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#1143 – Dick Bernard: WWI, a Dreadful One Hundredth Anniversary, and another Gun Incident Close to Home.

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

POSTNOTE 1 a.m. Friday July 8: When I posted the below less than 12 hours ago, I was hardly aware of the shooting of the African-American citizen in Falcon Heights, a town in which I used to live; at a location I knew well, along a walking route I used to take in the early 1980s.

Eight hours later, I know quite a bit more about the local “tragic incident” in a nearby town, and what is already the spillover effect. If what happened on that street yesterday is not a wake-up call to we Americans, nothing will be. Here’s something else I said in the July 2 blog referred to below: “The notable exception, and it is an important one, is that we in the U.S. are killing ourselves and our fellow citizens with guns at an alarming rate, well over 10,000 U.S. citizens every single year. Here’s one data source that seems credible.”

Get acquainted with the data at the above website, and get to work.


My friend, Jeff, reminds me that today is awful anniversary of the terrible battles of WWI:

Jeff: It seems as if things couldn’t be worse, but pause to consider 100 years ago now, two
ongoing battles, ending in stalemate, with 1,200,000 dead on both sides, and another 1.2 million casualties over the 6-8 months each battle lasted.

Seeing the first use of phosgene gas and armored tanks on the battlefield.

Watch here, about Somme; and here, about Verdun.

Germany plays France today in soccer in the semifinals of the European championship. The Brexiters and others in EU wanting separation always underestimate the value of over 70 years of peace between Germany and France (and England) is an exceptional thing given the history of Europe from about 1400 to 2016.

He and I had a brief exchange, as follows:

Dick: Yes, very good.

I tried to point this out, gently, in the July 2 blog (“There are great problems…but this is a pretty peaceful time, at least as far as war is concerned.”), and a friend basically suggested I was a “rose colored glasses” type. [Data here: War Deaths U.S.002

Jeff: It’s true, actually, actual violent death caused by malicious intent is low worldwide. We just hear more about it. Not that its any less devastating.

The randomness of terrorism, and of course what happened in Falcon Heights* [another killing of an African-American by police] last night make it more frightening.

I don’t think you are a rose colored glasses type.

Optimism is a good thing.

* I lived in Falcon Heights in the early 1980s, only several blocks from yesterdays tragic incident. It is a small community, suburban St. Paul, close by the Minnesota State Fair Grounds.

#1138 – Dick Bernard: “Brexit”. Another first rough draft of history.

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

This morning I sent my friend, Christine, lifelong French citizen, this Just Above Sunset blog in the aftermath of the “Brexit” vote in England. The post is excellent and informative; Christine’s comments come a little later in this post.

To me, the most important data comes near the end of the column:
But consider the UK data:
18-24: 75% Remain
25-49: 56% Remain
50-64: 44% Remain
65+: 39% Remain
The future electorate of the UK wanted to remain in Europe.

My generation, the youngers parents and grandparents said “we don’t”. Such a division doesn’t augur well.

{June 26, 2016 Minneapolis Star Tribune p. A12: Turnout for the vote “was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting..Leave won by 52 percent to 48 percent.“)

(click on photo to enlarge)

Hawaii state flag, Big Island of Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2015

Hawaii state flag, Big Island of Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2015

There will be endless analyses of what the Brexit vote really means, on many levels. I really knew little about it until it actually happened.

What astonishes me is that this ballot question was apparently a simple “yes” or “no” and, apparently, only advisory – did the voter want Britain to remain in or get out of the European Union? This required no knowledge by the voter, not even any emotion. Just mark “yes” or “no” or not bother to go to the polls at all to answer the single question “yes” or “no”.

While the results apparently are advisory only, they have huge implications for the UK, for the European Union, for the entire world. And virtually nothing seems to have been thought through, by the majority, nor by the people who demanded the vote.

They just wanted “it”, whatever “it” was. Sound familiar?

Essentially, it was virtually “government by twitter”: an utterly brainless affair. How does any supposedly democratic society survive this passivity?

In my opinion, it doesn’t.

I include the odd flag picture at the beginning because, in so many ways, we are twins of England, from the time of our first settlement. I saw this flag on the island of Hawaii in late December, marking an apparent roadside death of someone. I learned later that it was the state flag of Hawaii, and the use of the Union Jack – the British flag – along with the stripes of the U.S. flag was intentional and most interesting.

Here’s the story of the flag.

In the United States we have just completed the Primary-Caucus system where symbolically winners of the Presidential horse-race have been anointed through a hodgepodge of endorsement systems. We are more and more formalizing the “primary” system, but only for President, as if the President of the United States is the only position which matters, and even less formally than in England, we demand the simplest possible commitment to “vote” for the candidate of our choice.

We know little, and we don’t care. Just make it quick and simple.

The question was made simple in England and now what?

After reading the Just Above Sunset, Christine responded (response shared with her permission):
I find this analysis very interesting although I don’t buy the Christians, Jerusalem and religious links around it.

I fully agree with the comment that “Driving the “Brexit” vote were many of the same impulses that have animated American politics in this turbulent election year: anger at distant elites, anxiety about a perceived loss of national sovereignty and, perhaps most of all, resentment toward migrants and refugees.

“There’s a fundamental issue that all developed economies have to confront, which is that globalization and technological changes have meant millions of people have seen their jobs marginalized and wages decline,” said David Axelrod.

I am not expert enough about Trump and American context but it seems to me similar to what I can hear and read here in France.

I don’t believe France or other European countries, although they have populist political leaders too, would follow the UK. Actually we are all frightened, and this earthquake induces a fast reaction amongst the European leaders to reform and strengthen the European organisation as soon as possible.

The very good effect of all this is that EVERYBODY talks about Europe which was not the case earlier.

Europe, for those who thought that they did not benefit from it, now realize how important it is. Even if there is much to say about it, Europe is a great tool to improve and harmonize little silly things like safety regulations. Traveling, or employing all sorts of people (which brings the subject of immigration….), easy for most specialists like medical doctors whose diplomas are recognized, to work wherever they want, schools accepting equivalencies, but also to drive commercial markets in the world, with America, India, China, Russia…and so much more like no boundaries (again immigration is a topic), same money (UK never wanted to leave the Pound)….”

Reader” what is your opinion? At least share it with yourself!

We need to become very engaged as citizens. We must responsibly control our own fate.

#1136 – Dick Bernard: The Man in the Background: Father’s Day 2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I continue to go through hundreds of photos left as part of the legacy of the North Dakota farm. Recently I was looking at this one:

(click to enlarge)

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

The initial focus was the women in the group photo. I didn’t know any of them, and I’ve sent them to a ND friend lifelong in that area to perhaps identify one or two or more of them.

But my interest turned to the guy in the background, who seems to be holding a stick, doing something.

On initial glance it looks like a stick, maybe a baseball bat. On the other hand, it may well be a croquet mallet for a lawn game popular back then. The stick may look a little fatter than in should because it is a bit blurred. If you click a second time over the man, you can almost see the croquet ball to the right, to his front….

Almost certainly the camera had caught a Sunday outing at the Memorial Park – the folks were all dressed up, as if after Church. Also, almost certainly, the women and men were farmers or engaged in agriculture in some way. Most were likely Moms or Dads, and Sunday was a day of rest.

If I’m right – that it is croquet I’m seeing. Not far away some more men were throwing “horseshoes” – real ones. And off to the left was the baseball diamond, where the town team was playing some out of town bunch, and there were kids, and people fishing, and visiting, and picnics and this and that.

As was (and is) most often the case, the old photos is not labeled as to year or people. It didn’t occur to anybody that somebody, 60 or more years later, would care who or what….

As I say, this was a farm photo, and there were hundreds of them, and I’m still going through them, and they won’t be thrown away.

Most were taken by a couple of versions of old box cameras, thence as time goes on, assorted new fangled cameras replaced them. Everytime we came to visit, Grandpa would gather us on the lawn for the traditional picture before we left for home. This was a Grandma deal as well, and their children followed suit.

The picture exists because somebody felt it important to not only record the moment, but to keep it for posterity.

The picture itself is just another moment in the life of some people out in North Dakota, among many moments in many days in many lives, filled with good times and not-so-good, crops, relationships, tragedies, children, whatever.

As we all know, some days are better than others….

Today at Basilica of St. Mary, Fr. Bauer asked all the men to stand up, and recognized every male there for whatever role they play in others lives. It was a nice touch, typical.

While this is a specific Father’s Day, yet another tradition in our society, all of us, regardless of gender, play a part in making our world a better place.

We are all fathers and mothers.

Have a great day.

The Massacre in Orlando

Monday, June 13th, 2016

POSTNOTE June 18: A letter to the editor which I will submit to the local newspaper next week (I missed this weeks deadline).

“The entire Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (1791).

All the rest is argument about what those words mean, most recently the U.S. Supreme Court (2008).

For me, the question is very simple: what defines a civil society? What makes us civilized? For example: we have lived for years in a quad home in Woodbury. We share walls with three neighbors. There are 24 such homes (96 units) in our Association, governed by the rules set in Law.

We have been blessed to have good neighbors, and our town is good, too. But as we all know, with over 60,000 residents in a town, there is no assurance that all will be well. Expand that to over 5 million Minnesotans; over 300 million Americans; over 7 billion in our world, and a near absolute individual “right..to keep and bear arms” doesn’t translate to a “civil society” in which we all can live. Orlando is the latest example.

As I write, our own next-door neighbor for many years has her quad up for sale. She has retired, and is moving. We share a wall with her.

Her objective is to sell her home to someone who, we hope, will be a good neighbor. She would want the same, I’m sure, but mostly she wants to find a buyer.

With respect to the current debate, do we want a new neighbor who turns out to be armed and dangerous?

This is essentially what faces every one of us.

Currently, the complex rules relating to weaponry are set by lawmakers constantly threatened by organized political assassination solely for their actions on the gun issue: “Vote correctly or you’re dead.”

“Assassination? Harsh. True.

Orlando, Sandy Hook, all the rest can happen here. None of us are “free” of the threat.

We citizens are the only ones who can help restore sanity in the conversation about the sacred Second Amendment. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed into inaction; to enable the next Orlando, which is a certainty,somewhere within our own borders.

We citizens are the difference.”

POSTNOTE from Jermitt, June 13: Thanks for sharing. The article on Riding Death to the White House was powerful.
One week ago today, I attended the first day of the annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at the Mall of America in Bloomington MN. It’s theme: Globalizing Compassion…Let us march!” I did a post about that first day last Tuesday, and attended the entirety of the rest of the powerful conference Tuesday and Wednesday. It was inspiring and exhausting, and coupled with a very busy rest of the week, I have not yet completed my thoughts on the recap of that conference.

Then came yesterday morning, waking up to the news about the massacre in Orlando, then headlined as possibly 20 dead; now 50 dead and over 50 wounded, the worst such carnage in American history; as best as can be determined, another one of these “lone wolf” carnages often facilitated by easy and legal access to deadly weapons which, as in Orlando, make wholesale mass murder of innocent people simple.

I yield my space to today’s “Just Above Sunset”, Riding Death to the White House. It is worth the time it will take to read, including the links.

Then, get into action, and stay in action.

“Politics” is every single one of us, and we all can do our bit. We all own a piece of this tragedy.

We can’t pretend it is not our problem to help solve.

Meanwhile, my recap of “Globalizing Compassion” will follow sometime this week.

1905  "Six Shooter" as discovered March, 2015

1905 “Six Shooter” as discovered March, 2015

Thoughts Three Days Later: June 15, 2016, 2 a.m.

Orlando is a tragedy on so many tracks, every one of them demanding our attention.

There is a single common thread that seems most important to me, the one that rises to the top, as we continue to try to make sense of insanity. That single thread is our unwillingness to even attempt to check the ever more dangerous guns that are making our own society less safe. Our society is truly making progress on most of the issues identified in Orlando, such as race and sexual orientation.

We are paralyzed on the gun issue. It is a dangerous paralysis.

1. Including the shooter*, it is now known that 50 people died at the Pulse in Orlando. Over 50 were injured, most severely. This is what a single deranged shooter, a lifelong U.S. citizen, with a combat grade weapon publicly sold in the United States can do. The primary weapon, apparently, was a SigSauer MCX. And we sell this type of horrific weapon to most anyone who walks in off the street?

This leads me to think of the 1905 “six shooter” pictured above. It came west with my grandfather in 1905. I doubt it was ever used, other than to be tried out. It was probably solely a self-defense weapon, as he came west with the basic ingredients for his new farm in North Dakota.

The very day of the massacre, the musical Hamilton, celebrating early politician Alexander Hamilton, got many Tony Awards. Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804 – a political dust-up. It is noted that Hamilton, probably deliberately, never fired his single shot, in effect, giving up his advantage. Aaron Burr “won”, but what?

Now a single shooter, legally, can buy and use a weapon designed for warfare, with warfare like results. That same individual can, in many places, conceal and carry, or flaunt the weapon in public.

2. Mitigating against this right, the track record for assassins, such as the murderer in Orlando, is not good: they ordinarily end up as dead as their victims, and those who survive do not have a promising future either.

Still, we as a society demand the right to possess and use deadly weapons for all sorts of reasons.

3. The main justification, the Second Amendment, apparently gives little cover who claim unrestricted rights. The “right to bear arms” is not unrestricted and never has been.

But politicians are cowards, with good reason: they have the “gun” of being assassinated (un-elected) pointed constantly at their head by the NRA and its ilk. It is difficult to blame politicians for encouraging a firing squad to do them in.

4. It is quite clear, now, that Orlando and other presumed “terrorist” plots are not an organized deal by ISIL or some other big scary acronym. It is also clear that the now-dead shooter would probably still be alive, along with his victims, had he not possessed the legal “right” to buy lethal weaponry in the state of Florida. Armed with something like Grandpa’s brand new pistol, he could not have pulled off the massacre in Orlando.

5. The solution rests with each of us, as citizens. We cannot be silent. We won’t get shot for standing up for, insisting on, action.

But we have to give politicians, the ones who will have to make the decisions in our democracy, cover for doing the right thing politically. In our system, it is the politicians that are going to have to take the action. It is not enough to blame politicians of any party.

We have the power.

We need to learn how to exercise it responsibly.

* – In Orlando and other places, the killer is as dead as the people he kills. But for some reason, his death isn’t treated the same as the others he killed. I first noticed then in 1999, in the wake of Columbine, when someone put up crosses above Columbine High School, which included crosses to the two teenagers who did that carnage. A day or two later, relatives of one of the slain removed the crosses to the killers….

2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN. June 6-8, 2016

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum began yesterday, and continues through tomorrow at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the Mall of America.

I’m attending in person. Yesterday’s program was incredibly powerful, and probably today and tomorrow will be as well.

It is too late to attend yesterdays; and few of you may be in a position to attend today and tomorrow (though you can register at the door, I’m sure), but if you follow through you can likely watch the plenary sessions here, and if past is prelude, film of many of the previous sessions will be archived at the same site.

Yesterdays focus, “Every Minute Matters”, was exploitation of children, ending last night with a very powerful film, “Sold”, about the history of a youthful Nepalese sex worker in India. You could hear a pin drop in the theater.

A card distributed gave weblinks for bringing the film to your local community, here, and to bring the film to your local school, here.

Today’s Forum focus is entitled “Globalizing Compassion“, beginning at 9 a.m.; tonight at 8 p.m. at the Mall of America theater, screening of the film “Antarctica 3D: On the Edge“.

Wednesday, the theme is “Challenging Neutrality“, and the evening film, also at Mall of America, is “The Same Heart” about changing international economics to the betterment of the poor by an extremely small “Robin Hood Tax”. Of course, nothing is easy when you mess with money, but this is a serious initiative, proposed by people of serious mind.

(The venue, the Radisson Blu, is at the south edge of the Mall of America, on Killibrew Drive, a simple and short indoor walk to the Mall. There is on-site parking, the first three hours free.

Peter Barus: A Talk By Amy Goodman

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

NOTE: Peter is a longtime great friend from rural Vermont. He is an occasional and always welcome visitor at this space. On May 22, he had an opportunity to hear journalist Amy Goodman in Troy, New York. His comments follow, with his permission.

(click to enlarge)

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus:

Amy Goodman spoke last night at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY, a lovely little old converted church. Arriving early, I strolled around the block in this economically by-passed neighborhood of old houses, grand old churches, and grinding poverty. A local church still retains its original Tiffany stained glass windows, and the Troy Music Hall is world-famous for extraordinary acoustics. I found that the Sanctuary for Independent Media is very active in the immediate community. At one end of the block is a little park, with an outdoor stage, built by (and commemorating) local artists, craftspeople and community groups. The back of the stage is a wall of intricate mosaic made by many hands. There was chicken being cooked for the $100 a plate dinner, and while I was standing around, a little car parked, and out stepped Amy, with two or three friends. We all walked around the little park while one of the Sanctuary’s leaders explained the history of this little patch of green in the city. There is a community garden at the other end of the block, and inside the Sanctuary is a 100-watt FM radio station that broadcasts Democracy Now! along with music and community affairs programming.

After supper Amy spoke to a packed house in the high-ceilinged former church. Soon everyone was listening as if sitting across the kitchen table with Amy, as she reported on the 100-city tour she is completing with her book.”Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman, David Goodman, and Denis Moynihan. Her speech covered almost the last four decades of peace, justice, civil rights action, from an eye-witness perspective only she can provide. The connections, the people and events, touched my own life at more points than I’d ever realized. Her stories are moving and the raw truth of them is immediate and inspiring. They seem to have a common thread, of ordinary people acting in admirable and selfless ways, without a moment’s hesitation, in the face of systematic oppression, violence and injustice. And it seems that this is how human beings normally act in such circumstances – media depictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

One important message is that the media have almost no connection to direct human experience, and politics is covered in proportion to political ad revenues. Punditry demands no actual knowledge of the facts. This is why, for instance, we rarely hear what Sanders actually says, much less in his own voice. Instead we are treated to speculation about violent “followers”. This major Presidential candidate has been “vanished” from the airwaves. The night the Republicans ended up with a “presumptive nominee”, that individual got coverage of an empty podium at one of his mansions, captioned “to speak soon!” while his rivals’ concession speeches, some Hillary sound bites, and zero mention of Sanders droned on. Sanders was at that time addressing an audience of tens of thousands in Arizona, by far the largest actual news event, and the cameras were pointing at an empty platform.

Amy brought stories of a real and very large movement, the same one we are constantly told ended successfully when Obama was elected, It is the current generation’s Civil Rights movement. Occupy Wall Street is part of that, Black Lives Matter is part of that. The many anti-war demonstrations that go almost totally unreported are part of that. The Sanders campaign is part of that. And the real, and unreported, question today is whether the corporate media will manage to keep enough of us distracted, resigned, apathetic and cynical while the forces of blind capitalism complete the looting, militarization and ultimately the destruction of our only planet.

The corporate media are simply ignoring that ubiquitous and vital public conversation. The stakes seem high. As I listened to Amy speak, it became clear that it’s not about choosing “sides” in some mythical epic struggle between good and evil, war and peace, much less “Republicans” and “Democrats”; it’s about discovering one’s own commitment, and whether it is to mere personal avoidance of pain, or to aliveness and possibility for all people, everywhere. To climbing the mythical Ladder of Success, or being of some actual service in making a workable world while we’re in it together.

Amy Goodman is a walking demand that we struggle with this question, for ourselves. Get with “people like us, and not like us,” she says, and express your own experience honestly, and listen honestly to theirs. Instead of accepting the false dichotomies and slogans and polls, endless polls, that pour out of the media echo chamber, take your part in the conversation that matters.


from Dick:
Great post from Peter. I most resonate with the last paragraph.

Each time I hear the conversation about who has the power I think back to a thirty years ago talk, about 1987, about “Referent Power” – how much we have, and how ineffectively the left uses it. Referent Power? Here. Scroll down a little ways. Developing positive relationships with someone who sees some things differently is crucial to making positive change. Relationships are not easy. They are crucial.

#1132- Dick Bernard: The Spymasters, and related.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Last night we watched what I’d consider a must-watch two hour special on CBS’ 48 Hours: “The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs“. If you missed it, I think you can watch it on-line here. Ordinarily these are shown free for a very limited amount of time.

Succinctly, we live in a complicated world. The constant effort, on all sides, is to try to reduce everything to the simplest of terms. If you watch this program reflectively, rather than strictly judgmentally, it will cause you to think.

Towards the end of the program we were reminded that in the 15 years since 9-11-01 there have been 45 deaths due to terrorism in the United States (an average of three per year in our population of over 300,000,000); on the other hand, radical Islamic terrorism and its dangers have spread dramatically. We see this, of course, mostly in TV images of ISIS these days. But even here, there are only a limited number of merchants of terror.

Fear of Terror is exploitable, as we see most everyday in our political conversation. It is used to keep people psychologically on edge, by so doing keeping them more susceptible to manipulation.

Back in the winter of 2016, I set about trying to define a bit how the face of war has changed. It exists in this single page graphic: War Deaths U.S.002.

Here is the same data pictorially (click to enlarge).

Human Cost of War001

We are in a time of change, and in my opinion it is change for the better, though we will never rid the planet of evil. And the nature of news – we see it every single day – is to focus on the tragedies, the evil, the polarization of one person, one group, against another.

But a shift is happening.

By no means is it obvious, but it is happening. People of good will, which is the vast majority of us, simply have to take the bait and be, as Gandhi said so clearly, “the change we wish to see in the world”. But to do this we need to change our own behaviors, so easily leveraged by those who seek to elevate war above peace for their own reasons.

For one instance, yesterdays e-mail brought a rather remarkable commentary from a long-time peace activist in Israel, Uri Avnery. Avnery is a 92-year Israeli Jew with credentials. His comments are, I feel, pretty remarkable. You can read that here.

I thought the e-mail fascinating, and sent it to our near 90-year old friend, who grew up in a largely Catholic town in Nazi Germany and still has many relatives and contacts in her home country.

Her response: “The email on Uri Avery’s Observations gives insights to what is going on in Israel.

I believe it was Bastian, my German relative, who sometime ago remarked about the great number of Jews from Israel that come to Germany, want to live there, and seek German citizenship. Bastian stated also that these new immigrants could not live any longer with what was going on in Israel.

I was doubtful, I thought they may have been drawn by the free education and the lack of inflation that is taking place in Israel.

I went on the internet tonight and checked Jews moving back to Germany and I got quite a choice. To me surprising and interesting.

My niece Manuela … is most outspoken and angry about the fact that Germany is still paying Israel 3 billion a year for the Holocaust. She says, “My generation wasn’t even born when that took place. The young Jews that come here like us, so let it rest. There are enough monuments here — we will never forget.”

Israel should think about what it is doing to the Palestinians. As long as they take the land and freedom from the Palestinians there will never be peace.”

#1129 – Dick Bernard: In Praise of Exasperating People. A Thought for Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Last Sunday I had the honor of saying a few words at the celebration of the life of a friend who I’d known the last seven years of his near 95 years; and later that day more words at a now-annual dinner that wouldn’t exist were it not for him.

(More details on both can be found at A Million Copies, click on Lynn Elling, and, there, click on “celebration” in first paragraph at the top of the page.)

The real problem: how does one condense this guys life as a peacemaker into a few words?

I had four minutes.

At coffee over many days I made a list of experiences I had had with Lynn over the seven years. It became a very long list.

I finally zeroed in on a single vignette from another Memorial service I had attended in Comfrey MN at his request June 23, 2009. And within that visit, a single recollection from the piece of paper he asked me to read at that Memorial about the LST he and his friend, Melvin, had served on for two years in the Pacific in WWII. That summarized Lynn’s life for me.

(LST? Officially, that’s a “Landing Ship Tank”.

In his words, on his piece of paper from which I read, “LST” was a “Large Slow Target”. LST crew would understand…. Somebody in that congregation that day, a man, laughed out loud. He knew….)

As I prepared my list about Lynn, it dawned on me that Lynn was not alone as a positive example in my life.

I began another list, this one of people I’d known at many other points in my life who were in one way or another, like Lynn.

Then I decided to use part of those four minutes to talk about Lynn, the “exasperating” individual. He could be, I said, the kind of individual you saw coming, and ducked across the street to avoid. You knew that he wanted to tell his story, and that the pitch would include something he wanted you to do.

Some folks in the pews chuckled. They understood.

They were there because they knew Lynn.

I mentioned my new list of exasperating people, (the last entry was #27 – there are 14 men, 13 women.) They came from all points in my life. The list could be much longer.

That list is a keeper. You’d be honored if you were on that list!

From that list, last Sunday, I mentioned only Geography Prof. George Kennedy, who, back in about 1960, got very angry at me, calling me “lazy”, and that was for starters.

Well, that is exactly what I was: Lazy.

He knew I had talents I wasn’t using. I never forgot what Prof. Kennedy said, and how he said it. It was very pointed and very personal, and it changed my life.

Too bad I couldn’t tell him that he made a difference for me while he was still alive.

Exasperating people can be very irritating and annoying. That’s what the word means.

But if you take a moment, you can learn something about what you learned from them, about yourself.

Hopefully, I sometimes fill that role, of being “exasperating” to somebody else.

Exasperating. Remember that word…. At times, I fit that word. You?

Happy Mother’s Day May 8, to Mom’s (and all others who in one way or another have filled that oft-times exasperating role).

#1127 – Dick Bernard: May 1, 2016, May Day, World Law Day

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Tomorrow is May 1. May Day.

Since I was a little kid back in the North Dakota of the early 1940s, I learned there was something special about May 1.

Probably the first actual memory was of May Baskets, which had some significance, though I do not remember exactly why. And there were Maypoles.

(click to enlarge, double click for more detail)

A traveling May Pole in Heart of the Beast Parade, Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

A traveling May Pole in Heart of the Beast Parade, Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

As a lifelong Catholic I remember, for some reason, “Mary, Queen of the May”. And later, when the television age and the Cold War interfaced for me (that was 1956 when we got TV; we almost never were in real movie theaters with news reels) sometimes there would be a short film clip of those awful Communists parading their weapons of war in Red Square in Moscow on May 1…May Day.

May 1 has had a long history. Search the words “May Day”, and here is what you get.

The Wikipedia entry for May Day is most interesting.

May Day has come to be a multi-purpose day, fixed on a particular date (rather than day), and this year, since it falls on a Sunday, it is simpler to celebrate in our U.S. weekend calendar, especially if the weather is nice.

Tomorrow will be the annual May Day “Heart of the Beast” Parade in south Minneapolis, and this year it actually can be on May 1, rather than some other nearby date. Occasionally I’ve marched in that parade as part of a unit; occasionally, I’ve watched it as a spectator. It is a fun day with a 42 year history.

Heart of the Beast May Day Parade May 5, 2013, Minneapolis MN

Heart of the Beast May Day Parade May 5, 2013, Minneapolis MN

Tomorrow, however, Sunday, May 1, 2015, I’ll be heavily involved in two events honoring my friend, Lynn Elling, who died at 94 on February 14. One is a celebration of his life at 3 p.m. at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis (34th and Dupont), and the second, the 4th Annual Lynn and Donna Elling Symposium on World Peace through Law – “World Law Day”, this years event spotlighting solutions to mitigate climate change, presented by J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy.

The date of both events is intentional. May 1 was very significant to Lynn Elling.

He and others invented World Law Day.

“World Law Day” is yet another creative use of May 1.

The first World Law Day celebration was May 1, 1964, in Minneapolis, ten years before the Heart of the Beast Theater marshaled its first May Day parade. The co-founder of the event was Lynn Elling. As described in the brochure for this years World Law Day:

“World Law Day was a creation of Lynn Elling, Martha Platt, Dr. Asher White and others. The first event was May 1, 1964. World Law Day was an adaptation of Law Day, proclaimed by President Eisenhower in 1958, and enacted into U.S. Law in 1961. Law Day was the U.S. “cold war” response to the martial tradition of May 1, May Day, in the Soviet bloc.

The premise was peace through World Law, rather than constant war or threat of war.

Large annual dinners on World Law Day went on for many years in Minnesota and perhaps other places. At some point for one or another unremembered reason, the tradition ended, but Lynn never forgot.

In 2012, after the death of Donna, Lynn asked that World Law Day dinner be reinstated May 1, 2013 at Gandhi Mahal, he and Donna’s favorite restaurant.

At the time he was planning a major trip to Vietnam with his son, Tod, who had been adopted from Vietnam orphanage in the 1970s. Tod and Lynn arrived home only a couple of days before the 2013 event.

2016 is the 4th annual World Law Day, and the 52nd anniversary of the first World Law Day in 1964.”

As Lynn’s long and noteworthy life wound down, he was ever more fond of the mantra that today “is an open moment in history” for the world to get its act together for peace and for justice. His is a noble dream. We can help.

More about Lynn Elling, including his own memories on a 2014 video, here (click on “read more” right below his name.)

World Law Day May 1, 2013, Lynn Elling 2nd from left.

World Law Day May 1, 2013, Lynn Elling 2nd from left.

Lynn Thor Heyerdahl 75001

(More about Thor Heyerdahl here).

#1124 – Dick Bernard: Prince, and Harriet Tubman, Deserving Their Honors.

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
First Avenue, downtown Minneapolis MN, 11 a.m. Sunday April 24, 2016.  It's been a rainy morning in the Twin Cities.

First Avenue, downtown Minneapolis MN, 11 a.m. Sunday April 24, 2016. It’s been a rainy morning in the Twin Cities.

POSTNOTE: April 24, 8 a.m.: This morning a feed from the Washington Post brought this link, of ZZ Topp’s Billy Gibbons on Prince. I found it fascinating, with links to Prince playing.

Yesterday [April 21] I was in the hallway at an elementary school, and a teacher in the student lunchroom held up his cell phone, pointed our way, and said “Prince died”. My daughter, who was with me at the time, looked at her own cell phone and said that the musician, Prince, had just died.

It was one of those moments one doesn’t soon forget. We all have had them.

Prince’s wasn’t my music, but his was an impressive presence in this, his lifelong home state. This mornings Minneapolis Star Tribune devoted the entire front page, and five additional full pages to his “Purple Majesty”. If there is any major league Prince fan out there, make an offer for the front section (even if the offer is only, “I’d like to have it….”)

My only real memory of Prince is seeing Purple Rain in a Duluth movie theatre in 1984, the year it came out. I remember that I liked it.

Prince apparently was 25 when he made the film. It is probably destined to be a blockbuster this time around. Twin Cities area screenings can be viewed here.

On occasion, I’d be in the neighborhood of First Avenue, the club made famous by Prince, which in my day was a somewhat shabby nondescript building across the street from the Greyhound Bus Depot in downtown Minneapolis. Now it’s an iconic place, and the tourist traffic will increase, for sure.

That’s all I really know about Prince.

Other news outlets can fill in the blanks about Prince, who without doubt was a genius with music. I won’t even try. But he seems to have made his mark in the world of music. And he seems to have been a decent guy to boot. Not bad for a life, even if only 57 when it ended.

Then there’s Harriet Tubman.

The front page of yesterday’s Star Tribune headlined “Tubman to make history again in U.S. currency first.”

Ms Tubman was quite a woman who, thankfully, really never did know her “place” back in the day, and lived to tell about it.

I saw a post about Harriet Tubman yesterday which is perhaps a bit off the beaten path for most folks, which I found most interesting. You can read it here. The headline says it well: “Top Seven Ways Harriet Tubman Is The Most Badass Spy Warrior Ever To Be On U.S. Currency….

Who’d ever thought it possible?

All of us owe a great debt to people like Harriet Tubman who took a stand for justice at great personal risk.

from Jeff:
On behalf of our daughter, Emily, we went to Paisley Park yesterday. She wasn’t a big fan, but
I think wanted to be part of the larger group honoring him (I would not have gone myself )

I liked Prince’s music. He really was a genius and a musical prodigy. At one time I thought he was full of affectation, that it was a bit of narcissistic celebrity worship that surrounded him and his persona (or various personas).

But in listening to “Purple Rain”… it’s a rock ballad, that blends the soul of R+B with the electric rock and roll of the 1970’s. Much like he was a child of the 70’s and his father a jazz musician and his mother a vocalist in her spare time.

At Paisley park you see Caucasians and African-Americans mingling in respect. His music and his personality actually transcended race, and at this moment in America, we need more of that.

from John (my brother): Interesting personal connection factoid about Prince – a couple of decades ago, he appeared on one of the early MTV Music Video Awards TV shows. Believe it or not, one of his back up dancers at that point was your niece and, our daughter Christi.

Alas, she used up her 15 minutes of fame in about a 10 second segment – which, due to the technological limitations of the time, we recorded on VHS tape, played several times, and then somehow lost it in the dustbin of history.