 2000.   Approaching the entrance to Birkenau death camp, Poland.

A quiet walk on a beautiful day May 4, 2000. Approaching the entrance to Birkenau death camp, Poland.

January 27, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp near Oswiecim, Poland. This day, 70 years ago, marks the beginning of the end of WWII, the deadliest war in world history, in which near 60,000,000 people died, about 3% of the world population.

Near 6,000,000 of these deaths were Jews, over half the world Jewish population at the time. One in six of the Jews who died in WWII, died at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

May 4, 2000, my 60th birthday, was spent at Auschwitz-Birkenau with a group of about 40 Christians and Jews from Temple Israel and Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis MN.

It was a beautiful spring day.

I suspect there were many such beautiful (weather) days at this horrid place during its operation 1940-45, but the business of this camp, which opened the same month and year that I was born, was death, pure and simple.

At Auschwitz, the victims were largely Polish political prisoners; at Birkenau, the victims were Jews.

Our Pilgrimage was a profound one. Earlier we had visited Plaszow (suburban Krakow, subject of the movie, Schindler’s List), Terezin, Prague. And spent a day at Tabor, a Czech town whose Jewish population was obliterated in the Holocaust, but whose Torah was saved and had become part of Temple Israel in Minneapolis.

May 4, we began our visit at Auschwitz. Then we walked to Birkenau, along the very same railroad tracks which brought box cars full of victims to the rail head within the camp (photo above). Men, Women and Children whose destination was the brutally efficient ovens.

Birkenau May 4, 2000 by Matt Smith

Birkenau May 4, 2000 by Matt Smith

Birkenau May 4, 2000, by Matt Smith

Birkenau May 4, 2000, by Matt Smith

The sole function of this awful place was to kill people, mostly Jews, as efficiently as possible.

It was an experience burned into one’s very soul.

If had lunch that day, I don’t remember it.

On our day, the sun was shining, temperature about perfect, the grass green, leaves were on the trees, birds chirping….

We walked mostly in silence in this horrible place; often the sound of our feet the only human sound.

One of our fellow Pilgrims, Len Kennen of Temple Israel, later assembled a photo gallery of what we saw not only at Auschwitz and Birkenau, as well as from other sites of the Holocaust we had visited. Len’s photo galleries, added with his permission, are accessible here and here. Click on any photo to enlarge it. (Photos from the other sites are accessible here.)

As our day closed, the group gathered for a memorial service and candles were lit in memory of those whose lives ended here.

Earlier in the day, at the entrance to the first of the horrific exhibit buildings at Auschwitz, we saw, posted, with emphasis, the oft-noted quotation of George Santayana:

“Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it”

We arrived home in Minnesota emotionally and physically exhausted a few days later, and after a period of several months of reunion and passion, building on what we had experienced, our lives cycled back to normal – a usual pattern after such high (or low) experiences.

Then, little more than a year later came 9-11-01. I suspect we reacted, individually, and continue to react, in different ways. We’ve never talked about that, as a group.

What would we say?

Today, 15 years later, the memories of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau remain vivid.

But on this day of remembrance, and in all days, we humans are well advised to remind ourselves of what we, ourselves, are capable of, for good, and for evil.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a powerful reminder; 9-11 as well….

A memorial service between the ovens....

Ben and the Memorial Candles within Birkenau

Ben and the Memorial Candles within Birkenau

Group Reflections at Birkenau May 4, 2000: Auschwitz May 4 2000 001

Directly related: North Dakota GI Omer Lemire was one of the first to visit Dachau after its mid-April, 1945 liberation. The experience affected him the rest of his life.

Here are his memories of that visit: Omer Lemire at Dachau001

#983 – Dick Bernard: Martin Luther King Day 2015: See “Selma”, and Read “Why We Can’t Wait”….

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. The Day was first implemented in 1986; first recognized by all States in 2000. This years MLK Day is one of the most significant in the days history, in my opinion.

Yesterday I went to the film “Selma” about the events surrounding March 25, 1965, and the ultimate passing of the Voting Rights Act later that same summer*.

The film is powerful and moving. I would urge attendance.

Today the very Right to Vote is under serious attack in many places in our country.

I’m an old geography major, so I always seek some geographic context. Here is a map of Alabama from my 1960 Life World Atlas: Alabama as of 1960001. Here’s the more specific location:

(click to enlarge)

Selma Alabama is about 60 miles west of Montgomery, the capital of Alabama

Selma Alabama is about 30 miles west of Montgomery, the capital of Alabama

At the time of the 1965 march, Selma was on the very bottom of my list of priorities. My wife, 22 years old, was desperately ill, and two months after March 25, she and I were making the long trip from Elgin ND to Minneapolis where she was admitted to the University of Minnesota Hospital for a needed kidney transplant.

She died two months later.

The film, which opens with King receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, has been roundly criticized about its interpretation of then-President Lyndon Johnsons actions at the time of the voting rights act. At the same time, it has been suggested that the criticism has been motivated more by things like jockeying for position for Oscar nominations, than actual criticism of historical facts.

Actually watching the film, I think the general picture of that period in history is quite accurately portrayed, including its portrayal of Lyndon Johnson.

About a year before the events of Selma, and right after the assassination of President Kennedy (Nov. 22, 1963), Martin Luther King Jr., then 34 years old, published a fascinating book, still available, called Why We Can’t Wait, recounting the incredible year of 1963. In this book, which includes the famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail, the final chapter assesses in brief but fascinating fashion Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower and Johnson.

I consider the book a must read for anyone hoping to understand the times of MLK. It is written in King’s own words, about the who’s and the what’s, just after the actions of 1963 had taken place.

There is one comment by Johnson in the film which wraps it up for me:

MLK is making his demand for Voting Rights for Negroes, and Johnson angrily asks King to understand the difference between advocating for a single issue, in this case, voting rights, versus the problem any President has, in juggling multiple issues, dealing with endless enemies and friends with differing and often conflicting priorities.

Of course, King also had enemies in high places: As most know, one of King’s major arch-enemies back in the day was J. Edgar Hoover, the powerful head of the FBI. The film uses, powerfully, entries from FBI logs about wiretapping King, then using these in efforts to destroy him.

It has long been clear to me that Johnson supported Kings ultimate goal of voting rights for all citizens, but, as Kennedy had before him, Johnson counseled King that a President, any President, cannot simply wave a magic wand and get his way with the often rebellious rabble called the Congress, and Governors, and all sorts of officials and individual citizens everywhere.

Direct, organized, cooperative citizen action is essential to success in any initiative.

That word “cooperative” is a tough one. King experienced those tensions too.

King, at least in my reading, got it, about how to succeed. The movement was not about him. He was an idealist, with a very practical sense about him. He knew his key ally, President Johnson, couldn’t do things exactly as demanded, on a set schedule, and that he had to mold the people into some kind of a working coalition needed to do the critical work, like enduring the danger of walking across the Edmund Pettus bridge in March, 1965.

Making change is very difficult. King, even with his allies sometimes in conflict with him, and with each other; and Lyndon Johnson, with an even more enormous quandary with everyone he had to deal with, accomplished something miraculous in 1965. About the time LBJ signed the bill, he was reported to have said that he knew this singular action would lose the south for the Democrats for a very long period of time, and he was right.

In my opinion, the Old South will not rise again, 50 years of some freedom and some justice have made a huge difference, though much work and diligence is required.

Some years ago I almost literally stumbled across another writing about the difficulty of political decision making, as recounted by two Peace and Justice leaders. They had met with former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s Vice-President, and here is how they recounted Humphrey talking about practical politics.

Do watch the film, and read the book.

But most importantly, not only increase your own actions, but be more aware of the need to compromise and to be satisfied with incremental change rather than a too common “all or nothing” approach to negotiations.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act is in peril; the difference between now and 50 years ago is that the people who can solve the problem are no longer disenfranchised, and simply need to be certain to register and to vote.

* – An outstanding photo chronicle of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement is the 1995 book He Had a Dream, by Minnesotan Flip Schulke. Copies of the book remain available. I have the autographed book, from the 1998 Martin Luther King Day Breakfast in Minneapolis where Mr. Schulke spoke. Pages 90-115 photo document the Selma action in 1965. Mr. Schulke was a graduate of Macalester College, met and first photographed Dr. King in 1958, and worked with him until Dr. King was murdered in Memphis April 4, 1968.

POSTCRIPT: I wrote previously about Why We Can’t Wait on Martin Luther King Day in 2013.

At the beginning of the 2013 post, ironically, I quote Fr. Pat Griffin, a retired Priest of the Diocese, who often says one or more Masses on Sunday at Basilica of St. Mary. Yesterday Fr. Griffin was again celebrant at Basilica, and this day quoted MLK as follows: “if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” This quote, from the end of a long sermon of King’s called the “Drum Major Instinct” given Feb. 4, 1968, not long before his death, became controversial because it was misquoted on the new monument to his work on the National Mall in Washington DC.

The key words left out: “If you want to say”….

Read the entirety of the sermon….

from Judy, Jan 19:
Read Bill Moyer’s comments about “Selma” He says the movie “sadly” inaccurately portrays Johnson’s role in steering the bill to passage. Johnson was extremely active behind the scenes in getting the bill passed. Though he was friends with some of those old racists from the south, he knew that the bill was politically and morally the right thing to do. Also, read Robert Caro’s book on Johnson and a book I’m reading now, “An idea whose time has come,” by Todd Purdum.

As you know, Moyers is a wonderful liberal who worked for LBJ. He recommends the film even with its flaws because it is a powerful reminder of what we have accomplished and what we still have to accomplish.

from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts on MLK. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Dr. King during a Luther League Convention in Miami in 1960. His presence in the room along was overpowering. When he spoke, He had everyone’s attention. it really made the room totally silent with respect for what he was saying. The children I chaperoned at that conventions and I still talk about it when I see them.

from Jeff: My argument with the director, who I found a very creative intelligent person… she brought up the issue that many people had no correct historical understanding of the Civil Rights movement, many had misinformed ideas on several things.

Then when asked about artistic license in regard to the issue of deliberate factual errors in her own movie she completely pushed it aside.

This person sees a glaring inconsistency.

from Andrena: I also saw ‘Selma’ over the weekend. It was a powerful movie and I was disappointed the actor who portrayed Dr. King wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

from Lydia:Perfect for this day. Re-read your previous MLK essay sourced back in this one—thank you for the shout out :-)

We had a small but enthusiastic group for the screening of KING: MAN OF PEACE IN A TIME OF WAR yesterday. Mae Had a rousing discussion (which was recorded by a fellow KFAIer who I hope to work with further) that will be put on the air in near future. Sister Brigit MacDonald was there and of course was a welcome addition as well as Vets for Peace prez Dave Logsden (& out of town VFP member visiting Dave). Plus some new people I didn’t know! (Catalyst listeners).

I’ll certainly share your MLK pieces today.

#982 – Dick Bernard: A Prairie Home Companion

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

(click to enlarge photos)

Garrison Keillor, Jan 17, 2015

Garrison Keillor, Jan 17, 2015

It had been a long time since I last actually attended a performance of Garrison Keillor‘s long-running “A Prairie Home Companion“. Tonight was the night, and a wonderful night it was, with a distinctly blue grass tilt, featuring the Gibson Brothers, Heather Masse, (one of the very popular Wailin’ Jennys), and last, but certainly not least, Joe Newberry.

Here is the program booklet for tonights show, the 1,414th in a series that began in 1974: A Prairie Home Companion001. (The program is rebroadcast nationally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Sunday following the show. Check here for details.)

I first saw PHC in 1977, the year before the show moved to its long-standing venue, now the Fitzgerald, but for most of its life going under the name World Theatre of St. Paul.

In 1978, the show moved into the ancient World Theatre, and Garrison mused about that move in a story. Among other fascinating facts, PHC music director Rich Dworsky’s father owned the World Theatre at the time PHC moved in, and the first rent was $80 per weekend. I attended some early shows there, and the theatre was down in its heels at the time. Of course, today it is an elegant venue.

My son-in-law, who came along and greatly enjoyed the program, observed that there were many of we gray-hairs in the audience, and of course that is true. Garrison, who would have been about 32 when the first show went on the air, is now 40 years older, as are great numbers of his early fans. Indeed, centerpiece of the stage set (see photos) is the facade of an old country farm house (on whose porch about a half dozen audience members sat to watch the program last night.

At some point Garrison (and all of us) will move on, and one can only hope that there will be a viable alternative to carry on the tradition of remembering the olden days before things like Facebook and other forms of instant communication and gratification.

My personal tastes in music have always been quite varied, and tonight was the night for some distinctive sounds, primarily of the bluegrass family. It was a very fun evening, added to by the fact that there was a post-show second concert featuring the above musicians and, of course, Garrison Keillor himself.

In the bonus post-show show, “January Jump Start”, I had the opportunity to take a few snapshots, just to give a little life to the performers for the evening. Otherwise, very often YouTube has video of the various performers in action.

They’re all worth a look and listen!

Heather Masse and Garrison Keillor Jan 17, 2015

Heather Masse and Garrison Keillor Jan 17, 2015

Joe Newberry (guitar) with Richard Kriehn Jan 17 2015

Joe Newberry (guitar) with Richard Kriehn Jan 17 2015

The Gibson Brothers (3rd and 4th from left) with Joe Newberry and ensemble Jan 17, 2015

The Gibson Brothers (3rd and 4th from left) with Joe Newberry and ensemble Jan 17, 2015


Between PHC and the bonus “January Jump Start” we walked the couple of blocks to St. Pauls iconic Mickey’s Diner for a quick bite.

Mickey’s never surprises. Donny had a piece of pie and coffee; for me, a side of O’Brian’s Potatoes and a coke.

Mickey’s is a direct kind of place: we had to stand and wait our turn for a seat at the counter, just across from the grill. The place was busy but well organized, and the cook and server were friendly and efficient.

Mickey’s is, as their sign says, “24/7″, and the reward for good behavior is being served.

It was a show in itself…and the food was very good!

Cookin' at Mickey's Diner, St. Paul

Cookin’ at Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul


#979 – Dick Bernard: The Paris Attacks. An Opportunity, Once Again, to Learn, including from the Past.

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

In the annals of humanity there have always been unspeakable tragedies perpetrated by human beings, one or more against others. The increasing sophistication of instant world-wide communication about everything, including atrocities, may be a blessing, but can be a curse as well. We have to be wary of being manipulated; to slow down, and try to make calm, reasoned assessments of apparent realities.

(click to enlarge)

Je Suis Charlie, Paris France Demonstration, January 11, 2015, photo by Christine Loys

Je Suis Charlie, Paris France Demonstration, January 11, 2015, photo by Christine Loys

Thursday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune main front page story caught my interest: “TERROR SHOCKS PARIS” with two subheadlines, “IN EUROPE Attack is likely to fuel anti-Islamic sentiment” and “IN PARIS 1 gunman surrenders, huge hunt for 2 more”. Most of the content of five of the twelve pages of the world news section were dominated by the story about the killing of a dozen people by two brothers and a third person.

The Saturday paper brought news of a second attack in suburban Paris, with lots more printers ink.

Twenty people (including the killers) lay dead in the Paris metropolitan area of over 12 million people. Paris is one of Europe’s largest cities, and truly one of the worlds most ancient and celebrated cities.

I wrote an e-note of support to a good friend of mine, Christine Loys, whose home is Paris. Her reply*, printed below with her permission, does not need editorial comment except that she asked me a question which I have answered.

There is nothing remarkable about the tragedy in Paris this week. Examples of similar past tragedies are abundant: for instance, two years ago, 20 school children and 6 adults in a school in a prosperous suburban community were killed by a crazed gunman (Newtown CT). In 1999, 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton CO were killed by two fellow students, who subsequently killed themselves as well.

A complete list would go on and on and on.

The trial of the Boston Marathon bomber is now beginning….

Each time such crises happen, a great deal of attention is paid to them as a spotlight shines on them; then life goes on, until the next tragedy, which will certainly happen somewhere, for some reason.

Each time much effort is exerted to attach meaning to the madness – whose fault is it, who can be blamed. What is worse, as is happening now, is that the tragedy is used as an opportunity to organize around one’s particular belief.

But in the end, we usually seem to learn little or nothing from these truly isolated tragic episodes, and we could learn so much. The overwhelming vast majority of us are good people, who can make the needed changes, where we live. But mostly we don’t, and won’t, for reasons each of us know within ourselves (“I can’t do anything about it….”, etc. etc.)

Over 40 years ago, at a workshop I attended, the instructor distributed a handout which I have always found instructive at times such as this. It was called Crisis Sequence, and the original version appears below (click to enlarge).

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Time after time in those 42 years I’ve seen the applicability of this chart to any number of Crisis situations, the most dramatic being 9-11-01. As we so well know, especially from 9-11-01, such Crises can be exploited easily, and take on a new life of their own.

Almost every American approved the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001: Afghan War Oct 2001001. History everywhere is full of examples of excessive response to such tragedies.

In my opinion, those who are shocked by what happened in Paris this week (which is all of us) should spend time learning from Paris, and all the other crises we have experienced during the “media age” in which we are immersed. There are many lessons we can learn, and they are immersed in that old handout reprinted above. Then, as Gandhi said, we must become the change we wish to see in the world.

* Here’s Christine’s comment from Paris, received earlier today:
“[Y]ou will be surprised that ALL of us Parisians were deeply traumatized first by the assassination of the artists from Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday morning (they intended to kill freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of talking…no less) and then by the hostages double drama that took place 48h later on Friday that ended up with 20 people killed !!! My friends and my family, at work or from home could not do anything else than follow the events on television or radio, live…we all were talking on the phone to each other at the same time. It has been a horror time with much fear… Children did not go to school when possible and people did not work or move from home when it was possible not to. I went to do some grocery shopping close by on Thursday afternoon and there was NOBODY in the streets of Paris… I felt like in a horror movie, quite frightened by the silence. Sales people in the cloth shops were expecting a huge amount of people for the sales, (it was the first day, usually the most crowded) but there was no customers….. Unbelievable….

Now all is over but it remains a very uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty, that it could start again anytime anywhere….

The authorities say that we should not enter into psychosis but it affects all of us in every way…. The trouble is that at the same time they say that they know it is going to happen again soon and we need to be prepared….. How would you react?”

Christine asks, “How would you react?”

I’m not sure how I’d be reacting now, if Parisian, and in Paris. It is doubtless a very traumatic happening, threatening personal safety.

I do know that my son and family lived one mile from Columbine High School when the student gunmen attacked the high school in 1999, and I was certainly concerned about my granddaughter who was then 13. A week later I was with them walking up “Cross Hill” above Columbine. So I guess I joined a “demonstration” of sort, out of grief for and solidarity with the victims and their families and community. (Originally, someone had put up 15 crosses on Cross Hill, including the killers, but someone else had torn down those two crosses. It was unfortunate that the two crosses were removed.)

Christine’s words remind me of American reaction to 9-11-01, beginning immediately after 9-11-01, I felt we Americans had grossly overreacted in our response to the tragedy of 9-11, and our collective grief was exploited and manipulated, much to our detriment (first the Afghanistan, then Iraq, Wars the prime, but by no means only, examples). In effect, a large tragedy (9-11) was magnified and we and others have suffered from the effects of misuse of this tragedy ever since.

In fact, I wrote about 9-11 then, immediately after the attacks: Post 9-11-01001. Now, more than 13 years after 9-11, I would say the same things I did then.

POSTSCRIPT Jan. 11, 2014: Perhaps my bottom-line worry for France and all of us remains as I expressed in two very short essays about the U.S. after the tragedy of 9-11-01. They remain accessible here.

POSTNOTE Jan. 12, 2014: My favorite blogger, Alan of Just Above Sunset, who I’ve always gathered considers Paris a favored city, summarizes world views on the situation, here.

from Stephanie, Jan 12:
It has been a horrible time indeed for the French and for the entire world. What is the answer? I don’t know.

Close friends of mine live in Montrouge, where the policewoman was killed. I spoke with them last week. They had gone to pick up their grandchildren at school, which they do every Thursday. The kids, ages 6, 8 and 9, were hyper…their teachers had told them all about what was happening, even that Kalishnokovs were the weapons of choice. Needless to say the grandparents, both retired educators, were not pleased.

My dear friend Marie-Christine was at Porte de Vincennes, picking up her granddaughter at preschool just prior to the massacre at the grocery store.

The sister-in-law of another friend lives at Porte de Vincennes and shops often at the take-out shop next to the grocery store.

I wrote to a cousin who lives in a Paris suburb not far from Montrouge. She replied
“En effet ces événements nous ont tous choqués, mais ce qui est rassurant est que les français se sont montrés très solidaires dans leur réaction ainsi que de nombreux pays étrangers. ”
(These events have shocked us all, but we are comforted by the fact that the French are very united in their reaction, as well as so many foreign countries.)

When I was in Paris in August I saw a man on the street who was wearing a yarmulke. He was about 40 years old. I asked if he felt in any danger or if he felt his head covering made him a target. He said no. He said he usually doesn’t wear a yarmulke but was on his way home from Saturday morning prayers. I have made it a habit to try talking to people in France who are identifiably Jewish, either because they are wearing a yarmulke or a Star of David. None has expressed a desire to leave their home in France to move to a foreign country. Some have said they feel that anti-Semitism is on the rise. I guess I think that in the US there is a rise in intolerance and anti-Semitism, so this is not a surprise to me.

I don’t have any confidence on our intelligence community or, for that matter, that of any country. Radicals are going to continue…when you don’t fear death and think you are right you can and will do anything. I have plans to go to Australia Feb. 2-26. My family doesn’t want me to go…but I will. Who would have thought that 9/11 would have happened? Or the bombing in the Canadian Parliament? Or in a café in Sydney? Is there any safe place? I don’t think so.

Sorry this is not a happier e-mail.

from Emmett, Jan. 14: Very interesting write-up and perspective. I try not get too wrapped up in this stuff. I can’t remember if I have told you that I am attempting a book on religion, but I am finding the greatest challenge is dealing with the “H” word, Hypocrisy, which runs rampant around the world. We have Israel and other countries represented in the marching in that parade in France who are known to have assassinated journalists. And just a few months ago, Israel bombed a Christian Church and three Mosques and a UN shelter in Gaza, killing around 500 Christians and another 1500 Islamic Palestinians, 700 of total being children. And all that after being told over a dozen times by the UN that these facilities were designated shelters for the besieged Palestinian civilians. I didn’t remember any parade of world leaders after that tragedy. So I just go about my life focusing of my charity work, my attempts at writing a book, and my scientific presentations to inspire students to pursue science and pretty much ignoring all the propaganda that is broadcast on the news channels.

Final Postnote, Jan 15: I try to keep tabs on Paris from afar. It appears that, so far, the general French reaction, public, government and otherwise, is similar to what happened in the United States in 2001. The Crisis Sequence model (above) holds true, as one would expect it would. We are all people, after all, in whatever country we live, whatever our ethnicity, language, nationality….

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail there, and war fever doesn’t infect them, as it did the U.S. back then. There are no winners in such angry reaction. Especially today, who do we kill to get revenge?

The “War on Terror” as envisioned by U.S. government leaders in and even before created a monster for all of us.

It began with the stupid definition of “Axis of Evil” by the Bush administration, and continued with a so-called “Coalition of the Willing”, where there was a defined enemy, a country, specifically a leader of the country, to be taken out.

Back then, France was derided because its leaders weren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about going to war. The U.S. House of Representative passed a stupid motion renaming French Fries in their cafeteria as “Freedom Fries” (I wonder if they’re still so named.)

We all know how the War on Terror has turned out. Rather than erradicating “terror”, we have institutionalized it; we have empowered rather than eliminated its proponents.

Now any lunatic, anywhere, can disrupt and confuse entire populations, such as the killers in France did last Wednesday and Friday. A country goes paralyzed, as ours was in the fall of 2001 (and in too many ways still is). At some level, I’d guess, we all know what we did to ourselves by our national response to 9-11. Humans being humans, we won’t admit it.

There is need for change, and it won’t happen at the highest political levels, in my opinion. It is individuals and small groups in the countries of the world who will change things, not a few Presidents standing in solidarity for photo opportunities; or idealogues of all stripes attempting to fashion the crisis to fit their own ideology. Even in these few days following the attacks in France, there have been endless examples of this manipulating of a reality to fit a narrative.

After September 11, 2001, we Americans had a choice of two forks in the road ahead: to make things better, or make things worse. We chose the wrong alternative, in my opinion, attempting to beat the rest of the world into submission by our awesome power (which turned out to be not so powerful). Too many of us continue to deny reality: our feeling of superiority masks the reality of our own self-imposed impotence. We are part of the world, not apart from it.

(I keep thinking about one factor that contributed mightily to our governments course of action after 9-11. A few years earlier a bunch of influential people developed what they called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), in which the U.S. would dominate the world. In my opinion, PNAC was used to implement our response to 9-11. 9-11-01, however it came to happen, was very useful to powerful American political leaders at the time.)

The website for PNAC has been suspended, which is why I link to Wikipedia, but the Wikipedia entry gives a good history, including the listing of the influential framers of the document: people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, key architects of the War on Terror. It is useful to relook at this piece of our own history. A good short summary of this time in history can be seen in the latter half of my January 1, 2015, post on the United Nations. See Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg’s comments headed Plan C, and note especially Plan B.

Personally, I have one relic of 9-11-2011 in my office, and a big file of materials kept from the time of September 11.

The relic is a drawing of an American flag made by a 5th grade boy, Lester, in a suburban Minneapolis school in early October, 2001, during the time that teachers everywhere were helping their students talk about what happened on September 11 through all of the means that teachers use.

Here’s that flag Lester drew that day. He would now be 19 or 20. I wonder what has happened to him since….

Let’s work for a better world. It will take each of us to accomplish that better world.

Student drawing of an American flag, early October, 2001, suburban Minneapolis MN

Student drawing of an American flag, early October, 2001, suburban Minneapolis MN

Paris Sunday Jan 11 2015 courtesy of Christine Loys.

Paris Sunday Jan 11 2015 courtesy of Christine Loys.

President Obama to France? Had President Obama gone to France, he would have been criticized; had he sent someone else to France, he would have been criticized. Personally, I saw no reason why he would go to France; indeed, I found it to be respectful of the French themselves. There was no need for our President to be there. I don’t recall world leaders coming to the U.S. at the time of 9-11-01 even though many countries lost citizens in the Twin Towers in particular. In fact, at the time, my guess is that the U.S. administration would have preferred to have no one sharing the stage with them. After all, as pointed out above, we were led by people who wanted the U.S. to be the sole super-power in the world. Personally, I like the commentary of President Carter on the topic earlier today. You can read/watch it here.