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Five Citizens Reflect on the Vietnam War

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Your comments are invited for a follow-up post: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. Please include your permission to include in a post.

Following are some thoughts about Vietnam, prior to the beginning of the 17 hour film series on PBS, Sep. 17, 2017 7 and 8:30 p.m. CDT. Here’s the schedule of programs following Sep. 17 (see pages 21 & 25): PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

(click to enlarge all photos)

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

Re the sketch, above: I’m proud to count the artist as a friend, Padre Johnson. He was a field medic in the Mekong Delta in 1968, among other vocations in life. He sketched the incident, and describes it here: Padre J Viet Combat003.

Padre is one of many Vietnam vets, including conscientious objectors and protestors, I have come to know either in person, or through others. There are many “truths”, and perhaps the best we can do is to acknowledge differences, while working to learn from the past.

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from Jim, Sep 10: Fifty years ago my brother was in Vietnam. During the spring and summer of 1967 he saved lives, both American and Vietnamese. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and had tremendous empathy for the people even the so called enemy soldiers. He was soft spoken, kind and generous and very much a hero. He was honored this year in Washington on June 17th. I included a short summary on the Minnesota History Center’s Vietnam Story Wall: here.

As I said in my writing, I grieve for his loss every single day.

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from Norm, Sep 10: I am looking forward to watching the series as I am sure are many, many other veterans who served in SEA during that war let alone many others as well.

Burns has always done a great job with his previous efforts and I expect that this one will be done well also.

There was a series (TPT) on the VNW [Vietnam War] several years ago that I thought was very good as it included perspectives, experiences, reflections and remembrances from people fighting on both sides and in between, i.e. the Montagnards, the Bru, the Sioux and the Hmong, the latter working with the CIA in the “secret war” in Laos.

The feelings about the VNW were still kind of raw at that time so I was aware of many folks including several veterans that were not comfortable with the series as it included comments and perspectives from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, including general Giap. In addition, it showed some of the destruction caused by the B-52’s when they “went north” over Hanoi and Haiphong in the early 70’s coming from Andersen AFB(Guam), Kadena AFB (Okinawa) and Utapao (Thailand) where I had been stationed with the BUFF’s(Big Ugly Flying F…….s)in the late 60’s.

The B-52’s had been involved in the Arc Light operations for many years bombing sites in that theater before going north and encountering SAM missiles in or near North Viet Nam. The BUFFs took heavy unsustainable losses early in the effort to go North as a result of the SAM [Surface to Air Missile] missile defenses around Hanoi and Haiphong as they would initially come in on predictable routes over those two cities.

Several of the crews became residents of the Hanoi Hilton albeit for relative short times compared to Alvarez (seven years) and McCain (five years) as the truce was signed not long after the bombing of the north began and the prisoner exchange began.

Some of the crews who survived being shot down in their B-52’s were rescued by the Jolly Greens (helicopters) and the crews of medics. Several BUFF crewman did not survive either hits on the aircrafts by the SAMs, the subsequent crash and/or their injuries from received from one or the other or both.

One of the BUFFs from Utapao was hit by a SAM when over the north and limped back to its home base before crashing just outside its perimeter as it made its final approach to the runway.

I am definitely looking forward to watching this important series.

I am sure that Burns will feature the unrest within our country related to the VNW as well which is of less interest to me as that has been so well and so often documented so many times already.

I am primarily interested in learning about what other veterans were doing in that theater at the same time that I was there, it, 1967-68 as well as when my brother was there as a helicopter pilot in the early 70-‘s working with the “little people.”

I really don’t care about the impact of the war on the domestic side of the equation for various personal reasons.

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from Larry, Sep 11: My “perspective” on War in Vietnam, with direct link to my story on the “wall”, here. And Aug 31 a radio interview at KFAI.org (here).

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from Susan, Sep 11: My husband, Tom Lucas, served four years in Vietnam. He worked in Supply, so wasn’t in the trenches. But he flew in helicopters from time to time and experienced ammunition fire.

Tom loved the children and visited orphanages often. He knew that often children were sent into areas with bombs attached to their bodies. (You probably know all about that.)

I’m sure he knew of other atrocities but never once mentioned any.

In the 37 years we were married he rarely spoke about his time there, and I never once asked him about it. I knew it was too painful for him to discuss it. Once in a great while he would be in contact with someone who also spent time in Nam and did engage in some conversation with that person. But I was not present. Tom had two photo albums he showed.

He left them laying in the living room after their meeting, and he didn’t care if I looked at them. Shortly after our first child was born I received a call from the government asking about Tom’s possible contact with Agent Orange and whether or not our child suffered any disability. Tom was not in the jungles so wasn’t in contact with Agent Orange.

That’s about all I can remember. He did receive a couple of Commendation letters, but right now I cannot recall what they were for. I know you will sum up the whole Viet Nam experience so I’ll let you add the descriptions of that war. Tom died one day short of his 62nd birthday. He planned to retire at 62. He will be gone 9 years the end of October.

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Dick Bernard, Sep 12: I am a Vietnam era Army veteran, which means I was in the service after Feb. 28, 1961. Truth be told, at the time I entered the Army, Jan. 11, 1962, I had no idea of the future significance of that time in history. A vivid memory from early in my Infantry days is of a long time Platoon Sergeant hoping to get assignment to Vietnam duty because he’d heard Saigon was good duty.

Draft Card. I must have lost the original.

I had volunteered for the Draft. At that time, we were required to register for the Draft and carry Draft cards. There was no patriotic impulse: it was something I thought I’d have to do anyway, and may as well get it out of the way. I had just graduated from college. I could have qualified for Officer Candidate School, but declined as it would have required me to extend the two year tour. I had no thoughts of conscientious objection, or alternative service. My family history has many military veterans.

My service time began at Ft. Carson, Colorado (Colorado Springs area), mid-January, 1962. My memory is that the night before we boarded a bus from Fargo ND to Ft. Carson, my roommate and I went to a movie down the street, Bridge On the River Kwai.

Ft. Carson, then, was primarily a Basic Training base for the Army. Midway through Basic Training the announcement came that an Infantry Division was being re-activated at Ft. Carson, and after we completed basic training we were virtually all transferred into this new 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). I ended up in Company C, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry of the 1st Brigade (if memory serves) of the 5th Infantry (Mechanized). I became Company Clerk. My recollection is that there were perhaps 140 or so of us in the Company, which shared a block with Companies A and B, and a headquarters Company.

Our routine was no different than anyone else preparing for combat.

Some years ago I contributed some pictures to a website which still exists, here.

Ft. Carson CO. Best I recall, Co C was at the NE corner of the 4th full block up. This photo is from the south and dates from 1962 or so. The church we attended (all denominations) was at the very end of the base.

Succinctly, we were, at that time, a peacetime unit being prepared for war. But if there was talk about a coming war in Vietnam, I don’t recall it.

I left the Army at the end of my tour, just before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

Co. C continued, and ended up in Vietnam beginning in 1968. By this time, I was back home, with a “row to hoe” – working to raise an infant. My first wife had died in 1965, and our son was 1 1/2. I saw the war develop on the news, but that was all. I had no connection to protests, for no particular reason other than home duties.

In 1967 and 1970 my two brothers entered the Air Force as officers, and the war became much more personal to me.

About the same time, Company C became heavily engaged in combat in Vietnam, though I didn’t know that till years later.

The war ended in April, 1975, thence out of sight out of mind. In mid-November, 1982, I happened to be in Washington D.C. for meetings, and while waiting for my flight out of Washington National learned that the Vietnam Memorial was being dedicated that very weekend. I went there. It was a very powerful and emotional experience. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

It was not until last week, when I revisited the unit website, that I learned that my Company C, that small group of about 140 men for whom I had done the Morning Reports for nearly two years had, in four years between 1968 and 1971, lost 37 men in Vietnam; in all the casualties of the Battalion which had earlier shared my block at Ft. Carson totaled 145. War was, indeed, hell. I just happened to get lucky.

May my comrades rest in peace, and may we intensify our efforts for peace.

POSTNOTE: I am always conscious of people who I know are veterans, particularly so at this moment in time – that is a benefit of this 17 hour film by Ken Burns.

Yesterday I was at my barber, a retired guy who works out of his home. I’m a long time customer and we’re good friends. He’s a combat Marine vet from Vietnam – assigned as tunnel rat, at times. His brother, another Marine, was killed at 18 in Vietnam about 1968. His name is on the Wall in Washington, and here on the Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Last Thursday at the preview of the film at the PBS station, my brother, John, was with us. He was an Air Force officer, a navigator on C-141 and other transport planes, for a year or more detailed on flights into Vietnam in the early 1970s, at least once drawing heavy ground fire.

The stories go on and on. I had a chance to say my piece on film at the preview, and I said that while I didn’t think war would ever end, we certainly can do a great deal to keep it to a minimum. There are no “winners” in war, only losers. We all lose.

I stay a committed member of Veterans for Peace. I am also a long-time member of the American Legion. VFP is my personal preference. There is no perfect organization, but such groups are important.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

PRE-NOTE: Yesterdays post now includes details about Ken Burns 17-hour, 10 day film about The Vietnam War. You can check the schedule and get other information here.

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The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg University, Minneapolis, convenes this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16. All details are here.

The Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg began in 1989 and has a long history of excellence; it is the only international adjunct of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which has administered and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its beginning in 1904.

The other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden. It has never been clear why Alfred Nobel, whose fortune funded the prizes, reserved the Peace Prize for award by Norway.

John Rash wrote an interesting commentary about this years Peace Prize Forum in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune. You can read it here.

I have been actively engaged with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum for quite a number of years. I have never been disappointed. There is a great deal to be learned, both from the sessions themselves, and the other participants. Check it out.

POSTNOTE: For those with an interest, Dr. Maureen Reed, for several years Executive Director of the Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg, will be teaching a four session series, “Of Courage and Controversy: Women and the Nobel Peace Prize“, at the University of Minnesota Oct 3 – Dec 5, 2017. All details, including enrollment information, are accessible here.

On Losing Hope…Don’t….

Monday, August 14th, 2017

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

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

from Carol: a two minute film from 1943

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1275 – Dick Bernard: Upcoming “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Mean weather coming through. Woodbury MN, about 9 a.m. June 11, 2017

Two weeks from today, July 28, is the opening, in selected cities nationwide, of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the followup to the 2006 film by Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth.

The general opening nationwide is August 3, 2017.

Whenever the Twin Cities is one of those places that plays “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, we’ll be in the audience.

Details on show times and places will be available here.

Of course, I have not seen the 2017 film – it is not yet released. Someone who has both seen the new film, and heard Al Gore talk about it, is this person, Hani Nam, from Los Angeles, May 2017.

My wife and I saw Al Gore speak about the issue of climate change in person in 2005 – a dozen years ago! – then saw the film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, at the time of its release one year later, in June, 2006. Here is what I wrote then: Inconvenient Truth 2005, 2006001.

June 16, 2011, five years after the release of An Inconvenient Truth, I attended a talk by a respected local authority on Climate Change, Prof. John Abraham. In the q&a session following the talk, I asked the Professor for his perceptions of the accuracy of the film. You can read his answer at the post I did then, here. Prof. Abrahams comments speak for themselves.

Dec. 14, 2015, I applauded the COP agreements on Climate Change in Paris, here.

It is hardly a secret where we are at this moment in history…indeed, the preview clip of An Inconvenient Sequel hi-lites the problem going forward.

When an “Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” plays in your area, make a point to not only attend, but to get active.

The solution – the Power – is in every single one of us.

PERSONAL POSTNOTE:

As a society, we seem to have become addicted to denial of reality, because we can to a certain extent deny reality. Most of us have the money to turn up the air conditioning, or turn up the heat, or in other ways to avoid the natural realities of bad weather, as I was able to avoid the bad weather coming through on June 11 (the photo which leads this post). I was in my car, and could turn around when it appeared it was foolish to continue into the rapidly approaching storm. I am also aware, however, that my personal environment, in a heavily populated city, is always potentially at risk. Cynically, best the tree fall on somebody elses house, or someone else lose power for an entire day (as happened about 24 hours ago in other suburbs of my metropolitan area.)

But everyone of us, everywhere, is in the same kettle, it is called earth. We have the same home….

There is one simple distinction which we all need to learn, and that is the distinction between WEATHER and CLIMATE, here provided by the National Weather Service: “Weather – The state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc. Weather refers to these conditions at a given point in time (e.g., today’s high temperature), whereas Climate refers to the “average” weather conditions for an area over a long period of time (e.g., the average high temperature for today’s date).”

Weather is that nasty cloud which leads this post. Climate is the much broader and longer term patterns of weather which do not respect human borders, and are the focus of the science of climate change.

In my opinion, an unfortunate semantic mistake was made early on when the conversation focused on the term “global warming”, true in a climate sense, but easily ridiculed by reference to oddities of daily weather. Ridicule does not change reality…it does make conversation and resolution more difficult.

Humans with adequate financial resources can basically and temporarily deny the impacts of climate change. For everyone else, including plants and animals, who live within the reality of heat, cold, wet, dry, the potential for surviving change is less certain.

We advanced humans are effectively cooking our childrens future, and that of other living things as well.

One of the best presentations I personally witnessed was this eight minute presentation by a climate scientist to children at the Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College in 2009. Prof Alley and his colleague scientists were co winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Here are two websites: IPCC and NOAA

Dick Bernard: The Korean Peninsula and Poland, very briefly…

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Book recommendation from Marie: A book you might be reading is: Age of Anger A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra.

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Hubris always ends badly*.

This date the great meeting with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump occurs in Hamburg. The only U.S. representative with Trump will be Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State. Yesterday, Trump gave a major speech to an invited audience in Poland. In the same time period North Korea successfully launched an ICBM which signalled its capacity of delivering a nuclear warhead as far as Alaska.

I’m an old geography major, old enough to have had my college degree a year before I was sitting in an Army barracks in Oct 22, 1962, watching President Kennedy tell we Americans about the Cuban Missile Crisis where Russia was said to be delivering ICBMs whose range was as far as Cheyenne Mountain, below which I was sitting near Colorado Springs Colorado.

It seems a good time for a tiny briefing about Poland and Korea….

KOREA.

(click to enlarge)

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

Note especially the red rectangle at center in the map. That rectangle is about 125 miles wide, giving an idea of the scale of the map. Note Seoul, and Pyongyang, and Tokyo and Hiroshima, all hi-lited in yellow, as well as the 38th parallel, the demarcation between the two countries** since the end of what has come to be known as the Korean War (though it was never a declared war).

The Korean peninsula is not a place for a “loose cannon” on any side…. Note the CIA Fact Book about both North Korea and South Korea. For comparison, Minnesota has a population of about 5 1/2 million; N. Korea about 25 million, S. Korea about 51 million. In land area, N. Korea is slightly larger than the state of Virginia; slightly smaller than the state of Mississippi; S. Korea is a bit smaller than Pennsylvania, a bit larger than Indiana.

Google Maps notes that you can’t get from Seoul to Pyonyang by road. Still the map is interesting. And a guided missile is a very short trip away from both in the area of the 38th parallel. Tokyo and the rest of Japan are not that far away, either. Here’s the Japan briefing book from the CIA.

POLAND.

If there was ever a place for a white nationalist to give a speech, it would be Poland. Here’s the CIA Factbook on Poland. Poland has not been treated kindly by history: Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin….

I have been to Auschwitz, Krakow, Czestochowa and Gdansk (2000 and 2003).

My grandmother was in 8th grade in about 1896 when she learned the geography of Europe. Here is the map from her textbook which shows Europe as it existed then. Most interesting to me is that this map, from a standard text for American Catholic Schools at the time, does not even name Warsaw, already a major city**.

(click to enlarge)

As we learned when we visited Auschwitz in 2000, Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish times) was basically a prison camp for 140-150,000 Poles, about half of whom died; adjoining Birkenau was the extermination camp for the Jews. Nearby was a third forced labor camp, Monowitz, part of the I. G. Farben Buna factory (from the book “Auschwitz, Voices from the Ground” purchased at Auschwitz, May, 2000).

Pope John Paul II, the “Polish Pope”, born in 1920, grew up in nearby Wadowice, Poland, and thus felt the full impact of both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. His world view was likely shaped by his experiences.

I remember, from the time of our visit, that perhaps 10% of Poles fell as victims of WWII; as well as virtually all of the Polish Jews. (Note here.) Of all countries, Poland was among the most devastated by WWII.

On the other hand, our dear friend, Annelee, who grew up in Hitler Germany, lost her Dad to the war. He was a conscript who refused to become a Nazi, though he would have benefited from such a move. They are not sure where or when he died, though it was likely in Russia. They lived in terror of being taken over by the Russians after the war (they weren’t).

* “Hubris”? Some time back I was giving a ride to my friend, Joe, a retired distinguished international emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota. The car conversation got around to Napoleon and Hitler’s misguided attempts to control all of Europe and Asia, attempts which failed. “Hubris” is how my friend defined their actions. In a different sort of way, yet very similar, Donald Trump is trying to translate a slogan into action: “Make America Great Again”, but I think the world leaders are a bit wiser now. This won’t stop the macho coffee conversations about “kicking ____’s ass” (fill in the blank with whomever or whatever the target of choice might be.

There has never been a good time for hubris. Most certainly not now, when we are a global society, with the capacity to destroy ourselves.

It is time for cooler heads everywhere to prevail, one person, one conversation at a time.

Back to you.

Comments welcome to Dick_BernardATmsnDOTcom.

Another map from the same 1896 text. Click to enlarge. Note that Moscow is not even mentioned.

** – Note comment from anonymous below.

COMMENTS
from Jeff: Old maps are interesting. My German grandparents on my mothers maternal side emigrated from Pomerania, which was then part of Germany, is now part of Poland. I think it was originally East Prussia , which eventually became Germany under Bismarck. A majority of the people in Pomerania were German , some had Polish surnames but were Germans. The maps of Asia are more interesting… Iraq doesn’t exist as it was part of both the Ottoman empire and Persia. Syria didn’t exist, and look where the Ottoman empire extended around Arabia encompassing Israel, Palestine, Jordan the Gulf emirates, parts of Saudi Arabia. Vietnam was a colony of France, India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore a part of the British Empire…..

Response from Dick: Indeed. Most of us have only the thinnest veneer of knowledge about the world as it was or is, even our own country. It makes for problems…and opportunities for people who benefit from simplistic notions of superiority or such. One of my vivid memories from the trip to Poland was at the Krakow Cathedral in early May, which I think was Constitution Day or such in Poland. There was a Mass there, and after Mass, one of the people we met was an ancient man (WWII vintage) wearing very, very proudly his Polish Army uniform. I should dig out the slide. It was just an old Army uniform, festooned with whatever decorations he had received ‘back in the day’.

“Tribes” are useful, and sometimes important, but more often than not dangerous. A friend gave me a CD by a superb Irish Tenor, including assorted songs, mostly of lament. One which sticks especially is “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, about an Aussie who encounters the Turks (the Ottomans) at Sulva Bay in Gallipoli is WWI. Listen to it here.

A year or so ago we went to the Russia Museum in Minneapolis to see the exhibit on WWI from the Russian perspective. One caption I remember quite vividly. Apparently, the Kaiser and the Czar were first cousins, the German and the Russian rulers. And apparently WWI really started with some argument over something or other. This was before the assassination….

from Jeff: Actually the Kaiser, the Czar, and the King of England were all cousins… It wasn’t that long ago either.

from Fred: Very well put. Excellent idea to use a little geography and cartography to assist the uninitiated.

from Terrance: I have been amazed over the past 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union how little we learned from the Catholic textbooks about how many people from various little nations, religions and ethnic backgrounds were forced into the USSR. If they weren’t Catholic, they were dismissed in our Geography classes as irrelevant.

** from Anonymous: I read your blog about Poland and Korea and agree with you that we Americans need to be better informed about both. But may I offer a few critical comments?

You stated that “the 38th parallel, [was]the demarcation between the two countries since the end of what has come to be known as the Korean War.” That is not correct. The 38th parallel was the the boundary from the end of WWII until the start of the Korean War. The de facto boundary since that war has been the cease-fire line at the time of the truce which ending the fighting (in 1953). That line was to the north of the 38th parallel in its eastern sector and to the south in the western sector. (In 1980 I crossed it to visit a national park in what passed from North to South Korea in 1953.

The blog was interesting.

from Norm: Great observations and commentary, Dick.

I am not an old geography major albeit old I am. On the other hand, I am and have always been a geography buff going way back to my early introduction to them in National Geographic. I have always loved maps of areas ranging from those of a township to a state to the nation and to the world, whatever their purpose but mainly that show geographical features and political boundaries although the latter change frequently in boundaries, name and existence.

I served nearly four years as a USAF photo radar intelligence officer which was later categorized by the folks in the public sector when describing my work history as that of a cartographer which it essentially was in many cases.

I have always been intrigued as well by how natural geographic features such as rivers, mountains, large lakes and so on can affect the politics of things. For example, the folks on the leeward side of the mountain range having different political views and customs let alone cultures than those on the windward side of the range or on the other side of the river or large lake or whatever.

That is just very interesting to me, Dick.

Global Solutions Minnesota: “Russia: The New Cold War” with Todd Lefko

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

(click to enlarge)

PDF format of the above poster is here: Russia Todd Lefto001

Mr. Lefto comes highly recommended as a knowledgeable resource on Russia, and an engaging speaker. Global Solutions MN President, Gail Hughes, said on May 7, “I attended a community ed Great Decisions talk by Todd last week. He drew a big crowd, and was engaging and knowledgeable.

Todd is a popular speaker and businessman with a background in international trade, specializing in Russia, where he’s lived and visits regularly.”

A longer bio of Todd Lefto from some years ago can be found here. (Andy Driscoll was a well respected twin cities journalist who died in 2014.)

PLEASE NOTE: The talk is a week from this Thursday (June 15). Reservations are requested no later than Monday for planning purposes. Later reservations will be accepted, but please respect the need for planning by reserving in a timely manner.

Mark Petty: Witnessing at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Pre-note: Early in March, Mark Petty who is on a volunteer board with me, announced he’d be absent from our next meeting due to a pending trip with The Advocates for Human Rights. Following his return from the March 18-25 trip to Geneva, Mark filed the following report, which speaks eloquently to a citizen working to make a difference. His report is presented with his permission. Related, Thursday evening in Minneapolis Daniel Wordsworth of the American Refugee Committee will speak. All details are here: Wordsworth May 18 17001

(click to enlarge)

Mark Petty, Geneva SW, March 2017

I along with other volunteers of the Advocates, partners and The Advocates staff lobbied more than 100 UN Human Rights Council delegates in March. We traveled to Geneva as part of The Advocates’ work to help end violence against women and the death penalty, and to advance the rights of religious and racial minorities.

While in Geneva, the team met one-on-one with Human Rights Council delegates about recommendations for countries’ Universal Periodic Reviews; delivered 14 oral statements to the Human Rights Council; presented at parallel events on violence against women, human rights in South Africa, and domestic violence legal reform; participated in closed-door briefings with UN treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Human Rights Committee.

“The work of our volunteers at the UN is priceless, from making oral statements, to presenting information to delegates, and so much more,” Jennifer Prestholdt, director of The Advocates’ International Justice Program. “They make a world of difference.”

While in Geneva, Switzerland, I delivered an oral statement on behalf of the the Advocates for Human Rights as well as interacted with the delegates. Below I wrote an account of what was going through my mind prior to the delivery of the oral statement and included a video of my presentation of the oral statement as well as the written oral statement.

The Human Rights Council (Council) is the principal United Nations inter-govermental body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights. Based in Geneva, the Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States elected by the General Assembly but all 193 countries in the United Nations plus observers can participate in the Council discussions. Only nongovernmental organizations in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions. The Advocates for Human Rights has special consultative status with the United Nations, allowing its representatives to make oral statements at the Council. On behalf of the Advocates for Human Rights, I made an oral statement relating to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of the Council’s interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in DRC. The statement, which I made during the discussion of recent increase in political violence in DRC, provided the opportunity for The Advocates to highlight the human rights abuses that force their Congolese asylum clients to seek safety in the U.S. The next paragraph relates to my experience leading up to the delivery of my oral statement on March 22, 2017.

The night before I was to present my oral statement was difficult. I went to bed early but woke up at 11:30 pm and couldn’t fall back to sleep till 3 am. At 8 am, March 22, 2017, we returned to the United Nations. I went upstairs by taking the escalator, passed through security by showing my United Nations badge, entered the Human Rights Council chambers and sat down. Jennifer Prestholdt, the Deputy Director at the Advocates for Human Rights, recommended I listen to what was being discussed in order to know when I would be called. Generally, the order for delivering statements was for the Human Rights Council, then the interested countries, and then the nongovernmental organizations for each country under review. The Ukraine was under review at this point. Earlier that morning I had bought a bottle of water to keep my mouth from drying out. As each person gave his/her statement, my anxiety rose. I looked at the high domed, multicolored ceiling and at the seated delegates around the room. Before I knew it, the water was gone. Now Guinea was under review. Each person called meant a step closer to my deliverance of the oral statement and an increase to my nervousness. The other volunteers and everyone from the Advocates were very supportive. Some thoughts running through my head as I sat there were: “If I mess this up, how would the Advocates react? Would I be allowed to continue my volunteer work?” and “My employer will be seeing this as well…..” During the review of Guinea, I asked Jennifer if I could fill up my water bottle. I was so relieved when she said “yes”. Before I knew it, the Democratic Republic of Congo was under review Statements were presented, and my oral statement drew closer and closer. As I looked down at my bottle, I saw there was a single swig of water inside, and my mouth was dry. I had to save those precious drops of water. The nongovernmental organizations were next. The Advocates were second in line, and the gentleman to my left was just called. As the Advocates’ name was called, I drained the last remnants of water. As I pushed the red button to turn on the microphone and illuminate the red circular light at the end of the microphone, a sudden calmness went through my entire body and then I said “Thank you, Mr. President….”

I would like to thank Thomson Reuters, my brothers (Tim, Mick and Michael), Jen and Kyle Pohl, Ellen Uhrich, my wife (Kerri) for their financial support for this UN Study-Advocacy Tour. In addition, I am grateful to Thomson Reuters in providing their employees volunteer and Pro Bono time. I am also grateful to the Advocates in providing me and the Thomson Reuters Pro Bono program the United Nations Study-Advocacy Tour.

Video with Mark’s presentation can be seen here. (You need Adobe Flash player to access.) Mark’s statement begins at 1:26:32

Mark Petty:

“Thank you, Mr. President:

“The Advocates for Human Rights thanks the Human Rights Council for its ongoing concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including recent election-related repression and increased violence by both State actors and armed groups.

“With the help of pro bono attorneys, The Advocates for Human Rights provides free legal services to hundreds of asylum seekers each year. We serve many clients from the DRC who have been forced to flee the human rights abuses. Our Congolese clients have shared with us firsthand accounts that corroborate the continued violence and serious crimes, including sexual violence, committed against civilians by both armed groups and State agents, including security forces and police.

“Our clients from the DRC share their stories of abduction, arrest, detention, interrogation and torture, including kicking, whipping, beating with batons, rape, and prolonged deprivation of food and water. Our clients also report that the situation in the DRC has gotten much worse for those who are actively involved with opposition parties, as well as organizations working to end sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers in the DRC. They describe threats, intimidation, arrests, detention and restrictions on their movement in violation of their rights to peaceful assembly, opinion and expression.

“The Advocates for Human Rights calls on the Human Rights Council to continue to monitor the security situation in the DRC. The international community should support justice mechanisms that ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of human rights violations and serious crimes in the DRC. Further, the Government of the DRC should take immediate steps to begin implementing measures from the agreement to hold elections in 2017, including releasing detained political leaders, civil society activists and journalists.

“Thank you.”

Dick Bernard: Three Opportunities At 100 Days of MAGA

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

The end of April marks the 100th day of MAGA (“Make America Great Again”).

If you are even a tiny bit concerned about our future as a planet of people, here are three programs that are worth your time, more information accessible at GlobalSolutionsMN.org (Global Solutions Minnesota*) All information at home page of this website.

1. Tomorrow (Thursday) evening, April 20, at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Dr. Roger Prestwich speaks on “Brexit, the EU and rising European Nationalism.” 6:45 p.m. Free and open to the public.

(click to enlarge photos, double click for greater enlargement.)

2. Sunday afternoon, April 23, is the World Premiere of “The World Is My Country“, the amazing story of Garry Davis, World Citizen. Show time is 2:30. Best advice to be ticketed and at the theater no later than 2:10 p.m. St. Anthony Main Theatre, Minneapolis. More here (link to theatre box office in second paragraph). Box office 612-331-7563 Tickets required for this event.

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

3. Monday evening, May 1, at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, Minneapolis, Shawn Otto addresses “Science, Law and the Quest for Freedom in the Age of Trump.” Mr. Otto’s book, “The War on Science. Who’s waging it, why it matters and what we can do about it” has just won the 2017 Minnesota Book Award for non-fiction, general. Shawn Otto is well known and respected in the Science community. Reservations required for this limited seating dinner meeting. $25 per person, $15 for students. Reserve by contacting Dick Bernard, dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom, or by mail at Box 25384 Woodbury MN 55125, or 651-334-5744. This is the 5th annual of the re-initiation of World Law Day, which began in 1964, and went on for about 30 years in the Twin Cities. Each event is filled with opportunities for stimulating conversation.

Shawn Otto August 10, 2016

* – all these events are sponsored by Global Solutions Minnesota, an organization of which the writer of this post is vice-president. We wish we could claim foreknowledge in planning these events at what is ever more apparent, a crucial moment in history, but all three came together in the random way that such things happen.

We need to be well informed. These are excellent, in differing ways, for us to inform ourselves not only about problems, but solutions, and how we can impact as persons.

Absolutely, these will be excellent events, chock-full of good and especially timely information, led by presenters who are very knowledgeable.

If you can’t go to all three, how about sharing the wealth, and find someone else to cover the other two, then talk about what you learned afterwards!

For those with an interest in the preservation of a global community, peace and justice, these can seem like very dark days. Each of these sessions will stimulate participants who wish to be more knowledgeably involved.

#1250 – Dick Bernard: “The World Is My Country”, the Garry Davis story

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
York Langton*

Today begins the 2017 MSPIFF (Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival). The schedule promises “350+ films & events”.

I highly recommend one film among the many options: “The World is My Country“, which has its World Premiere at the St. Anthony Main theater in Minneapolis, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23. In order to accommodate possible overflow crowds, the festival has scheduled three screenings. So if you want a seat at the World Premiere, get your tickets early. All necessary information is on the Festival site accessible here.

Along with the World Premiere of The World is My Country will be an eight minute short adapted from the Minnesota film: Man’s Next Giant Leap. The was made especially for this Premiere by Arthur Kanegis and his Associate Producer Melanie Bennett, who edited it mostly from a 30 minute film made back in the 1970’s. Take a look – you’ll be pretty amazed to see what our governor, mayors and other officials had to say about World Citizenship. The short can be viewed here. The Minnesota Declarations of World Citizenship can be viewed here: Minnesota Declarations002

The World is My Country is the remarkable story of up and coming ca 1940 Broadway star Garry Davis. It deserves a full house at each of its three showings. Garry Davis, then into his 90s and very engaging, tells his own life story in the film, which is richly laced with archival film from the 1940s forward. Among the many snips from history: the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightss at the United Nations, in Paris, 1948.

New York Times front page July 29, 2013. Garry Davis pictured in lower right.

I wrote about this film on April 8, and again after its work-in-progress preview, also at the St. Anthony Main, on January 6, 2013. (See here and here.)

Garry Davis? I didn’t know he existed until his name came up at a lunch in June, 2011. Filmmaker Arthur Kanegis was in town, and a friend of his invited four of us to lunch. It was there that Garry Davis came to life for me. A WWII bomber pilot, his brother already killed in WWII, Davis couldn’t justify killing by war as a solution to problems. In 1948, he gave up something precious to him, his U.S. citizenship. He said he did it as an act of love for the United States, following in the footsteps of our founding fathers who gave up being Virginians or Marylanders to be citizens of the United States of America. He declared himself a Citizen of the World, and ignited a movement promoting world citizenship beyond even his imagination. He took a huge risk he lived with the rest of his 93-year life.

From there, I’ll let the film tell the rest of the story.

I was enrolled, that day in June, 2011, and had a small opportunity to see the dream evolve, and now return to the screen for its World Premiere in Minneapolis.

In the fall of 2012, I received permission to show an early draft of the film to a group of high school students in St. Paul. How would they react to ancient history (WWII era film and characters)? Very well, it turned out. They liked what they saw.

About 100 of us participated in Work In Progress test of the first draft of his film in Minneapolis, at St. Anthony Main, in January 2013. The reaction was positive.

Again, I asked permission to show the preview to a group of retired teachers meeting in Orlando, and they liked what they saw. And on the same trip I showed the in-progress film to the Chair and Founder of the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. He was very attentive and liked what he saw.

Time went on. Last summer, I attended a private showing of the film, now nearing completion. The process of making a film is tedious, I found, simply from occasional brushes with this one. To make a film is to take a big risk. Now it has earned its time “in the lights” for others to judge.

I do not hesitate to highly recommend this film, particularly to those who feel that there have to be better ways of doing relationships than raw power, threats, and the reality we all face of blowing each other up in one war after another. This is not a film about war; it is about living in peace with each other.

The key parts of the film focus on Garry Davis in his 20s and 30s, roughly the late 1940s through the 1960s. It’s an idealistic film, especially appropriate for young people, with an important place for positive idealism in todays world.

“The World is My Country” does not end with somebody dying (though the real Garry Davis died 6 months after that first preview I saw in 2013). Rather, its call is for solutions other than war or dominance.

Viewing this film is an investment, not a cost. It brings meaning to the timeless quotes of Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world indeed it is the only thing that ever has”; and Gandhi – “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Applications for World Passports will be available for those interested at the film.

POSTNOTE:
Here is the first, last and only e-mail I was ever privileged to receive from Garry Davis, Jan. 7, 2013. He died 6 months later.

(click to enlarge)

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

On taking risks (from a Church bulletin in Park Rapids MN 1982) (attributed to William Arthur Ward):

Attributed to William Arthur Ward

* POSTNOTE:
York Langton was a Minnesota Corporate Executive in wholesale business, and often used this quotation in talking about relationships in the 1960s.

“When the people lead, leaders will follow” is a common sense axiom in business. If people want a product, they buy it; if they don’t, they won’t. Fortunes are made by following this simple truism.

The same is true in political relationships. If people make unwise decisions in choosing their leaders at any level, they face consequences.

So, “when the people lead, leaders will follow” is an important one for all of us.

#1249 – Dick Bernard: World Premiere “The World Is My Country” Minneapolis April 23

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Anyone with an interest in and advocacy for Peace and Justice and International Issues will want to see this film, the story of Garry Davis, World Citizen #1. The World Premiere showing is Sunday afternoon April 23, 2:30 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis. All details are here (The film is one of two events linked at the header of the home page.)

(click to enlarge photos)
The occasion of Garry Davis’ death in July, 2013 merited front page coverage in the New York Times.

New York Times front page July 29, 2013. Garry Davis pictured in lower right.

The nub of this true story: Garry Davis, an up and comer on Broadway, became a B-17 bomber pilot in WWII. The contradiction of killing innocent people in the European theater caused him to give up his U.S. citizenship in 1948, and the rest of his life was spent as a “citizen of the world”.

“The World is My Country” tells this true story, through Garry Davis’ own words, and is very well-laced with archival film footage. I highly recommend the film specifically for young people interested in history and making a difference in the world we’re leaving them. It is a message of and for peace, coming at a time when we seem to have forgotten the insanity of war as solution, coming from a messenger who participated in war as a bomber pilot in WWII. But it is more than just a story; much is a solutions message for viewers.

Pre-film publicity from Director Arthur Kanegis says this: “The World Is My Country”: “A song and dance man pulls off an act of political theater so gutsy and eye-opening that it sparks a huge people power movement that paves the way for the UN’s unanimous passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Leaping off the Broadway stage onto the world stage as “World Citizen #1” Garry Davis spends the next 65 years of his life as a citizen of no nation, only Earth — travelling the globe on his “World Passport.”

Hailed by Albert Einstein for “the sacrifices he has made for the well-being of humanity,” extolled by Buckminster Fuller as the “New World Man,” and egged on by Eleanor Roosevelt to start “a worldwide international government,” Garry’s story is so inspiring that Martin Sheen introduces it as “a roadmap to a better future.” (See photo of New York Times front page article at the time of Garry Davis’ death in July, 2013, above.)

I have more than passing familiarity with this film, first meeting Mr. Kanegis, and learning of Garry Davis, in 2011. In 2012, I showed an early rough draft of the film to a group of high school students in St. Paul, and they loved it. In 2013, my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, sponsored a private and well received preview showing to about 100 people at St. Anthony Main Theater, and Garry Davis appeared via skype in a conversation with his Minneapolis friend, Lynn Elling (photo below).

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

Elling and Davis were “kin kids”, virtually the same age, both in their 90s when they died. Davis died six months after the above photo was taken, and Mr. Elling, my friend, died Feb. 14, 2016. In a sense, their lives were intertwined, impacted by direct experience of war, and motivated by a passion for peace.

Davis was about 27 when he became a World Citizen in 1948. Elling first was exposed to the World Citizenship aspect of Davis’ work in Tokyo in 1963, when Tokyo became a “World Citizenship” city. He was in his early 40s. Through his and other efforts, there were several major declarations about World Citizenship in Minnesota between 1965 and 1971. They are detailed here: Minnesota Declarations002. The signers of these documents are very interesting, as is the time of the declarations, during the Vietnam War.

Following the January 2013 video appearance in Minneapolis, Garry Davis sent me an e-mail, which included a link to the cities and other units which became “Mondialized” (World) Cities from 1950 to early 1970s. Part of this e-mail said: “In 2 years over 750,000 people registered, etc.” [the first town to be] ‘mondialized’ [was] Cahors [France]. This small southern French town (famous for its wine) actually started the “Mondialization Movement” from which the 1971 statement of “Mondialization” of the State of Minnesota derived followed by the State of Iowa on October 25, 1973. [NOTE: Minneapolis and Hennepin County MN mondialized (World Citizens) March 5, 1968.]

Colonel Robert Sarrazac, former Maquis during WWII and my principal “organization” in Paris, was the author of the first “Mondialization” declaration….”

MY FINAL NOTE:
Both Garry Davis and Lynn Elling have passed on.

I don’t know about Garry, but I know Lynn was passionate about the issue of peace and justice until his last breath.

Ours is a society which considers old people as ‘old news’. But people like Garry Davis and Lynn Elling did and do make a big difference, by building foundations, and providing an example to those of us who share their interest, and in our various ways can make a positive difference. Their stories need to be remembered and retold.

The base and the foundation were built, for us to carry on.

Other than this showing of “The World Is My Country” (which includes an eight minute “short subject” about the Minnesota Declaration in 1971), little direct evidence remains that there once was a moment when world citizenship was more than a ‘pie in the sky’ ideal. That it flowered in the rubble of WWII should remind us that war is not a game.

It is sadly ironic that I complete and send this post in the day following the latest bombing of Syria, touted as a great victory by some, and a great disaster by others. We continue in the longest war in American history, failing to learn any lessons, it would appear.

Will peace or war prevail in determining our kids and grandkids future? It’s largely up to us, and to them as well. I hope they choose peace.

See this movie, consider its message, and do what you can to have it screen in your area. And go to work.

Lynn Elling and Thor Heyerdahl, holding a copy of the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Declaration, Minneapolis MN, 1975