...now browsing by category


#1091 – Jerome Meyer* and Dick Bernard: At Christmas Season 2015. The Old Red Barn; and The Cottonwood Tree

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

As 2015 ends, all best wishes for peace and kindness embracing everyone, everywhere. As sung so movingly at Pope Francis’ visit to the Twin Towers Memorial in NYC some months ago, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Here are two stories to help bring perspective as 2015 comes towards an end.

Pictured, the old Ferd and Rosa Busch barn between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND, built about 1915; unused since 1997. (Photos by Tom Maloney on May 24, 2015.) The Cottonwood tree (link at the end of this post) remains, about a half mile east of the old barn.

(click on any photo to enlarge it)

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND May, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND May, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND, May 24, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND, May 24, 2015, by Tom Maloney

Psst! Hey you. Yeah, I mean you.

It’s me speaking. The old red barn. I’m guessing very few of you have ever seen me because I’m tucked away on an old abandoned farm acreage near a seldom used township road a few miles from the main hiway and somewhat hidden by a large grove of trees.

So, why am I talking to you?

Well, I just heard from a reliable source that I will be torn down, smashed and buried in a big hole and finally covered up by the Mother Earth I was built on. I’m sure my demise will not show up in the death notice column in the local paper; and there probably won’t be an obituary.

So before I’m no longer around I would like to say a few things to you.

I probably have had three or four farm owners in my life time. And sad to say the current owner no longer has any use for me, I’m so obsolete. I knew my time on Earth was getting short, as so many of my barn friends have disappeared from the local landscape.

For most of my life I could see up to 10 barns over the horizon. Now I can only see one across the barren field and that one has it’s days numbered too. I’ m sure my current owner needs a little more land for a larger farm profit.

I probably was built in the late 1930’s. I’m too old now to remember the exact year. This makes me well into my 90’s.

I’ve seen many good productive farm years and a few bad ones and years when the owners struggled just to exist and make bank payments. Some how we all survived. I’ve felt summer temperatures of more than 100 degrees and winter temperatures of 20 degrees below zero with very strong winds.

I’m still standing. Very few metal nails were used when I was built from local timber because most of my wood frame was held together by wooden pegs.

Boy, was I a beautiful sight when I was built. I thought I was a castle. For awhile I was the best looking barn in the township with a bright coat of red paint, white trim, a shiny roof, four tall lightning rods, and a big weather vane on top of a large dome shaped cupola.

I had new pulleys and a long trolley under the roof to hoist the bales up in the hay loft from the wagons.

In the early days, similar to all my fellow barns, I was the farm building with the most activity. I was used seven days a week 365 days per year. I provided shelter and a home for 12 cows that were milked twice per day. The mornings were started early as the farmer milked at 5 am in the morning, then came back at 5 pm for the evening milking.

There were always a few calves in the pens, sometimes a few pigs, and in the early days, four work horses that were used for field work before modern tractors took over.

There were always about a dozen cats that called me home. They couldn’t wait until the milking started because they always got a good supply of fresh, warm milk. I also had a large storage area in the hayloft where bales were stored for the milk cows to eat and straw for their bedding.

I even got electricity sometime in the early 1940’s. Then, the old kerosene lanterns were only used when electricity went out during storms.

I still can hear the faint sounds of laughter of the children playing games and swinging on the ropes hanging from my wooden beams. Believe it or not, I even had a barn dance when one of the farmer’s daughters got married.

Sometimes people made fun of my name by asking “were you born in the barn?” if you left the door open in the house and the cold air came in. Or if your fly was down on your trousers, people would say “your barn door is down”.

What glorious memories I hold onto. I’m now old, tired and spent. My wood frame is bending, my foundation is crumbling, and I’m about to fall over. The cold North winter winds continue to shake my whole body.

However, I have no regrets, I have served my owners well, and I’m proud of it. I haven’t been used in the last 20 years. My roof now is battered and has a big hole in it, so I sometimes get wet inside when it rains and when the snow blows in.

My once bright red paint now is faded, most of my windows are broken, my wood frame is leaning, the lightning rods are broken off and my weather vane is rusted in one position.

The original farmyard light no longer is on electricity and has been disconnected for many years. The only light I have now is nature’s sun and an occasional bright moon.

I still have a few feathered friends visiting me and a couple of cats that seek shelter. I wonder where they will go when I am gone.

So, I guess this is the last time you will hear from me. The few area farmers I still have around me probably will give me only a quick glance and then go on with their daily work when the big rigs arrive to take me down, bury me and cover me up.

I can’t complain though, because I have had a good, productive life. Hopefully there will be a few people who will remember me. But that soon will pass as new generations farm. My only regret is I will have no marker where I will be buried, and no one will ever visit my grave site. But I guess that’s okay – I was just an old barn.

Summer corn fields will now hover over me, and winter ice and snow will cover me.

Well, I’ve got to go now because I see the sun is setting in the West, and the end of the day for me has come.

By Jerome Meyer of Albert Lea Minn.

Our generation was lucky to have lived and enjoyed these things.
It’s sad the next generations will not have these memories.

The Busch Barn, the morning after the roof blew off, late July, 1949

The Busch Barn, the morning after the roof blew off, late July, 1949

F. W. Busch farmstead, with brand new barn, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, with brand new barn, 1916.

The original barn at right, circa 1907.  This first barn was just to the north of the second barn.     Busch farm harvest time 1907.  Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa's sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch.  It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background.  Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

The original barn at right, circa 1907. This first barn was just to the north of the second barn.
Busch farm harvest time 1907. Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa’s sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch. It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background. Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

ABOUT ANOTHER FARM VETERAN: an essay I wrote about a Cottonwood tree on the same Busch farm, here.

* – The cast of characters for the stories, above:
Someone named Jerome Meyer apparently wrote the story about a barn near Albert Lea MN, which is above. As yet, I have been I unable to verify, or get permission from, the author, or know when the article was written, but his story, from my own childhood experience, rings so very true. It came to me as an e-mail, forwarded by a long-time good friend. My thanks, and if necessary, apology, to the real author of the Old Barn.

All blessings to everyone, everywhere.

from Madeline, Dec. 12: While I was in Sweden, I learned why barns are traditionally red. Scandinavians brought the concept with them to the US: link here.

from Christina: I so enjoyed the piece about the old barn. It brought tears to my eyes. I forwarded it to my brothers and sisters and my kids. My youngest son bought my folks’ farmstead about two years ago. It’s a different house but still the same old barn. One of my brothers said he thought it would be OK to tear that barn down. I think he just wanted to tell us if we want to tear it down it would be OK. When I forwarded this piece I said I hoped [my son] would let the barn die and fall on its own. My Dad’s name is still written on the milk separator door. The barn has so many memories. Thank you for sending it. I copied the piece so I could keep it.
A Blessed Christmas to you and your family.

from Norm: Like all oldies, even the barn has added a few years: [from the post] “I probably was built in the late 1930’s. I’m too old now to remember the exact year. This makes me well into my 90’s.” We like hearing, “Wow! You don’t look a day over 75.” Wonderful piece Dick and makes me want to do something similar for some of the memories around.

from Larry: Having grown up on a farm, I, too,have have memories of our old barn. I was about 4 when our barn was brought across Bald Hill Creek (which ran through our farm) from somewhere south of us. Playing in the hay mow, milking cows since I was about 7, turning the cream separator before we got electricity in 1947 or ’48. Our old barn “died” when I was a grown man, and my mom had it buried. Now the old house is gone, too, so it is too difficult to visit my old home.

from Jerry: I enjoyed the story of the red barn. I have watched many barns end their life too, including one on the farm where I grew up. As a kid, some of those barns seem enormous and stately.

from Norm: A great observation from the old red barn!

We had two similar barns on our farm, one of which is still standing albeit eight feet lower than it was when originally built on an adjacent farm that my Dad bought many years ago. The thing was toppled by the wind before it could be anchored down on its new foundation and had to be jacked up, that is, primarily the roof, with new sides put in place and some roof damage repaired before it could be used again.

I am sure that it has lots of stories to tell as well and I will have to seek them out the next time I am at the farm that is now owned by one of my brothers and myself.

The other barn was knocked down and buried many years ago just as apparently is the fate of the red barn whose story you shared with us.

Ah yes, lots of good memories, Dick, of growing up on a modest farm (by Iowa or North Dakota standards) albeit with lots of hard work and toil often for very modest returns. On the other hand, we raised our own beef and chickens so we never starved and, of course, never thought that we were poor or whatever.

from Jane: Thanks, Dick. We have an old barn here on our farm, built into our hillside in 1901. Luckily it has had a metal roof for about the last 50 years, so it is doing pretty well. We saved it from pushing out and down the hill about 20 years ago. Our barn was built by Ole and Lena Waage, so we have Ole and Lena’s barn! We’d love to renovate it, if Santa leaves the where-with-all!

#1090 – Dick Bernard: Muslims

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood; Stephen Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

A mosque and cemetery on the North Dakota prairie, July 28, 2007

A mosque and cemetery on the North Dakota prairie, July 28, 2007

(click on photos to enlarge them)
A place of Peace, the Ross Mosque, July 28, 2007

A place of Peace, the Ross Mosque, July 28, 2007

My growing up was in the tiniest of communities in various parts of North Dakota. The population density of ND, then, was roughly ten persons per square mile. Today it is really not much different.

We lived in eight different places in my first eighteen years, twice, literally, in the country. Five of those eighteen years, our closest neighbors were farmers. Sometimes the towns were mostly Catholic (my “brand”), sometimes mostly Lutheran, with a few other Protestants tossed in. If there were atheists (and there were atheists, I’m certain), they kept quiet….

There was almost no cultural diversity of any kind worth noting in those small towns of my youth.

Then there was 1953-54, my eighth grade year, in the “blink of an eye” town of Ross where I met the only childhood friend I still keep up with regularly, 62 years later.

I knew him as Emmett, a farm kid; the official records record his first name as Mohammed. I am forever grateful that he and I met, and have stayed in contact ever since. He was and is a great gift to me.

The rest of this part of the story is here, from Sep 5, 2010.

For those who are all stirred up about Muslims these days, but really have never actually known a Muslim, I’d recommend this, my own, story about a Muslim kid and his farm family and kinfolk in my tiny North Dakota town.

Many years have passed by since 1953-54.

I have known many Muslims in many contexts over the years.

Just last year I spent a couple of months with Ehtasham and Suhail, from Pakistan, whose project was to film Americans who professed peace.

Ehtasham interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War veteran Jim Northrup, Memorial Day, 2014, Vets for Peace gathering.

Ehtasham interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War veteran Jim Northrup, Memorial Day, 2014, Vets for Peace gathering.

(Ehtasham Anwars Facebook page includes two video summaries of his interviews of 10 Minnesota Peacemakers. Take a look. Scroll down right hand side.)

Sometimes I see amusing things, like the time, in my town, when I saw a tall Catholic Nun in the traditional black habit, coming out of the local FedEx. She brought back old Catholic school boy memories for me. She was out of place, that’s for sure. Then the person opened the car door and when she turned I saw that she had her face covered, in full hijab.

The only generalization I can make about Muslims is that they are just good people, like anyone else.

Occasionally, certainly, a rotten apple can be found in the barrel of life – it is no work of genius to find an example.

But we Christians, and those who are Jews, don’t have to look very hard to find our own very bad examples. Start with supposed “leaders” who gin up fear and resentment of some “other” for political advantage.

But at its essence, all of us, all of humanity – share common roots; and we are generally good people.

Take the time to really appreciate others you may not know, and appreciate their own customs and traditions which are very rich.

There are many positive websites. Here’s one to begin with: Islamic Resource Group. Another is Unity Productions Foundation.

Ruhel and Lynn, Dec. 2, 2015, Bloomington MN

Ruhel and Lynn, Dec. 2, 2015, Bloomington MN

When we went to visit our friend, Lynn Elling, in the Nursing Home, Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant in Minneapolis brought along soup and bread from the restaurant, and helped feed Lynn. It was a very tender time.

It will always stay in my mind that at the very time Ruhel was helping Lynn eat the soup he had brought, the two killers in San Bernardino were preparing to press the trigger in their insane rampage. We had no way of knowing that. Ruhel’s action represented the very best of humanity, what we see most. The killers in any places represent the murderous fringe of all societies.

Who do we wish to recognize and empower?

There seems considerable fantasy thinking when the emphasis is on the belief that terror can be kept out, by refusing to allow people who might theoretically do bad things in.

Not only can we not keep terror out, but the very hysteria of labeling people or groups as somehow evil only magnifies the threat to us.

I have a small personal example from a dozen years ago.

I was invited to join a delegation going to Haiti in 2003. I was the oldest in the group, and I went only as an opportunity to learn. That was my sole agenda.

On a particular day, we were invited to visit with a group of men and women from a slum, all of whom had been victims of political oppression, including rape, and the like. It was plausibly believed, at the time, that the United States was behind a move to oust the democratically elected President of Haiti, whose constituency was the poor, the very constituency we were visiting. The U.S. had previously supported the long-time brutal dictator of the country and, paradoxically, was not enamored of “democracy” in that impoverished country.

I just sat and listened as people described the outrages that had happened to them some years earlier. I had nothing to say. I took a few photos.

Afterwards, after a lunch provided by us, we went around the group to shake hands.

One of the men – I remember this vividly – refused to shake my hand.

I reminded him of something. Perhaps my age, my race, my nation, my demeanor reminded him of something offensive, probably related to the historical long time dominance over his country by the United States of America.

The “blowback” these days for dissing someone else is very likely and deliberate.

In even the poorest countries there are cell phones and television and networks now. People are aware.

What happened in Haiti sticks in my mind whenever I’m reminded of the gracious invitation of my friend in Pakistan to come and visit his country. Who is it who will see this American if I visit, and I remind him of something?

In other words, we make bad things much much worse by our “better than thou” attitude.

Our national arrogance is not helpful.

#1086 – Dick Bernard: “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream…A Million Copies Made”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis' Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis’ Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

Eight years ago – it was June of 2007 – I decided to drop in on the annual meeting of World Citizen, one of the member groups of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, of which I was then President.

During this meeting, an elderly man, Lynn Elling, who turned out to be the person who had founded World Citizen back in 1972, stood up and gave his 86-years young rendition of the peace anthem composed by songwriter Ed McCurdy, and made popular by John Denver, and many others: “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”.

A couple of weeks later, at the annual meeting of another MAP member organization, Citizens for Global Solutions, Lynn and his wife, Donna, sat down at the same table as myself, and he “set the hook” (those who know him know what that’s all about – for others, he’s a retired salesman!). For eight years now, in varying ways, I’ve tried the impossible, to keep up with Lynn Elling*, WWII Navy officer and lifelong peace advocate.

Early in our acquaintance, I learned that in 1971, Lynn borrowed John Denver for a day, and John sang his song, and another, and talked about peace in our world, for the film Man’s Next Giant Leap, which can be watched here.

I write about this today, for a couple of reasons:

First, Lynn, now closer to 95 than 94, is being transferred to Presbyterian Homes in Bloomington (98th and Penn). A day or two ago, it looked like finis for my friend, but the “old bird”, as he describes himself, doesn’t accept invitations from Father Time readily. So, sometime in the next day or two, Lynn’s health permitting, his friend Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal, Larry Long and myself, will go down and hear Lynn’s story, once again. (If you know Lynn, and plan to visit, call Presbyterian Homes first (952-948-3000); and plan a trip Dec 2 or later.)

We’ll all know that Lynn’s every Friday evening at Gandhi Mahal has probably ended, and it will be a bittersweet visit.

Either of us could pass on before Lynn – that’s how life goes, you know. But the odds are not in Lynn’s favorite in this race: he has a long head start.

He’s run a good race for a lot of years, and it’s getting to be time to move on.

The second reason, relates to Ed McCurdy’s simple but powerful song about A Million Copies….

At this moment in history, it is easy to be terminally depressed about the state of our world. All you need to do is to watch the TV “news”.

But there is a major climate conference going on in Paris which is serious business. Sure, far too late, but going on nonetheless.

And there are major initiatives going on, largely not covered by the “mainstream media” to deal positively with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and the xenophobia that has gained currency in the current U.S. Presidential candidate contests.

The event of the week is the attempt of politicians to get political distance away from the horrific incidents at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Were it not so very sad, it would almost be funny to see the attempts to manipulate the story. If you’ve got the time, read a long summary here.

Here’s what my own Church newsletter had to say about the Syrian Refugees on Sunday: Basilica Refugees001. Places like Basilica of St. Mary take on these issues.

Then there’s the business of “a million copies made”.

When McCurdy wrote his song, “leadership” was considered to be “man’s work”, and getting signatures of a million men was a very, very tall order.

The song was a fantasy.

Today women and kids are far greater players in all ways in this world, with much more power, if they so choose. And the men, not in McCurdy’s room, have far more power as well.

Still it is far easier to click a box on a screen in favor, or against something; or just fall into hopeless mode. “I can’t do anything anyway, why bother?”

But as in McCurdy’s Dream, individual effort is what will, in the long term make the difference.

The future is not to be delegated.

If you can’t make a million copies, make one, or two, or twenty.

Do something beyond your comfort zone, and do it every day.

Dick Bernard, Ruhel Islam, Lynn Elling, Larry Long, December 2, 2015

Dick Bernard, Ruhel Islam, Lynn Elling, Larry Long, December 2, 2015

* – The website behind Lynns’ name, A Million Copies, is a tribute to two passionate advocates for Peace and Justice, Lynn Elling and Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg. It is in need of maintenance, but remains identical to when I put it on line in March, 2008.

#1082 – Dick Bernard: Paris, the 6th day.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

New Post Nov. 20: Let us all make a Happy Thanksgiving

Postnote from Dick, Nov 19, 2015: Today we were at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, for a magnificent performance of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Symphony No. 6 in B minor Opus 74, Pathetique. In the November 2015 program notes (p. 18) was an Essay, “Thanksgiving” in French, by fellow French-Canadian friend Dan Chouinard. The essay seems especially apropos as the first week after the tragedy in Paris comes to an end. Read the essay here: Thanksgiving 2015001 (the program notes for todays concert are also included, as a bonus.)

Maybe Marco Rubio said it best yesterday (without intending to do so): He said that if there was a single terrorist among the 10,000 refugees, none should be allowed into our country. What about the 9999, Marco? What about the 9999 everywhere – the rest of us?

This is a time when people of good will must speak out. Don’t let the haters have the last word, of any nationality or belief. This is not a time to be silent.

Comment from Jeff Nov. 18: Recommend [this, from Dwight Eisenhower] … and its your time period,, I was born a few months after this speech. From Dick: My memory years, grades one through college, were of Harry S. Truman, and Dwight David Eisenhower, with a few months of John F. Kennedy…. Thanks, Jeff.


My thoughts about Paris on November 13 can be read here. I quoted my friend in Paris in the earlier post. This morning came news of the shootout with alleged perpetrators of 11-13 in St.-Denis, suburban Paris.

My friend lives about 25 miles from St.-Denis, not all that far away….


Last night on a news show came up a graphic of the United States, with 31 of the 50 states shaded: These were the states whose Governors, all but one Republican, are united in common cause, to keep Syrian refugees outside their borders, presumably to keep their citizens safe.

My own state, thankfully, is one of the “islands” whose Governor didn’t take the bait.

The 31 Governors are engaged in a stupid, collective, act. It is an orchestrated and outrageous extreme over-reaction, totally politically motivated. Of course, it will play well in certain sectors, which is the reason for doing it in the first place….

This mornings paper revealed that a grand total of about 2000 Syrians have come into the U.S. in recent years, most of them women with children; for Minnesota, there have been 9. The process of immigrating is rigorous. U.S. law does not allow Governors to decide who crosses their borders: we are a country after all; not a collection of fiefdoms. Actions like this increase the odds of future incidents, rather than decrease them.

European leaders have a far more difficult task to manage than we do, but for the most part are performing admirably and charitably. That’s how leaders should be.


Here at home:

Many of our own red-blooded patriotic Americans are far more armed and potentially dangerous than most any of those immigrants with sometimes funny names and languages.

Anyone can look at the data: we revere weapons. Killing people is as American as Apple Pie. Going to war is easy, armed to the teeth.


In my previous post, I suggest that the cynical opportunism of our leaders in response to 9-11-01 has aided and abetted the tragedies in Paris and other places. We have little “cover” on that score: Iraq wasn’t involved n 9-11, but early on became the target. It takes little scholarly research about what happened afterwards.

There have been other home-grown tragedies here in our own country. I recall specifically Oklahoma City April 19, 1995 which killed 168 people and wounded 680 others.

Back then I heard about it on the radio, initially, and initial reports suggested that a middle eastern appearing man was a person of interest.

Soon enough the actual perpetrators were in custody: two anti-government white American citizens, Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, part of the underground in this vast country of ours.

Fast forward to 9-11-01 and the frantic days immediately following:

About two weeks after 9-11, I was in a laundromat, doing one of those “honey do” tasks: washing some heavy rugs. The TV channel did not interest me, so I looked at the magazines lying nearby.

A US News and World Report caught my eye (more interesting than Good Housekeeping), and I picked it up, and looking at the table of contents noticed something very odd: there was not a single mention of 9-11-01.

I looked at the cover, and the issue date was September 25, 2000 – a year earlier.

The magazine did have a very interesting and long article about our U.S. underworld of Neo-Nazis, part of our own home grown terrorists. Here is the entire magazine article, to get the entire context: Terrorism Report US News and World Report001


Personally, I believe the national and the international response to the current crisis in France is appropriate and necessary.

The world is a complex place, and there are true evil-doers out there (including amongst our own citizens).

Soon, Paris will be off the front pages – such news never lasts – to be replaced with the next tragedy of the day.

We’re a good country filled with good people, but you’d hardly know it by headline news each and every day.

Have a great Thanksgiving.


1. A couple of weeks ago, and again last night on national news, I heard a similar message: “those Syrian men [those refugees’] should stay at home and fight their own battles.” The suggestion is, it’s their mess, they should clean it up.

Oh, if it were only that easy. One of the correspondents with the complaint was a dear friend of ours who grew up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Her Dad, an engineer by trade, refused to join the Nazis. This was a dangerous act, and he was drafted into the German Army as a road engineer and ultimately died, they think, somewhere in Russia near the end of the war.

Once the Nazi threat was truly known, by the Germans themselves, it was dangerous to as much as complain to a friend, or even family, about the party. It was a death sentence. So it is for the people who live in places like Raqqa. Become a soldier against Daech and you and your family prospectively have the same fate.

2. Nov. 7, a friend sent me one of those “forwards” with the purported truth about Muslims. You can read it here, including a brief analysis. It first started whirring around the internet about 2009.

A couple of weeks earlier, I was asked to introduce a young Muslim woman, Mnar Muhawesh, at a meeting in Minneapolis. I met Mnar 15 minutes before I introduced her. There were about 35 of us in attendance, and she gave a powerful commentary which seems to fit well with this post. You can watch the video here. Of particular interest is her own life story growing up in the U.S., then several years in Palestine, then back to the U.S. after 9-11-01. There is a great deal of food for thought

3. October, 2015: President Jimmy Carter’s framework for working towards peace in Syria, here.

#1080 – Dick Bernard: Armistice Day 2015

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Today, November 11, I participated in Veterans for Peace (VFP) Armistice Day commemoration as I always do. This year we were at Landmark Center auditorium in St. Paul.

I thought back to the first Armistice Day I remember, at very busy Gatwick Airport in suburban London, England, November 11, 2001. We were about to board our aircraft to fly home. At precisely 11 a.m., the airport went totally quiet for two minutes. You could have heard a pin drop. I wasn’t aware of this observance of the end of World War I: it is unforgettable.

I recounted this powerful moment at the first VFP observance I attended, at Ft. Snelling Cemetery, Nov. 11, 2002. In between the two dates, I met Wayne W, who recruited me into Vets for Peace Chaper 27. Today, at the observance I heard he had been hospitalized at VA Medical Center, so I went down to visit. It seemed the very least I could do.

A memorable quote today: “War is a series of catastrophies which results in a victory.” The speaker didn’t give the source. It appears to be Georges Clemenceau, French Prime Minister during part of WWI (more here).

World War I was indeed a catastrophe which, among many other things, led us right into World War II.

Recently we went to a powerful exhibition at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis entitled “Faces of War: Russia in World War I (1914-18)

The exhibition continues until March, 2016, and it doesn’t sugarcoat this “war to end war“, which seems to have initially centered on the German Empire and Russia. Of course, there is a much larger and longer and more deadly story, and the exhibit helps begin the conversation. World War I, the advent of modern warfare, proved that war is, indeed, hell.

Not long ago, in a 1912 Geography Book found at the home farm in ND, I found an old map of Europe in 1912. It is below, you can click to enlarge. It certainly also helps to give context to a place in a particular time in history.

(click to enlarge)

Map of Central Europe in 1912 edition of Natural Advanced Geography textbook

Map of Central Europe in 1912 edition of Natural Advanced Geography textbook

Clemenceau’s quotation is described as “cynical”, and perhaps it was so intended.

But war never has a good end, even for the victors, as victors find out over and over and over again.

Armistice Day, Vets for Peace, Landmark Center, St. Paul Nov. 11 2015

Armistice Day, Vets for Peace, Landmark Center, St. Paul Nov. 11 2015

#1078 – Dick Bernard: North Dakota and South Dakota in 1912. A school textbook freezes a year in time.

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Today, November 1, 2015, is the 365th day of North and South Dakota’s 125th anniversary as states of the U.S. Tomorrow they’re 126 – that’s a bit like having been 21, and now you’re 22. It seems a good day to remember a bit more of that good year, the 125th….

(click to enlarge all photos)

Central States of U.S. 1912 from Natural Advanced Geography, Redway and Hinman, 1912

Central States of U.S. 1912 from Natural Advanced Geography, Redway and Hinman, 1912

As readers of this blog know, the past year has found me frequently and physically revisiting the rural North Dakota where Mom, born 1909, grew up. Soon the 110-year family farm, not far from LaMoure, will belong to new owners. The work has been hard, both physical and emotional, now close to finished. Three times in the last twelve months I’ve written about the 125th birthday of ND: Sep 17, 2014, Oct 1, 2014 and Nov 2, 2014.

October 18,2015, I was at the farm, doing a near-final “sift” of “junk” left in the machine shed, and an old book caught my eye. I fished it out of a box. A portion of the 10×12″ cover is pictured below (click to enlarge).

Cover of 1912 edition of ND Public School Geography text.

Cover of 1912 edition of ND Public School Geography text.

I’m an old geography major. Back home I decided to leaf through and see what I’d find. Its last copyright was 1912.

At the very end of the book, I found two chapters on North Dakota and South Dakota geography.

(Not until preparing this post on October 29 did I notice the note at the very top of the cover page of the book. You can see it hidden, above, at the top of the page. Apparently there were many regional editions of this more than 175 page textbook, each having a section focused on a particular state or region of the U.S.)

What the book had to say about North and South Dakota geography is presented in entirety here (in two twelve page chapters): No. Dak Geog 1912002 (including 23 photos) and So. Dak Geog 1912003 (27 photos).

At page 77, North and South Dakota are introduced:

Geography 1912 ND SD003

The chapters have lots of most interesting tidbits.

On the last page of each state chapter is its 1910 census.

For North Dakota the 1910 census total was 577,056. The “Principal Cities” ranged from Fargo (14,331) to Eckman (population 84, founded 1908, not long after almost a ghost town near Maxbass.). South Dakota totaled 583,888 including Sioux Falls (14,094) and Effington (46) among the “Principal Cities”.

(North Dakota’s current population is 714,551 est in 2013; South Dakota’s 833,354. In 1960, when I was in college, the respective populations were 630,000 (ND) and 680,000 (SD)

1910 was North and South Dakota’s 21st birthday, each state roaring along with all the enthusiasm and hope of someone at 21.

For reasons most of we natives of the states have learned, boom times ebbed, and things like the Great Depression of the 1930s left their mark, everywhere. As my relative, Melvin, born 1928, who grew up the next farm over, said in a letter just days ago: “It was a good life for all of us and I am sure that there will always be some bitter sweet memories of the old homesteads, growing up in the Post Depression years which were further dampened by the drought, grass hoppers and the dust bowl in the prewar [WWII] years.”

The chapters, and the book itself, are filled with raw material for great conversations. (If interested, note that the 1898 edition, probably for the California market, is at google books (click on the tab, other formats).

Ferd and Rosa Busch with first child, Lucina, in yard of their farm home likely Fall 1907

Ferd and Rosa Busch with first child, Lucina, in yard of their farm home likely Fall 1907

POSTNOTE: Geography is much more than just relatively static features, like rivers and mountains. It is very much geopolitical: things as country and state names, and boundaries, and peoples, and conflict change the picture of the landscape. So the publication date of a map or data on which text is based makes a big difference.

For a single example, note the below map of Central Europe in the 1912 textbook. The configuration of the countries is much different in 1912 than it is today, and played into World War I, then into World War II.

If you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, there is a current and important exhibition at the Museum of Russian Art entitled “Faces of War: Russia in World War I (1914-18)”. We have been to this exhibit, and the text and pictures are a vivid history lesson in themselves. Do take the time if you haven’t already done so. The Museum is at 5500 Stevens Avenue S. Minneapolis, at the west edge of I-35W, at the SW corner of Stevens Avenue S and Diamond Lake Road.

Map of Central Europe in 1912 edition of Natural Advanced Geography textbook

Map of Central Europe in 1912 edition of Natural Advanced Geography textbook

#1077 – Dick Bernard: Remembering Sandy Peterson, two Unions, and a Merger

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Sandra Peterson died on October 24, 2015. Her death was local news in Minnesota. She deserves the kudos which are coming her way. She was a visionary leader.

(click to enlarge)

Some of the guests at the anniversary, Feb. 28. Center front is Judy Schaubach, then VP of MEA; 2nd from left in top row is Sandra Peterson, then President MFT.  Others: front row Sharon Kjellberg and Denise Specht; top row from left Paul Mueller, Greg Burns and Dick Bernard

Some of the guests at the anniversary, Feb. 28. Center front is Judy Schaubach, then VP of MEA; 2nd from left in top row is Sandra Peterson, then President MFT. Others: front row Sharon Kjellberg and Denise Specht; top row from left Paul Mueller, Greg Burns and Dick Bernard

I knew Sandy as a union leader, first of MFT, then Education Minnesota, “back in the day”. It was to be expected that she would be described as a “tough union leader and tender hockey grandmother” as though these were contradictions in terms. She, like so many “union leaders” and “grandparents” made, and still make, a very positive difference. She and I didn’t know each other well, but we certainly weren’t strangers either. Indeed, we office’d just a few doors down from each other for the last two years of my career, first at MFT, then at MEA.

(For many years, here in Minnesota, there were two competing unions: one was the Minnesota Education Association (MEA); the other the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT). I was one of many MEA Field Representatives; Sandra was President of MFT.)

At this point, a little history would help to understand the “teacher union” business in context with Minnesota.

For most of my staff career (1972-2000), each organization viewed the other as the enemy, and we acted accordingly.

The two-union conflict is a long and interesting and important story, which veterans of one camp or the other can likely still recall with fervor (and differing interpretations). It is a story younger teachers cannot relate to.

The time of change in relationships was the 1990s.

I happened to be the MEA staff “on the ground” in Rosemount-Apple Valley in the early 1990s when the winds of change began to blow. Both “sides”, I think, knew that the teachers they represented were sick and tired of the unproductive conflict, and discussions led to proposals which led ultimately to state then national action: To my recollection, the two locals became Dakota County United Educators in 1993, the first merged MEA-MFT local, recognized by both national unions (the photo above is at the 20th anniversary of that merger in 2013).

In 1998, the two state unions merged to become Education Minnesota, and at the end of August, 1998, several of we MEA staff were assigned offices at the nearby MFT headquarters in St. Paul. President Sandra Peterson’s office was just down the hall from us, and while there was likely apprehension among all of us, it wasn’t visible and it didn’t last long.

On August 31, 1998, I took the two following photos outside the new Education Minnesota co-office; about the same time Sandra Peterson and MEA’s Judy Schaubach became the merged Unions Co-Presidents. (click to enlarge).

Changing the signage from MFT to Education Minnesota, August 31, 1998, 168 Aurora, St. Paul MN

Changing the signage from MFT to Education Minnesota, August 31, 1998, 168 Aurora, St. Paul MN

Some of the MFT staff August 31, 1998

Some of the MFT staff August 31, 1998

I retired from Education Minnesota two years later. My retirement had nothing whatsoever to do with the merger. It was an ordinary retirement.

The merger had been well planned, and the years of working more and more closely together on many things made the transition simpler.

It took a long while for the “brand” “Education Minnesota” to stick. (In some sectors, I doubt it will ever stick. For instance, the third Thursday and Friday of October will, it appears, always be called “MEA days” or “MEA vacation” in the public eye in Minnesota.)

It is 17 years since the merger of MEA and MFT. Anyone with less than 17 years of teaching experience has no real context of a time when there were two teacher unions in conflict with each other (and were thus easier to divide and conquer.)

Mergers take lots and lots of ability to find and build common ground. Sandra Peterson more than played a strong and positive role. There are adjectives better than “tough” which I would use to describe her and others who have built strong and effective unions, not only in the public school teacher sector.

“Visionary” comes to mind.

Unions are an asset to the public good, not otherwise.

Ironically, just a couple of days ago my copy of the NEA Retired magazine arrived in my mailbox. It’s cover topic is about Union. It is worth a read, here: I am the Union001

Bon Voyage, Sandra!

#1072 – Dick Bernard: September’s Song, “When the days dwindle down, to a precious few….” Don and Stan and Ted and Jessica and all of us.

Saturday, October 17th, 2015
Woodbury MN Oct 2015

Woodbury MN Oct 2015

It was quite a week, including Thursday at the Minnesota Orchestra where our 87 year old friend, Don, and I, watched 92 year old Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conduct Schumanns Concerto in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Opus 129, and Bruckners Symphony No. 7 in E major. MN Orch Oct 15 105002.

I go to concerts to listen to music; this concert was great…so said the reviewer. Age hasn’t dimmed the maestro’s baton!

The Bruckner Symphony itself is over an hour, and conductors don’t take breaks in their duties. Occasionally the maestro would hold on to the support bar behind him (the bar extended in height by about a foot, likely specifically for him), and I noticed an unused chair beside the podium – just in case? But on he went; and apparently tonight as well.

At the intermission Don and I were talking about keeping on, as Stan is doing: “when you stop doing things, you die”, said Don, with the voice of experience that I, trailing him by a dozen years, can more and more relate to.

Like all elders, Don has his rich stories. Most of his career he worked keeping track of railroad cars for the Northern Pacific RR in the days before computers. But in his younger days, his credits include at least one small dinner party with actress Elizabeth Taylor, and sitting in Joan Crawford’s seat at the Oscar’s one year (she was unable to attend). He was most impressed by Audrey Hepburn, who he met more than once in Hollywood.

Pretty good for a native of St. Paul’s Frogtown.

For Don, for Stan, it’s now past September, and September’s Song fits.

But as we know, there are lots of Stan’s and Don’s around in the world, from, let’s say, March till late December….

A week earlier I’d been at the same Orchestra Hall with Grandson Ted, now 15, and an aspiring musician.

We went to a Jazz concert in the Atrium, and Ted especially watched the drummer, as he’s been asked to be the drummer for his schools jazz band this year. He’s got lots of musical talent, and drummers have a big job. He’s up to it.

The previous night, two of us old-timers were up at our Alma Mater in Valley City ND, to meet Jessica, the first recipient of a class scholarship we have worked on the last couple of years.

Jessica, a most impressive Senior, preparing to be an elementary school teacher, made my day. I was her age, at that college, once…. (photo at end of this post)

Two days later, good friend Joe, another 87 year old, convened a major conference in Minneapolis which went splendidly Oct 9&10. It was, literally, his conference. I wrote about it here. The Workable World conference will, I predict, live on far past October 10, and far beyond Minneapolis…. It will live on, especially, in the abundance of young people who were there; who left with much to think about, and act on.

I saw Joe two nights ago, in a group where a young woman, Mnar, spoke powerfully about “Muslims as the other” in this country. Afterwards Joe wrote some of us about his experience: “[Her] presentation not only shattered a number of stereotypes about Muslims and women, but also provided some much needed lessons about the slanted way we get — or fail to get — the news.”


The past few day, in a physical sense, have been tiring. I am ready to “couch potato”. But that lasts only a little while.

Last night I gave in and joined Lynn, 94, for dinner. Lynn will die with his passion of world peace on his lips. He will never, ever quit.

Rebekah and her friend Quinn, students at a local University, brought him to our meeting, and the four of us had a too short conversation which needs to continue.

It was an inconvenience to meet last night, but it was one of those meetings I will remember far beyond last evening.

I think of a sign I saw at my coffee shop yesterday morning, and photo’ed especially for Joe.

It is below. It applies to every one of us, regardless of age.

It’s now October, and there is still hope….

Dream Big001

Dick, Jessica and Carl, October 7, 2015

Dick, Jessica and Carl, October 7, 2015

#1071 – Dick Bernard: Getting perspective on the UN System at 70.

Monday, October 12th, 2015
Those remaining at the very end of the second day of the conference.  Photo by Claude Buettner

Those remaining at the very end of the second day of the conference. Photo by Claude Buettner

Click to enlarge any photos.

Keynote speaker W. Andy Knight, and artist R. Padre Johnson's well known art work of the Family of Man.  Padre was at the conference.

Keynote speaker W. Andy Knight, and artist R. Padre Johnson’s well known art work of the Family of Man. Padre was at the conference.

First things first: it is impossible to summarize the Workable World Conference I attended on Friday and Saturday, October 9&10, at the University of Minnesota.

Here is the program booklet: Workable World Speakers Oct 9-10 2015. The entire conference, every speaker, was videotaped for later use, and later there will also be proceedings published for posterity. Check back at this spot in some months, and I’ll include an update.

I attend meetings frequently, both to learn something, and to give support to the process. It is much like the synergy of a basketball game. The team can play the game, but it helps a great deal to have someone in the stands – an audience. But it has been my experience that there are always “ah hah” moments, small or large insights that flow out of some comment, or an amalgamation of several comments: learning moments; insights.

There were a lot of these for me Friday and Saturday.

(click to enlarge)

Charlotte Ku and audience, Saturday Oct 10, University of Minnesota

Charlotte Ku and audience, Saturday Oct 10, University of Minnesota

At some point in the proceedings it occurred to me that there were roughly as many registrants for the conference (over 200), as there are countries in the UN (193), so I began to imagine each of us in the hall, including the speaker, as a “country”.

Of course, all is not alike between countries. One of we audience members, for instance, would control 25% of the Gross National Income of the entire world; another has 20% of the world’s humanity. (These are the U.S., and China, of course.) (This data an much more from Transforming the United Nations System by Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg. I highly recommend it.)

Then, there are those in power positions (I was one of these, controlling the portable microphone!) And, of course, those who registered but never came to a session, or could be there for only a short time for one reason or another.

Whatever the case, this was a melting pot of sorts: experts, critics, supporters, all with a common interest in ideas about the United Nations System.

Schwartzberg book001

One speaker, in answer to a question, described the UN at 70 to be much like an airplane over New York City which has a problem with a wing which has to be repaired on the fly.

This provided rich imagery for me, about how the immensely complex business of the United Nations is an endless series of crises to manage amongst people with different priorities.

What if, I thought to myself, we in that audience at Cowles Auditorium had some problem dropped on us, and there was no one to decide except ourselves?

Given how people can be, it could be a dicey proposition to even decide on a simple matter. It’s easy to despise “government”, but one sort of government or another is essential to individual and group survival.

The conference was expertly moderated by Prof. John Trent of the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa; Maryam Ysefzadeh and Tim O’Keefe of Robayat helped quiet our minds with gentle Persian music.

Maryam Yusefzedah and Tim O'Keefe Oct 10, 2015

Maryam Yusefzedah and Tim O’Keefe Oct 10, 2015

We were reminded that the United Nations was a creation of a specific moment in time, post World War II. Change is required for any such organism, and indeed change is happening in small increments and in less than obvious ways (from the bottom up, for instance.)

But imperfect as the institution is, it is far far better than the alternative of no United Nations.

That is my main takeaway. With all its fault, the United Nations is essential to our future as a planet…and I think the collective speakers and audience and most of the rest of humanity know and appreciate that.

Prof Robert Johansen of the University of Notre Dame spoke on the dilemmas and realities of Peacekeeping in the contemporary world.

Prof Robert Johansen of the University of Notre Dame spoke on the dilemmas and realities of Peacekeeping in the contemporary world.

POSTNOTE from Dick Bernard: As one would expect from an academic conference, there were many comments of note, that stick in my mind: here’s a single one for starters. A speaker talked about the U.S. role as present day hegemon (which I define as “big dog”) of the planet. Of course, there have been successions of hegemons over the centuries, and ultimately they all overreach – something of a nation version of the Peter Principle: each rising to their level of incompetence, then collapsing….

It was observed that President Obama, in his role as leader of the U.S., has been working to tamp down a bit the U.S. tendency to interfere in everything, everywhere. This diminished interference can be interpreted by some as weakness, but at the same time, it is a strategy that helps to keep the U.S. as primary hegemon of the planet. In an odd, but logical way, the actions of President Obama support the objectives of the very people who are most critical of him as being weak and ineffective. And at the same time, those who would promote a more aggressive policy of particularly military engagement in the world would act against the U.S. own hegemonic interests.

At least for me, there was a lot of food for thought in this observation, such as I heard it stated.

#1070 – Dick Bernard: Bombing the Hospital in Afghanistan. Who’s at fault about the killings in Roseburg, Oregon…?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

If you watch the news at all, it is not necessary to define the very recent topics in the subject line, at least in the terms that they have been reported, and your personal feelings about them.

In my opinion, both give we Americans an opportunity to take stock of ourselves: how each and every one of us fit into construction of our image as a country.

Of course, the simple narrative is to blame somebody else. We know how this goes. We have lots of practice. Left, right, center, it is virtually never ourselves to blame: it is somebody else, most always one person. “Obama” bombed that hospital, some would say. That gun-obsessed mother of the gun-crazed son who killed the students at the Roseburg Community College is now the target.

Tomorrow it will be something else, local, regional, national, international. “Whose fault? Not mine! He (or she) is to blame.” Never us as a nation of individual citizens.


For me, regarding the endless war in which we find ourselves mired, most recently the tragedy at the Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan, Day One was not 9-11-01, but it came soon after, in early October, 2001, when the decision was made to bomb Afghanistan (though the real objective was, we learned later, Iraq).

I keep few newspaper clippings, and refer back to these infrequently, but here is the one that I kept the day after the bombs began to fall on Afghanistan in early October, 2001:Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001

Just read the article, and put yourself in it, then, and since then, to today. How would you have answered those survey questions then? Why? How would you, now?

What politician of any party could have been anti-war then, or indeed, today? It would have been political suicide for almost 100% of the politicians, then. Even today, it is high risk to actively advocate for peace.

We are a war-sodden culture: war is our national tradition. And it is killing us.


As for the gun issue, the polling data seems to favor doing something about unrestricted “firearms in every pocket, makes no difference who has them or where”. We apparently don’t buy the unrestricted “freedom” mantra. Still the gun culture prevails. For a politician to be for gun regulation of any kind is a guarantee of political assassination by the likes of the National Rifle Association. And their “target practice” has been very effective.

Unfortunately, “we, the people”, every one of us, assure, by our inaction, that our elected representatives will do nothing to stop the insanity in which we find ourselves with guns.

Every one of us have good reasons (in our mind) why we don’t do anything to change the course.

That Mom in Roseburg, Oregon, like that Mom in Newtown CT – the mother of the serial killer of elementary school children there – might be complicit in the crime of her son, but she is less guilty than the entire body politic who allow this insanity to continue.

We are the ones who need to be indicted.


Till we act, as individuals, the gun industry and those who exploit the fear-obsessed to move the “war as the answer to all our ills” narrative will continue to rule the roost.

Fear, after all, sells.

We are a good country, filled with very good people – just look at your own self, and the vast majority of your friends and neighbors in your town.

But we continue to fail, by our inaction. It is our inaction at home that assures our bad image abroad.

It’s up to us, not to anybody else to change our countries direction on War and Guns and so many other issues. We cannot delegate this responsibility to someone else.

Until each of us act, minority rules.

Some useful resources:
On guns: The Brady Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions are good, credible sources deserving your attention and support.

On policy, just read that short article about American attitudes in early October, 2001. Politics is People, and every person counts.

Personally, my favorite daily source of a summary of national and international current events is Just Above Sunset, an indefatigable blogger in Los Angeles. It’s a long read, but a great summary of what’s going on six days a week. Check it out. Todays, “Whistling Past”, is about the Afghanistan quagmire. Here. Yesterday’s, “Only in America”, is about guns.