...now browsing by category


#918 – Dick Bernard: The Night of the Big Wind, July 28, 1949

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Directly related post from July 25, here.

For some reason lost to history, on July 28, 1949, we Bernards took a midweek 100 mile trip from Sykeston ND to Grandma and Grandpa Busch’s farm near Berlin ND. While there seems no particular reason for the trip, mid-summer would have been a logical time to visit Mom’s parents, and brother Vince and sister Edithe at the farm. Dad was school superintendent in Sykeston, and at the farm, crops were not yet ready to harvest.

We stayed overnight, a fateful decision we all lived to tell about. (Such trips, to my recollection, were never more than one night. One overnight was complicated enough with five little kids.)

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

Fitting into the Busch’s small prairie house was no small task. By 1949, a two room addition had been added to the west (left) side of the house shown above.

As bedtime came that evening, best I can piece together, the 9 year old, me, slept with Uncle Vince, 24, in his tiny upstairs room; across the wall to the south, the window visible in the picture, was Edith’s room. Mary Ann, 6, and Florence, 5, slept with her.

Grandma and Grandpa were downstairs, and Mom and Dad, with Frank, 3, and John, who had turned 1 May 25, shared the other downstairs bedroom.

No one has ever recalled anything unusual about the day we were there. It was simply a summer visit.

Crops were maturing, but not yet ready for harvest. As usual, the dozen or so cows had been milked, back out to pasture. Horses would have been in the barn.

Sometime about midnight, best can be figured, a horrific wind seemed to come out of the south. My sister, Flo, described what happened next: “Oh, how I remember that storm! The thunder and lightning was impressive – scary! Then the window blew out and we tried to keep it covered with a blanket.”

We were all terrified, and to my knowledge none of the six adults did the common sense things you’re warned to do today, starting with taking everyone down into the cellar. Of course, back then, weather reports were basically what you saw in real time; no sirens or such. Storms were expected to happen now and again. But, as Uncle Vincent just recalled days ago, ordinary storms usually came in late afternoon, and this one came up suddenly, very late at night, and was a ‘hum-dinger’. Even at 9 years old, I recall sheets of water (it seemed) coming under the window and over the windowsill.

Being a strong Catholic family, there were plenty of “Hail Mary’s”.

The storm passed, no injuries, probably not even livestock, and Mary Ann recalls: “I remember going out at first light and seeing the [barn] roof missing.” That barn was less than a football field length from the house. We’d all had a very close call. Sometimes there’s talk that we experienced a tornado, but I don’t think so. It was just a horrific wind, and life changed for everyone, for a time.

I have found four photos taken of the barn shortly after the storm: Each are worth clicking on, to enlarge.

Busch barn 1949003

Busch barn 1949001

Busch Barn Jul 1949002

Busch Barn Jul 1949003

In the first photo, at left, you can see the damage. What appears to be the barn roof, misplaced, is actually a smaller barn-like structure that survived the storm. In the third, Grandpa Busch contemplates the next steps; in the fourth, the photographer, my Dad, is revealed by the unusually long legs in the shadow. (Click twice on this photo and you’ll see two horses who survived the storm.)

All around the area, there was devastation. The LaMoure Chronicle talked a lot more about the storm and the damage just in the LaMoure County vicinity: Berlin storm Jul 28 49001. The F. W. Busch damage is mentioned in the last column.

This being a working farm, with cows to be milked, there wasn’t time to be depressed. But rebuilding was daunting; there was lots of damage, most everywhere, on surrounding farms.

The adults worked like…farmers…and in fairly short order the task was looking manageable.

Busch barn 1949004

Grandpa was 69 when the storm hit; Vince, his son, was 24; my Dad was 41. The age references are important.

Grandpa knew of a farm on Hwy 13 just east of LaMoure whose barn roof design looked replicable. He built a form on the hayloft floor where the three men nailed four 1x4s together to make every new roof beam. Dad stayed at the farm for some time to help out, and Vince always says that without him, they couldn’t have done the project.

The roof beams were raised, and the local Priest, himself an expert carpenter, saw them, and said they wouldn’t last….

Vincent did the backbreaking work of shingling the barn. It must have been terribly hard, even at age 24, and frightening as well, but you do what you gotta do.

Shortly after the project was completed, within a few months, somebody took the below photo of the newly raised barn roof.

Unfortunately, either they or someone else had forgotten to advance the film, so what you see is a double exposure including other visitors to the farm. Both photos seem to be from the same day.

Front and center is Uncle Vince, in about 1949. (He’s also at left in the same picture. Click on this picture a second time for more enlargement.) The others in the photo are his sister Florence, and her husband Bernard Wieland, and their then young son Tom, all from Dazey ND. Tom is sitting on Busch’s then-new 1948 Plymouth.

Ironically, Tom Wieland died recently. Vincent and I went to his funeral in Valley City. Time passes by.

Busch barn 1949005

Last week, I took a photo of some of the roof beams in the still standing barn. Dad, Vince and Grandpa did damned good work back in 1949!


Lord willing, I’ll be back in that barn today, July 28, 2014, on the 65th anniversary of the big windstorm of 1949. There’ll be a bit of nostalgia, no doubt.

The old barn, July 23, 2014

The old barn, July 23, 2014

A firm base for each beam has helped the roof survive 65 years.  Photo July 28, 2014

A firm base for each beam has helped the roof survive 65 years. Photo July 28, 2014

Henry Bernard with his roof beams in the Busch barn, June 1991.  RIP Nov. 7, 1997

Henry Bernard with his roof beams in the Busch barn, June 1991. RIP Nov. 7, 1997

#917 – Dick Bernard: The Hermit as Metaphor for US. With Comments from Wilhelm and George about Israel-Gaza and the Ukraine-Russia situation.

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

My summer has taken on something of a theme: most of my thinking, and a great deal of my time, has related to an old farm 310 miles away. My Aunt Edithe, born there in 1920, died in February; and her brother, my Uncle Vince, is in Nursing Home Care and no longer can even visit the farm on which he lived for over 81 of his 89 years.

It’s fallen to me to deal with the multitude of issues that relate to such a transition. This is not a complaint: it is simply a reality.

On the road there’s no computer for me (a deliberate choice), and usually no TV (too tired), and ordinarily no newspaper either (available, but otherwise preoccupied). So in a small sense I’m like that hermit I came across in the Tarryall section of the Rocky Mountains during Army maneuvers in 1962. He lived in an isolated log cabin, no electricity, no phone, and once a month he walked to the nearest town far off in the distance, to provision up. One of his provisions was the entire previous month issues of the Denver Post. Each day he would read one of the newspapers. So, he was always up to date, just 30 or so days behind.

(click to enlarge photo)

Hermit Shack at Tarryall Rocky Mountains Colorado June 1962.  Dick B in photo.  Visited with the hermit, but didn't have the nerve to ask to take his photo.

Hermit Shack at Tarryall Rocky Mountains Colorado June 1962. Dick B in photo. Visited with the hermit, but didn’t have the nerve to ask to take his photo.

In the hermits mind, perhaps, what happened out there in the world was not his concern. He had his patch, his cabin with door and window, his dog, his goat, and all was okay. Some day he’d die and when he didn’t show up in town, somebody would go out to recover his carcass.

His life was in control. He seemed pretty happy, actually.

Sometimes I think we Americans, in general so privileged and so omnipotent in our own minds, think that we can pretend that what’s happening inside our tiny sphere is all that matters; and if we do care, in any event, we can’t do anything about it anyway, so why bother?

Of course, it matters, and we can impact on it, but once settled in to routine, as the hermit was, we tune out. In the end, it will be our own loss that we didn’t pay attention.

In recent weeks I’ve written here about the Central American immigrant crisis; and the Israel-Gaza catastrophe at the same time as the downing of the Malysian Airliner over the Ukraine.


Even when I’m off-line the material just keeps flowing in to my in-box, and back home I take some time to just scroll through. Sometimes something catches my attendtion.

For instance, yesterdays Just Above Sunsets here goes into a too-little known facet of certain Christians and Israel.

A friend, Wilhelm, who grew up in Germany, made some pertinent comments about how he sees the Israel situation.

“I feel I have to reply to [some] remarks [seen quoted in] “My favorite blogger’s commentary about the Israel-Palestine situation”

According to [the quote] the Germans had the right to defend themselves against the French Resistance or the Russian Partisans even if it was inadvisable or strategically not the right thing to do. Or even the final destruction of the Ghetto in Warsaw after several and seemingly unending up risings. But maybe I have it all wrong here. The difference might be the reason why people are put into a ghetto in the first place. Some reasons might be legitimate, some might not? I really do not know.

But the I read the following: Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked published on Facebook a call for genocide of the Palestinians. It declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

She quoted Uri Elitzur, who died a few months ago, and was leader of the settler movement and speechwriter and close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

It strikes me that this could have emanated from Berlin at a earlier time just as well .

But if I am right then this is also relevant:

“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be “governed” without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes – crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure – reach the light of day?” First Leaflet -The White Rose Society – Munich, 1942

A little later, Wilhelm sent this:

Chris Hedges as usual cuts through the fog of propaganda and handwringing. His article is well worth reading!

Then, last night, George, a retired electrical engineer and native of Hungary, wrote about his experience as a young man in the Hungarian Army, then part of the Warsaw Pact nations.

There is nothing unusual here, especially for anyone who’s been in the U.S. military, but George’s commentary gives an unusual perspective into the relationships between powers, and how people in the military operate:

“Even in the old Warsaw Pact Countries, like Hungary, ROTC University students received training in operating and servicing anti-air defense/attack systems. During summer we did our practical training. As an EE [Electrical Engineering] student I was training to both eventually manage the servicing and train regular enlisted men to operate this kind of equipment at the combined arms battalion level while being assigned as a technical officer to the staff of a combined arms division. If I did my job properly by age 30 I could have been promoted to a Brigadier (1 star) general level and be in charge of the ‘heavy arms artillery regiment’ of the division (ground attack mobile rockets and long range artillery).

The Soviet military and its Warsaw Pact allies after WW2 were gradually reorganized into combined arms divisions (tanks and mechanized infantry) using the old WW2 German Panzer Division as the model!

To save on costly training and extra manpower the country’s civilian and military manpower was completely integrated based on the University trained ROTC graduates. University education was free and was supported by free scholarship to all accepted into a university program. Women were encouraged to go into medical and law professions and did not go to summer training camps. We did have several women in my EE faculty who attended military class-room instruction but not the summer’s practical training camps.

I don’t know what they did instead of learning how to goose-step, learn to live with an always dirty rifle (as per my drill-Sargent), and go on 3AM to 9PM full backpack load walkabouts! — George (ex-staff Sargent of the ex-Hungarian Peoples Republic Army)

PS. The only time Soviet military’s training, tactic and weapons systems were tested was the 1973 war waged by Egypt and Syria against Israel. These armies were trained and equipped by the Soviet Union. Initially they beat the Israeli army and air force. On the Golan, Syria’s Russian Style Army took the Golan Heights and was within ~20 miles from reaching the Mediterranean Sea. Its APC [Armored Personnel Carrier] mounted mobile SAM’s [Surface to Air Missiles] managed to neutralize Israel’s vaunted Air Force and only because the 2nd-wave Iraqi Divisions were halted by the Kurdish army in the mountains of Northern Iraq did Israel survive! They were eventually destroyed by the Israeli army reinforcements from the Egyptian front. The Egyptian Army was also trained and equipped by the Soviet Union. They re-crossed the Suez canal and their light infantry used Soviet wire guided infantry portable missiles to hold back the Israeli tanks while the Egyptian Soviet T55 tanks were also shipped across using Soviet bridging equipment and barges. This deployment was covered by Russian heavy SAMS from fixed positions on the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal and also destroyed most of the Israeli air force! The Israeli army had to withdraw into the Sinai mountains and because of a technical problem of the T55 tanks they managed to halt and eventually destroy the Egyptian Army. The T55’s guns could only be elevated ~15 degrees because they were designed for the flat German and Russian plain. The Israeli tanks looked down on them from the Sinai escarpment and destroyed most of the Egyptian tanks at long distance who could not even defend themselves! Also the heavy duty Russian SAMs were not mobile and could not protect its mobile tank units when outside their range. So now the Israeli air force came back into action and completed the destruction of the Egyptian tanks! An Egyptian general predicted the outcome of this battle but President Nasser, with Soviet advice, overruled him.

After the initial battles both sides were fought out and needed new equipment to continue. President Nixon did not believe the huge losses suffered by Israel and did not want to completely destroy Egypt, a Russian ally! He was worried that the Soviets would directly intervene by sending troops and that the local war could grow into WW3! We sent our U2 spy plane to survey the battle field as did the Russians send their equivalent plane. Both the USA and Russia started resupplying their respective allies and also ‘advised them’ to start peace negotiations! The most complicated position was that of President Nasser’s whose direct order, against those of his general’s led to this disaster! So the Egyptian public was never told about the disaster that was disguised as a great victory! This was also the reason why President Nasser was the only one on the Arab side who accepted the Israeli Peace offer, originally proposed by Secretary of State Kissinger. He even went to Russia to start the negotiations on behalf of President Nixon.

George’s comments remind me of our own longstanding relationship with Israel, an unhealthy co-dependency which enables the current behaviors. History dies hard (but in this business of killing each other with every more sophisticated means must end, otherwise we’ll all be goners.)


Then, there is the radical rabble that is feeling its oats in our own United States. Given their own surface-to-air missile, they’d launch it somewhere on our own ground.

There is an interesting, troubling video about goings on at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the monument to where President Kennedy was assassinated. You can access it here. Its a ten minute watch, and one can only wonder what goes on in these folks minds….

We are a nation, and a world, of very decent people.

But sitting on the sidelines is an invitation to extremists to take over.

From Wilhelm, Jul 26:
“If I was an Arab leader I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal, we took their land. It is true that God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we come and we have stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

That statement—which would certainly outrage the current government of Israel and most of its supporters–was made by David Ben Gurion (1886-1973), revered as the father of the State of Israel.

If that is the case where is the call for justice

No peace possible without justice.

In light of what Ben Gurion admitted it sounds a little timid to ask for divestment or boycott of anything associated with Israeli Settlements. It seems the whole State of Israel is responsible for the policy and should be held responsible. This means any action has/ should include all of Israel or it is but self serving window dressing. Another action that says we are ding something and occupy the moral high ground but we are not doing any harm or damage.

The above quote was taken from the article:

OK. So, What Would You Do About Hamas? By Barry Lando

Just something to consider as one ponders what to do, what to do ….


#915 – Dick Bernard: Some very sad news: Journalist Andy Driscoll takes his final bow.

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

We had just returned from several days out of town and catching on what’s been happening, Cathy noted the death of a friend of mine, Andy Driscoll.

Indeed it was true, and this morning I woke up with a ever-longer Facebook entry with tributes to and about Andy. I looked at the home page of KFAI, the public station on which he has broadcast since 2007, and saw more about him at the KFAI website.

Andy made a big difference, quietly, for many years.

There are many Andy’s in the world: there just aren’t headlines written about them; and they aren’t in the national media. But at home they regularly make an impact on their communities, small and large, in many and diverse ways.

Beginning in mid-2007, Andy produced and broadcast a one hour program each week on KFAI which he called “Truth to Tell”. I haven’t counted, but at minimum it would appear that he had over 250 programs on air. There were probably near 1000 on-air guests in that time.

Quite an accomplishment, especially considering that one hour interview programs don’t just happen. They take great effort.

In the first sentence I call Andy a “friend”.

I use that word with hesitation, but my guess is that Andy would agree that yes, we were good friends, even if we saw each other rarely.

In fact, along with Syl Jones, Marie Braun of WAMM, and Dr. Joe Schwartzberg of Citizens for Global Solutions, I was one of the panelists on his inaugural show on air, July 4, 2007.

(There were a few earlier practice runs in 2007; and the initial experiment began, I recall, in the Fall of 2006, but July 4, 2007, was the official first program. Apparently that first show remains available on archive. At this moment I haven’t tried to access it.)

Ironically, Andy’s last on-air show, as yet not available on-line, was about the future of the Minnesota Orchestra.

He and I shared a passion for the Orchestra as well; in fact, the last time I saw Andy in person was right after the lockout began, October 18, 2012, at the first concert of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra. He commented at the end of my post about that evening here.

The last comment I have from him was also about the Orchestra situation at September 6, 2013. Scroll down to it here.

There won’t be any flags at half-staff for Andy Driscoll around his city, state and nation. Just people like myself who take a moment to reminisce.

But Andy, and all who labor in their own neighborhoods and communities are the ones who truly make the difference that matters, unsung, and too often unappreciated.

Andy, I note that you and I are the same age.

We’re walking down the same path towards the same destination.

Good traveling with you over these past few years, Andy.

#913 – Dick Bernard: Politics, Money and Media

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

$1 million equals about 20 cents per Minnesota resident (5.4 million population; triple the population in 1905)
$1 billion equals about 3 dollars per United States resident (314 million population)*


Earlier this week I was visiting with my local state Legislator, Rep. JoAnn Ward. Rep. Ward is an outstanding Representative: very intelligent and hard-working. She takes her job seriously. She’s running for her second term, which means she has a record, which means “opportunity” for the “tar and feather” crowd who hate government (even while campaigning to take over that same government they despise.)

The Minnesota Republicans have rolled out their first generic television ad about the Democrats, and it has mostly children and young adults complaining about Democrats wasting the state money building a palace for themselves in St. Paul.

The first target, the first apparently politically exploitable “fact”, is the vote to spend $77 million dollars to build a new office facility for the State Senate. How dare they build a palace for themselves? So goes the argument.

Well, the office space has long been needed. We’ve been a state since 1858, and government and society itself has become more complex, and there are more people who demand more service from their government. Anybody who has been to the State Capitol during the legislative session, particularly to visit a lawmaker, knows that legislators and their staff are packed in like sardines. The State Capitol itself is over 100 years old – opened 1905 – and now undergoing badly needed and extensive renovation, a well over $200,000,000 process which began in 1984. It has the same internal area as it had when it was constructed, and, of course, in 1905, things like computers and such had not yet been invented.

As best as I can gather, adequate facilities for lawmakers at the Capitol have been an issue for as much as 40 years, and under active discussion for 30. But when politics rears its head, and “government” is the issue around which to organize, it takes political courage to remodel an old house to fit current needs….

Rep. Ward and her colleagues don’t even office in the Capitol. Her office and those of the vast majority of State Representatives are in the State Office Building, a non-descript, bustling (and also busting at the seams) facility, one block (and about a quarter mile walk) from the Capitol itself.

Ain’t nothing fancy, that’s for sure.

But as JoAnn and her colleagues know, they will be mercilessly tarred and feathered for doing what needs to be done, allocating funds for an office facility that is not even for them. It is part of the increasingly insane political theatre in this country, fueled by very big money and all the the media big money can buy.

At the beginning of this post I noted two numbers, which I think are crucial to keep in mind as politicians trot out millions or billions in indictments against this or that.

For instance, that Minnesota Senate Office Building project will cost about $15 per Minnesotan, and it is a one-time project, needed, that will far outlive us.

At the national level, a billion dollars is about $3 per American.

Political advertising is just that, advertising. If you believe the ad on its face, you deserve what you get.

Best to exercise your own mind, and get involved in politics, learning who your candidates are, what they really stand for, helping them out in the many ways available to you, without being begged.

We – each and every one of us – ARE politics. Not voting, or simply opting to criticize those in office, is no escape from our own accountability.

Vote, and vote very well informed, at local, state and national levels.

* Of course, someone will say that dollars do add up. Of course, they do.
1 trillion dollars equals about $3,000 per United States resident.

By far the largest component of the United States budget is something called “defense”. Here’s some well researched and reliable data.

It is said, reliably, that the short and long term costs (including disabled veterans) of our 2003 to present War in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately reach near 3 TRILLION dollars.

Yes, we do have our priorities, don’t we…?

from State Rep JoAnn Ward (referenced in the post)
: The point of housing the Senators in one building is important. If the public wants the Senators to cooperate, collaborate, and coordinate, then they need to have ready access to each other. We need a modern building to accommodate the current needs of the state government and for the public to access their legislators.

#911 – Dick Bernard: Those “illegal” children: whipping up the hysteria.

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

The below letter of mine, published in the July 9, 2014, Woodbury Bulletin seems to fit todays post about the so-called crisis at the Mexico border. My letter was about war versus peace; the letter to which I refer in my letter was about revulsion towards a certain flag that represented “utopian” ideals. No matter, it all basically is the same story: fear and hate sells easily with predictably negative results.

(click to enlarge)

Letter to Editor, July 9, 2014, Woodbury MN Bulletin

Letter to Editor, July 9, 2014, Woodbury MN Bulletin

The past week I spent most of my time out of sight of the internet and even newspapers and other media. I was 310 miles away in North Dakota: I’ve been to the ancestral farm many times in recent months, many more trips to come. As I’ve come to say, frequently, I can’t make the 310 miles (5 1/2 hours at my pace via freeway) any shorter. It is as it is.

I arrive at both ends, tired.

Enter the latest fear and hate issue: “illegals” pouring across our precious border with Mexico, but they’re not even Mexicans this time.

The recent news narrative, near hysterical in some quarters, has been the seeming flood of children from certain distant Central American countries. Were the scenario not so tragic – four year olds and younger (and older youngsters, too) facing immediate deportation, and apprehension by latter day militia at the border – it would be so absurd as to be amusing: hordes of children racing hundreds of miles across an entire country to the sacred destination of the United States of America.

I believe the real story in this case is hidden behind the reported story. I certainly don’t know the facts; but neither do the hysterical ones.

In my college years I was very much into geography, and out of these came a desire to seek a bit of context.

So in this case, children apparently traveling from places like El Salvador and Honduras to U.S. border states, it seemed useful to do a sketch map, using as base a page from my 1961 Life Pictorial Atlas of the World. (I added the map of Minnesota, simply to get an idea of scale).

Adaptation of an old map to show relative scale of Central America to Minnesota.  1961 maps

Adaptation of an old map to show relative scale of Central America to Minnesota. 1961 maps

Minnesota, north to south, is just over 400 miles, 90 miles further than I travel to North Dakota.

For these poor families coming north through Mexico has to be a daunting trip of its own. I am not prepared to believe any story about how they were convinced to leave and came to take a trip with a certain unhappy ending.

There are elements of this story that literally smell of “false flag” – a situation set up by unknown parties designed to make a problem, then confuse and inflame emotions over immigration reform efforts in the United States. Some in Congress say that $2.7 billion is too pricey to emergency fund the agencies that have to deal with the refugees. Some quick arithmetic reveals that comes out to about $9 per American.

Yet we can spend trillions (three more zeroes than a billion) to war on Iraq and Afghanistan, and not bat an eye.

One will need very hard evidence to convince me that someone with impure motives is neither funding nor encouraging illegal immigration of mostly young people to whip up the fear (hate) in far too many people north of the border in the U.S. just in time for the 2014 elections. Add in President Obama (considered the deporter-in-chief by some) and this reeks of political motivation, in other words. NO, I can’t prove it. But it is as strong a possibility of any other theory advanced by anyone.

Whipping Americans into a frenzy is nothing new, of course. Think of 9-11-2001 for starters.

The poor people who were the cast of characters for John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” were not met with open arms when they entered California during the Dust Bowl. We banished Native Americans to the left over lands with hardly a tear; starving Irish arrived in the U.S. to less than a warm welcome.

There are endless stories.

Some, like our response to 9-11-01, solved nothing. 9-11’s cost short and long term is measured in the trillions of dollars, and this doesn’t even include loss of Americans and those in other countries which far exceeded the number of casualties during 9-11. After 9-11 we engaged in an endless war with no “win” at the end, except in the minds of certain folks defending their stupid decisions back then.

As I said, a 310 mile drive is no cakewalk, even on a freeway in an air conditioned vehicle.

Believe the narratives about the children from Central America invading the U.S. if you wish.

There is a much larger story behind this tragic migration, I submit.

PS: I predict that this latest issue will magically disappear after the 2014 election, and simply be replaced by some other outrage of choice afterwards; and perhaps be ginned up again in time for 2016.

A common sense suggestion: ignore the certain propaganda.

#910 – Dick Bernard: Prairie Home Companion at 40 – Chapter 2

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

I wrote yesterday about my personal “history” with Prairie Home Companion; then I spent four hours at Macalester, and added a few photos of the event to the post. You can see it all here.

There is a temptation to go back today…and tomorrow as well. But there’ll be plenty of other folks there, and I’ve spread the word about the richness of the day to my small circle, and hopefully there’ll be throngs this afternoon and tomorrow at the event.

The relevant photos from yesterday are in yesterdays post. I did note Garrison’s long-time “trademark” (a little worn, a lady next to me said), and an older couple, obviously fans, who are “copy cats”. The two photos are below, and need no further explanation for those who are fans. (Hats off to Garrison on his shoes, from one who believes “old” and “comfortable” are synonyms.)

(click to enlarge)

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

I’ll listen to PHC on the radio tonight – first time I’ve done that in a long time.

But I lived the show at Macalester, yesterday. It is odd how things come together: seeing assorted folks I didn’t even know were Keillor fans; seeing others who knew people I did. A little chatting goes a long way, some time.

One lady and I got to the Chapel 45 minutes before Keillor and Company were to perform, both of us intent on front row seats (which we secured). She said they had gone to see PHC at some town along I-94, but she didn’t remember the town. Some hours later I ran into long-time friends from Anoka who’d been at the same place as I, and they said they’d gone out to see Garrison perform at Avon MN (on I-94). Aha, Brenda, if you’re reading. That is the place!

Some guy from Lanesboro asked a question about an almost cancelled outdoor performance there, and Garrison answered immediately. Later, buying the commemorative t-shirt and cap, the guy in the booth said they very nearly had to cancel a recent outdoor event at Ravinia OH for the same reason: threatening weather.

I’ve come to be around Garrison a number of times over the years. He is a contradiction: he is remote, but get him started on a story, and off he goes. They don’t invest a lot of time in formal rehearsals, I gathered. He observed that many of his musicians were really good actors as well, until they had to rehearse their lines, and the spontaneity went down the tube.

Yesterday, I dug out my modest Garrison Keillor file, and today I looked through it. It yielded some interesting morsels, most significant of which is a publication few but Garrison Keillor himself know exist.

Back in the late 1980s I had reason to spend some time in the musty “tombs” of the Walter Library on the main campus of the UofMinnesota. I was researching something very specific that required me to go into old archival boxes in the bowels of that historical library.

By then I was a real fan of Keillor, and I had read that he was, about 1965, the editor of the campus literary magazine, the Ivory Tower.

So, on a side trip, I discovered down there, in another place, two articles, both about Hockey at the UofM, from February 1 and April 5, 1965, issues of Ivory Tower. I photocopied them, and here they are, with acknowledgement: Keillor Ivory Tower 1965001 WARNING: If the words “Hockey”, “Doug Woog”, “John Mariucci”, and “UofM versus University of North Dakota at Grand Forks” ring your chimes, be prepared to read the 14 pages behind the link….

The little file was a brief story of the life of a relationship – Keillor with his show and his town, St. Paul. The June 1987 Minnesota Monthly devoted 124 pages as a Collectors Edition “Farewell to A Prairie Home Companion”. This was only 13 years into the run, but that was Garrison’s mid-life crisis.

The January 2000 Northwest Airlines World Traveler cover story on some air trip I took was “Garrison Keillor, America’s Storyteller”.

In February, 2001, our friend in London sent a long Review, “In search of Wobegon”, in The Sunday Telegraph. The June 28 and August 7, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribunes had long articles about the upcoming Prairie Home movie directed by Robert Altman.

June 27 and July 4, 1999, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune had long articles on the 25th anniversaries of Prairie Home Companion.

I just re-looked at the articles, and the thought came to mind that I had in that old file folder was something of a history of a relationship that could fit most anyone, not just Garrison Keillor.

Spats, separations, celebrations, misinterpretations, and everything that goes along with couples everywhere.

Even the 40th anniversary is significant. By 40 years, there is some quiet acknowledgement that 50 years is quite a long ways off, and things have a way of happening, so why not find an excuse for a party!?

Garrison acknowledged as much in that rich hour we spent with him yesterday. I can only paraphrase, but in talking about the future he said he wasn’t much looking at ten years ahead. He’d seen politicians who stayed in office long past their time, and it wasn’t pretty….

Garrison, I’m glad to be in your neighborhood.

And Monday, when once again we drive west on I-94, and pass St. Cloud, St. Johns, Freeport, and Avon and all the rest of the places that helped give birth to Lake Wobegon (not to mention Anoka!), I’ll have occasion to smile.

Thanks for the memories.

#908 – Dick Bernard: Anniversaries of Two Wars…and the beat goes on.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

UPDATE to Fortnight for Freedom: several comments are included at the end of the post.

The last few days have marked two significant anniversaries.

June 28 marked the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which led, a month later, to the awful World War I.

Today, July 2, is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

WWI – “the war to end all wars” – was the first of the truly deadly world wars. A letter in Tuesdays Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted that 568 Hennepin County (Minneapolis and environs) residents were killed in WWI, their deaths remembered by Victory Memorial Drive in Victory Memorial Park along the northwest boundary area of Minneapolis.

WWI begat WWII, and after WWII came Korea, then Vietnam, then Iraq…. War doesn’t stop war; it only aggravates problems that erupt in new and different ways.

The evening of June 21-22, 1964, marked a beginning of the heavy lifting of the Civil Rights Movement. Three young people, James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, were gunned down in Mississippi – deemed by the KKK t be trouble makers out to register people to vote.

By no means was theirs the first deadly incident in the Civil Rights movement, nor the last, but it was a wake-up call moment, impossible to ignore. It was a watershed moment.

(click to enlarge)
Risking Everything001

The wars continue: The invisible al-Bagdadi, holed up somewhere, seeks a Caliphate in Syria and Iraq area. Odds are, his life span is not long, and his dream will fail.

At home here in the U.S.of A at Independence Day, it’s no secret at all that efforts are being made to roll back hard-won Civil Rights, voting, immigration, etc.

It seems so hopeless. But is it?

Back in March I decided to drop in on a session at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum conducted by Professor Mary Elizabeth King, a veteran of the Civil Rights heavy lifting years.

The room was full of students that day, nonetheless I wondered about the state of student activism today, so after the session I wrote Dr. King a letter.

On May 13, I received a personal communication from Dr. King, much of which I reprint here, with her permission. Hers is a very interesting and hopeful analysis, coming from the trenches of the Summer of 2014 (and 1964), so to speak.

Dr. King:

“The amount of student activism today is far greater than in the heyday of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], which some historians are now calling the most significant group to emerge in the USA after World War II. Young people are vastly more engaged. The success of the Dreamers (the movement of young Latinos that dramatically succeeded in their quest for an end to children born in the USA of “illegal” parents being forcibly detained), is a model for good planning and strategizing that beats anything that went on in the civil rights movement. This year, you will see an astonishing degree of mobilization around the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer (in which I worked). In FL, NC, MS, OH, and TX hundreds of organizers will be working on voter registration, expanding education, pushing against the privatization of prisons and working to curtail the school-to-prison pipeline, and more work against deportations. I’ve just been with 45 of these key organizers in Geogia, and in depth and breadth they are in some ways more advanced than we were in their ability to plan and strategize. I, therefore, feel optimistic.

Dr. King continued at some length:

Isolated groups around the world now have some access to transnational electronic activism. Even if they are weak in their ability to reform their governments, they can cause what social scientists call a “boomerang” pattern, bringing about pressure from networks across the world (most recently visible as Nigheria’s Goodluck Jonathan did nothing about 276 abducted girls until storms of electronic protestation around the world exerted pressure on him, sufficient to get the UK, France, and USA to send personnel). This could not have happened 20 years ago.

More than 400 degree programs, centers, or institutes in the USA are dedicated to the building of peace. Peace and conflict studies is the fastest growing field of all the social sciences worldwide; in my experience it is driven by the young.”

On Martin Luther King, Dr. King recommends a new book: “In an Inescapable Network of Mutuality,” ed. Lewis V. Baldwin (Cascade Books, 2013).

Her letter also included the postcard about Risking Everything (see above photograph). She suggested “that you spread word of this remarkable book of carefully selected documents from the 1964 Freedom Summer. Every library should have it.” (At this writing, the website listed on the card is down for maintenance. Try it later.)

Back in the 60s, Dr. King concludes, “We had almost no books, other than Gandhi’s autobiography and King’s Stride toward Freedom. Today a wealth is available and much of it downloadable.”

Mistakes will be made, as witnessed by Tahrir Square mistakes, and the Occupy movement, both of which had promising starts.

But activism is alive and well.

Thank you, Dr. King. I’m glad I asked the question.

UPDATE, July 3: Overnight came Just Above Sunset with an analysis commentary about 1964 and 2014.

It is impossible, of course, to see how the long term will play out on the matters of voting or immigration or most anything else, but personally I see the climate now as very different from 1964. The Rights advocates in 1964 were starting from 100 years of inaction following the Emancipation Proclamation and it was a hard slow dangerous slog in the south. Armies of demonstrators made it possible for Lyndon Johnson to take the courageous steps necessary to get the act passed, though he well knew the consequences for the Democrats “for the next generation”.

Rolling back the clock to the good old days will be, in my opinion, a suicidal mission for the angry people who give face to the anger in places like Murieta CA.

A photo clip last night showed the California protestors brandishing American flags almost like weapons against the bus. It brought back flashback moments for me to early October, 2001, when I went to my first anti-war demonstration at the State Capitol, and across the street were flag-brandishing very angry people protesting the protestors.

It will be interesting to see the crowd at the 4th of July Parade tomorrow…the one we always attend. It is the crowd I always watch, more than the parade. The folks along the street are America….

#906 – Dick Bernard: A “Fortnight for Freedom”. The Tyranny of Belief?

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

A few hours after publishing this post, I went on my daily walk, and found this in chalk along the curb. It had been placed there since yesterday (I always walk the same route)*.
UPDATE on the photo, June 29: I went by the spot about noon, and no evidence of the chalked saying – it rained overnight. So the photo is the only reminder that it was ever there. One of the truths of accomplishing big things is the adage: “if you can believe it, you can achieve it”. This applies to many things in many ways.

(click to enlarge)

June 28, 2014

June 28, 2014

At the exact same time as the disastrous sectarian (religious) war in Syria and Iraq, another religious inspired event, an essentially covert religious “war” of its own, is being marketed in the United States. It began on June 21, Summer Solstice, and runs through July 4: a fortnight involving an annual natural phenomena, a national holiday and a religious initiative. It is quite a marketing package.

Today is the half-way point of the official observance; but it will continue long past July 4th, rest assured.

It is called “Fortnight for Freedom” and its marketing focus is on an alleged heavy-handed federal government coming down on poor beleaguered Christians who are, it is suggested, forced to compromise certain religious beliefs to obey laws with which they disagree, such as parts of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

Just one example: being required as a company or employee to dispense birth control to others who desire that particular service when ones believes birth control is a sin. It is, indeed, a clash: a demand of freedom for one; with no apparent attention about freedom for the other whose views might differ.

The initiative seems to make so much sense, if you go no further than the surface rationale. As you think more deeply about the implications, though, it is really a tangled web of deception. “Freedom” apparently only applies to those who can then restrict certain others freedoms. Thus Fortnight for Freedom isn’t about freedom at all, it is about domination and control, imposition of beliefs, only without the bombs and bullets. It is about marketing an idea, a belief, as superior to other contrary beliefs.

Here is a description of Fortnight for Freedom. “Fortnight for Freedom” and its companions have come at me from a number of different directions in the last week or so.

Last Friday, the local Catholic Archdiocese newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, had a photo of four earnest looking Bishops on page 11, all intently looking at an iPad above a headline “Bishops focus on religious liberty….” I am Catholic. I get this paper. I know their story….

Catholic Spirit June 19, 2014 p. 11

Catholic Spirit June 19, 2014 p. 11

Here is the article that accompanies the above photo: Bishops focus….002

Technology and Media and Words are wonderful…and awful. The words “Fortnight for Freedom” are not even mentioned in the accompanying article; but the timing of the article is no coincidence.

The Bishops of my Church (I am an active Catholic), have far more than enough “freedom”; there is no need for them to demand even more freedom to take away freedom from others who have differing beliefs than they do, including great numbers who consider themselves, as I do, “active Catholic”.

But this is not just a Catholic hierarchical notion. Last Sunday, a good friend gave me a letter “Standing Together for Religious Freedom, An Open Letter to All Americans“, issued by a Southern Baptist entity, whose first signatory is a Catholic Bishop. The few other signers are, it appears, almost all Catholic or Evangelical Christian leaders of one denomination or another.

This is a top down deal between very odd bedfellows; not a bottom up groundswell. When I was growing up, we Catholics avoided Evangelicals. It was probably also true, vice versa: Catholics were Papists, not Christians.

I see no signers of the Open Letter from mainstream Christian denominations, Jews and Moslems, nor the great numbers of people who do not happen to share a particular belief system. They appear to be only Catholic and Evangelical “leaders”.

There is a bottom line for me in this:

There is a certain amount of “freedom” and “liberty” available. Think of a very large soup kettle full of liberty and freedom.

The Founding Fathers of the U.S. had the right idea about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but even for them, then, the concept was essentially reserved to white men with property (including slaves).

At the same time, our founders purposefully and deliberated separated Church and State, an inconvenient truth for some who now actively attempt to rewrite our national history to fit their version of the facts.

We’re now at 238 years of the experiment called American Democracy. It took nearly 200 of those years, some of them very hard years, to come to some fairly reasonable equilibrium about what freedom and liberty meant in practice: ending slavery; securing the right to vote for women (1920) and others (universal suffrage); more universal rights like the Voting Rights Act, Womens Rights, (1960s) etc.

In each of these cases, and others, there was a need to equalize “power”; to share in the wealth of that container of life, liberty and happiness. Each person has a right to that freedom and liberty.

Notions like Fortnight for Freedom want to turn these around; to redefine or to establish new definitions of what “freedom” and “liberty” mean.

Their intent, under the guise of seeking freedom, is to take it away from some as a benefit to others.

To go backwards, not forwards.

Be vigilant.

What do you think?

After I completed the above, I was scrolling through unread e-mails from earlier in the week. This particular one, passed along by Joyce, is particularly telling about the relationship between todays Piety and Power.

As I was writing the above, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Massachusetts law requiring a 35 foot “buffer zone” for protests at abortion clinics violated free speech. It was noted that this same Supreme Court has a much larger “buffer zone” at it own Court in our Nations Capitol, and doesn’t get the contradiction between its own behavior and its own ruling. Here’s a good commentary on that issue.

from Carol A:
Really liked your post, Dick. For a long time, I’ve thought our country has lost its way on the issue of freedom. Freedom without responsibility and respect for others freedom is merely freedom only for a few. Freedom is like individualism in this country. Both need to be balanced and if there is anything we lack, it is balance. We see that in the Tea Party who refuses to address any issue where they might need to compromise. They’re dead set on destroying Obama in whatever way they can. My way or the highway.

I think the issue needs to be discussed and be out in the open. It’s not whose freedom is most important, but how do we balance it with respect for other people’s freedoms.

from Norm N: A link from Time. “Doctors urge more hospitals to perform abortions”.

Response from Dick: Per both Carol and Norm’s comments, I think the weak link in the advocates arguments (i.e. to end abortion, etc) is that it completely dismisses any other point of view, and pretends that a simple solution, perhaps legislatively or by court decision, can be crafted and controlled by advocates for a particular point of view. We are a pluralistic society, and more so than ever, “the other” can never again be driven into silence. Difficult issues require compromise, and compromise requires people to dialogue, truly, with people who have different points of view.

from Peter B: It would be useful if we could be clear about the issue of insurance covering women’s health care: the institutions are not “required as a company or employee to dispense birth control…” Only qualified medical professionals and pharmacists do that.

If I were taking this on, I would focus on the muddying of the waters that is the usual strategy for those who wish to raise these tempests where there is no real Constitutional issue. Whenever they get us to argue the pros and cons of their supposed grievance, they have already won the argument, because they have established in the discourse that there is an issue there. It is bogus.

There’s no “there” there, but as we see, these tactics of confusion and mendacity work all too often. It is a lot trickier to try to argue that a company is infringed upon because its insurance package covers things they don’t like covered (as, I read somewhere, the Hobby Lobby company has provided its own employees for years). People smart enough to make that case face an uphill climb if they want to rouse up people stupid enough to buy it.

I have a good friend who is now in trouble for not paying taxes, forty percent or more of which support the bloody wars of aggression and conquest now conducted in our names, and for private profit. If there is a bright line between the obligation to pay taxes and our religious objections to mass murder, there must be a bright line between paying for health care coverage without discrimination, and our personal religious objections to family planning, etc.

It’s all about what is done in your name, with your money, and the real question is, what’s yours? What constitutes an act for which you are accountable? And to Whom? The definition is completely arbitrary and made up out of whole cloth. It is an impossible question that we had hoped to resolve by just putting it off limits in the Constitution. But language doesn’t hold still. Even the meaning of a comma after “well regulated militia,” has changed.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that establishing a perimeter around abortion clinics where people are not allowed to scream in the face of a girl walking toward the building is inhibiting the screamers’ free speech rights, which trumps the girl’s right to walk unmolested down any street in America. (How do they even know whether she is trying to deal with private issues that are hers and hers alone to live with, or just looking for a clean bathroom?) It is (or was) actually only the government that is accountable for any infringement of free speech in the Constitution. It’s a “Congress shall make no law” thing, if I am not mistaken. And what about all those restrictions on protest in D.C.?

We need to work farther upstream than the political conflict itself: literacy and critical thinking skills are the worst casualty of the Education Wars. Democracy cannot stand against ignorance, and you can’t win a shouting match.

from Bruce F: You are correct, Dick, Hobby Lobby’s idea of freedom is based on power & domination. Their entire business model is based on that precept, especially their relations with their employees. The answer for their employees is to unionize. A very difficult proposition for them, but if they were unionized, this law suit regarding the ACA wouldn’t be, along with a whole host of other assaults on labor. Hobby Lobby, like many business, are taking advantage of and thriving in the week economy & labor market to exploited there employees, and it’s in the name of freedom.

I fear a 5-4 decision in favor of the plaintiff.

from John B: Organized religion is a part of the establishment. Most religions espouse the delayed gratification in an after life paradise IF the believers obey the teachings, and we know what that means.

I want to believe there is a higher order to life, maybe even a GODHEAD, but beware of conflating mainstream American religion with freedom. Most religions are dying in a slow and painful manner. Some of them, like certain ones originating in the eastern Mediterranean region are promote despicable social practices. These are the opposite of freedom. As examples, consider the breakdown in negotiations between the Jews and Palestinians or the wars between the Sunnis and the Shias.

I long for a day when a LOUD voice from the sky says: “You guys don’t get it. It was love each other, not loot each other, pray for each other, not prey on each other, share with one another not steal from one another.”

The number one freedom valued in America is the freedom to make money. It is the highest value.

from Jeff P:Well, if this is a major event, its odd I hadn’t heard of it till you
mentioned in this post, but then , as you know , I am a godless apostate.
I think the public at this point, from Ireland to the USA to Germany to
Mexico and most Catholic countries finds the words of bishops particularly
meaningless given the record of the self same clergy in policing itself.

Otherwise , I defer to the Founding Fathers :

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people
maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of
ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always
avail themselves for their own purposes.
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of
the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting
“Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus
Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the
great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of
its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the
Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for
Religious Freedom

“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?
In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the
ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen
upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been
the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the
public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries.
A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
[Pres. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General
Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]

Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?
— John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 19, 1821

.”…the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political
direction.” [George Washington, 1789, responding to clergy complaints that
the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ)

from Andrea G: An excellent read. I couldn’t have stated the issue better. As I scrolled through the letter and the signatures, I wondered how much progress would be made regarding ‘traditional’ social justice issues (poverty, housing, education) if those entities collectively focused on such issues.

from Ray B: When politicians take our tax money and use it in a way that supercedes our basic right to religious freedom must concern us all. Notice and genuine concern through a process starting with the people to stop this downward spiral of our systematic loss of political and religious freedoms must take place. Our well thought out constitution saw the need for democratic freedom and the separation of church and government and must not be tampered with in the un democratic way of this time in our history by those in power and ignore these rights in the name of protectionism with no restraints, all in the name of “the country’s best interests”. Concern for our own people should not be ignored by wars, playing big brother to the world at own demise and financial near insolvency. Our people’s basic rights and the right to jobs, food, safe haven are in our best interest”

from Flo H, Jun 30: I’d never heard of Fortnight for Freedom, but certainly experience the effects of the movement in my community and church. What happened to the belief that, “Your freedom ends where my freedom begins.“? [Ed. Note: Flo didn't suggest any link, but I've added a bunch of links about the phrase.]

from Greg H, Jul 1: I share your sentiments. The conservative tide, at least in the courts, is strong. We will just have to ride it out; I don’t see any alternative.

Curious as I am, I Googled Hobby Lobby to learn if they have any Minnesota stores.

Would you believe their only Minnesota store now is in Woodbury [55125]? Another will open in Maplewood at some point. You may wish to click on this link to view their home page.

response from Dick: We happen to live in Woodbury, about 7 miles from the store. I am not a shopper, so had never heard of this store; my wife is a shopper, but has never mentioned this place. Such is how shopping is. I won’t waste gas or time to even go see the place.

At the home page for Hobby Lobby there is a momentarily appearing ad with two quotations attributed to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (they are portions of the first and third quotations which can be read here). They aren’t up very long. They are probably like all such quotations: a bit like distilling the Bible into one verse without context….

Here is the wikipedia entry about Hobby Lobby.

I know lots of people who believe lots of things. In our free society, the danger is when someone with a particular belief embarks on a course to impose that belief on everyone else through Law. The only remedy I see, personally, is staying active politically. For someone with the interest, and time, here is a long post that discusses the implications of Hobby Lobby.

* – The sign was very tastefully done, and I have no objections to such an expression at all. When I was taking the photo at the beginning of this post, I noticed a lady in a black car stopped near the corner. Possibly it was because I was standing in the middle of the road! But when she turned the corner, she rolled down her window and said – as if friend to friend – words to the effect “really true”.

She drove on, and I left. It is a safe speculation that she had something to do with the neatly done graffiti.

At home I read Jeff’s comment, below: “…if this is a major event, its odd I hadn’t heard of it till you mentioned in this post….” In my opinion, movements – makes no different the issue or ideology – often take root quietly and unnoticed, until something happens. The lady likely knew about this sign, as did her church, whichever that happened to be, and she was glad somebody (me) was looking at it. And I thought it important to pass the word about it. (The Bible quote is from Mark 9:23, so says the chalk. I have four Bibles here, three Catholic and one the “red-line Bible”, and in each of the four the quotation is worded a little differently. Below are the respective quotations I have. With the Bible, in particular, it depends both on the translation, and the context that is given to certain phrases or passages….)
1. The post on the curb: Everything is possible for one who believes. Mark 9:23. Possible origin of this translation, check here.
2. Grandma’s 1906 Douay-Reims: Verse 22: “And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
3. My 1961 St. Joseph Catholic Edition: also Verse 22: “But Jesus said to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes.
4. Dad’s 1978 Good News Bible: Verse 23: “Yes” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
5. From 1989 Revised Standard Version: Verse 23: “Jesus said to him, “if you are able! All can be done for the one who believes.

#903 – Dick Bernard: St-Jean Baptiste Day June 24. Adding to a conversation about heritage and culture.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

In Minneapolis, this Tuesday, June 24, the Canada Consul-General is hosting a celebration of St-Jean Baptiste, sponsored by Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis. The flier is here: La St-Jean Baptiste la Fete Nationale du Quebec. All are welcome, at a very moderate cost. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of state at the time of Fete de la St-Jean Baptiste. Otherwise, no question I’d be there. It will be a festive event.

My father, Henry Bernard, is 100% French-Canadian, thus qualifying me…and since 1980 I’ve been actively involved in family history matters relating to Dads Quebec (to Dad, always, refered to as “Lower Canada”).*

In 1982, Dad and I and four others traveled to rural Quebec, including Quebec City and Montreal, to make a first visit to the land of our ancestors (QC, Ile d’Orleans, St. Henri, St. Lambert et al). I had, then, only the most basic notions of the family history and traditions of my French-Canadian heritage. Dad was 74, then, which happens to be my current age….

After soupe aux pois (pea soup) at a festive weekend event of La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota, some days later we all arrived in Quebec City on the evening of St-Jean Baptiste Day (StJB), Thursday, June 24, 1982. StJB is a major festive event in Quebec, a holiday, always June 24**.

I know Dad pretty well: arriving on the Lower Canada home soil from which his father had come in 1894, (and his grandparents on Grandmas side, 40 and 30 years earlier) was, for him, like arriving in Heaven.

Being a novice in the matter of ancestry at the time, the experience was less intense for me, but no less profound. Three times since I’ve been back, and later immersed myself in family history and the hobby of editing a little newsletter called Chez Nous.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

St. Jean-Baptiste side altar at Cathedral of St. Paul, June 23, 2013

St. Jean-Baptiste side altar at Cathedral of St. Paul, June 23, 2013

In Quebec, this year as all years, June 24 is a major day of celebration. The official notice is here, in French. The document can be translated into English, here. But, no question, they consider this a French-Canadian day***.

So far, I describe a Quebec holiday, primarily French-Canadian, celebrated this year at the home of the Canadian-Consul General in Minneapolis, sponsored by a French-related organization, Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis. We French-Canadians frequently have held smaller celebrations here, most recently June 24, 2013. I wrote about aspects of last year here.

For those with intense feelings about matters French, French-Canada, Canada, and England, (and “Americans”, and “Yankees”, etc) the preceding words can excite some interesting conversation.

An alternative welcoming French word “rapprochement” comes to mind….

Enjoy June 24 and St-Jean Baptiste!

As it happens, I became involved a bit in the “drama” of French and Canadian on St. Jean-Baptiste Day a year ago, after the event of the brand new French-American Heritage Foundation, on whose Board I have served since its founding in 2013.

A year ago, I stopped by the Cathedral of St. Paul to take the above photo of St. John the Baptist, one of the six side altars devoted to national groups, primarily Catholic, who settled in the Minnesota of Archbishop John Ireland’s day.


I had long known of the altars existence but this day was different: for the first time, then, I really noted the signage identifying the altar:


It came time to correct, I felt, an error in the sign, and on July 1, 2013, I wrote a letter to the Rector of the Cathedral, Rev. John Ubel, in part, as follows:

As you know, Archbishop Ireland, whose project it was to build the Cathedral in the early 1900s, had a great affection for both France and the French-Canadians who migrated here in the tens if not hundreds of thousands in the early days of the then-immense Diocese.

It is true that St-Jean Baptiste was a French patron, and it was through the French settlement of Quebec, that this same Saint became patron of the French-Canadians. So, the French part of the sign is correct.

The problem comes with the “Canadian” portion of the sign. It is misleading. Recently I was reviewing the 1940 United States Census form, where census takers were instructed as follows: in the column heading “Place of Birth”: “Distinguish Canada-French from Canada-English, and Irish Free State (Eire) from Northern Ireland“.

In the classic book, Maria Chapdelaine, (Louis Hemon, 1913), there appears this phrase on p. 89 of my English version: “When the French Canadian speaks of himself it is invariably and simply as a “Canadian”; whereas for all other races that followed in his footsteps, and people the country across to the Pacific, he keeps the name of origin: English, Irish, Polish, Russian; never admitting for a moment that the children of these, albeit born in the country, have an equal title to be called “Canadians.” Quite naturally, and without thought of offending, he appropriates the name won in the heroic days of his forefathers.

I understand that this may not rise to the top of your list of priorities, and perhaps more evidence is reasonably required, but at minimum I would hope you review this matter.”

In the manner of such things, I had no expectation of a response from Rev. Ubel, but he did respond quite quickly and said my argument made sense, and they’d be looking into the matter.

Months passed by. Then, in the mail May 2, 2014, was a handwritten note from Rev. Ubel: “I do wish to write to share with you that we have completed the work to change the signage at the St. John the Baptist Shrine Altar. You were correct and we made the correction.

Many thanks for your patience. We decided to go with French-Canadians, though I certainly understand other arguments. French and Canadians is clearly wrong. We looked at our own historical records of the Chapel.

I went back to the Cathedral, to see what had been done with the signage:

May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

I look at this story as not a battle won in any national war; rather an effort to revisit a long history of too-often fractured relationships.

And this year I’ll really appreciate a great deal the efforts of Canada, through Consul General Jamshed Merchant, and Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis, and hope to see continuing and increasing efforts at rapprochement (what a wonderful word!)

* Mom was 100% German ancestry; her ancestors coming to Wisconsin between 1840s and 1860s from what was then Westphalia and Hanover states.
** A week later comes Canada Day, celebrated each year across Canada on July 1. I’d imagine this is a pretty big vacation week in Canada, not just Quebec.
*** St. Jean-Baptiste was early on a favored patron of France, from which my and others French-Canadian ancestors migrated beginning in the early 1600s. One story of that relationship is here.

#902 – Dick Bernard: The Summer Solstice, Reflecting on Global War and Peace.

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

“Outtakes” after the photos. Check back in two or three days for additions at that space, and comments.

Today is the Summer Solstice. On June 7, between meetings, I drove over to the Lock and Dam by Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge, and a group of people were rehearsing a dance (see photo). Turned out, they were rehearsing for a free program this evening at the Stone Arch Bridge. Here’s details.

(click to enlarge)

Rehearsing at Minneapolis Lock and Dam Parking Lot June 7, 2014.

Rehearsing at Minneapolis Lock and Dam Parking Lot June 7, 2014.

During 24 hours time period on June 19 and 20, I had the opportunity to both witness and participate in three activities about matters of Global War and Peace. My role was more than ordinary, standing in for Drs. Joe Schwartzberg and Gail Hughes at the Annual meeting of Citizens for Global Solutions, Minnesota, on June 19; and as one of the three panelists about the current Iraq-Syria crisis on Lydia Howell’s one hour Catalyst program on Minneapolis’ KFAI radio on Friday Morning, June 20.

Then, in the afternoon, I dropped by a Community Peace Celebration in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul MN.

The entire radio program is accessible here. It was a stimulating and interesting hour, and the comments of myself, Sarah Martin of Women Against Military Madness, David Logsdon of Veterans for Peace and Lydia Howell speak for themselves. We covered a lot of ground in the one hour available. Of course, each of us left with assorted “soundbites” left unsaid (I’ll add some of these at the end of this post.)

(KFAI, to those not familiar, is a local radio station with a 35 years history which began as a 25-watt neighborhood station in the belfry of the old Walker Methodist Church in South Minneapolis. It is now live-streamed anywhere internet access is available. A look at its programming schedule reveals a most interesting selection not available on most “mainstream” stations. By near-happenstance, I was an on-air guest on KFAI program “Me and the Other” in October, 1982. This program continues as “Bonjour Minnesota” to this day.)

The radio program was about the beating of the war drums, yet again, by certain elements in the United States. As you will gather, if you listen to the conversation, there is difference of opinion about what all of this means. Even peaceniks (I am one, as were all of the others) have differing perspectives.

June 19, at the Citizens for Global Solutions meeting, I had the privilege of introducing colleague, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who took the Millenium Development Goals seriously, and after 9 years of effort is beginning to see significant success in a project to alleviate child malnutrition in, first, the Mumbai (Bombay) portion of his native India.

Dr. Parekh, June 19, 2014

Dr. Parekh, June 19, 2014

A summarized version of Dr. Parekh’s talk will be subject of a later blog at this space.

Succinctly, it takes lots of slogging along to achieve success, even small success, and Dr. Parekh’s determination is beginning to pay off. In my introduction I pointed out two quotations which begin and end the home page of AMillionCopies.info: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead. And, We must be the change we wish to see in the world. Gandhi

Finally, Friday afternoon I dropped by at the beginning of the 18th Annual Community Peace Celebration gathering on the Grounds of Ober Community Center, in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. I was there early, and could stay only a short time, but already in evidence were the three Fs of a successful gathering: Food, Fun, Family. My friend, Melvin Giles, is one of the unsung community leaders who put on this successful event. This is yet another example of the truth of the Margaret Mead and Gandhi quotes recited above.

The final photos are all from the St. Paul event.

As Melvin always says: “May Peace Prevail on Earth”.

He and legions of others like him will get it done, one step at a time.

At the Peace Celebration June 20:

Neighborhood musicians June 20, 2014

Neighborhood musicians June 20, 2014

Peace Pole

Peace Pole

among the tables, some items for home gardens.

among the tables, some items for home gardens.

Peace Bell maker and artist at Veterans for Peace table

Peace Bell maker and artist at Veterans for Peace table

Message from Dwight Eisenhower on Peace

Message from Dwight Eisenhower on Peace

“OUTTAKES” from the Radio Hour:
Dick: Four of us had perhaps 40 minutes to share our thoughts. Here is one of my own, too complex to share in the brief time allotted. (The other panelists are asked for their opinion too.)

The current Iraq/Syria conflict seems to be a Religious Civil War, in some respects like our own Civil War 1861-65. I don’t recall ever reading that there was outside (i.e. English, et al) intervention on either side in that war. It was an internal matter to the United States of America.

Some statistics largely gleaned from the 2007 World Almanac and Book of Facts, and other sources.
I invite challenge on any of these numbers, as I am quoting from seemingly reasonable sources, but have inadequate context in some cases about what the numbers include, and thus what they mean.

The U.S. Civil War, 1861-65, including statistics for both “sides”:
31.4 Million Population of U.S. in 1860
2.2 Million Troops in the War
215 thousand Deaths in Battle
780 thousand total Casualties

544 thousand Maximum U.S. troops in Vietnam (1969)

Iraq et al 2003-2008
27 Million Population
200 thousand Iraq deaths in war
2.5 million American troops deployed to area conflicts
4.5 thousand American deaths in Iraq War
32.2 thousand American injured in Iraq War

from Jeff P, June 21: The deaths from usa civil war are over 500,000 , still debated by historians… the problem being that wounded or sick soldiers died, from lack of sanitary conditions.