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#1142 – Dick Bernard: The State Department E-mails, and a Personal Reflection Back

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

I write after FBI Director Comey has made his report on the Hillary Clinton e-mails a few hours ago. The assorted “spheres” will make of the report as they will, over, and over, and over, and over….

Permit me a moment to share a bit of historical perspective.

It happens that in the last few weeks I was tasked with writing an introduction to a near-1000 page publication entitled Chez Nous, whose contents will be 155 actual newsletters published by volunteers in a small organization in which I was long active, which existed between 1980 and 2002.

I had been volunteer editor of two thirds of these newsletters, and beginning about seven years ago I decided to make them potentially useful by creating an index of their contents. This required me to read every newsletter once again.

A few months ago a decision was made to publish the newsletters as part of the legitimate historical record of a time past, and here we are.

And so, an introduction (which quotes a few e-mails, by the way), was in order.

(For the curious, you can see and read everything here (click on the tab “library”, then on “Chez Nous”, then on the link to the newsletters.)

There are two sentences in the introduction to those newsletters which I wish to emphasize, and they are on page VI, as follows: “It wasn’t until Jan-Feb 1999 that an e-mail address appeared in the newsletter (p. 760)…We tend to forget how recently e-mail came to us common folks.”

It was 2009 when Hillary Clinton came to head the massive U.S. State Department with tens of thousands of employees world-wide. Some of these persons were originators of these now famous “e-mail chains” in which a few apparently “secrets” were referenced or revealed. Most, in a technology sense, were “common folks”, trying to figure out how to use this new way of communicating. My bet is that we can all tell our stories.

Of course, we commentators – all of us – will not know what these “secrets” were…they were, after all, secrets.

There is no need to invest more words. If you’ve read this far, you probably have already come to some conclusion about guilt or innocence of Secretary Clinton, or even if this whole business amounts to nothing at all.

It is part of history.

Six lines down from the statement I quote above, I say this: “Ten years in technology today is like 100 or more years in the older days. It can get confusing”.

Reflect on your own past with this technology thing, and remind others to do the same.

COMMENTS:
from Norm (himself a longtime and excellent volunteer newsletter editor):
Gees, Dick, and to keep things consistent with the predictable reactions to the FBI report on Hillary’s use of emails, are you sure that there wasn’t some sort of cover-up or whitewash in all of those emails that you have decided to index and categorize? Isn’t there a severe risk that upon reading and reviewing your compilations that someone will come forward with the claim that your purposely omitted some of them or “lost” some of them or put them into the wrong category?

I mean isn’t there a significant risk, Dick, that someone might claim…or perhaps a group could complain…that your indexing and compiling “clearly shows an obvious” North Dakota bias or something like that?

Gees, Dick, one or more of those disgruntled non-North Dakotans might even insist on a public investigation of your work to determine if such a bias exists as they, of course, are absolutely sure that it exists.

I mean, goodness, a feeling could develop or being suggested that there is always something with Bernard’s always good work that reflects that doggone North Dakota bias?

There isn’t a little Kenny Starr among those potential critics is there who would want to take such an investigation to the end no matter how much the cost, is there?

Just in an all out effort to trump your work, as it were?

Response to Norm: Egads! I’ll have to delete that blog before it causes me problems!

One of my worries, with the newsletter “book”, is inadvertently misstating a page number in the index, or missing a cross reference I should have caught. It does happen, of course, And finding it after it’s printed is too late.

I did the initial indexing, and some years later essentially re-indexed to fill in the blanks missed the first time (there were many such blanks). Even now, when I’m pretty sure I’ve caught most of them, I’m sure I’ll still find mistakes. But those 155 newsletters are more thoroughly indexed that, I bet, you’ll find anywhere!

As you know, as a newsletter editor yourself, mostly you’re so starved for news, that you take almost whatever comes in, fact-checking be damned. If you read my piece, when I was doing that newsletter for an ethnic group (French-Canadian) I gave priority to whatever came into my mailbox (and that was the U.S. mail, by the way), and, of course, like you, because I was editing something, I was always on the lookout for items which might be of interest to the readership.

One of my many “weaknesses”, I suppose, in these ideological purity days, is that I like to hear and share opposing points of view…so long as the writer identifies him or her self. This factors out those ridiculous “forward” that are anonymous and passed from e-box to e-box forever…and there will be a lot of those I can bet.

Thanks for the comment: I’ll add to the post.

Peter Barus: A Talk By Amy Goodman

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

Peter Barus:
May/22/2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter

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

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

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

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Cost of War001

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

But a shift is happening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1115 – Dick Bernard: A Sad First Day of Spring, 13 years ago. The Day the Bombs Fell on Baghdad.

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

A few days ago a good friend, Barry, sent some of his friends, including myself, a brief e-mail: “This week on March 20 marks the 13th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. I encourage you all to send of letters to the editor and remind folks what a fiasco that was and continues to be. I have attached my own short article [see end of this post].”

Barry has far more than “paid his dues”: he’s a Vietnam vet who knew people whose names are on the memorial wall. He has walked the talk for peace, visibly and publicly for years. A thirteenth anniversary is an anniversary easily overlooked. I’m glad Barry reminded me.

March 20, 2003 (it was a Thursday) began our invasion of Iraq. Some would correctly contend that March 20 was simply a continuation of the brief Gulf War of early 1991. I still have the letter some anonymous GI wrote from the front at the end of that War. (Back then letters to GIs were encouraged, and my “pen pal” then, must have passed my letter to him along to someone somewhere in Iraq. The letter, 25 years ago, says it all about the reality of peace through war.)

(click to enlarge)

Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991

Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991

A dozen years after this lonely GI wrote from the Iraq desert came what we witnessed between March 20 and May 1, 2003: what was called “Shock and Awe”.

On May 1, 2003, President George Bush gave his celebratory and still controversial Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. We were led to believe that the Iraq War was over 40 days after it started; all that remained, we were told, were the candy and the flowers, the gifts to and from Iraqis for bringing “democracy” to Iraq….

Mission Accomplished, indeed.

*

I have my old e-mails from that awful time in history, Spring 2003, including a halfsheet post sent to friends on March 19, 2003 (#1 below).

And for some weeks now I have been putting together a single sheet of paper which I call “The Human Cost of War For The United States”. I wasn’t planning to roll out either one in connection with today, but Barry’s reminder is sadly appropriate.

I’d encourage Barry and everyone to print out those sheets and discuss their application to today.
1. The E-mail of March 19, 2003 (one half page): E-Mail March 19, 2003001 (At the time I wrote this, I was quite new to the Peace and Justice movement, and not a leader in any sense of the word: just a concerned citizen who routinely participated in protests.)
2. U.S. War Deaths from Civil War through March, 2016 (one page): War Deaths U.S.002
and
3. Here is a much longer piece of additional data for those with an interest: World and Historical Deaths from War and other anthropogenic disasters here. (The key columns are the first one, and the columns which give duration of the particular catastrophe.)

*

While, I realize that this topic of war is subject to endless argument, here are a few thoughts to help stir up conversations wherever you are….
4. Essentially war has ceased to be a cause of American deaths; and while we are “armed and dangerous” to an extreme degree, the amount of killing at our hands out in the world is proportionally very low compared with even our recent past (2003-2008). We are still, however, extremely comfortable with violence and too many reverence what they feel is our “power” and past “might” and glory. The slogan, “making America great again” celebrates the glory of War, of dominance.
5. The Iraq War turned out to be ruinous and near catastrophic in many ways for our country, not even to mention Iraq and the Middle East. We didn’t think, 13 years ago, that we were building ISIS from the ground up.
6. Back then in 2003 the word “Drones” was not part of the conversation – the way to go was to “bomb the hell out of ’em”, give ’em “Shock and Awe”; now Drones preoccupy. Drones will not disappear. Back in 2011 I encouraged my own peace movement to enter into a constructive conversation about Drones, generally. I don’t recall much buy-in for the conversation at the time, or since. John Rash in yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune called attention to a new film about the ethical aspects of Drones. I suspect we’ll take in that movie. I continue to support the idea of deep conversation and action to at minimum regulate the use of Drones in War.
7. Far too many in our American society are pre-occupied with protecting an obsession with our sacred guns, and similar. Paradoxically, we now directly kill far more of our own citizens by firearms, than we kill faceless others by bombs, but we seem to refuse to deal with this domestic issue.

*

8. I abhor war. Nonetheless I believe “war” will never be archaic. All we need to do is look at history (see the depressing data I linked in #3 above. There is always a new rogue, sometimes of our own making, who has fantasies of being in control. It never works, long term…but there are always the dreamers….
9. The ever-increasing wealth gap is a huge problem in all developed countries, but most of all in our own. This seeming out of control gap births conflict. The poor, and those for whom reasonable success is elusive, do not want to be rich; but they do wish to be able to survive with dignity. A saying I once heard applies: in the long run, even the selfish will pay for their own selfishness. It’s just a matter of time.
10. The United Nations is regularly vilified, even by the left, and, yes, the UN needs reform, but without the United Nations this world be in much worse shape. In many ways, the UN or its related organizations help keep an otherwise unstable human world from repeating the 20th century legacy of death and destruction especially before 1945.
11. As individuals or small groups we may seem to have little power, but as Margaret Mead so famously observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
12. Conversely, those who believe that they can take a pass on electing competent leaders at all levels of government, or even take a pass on voting at all, are foolish and short-sighted.

I could go on and on and on and on.

Have a good conversation. And have a great Spring.

Comments welcome, and will be printed unless there is a specific request not to print:
dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

*

Barry’s submission to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Thirteenth Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

On the thirteenth anniversary of the US most recent invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, let us reflect on its costs. Just a few of which are: Thousands of US lives lost, Trillions of US dollars spent, anywhere from a Few Hundred Thousand to over a Million Iraqi civilians dead, totally destabilized the region, exploded sectarian tensions and led directly to the rising of Isis. Not to mention of course, it was all based on lies.

Let us remember too who voted for and supported this disaster, Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders spoke out strongly against it. Do we really need another War President?

To Barry: Personally I strongly support Hillary Clinton for President. She has the experience to deal with the many great complexities the next President will have to confront in this nation, and in our world.

Your friend, in deep respect,
Dick Bernard

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

COMMENTS:
from Norm: Thanks Dick for your blog this morning. We are not reminded enough. And thanks for including your Collegiate Press piece. A wonderful second sentence.

I’m reading The Obama Doctrine by Jeffrey Goldberg in the current, April 2016, of The Atlantic which I was surprised the whole article came up online [You can read it] here.

I marked two paragraphs because they say so much for what Obama is about. Here they are:

The Atlantic April 2016
This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the “Washington playbook.”

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”
===================================================
I first spoke with Obama about foreign policy when he was a U.S. senator, in 2006. At the time, I was familiar mainly with the text of a speech he had delivered four years earlier, at a Chicago antiwar rally. It was an unusual speech for an antiwar rally in that it was not antiwar; Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, argued only against one specific and, at the time, still theoretical, war. “I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein,” he said. “He is a brutal man. A ruthless man … But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors.” He added, “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

from Jim: I read your post with interest. You conclude with your support for Hilary Clinton. She of course voted for the invasion of Iraq. She was part of the debacle in Libya. She has come out against the Pacific trade deal, negotiated by the Obama administration and which I support. Mrs Clinton is an astute politician. Like her husband, she collects thousands for making speeches. When you review her tax returns, about the only charity she regularly contributes to is the Clinton foundation. At the caucuses, I supported Bernie Sanders. I sent $50 each to Bernie and Governor Kasich.

Response from Dick: Thanks for the comment.

To piggyback on your comment a bit: Hillary Clinton was, of course, U.S. Senator from New York at the time of 9-11-01. New York City was the epicenter of 9-11-01. I was always troubled by the fact that 94% of Americans de facto wanted war against somebody after 9-11-01. It was probably even higher in New York. That is a strong wind to buck.

The rest is part of the dilemma of decision making faced by an individual representing a powerful country in an extremely complex world. (BTW, if I could afford to have my own Foundation, I guess I’d be inclined to give preference to it in my donations). And as Secretary of State, representing one of 193 countries in the world, albeit the most powerful, there is not a single simple decision.

She has been under relentless attack for 25 years, and I think she’s more than capable of the position of President of the United States; still the Left piles on. I like Bernie, too, and he’s running a strong campaign, as Hillary did against Barack Obama in 2008 – up to almost the Democratic Convention.

Kasich? I think the more we learn about him, the less likeable he’ll be….

from Stephen: I really try to get along with everyone, peace at home and all that. Some times I can get so angry at even friends and family. Some one I love said to me peace through strength. It just took the wind out of my sails. I just said “ya”. If this e-mail had been in my head I would of said,”Strength maybe War no. Thanks for all you’ve done and do.

Love not War, Stephen

from Barry: I respect your opinion but I believe very strongly that there is the possibility for real change with Bernie (as I did with Obama) if for no other reason than getting corporate money out of our politics. Bernie has also already pushed Hillary to the left on many issues. He has been at this longer than Hillary and has been a voice for reason right along. He speaks his truth whatever it is even though it may not be popular or win him votes.

I read in Friday’s StarTribune Obama stating about Bernies authenticity that “folks say that Bush was authentic too, but authenticity does not make a good President.” Well I don’t know about you but it is certainly a quality I admire. Plus what does that say about Obama? Also he said that at “some point Bernie needs to step aside.” Well it seems to me that the race is not over yet

Your friend.

Response from Dick: Many thanks. The only reason I made the entry about politics, is in response to your comment about politics. I happen to like Bernie Sanders a lot, but I think if he gets the nomination (which is very unlikely) he’ll have as much chance as right winger Barry Goldwater had in 1964.

Most of what I have to say about Hillary is in response to Jim’s comment above.

As it happened, yesterday afternoon I watched her deal with the Libya issue in a one-on-one Town Hall Forum in Springfield IL, at the old state Capitol building. In Libya, she said, credibly, that among the many dilemmas she faced was the need to listen to concerns of allied nations, such as Europe and Egypt, who needed to have something done. And, of course, Libya’s leader, Qaddafi, had never been a knight in shining armor. Etc. She did well in her response.

At these high levels, every decision is wrong, from somebody’s point of view. This was Obama’s reality, too, and I think he knew it well on entering office. The best we can do is select someone who helps to make our nation and world a better place. I think that happened with Obama, and it will happen with Clinton.

#1089 – Dick Bernard: December 7, 2015, “War” to Peace: Changing the Conversation.

Monday, December 7th, 2015
Grandpa's Flag, 1957

Grandpa’s Flag, 1957

Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

Anyone who knows me, knows my Uncle Frank Bernard went down with the USS Arizona Dec 7, 1941.

A year ago, Dec. 7, 2014, was especially emotional. I was given an opportunity to speak publicly about my Uncle at the December 7 observance at Landmark Center in St. Paul.

The talk was easy to prepare – I know great deal about my Uncle’s life and death, and I have no trouble in front of people – but actually speaking the words was very emotional for me that day.

(My notes for that talk, and a few added photos can be seen here: Uncle Frank Dec 7 14001).

*

Fast forward to two days ago.

I noted the box labelled “Henry Bernard Artifacts” in the garage.

Henry, my Dad, died 18 years ago.

I hadn’t looked inside the box for years, and on a whim, Saturday, decided to take a look.

There were two artifacts: one an empty hand-made box, likely made by my Grandpa Bernard, Frank Bernard’s Dad.

The other was the flag (above) which covered Grandpa’s casket when he died in 1957. Grandpa Bernard earned his flag as a veteran of the Spanish-American War, 1898-99 in the Philippines. The flag, used but rarely, has 48 stars.

Grandpa died at 85, before Hawaii and Alaska entered the U.S. as states.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife's cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife’s cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.


*

Revisiting history.

We are headed for Hawaii on Dec. 17, and the first weekend we’ll take Grandson Ryan, 16, out to Pearl Harbor, and Uncle Frank’s tomb on the USS Arizona. I plan to take the flag along, symbolically bringing a family back together.

*

War to Peace, Changing the Conversation

My family, like many others, has “War” imprinted in its DNA. I can directly “trace” my own families history with war back 200 years, to the days of Napoleon’s dreams of conquering Europe and Russia. My relative who gives me my last name came to Quebec from France 285 years ago, likely connected with militia.

There are common elements to all wars; the uncommon element is that War is ever more deadly in each succeeding rendition.

We are not fighting with “swords” any more.

*

The 9-11-01 Generation

Our response to 9-11-01 brought our nation into a “war” mood, bringing us into what has become a permanent state of war…on “Terror”, with attempts to make that word synonymous with a major world religion.

But away from the media and political spotlight, something has been changing in our national mood, rarely public, but very evident.

You won’t see it on the news, but there seems a basically more rational response among our populace to tragedy. Rather than demanding more war, or more and deadlier guns to kill each other, hideously easy to acquire, and division as a default response to any disagreement, the vast majority of us, nationally, person to person, seem to be embracing decent relationships among peoples as the highest value.

*

A reality.

There will always be evil in our world, including among our own citizens.

Incidents, a Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, must be confronted.

But we don’t need to make things infinitely worse, as we’ve done after 9-11-01, in the process becoming birth parents, almost literally, to ISIS or whatever radical groups are called; and going insane over alleged “rights” to weaponize ourselves.

Collectively, everywhere, common citizens of the world seem to get this. But we can’t implement a firmer peace and more rational gun policy without working together towards them, including being willing to accept incremental improvements, rather than insisting on instant peacefulness.

Let’s learn from the endless series of mistakes that have led so many, combatants and civilians, to premature deaths and dislocation everywhere. Let’s deal with issues as issues.

*

Looking back to the day before 9-11-01

I close with a single sheet from a file of about 2000 sheets of paper generated by myself and others between the time of 9-11-01 and the end of November 2003*.

It is a simple family letter I wrote on September 10, 2001, the day before 9-11-01: Here it is: Sep 10, 2001001. It is nothing special, just a family letter on an ordinary day, the day before we chose a violent path.

Most of us have some memory of that day prior to “The War on Terror”. Why not take a moment to recall your own memories of that ordinary day in September, 2001, when life was going on without war. Here it is, again: Sep 10, 2001001

A better world is possible. It is up to us.

I wish us peace.

March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013

Grandpa's flag, being raised at the Apartment Community, Our Lady of the Snow IL, Memorial Day, 1998.

Grandpa’s flag, being raised at the Apartment Community, Our Lady of the Snow IL, Memorial Day, 1998.

POSTNOTE:
1. President Obama’s Speech on Sunday Evening
2. A summary of 2016 Presidential candidates response to the speech.

* – The 2000 sheets referred to above are being submitted to the Minnesota Historical Society on Tuesday, as a hoped for addition to the archives of an important time in history.

#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.

POSTNOTES:

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.

#1081 – Dick Bernard: Paris, November 13, 2015

Monday, November 16th, 2015

SEE POSTNOTE AT END OF THIS POST:

We learned of the unfolding tragedy in Paris last Friday evening. Immediately, at 5:55 p.m. I sent a quick note to our friend, long-time Parisian, Christine: “The tragedy is, of course, being heavily covered here in the U.S…thoughts are with you and everyone.”

In minutes came Christine’s reply: “We are now talking up to 100 dead and as many heavily injured. It is so frightening…. It is not even finished yet….. Snipers everywhere…. Some are talking about 200 dead now as I am writing…. I can’t sleep and I am crying alone…. None of my family are unsafe, thanks God.”

*

Saturday morning we headed to North Dakota for a long-planned weekend.

I never travel with computer, and rarely listen to the radio on the road, so I don’t stay up to date.

At the motel in LaMoure, the TV brought the media interpretation.

A congresswoman from Indiana was voicing a common talking point from the right: essentially, the problem was President Obama’s fault.

A later clip talked about an alleged perpetrator having a Syrian passport, and a direct inference to the refugees flooding into Europe: a rich opportunity to gin up anti-immigrant hysteria.

Sunday morning the story focused on the one known American victim, a young woman from California.

Sunday night, back home, Sixty Minutes had an instant analysis with Scott Pelley interviewing (so I recall) three people in the allotted fifteen minutes or so. Being Sixty Minutes, it brought an authoritative “first rough draft of history” to the crisis.

So it goes with short-hand and instant journalism….

*

Christine’s response was totally normal. Shock. Something very bad had just happened in her city; something very bad had happened in Paris in January as well: the Charley Hebdo massacre. It is very easy to lose equilibrium, at least temporarily. Anyone of adult age has experienced some crisis; one that leaves us reeling.

Time most always brings balance, but it takes time.

The congresswoman and the media spin present a unique problem of contemporary media: a race to a sought conclusion; to make news instantly. Here, somebody must do something, and destroy the problem RIGHT NOW.

Such a problem is also a political opportunity to move a particular agenda. Anyone with a keypad (including me) can speak. Being adult, thinking things through, and acting accordingly, is less desirable.

*

My mind keeps going back to 9-11-01, and our collective national response at that time.

There was, let’s be honest about this, a near universal call for some kind of revenge after 9-11: 94% of the citizenry approved the bombing of Afghanistan in October, 2001 (Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001). There was something akin to nationally sanctioned murder: it felt good, apparently, for us to get even, immediately. Any politician at the time can be excused for being soft on the going after the evildoers. We, the people, wanted revenge; each and every politician casting a wrong (anti-war) vote would have been an easy target. We demanded retribution.

(I was in the 6% against sanctioned violence then. I could see no good coming out of our response.

It was a very lonely place to be, then. My thoughts in the Minneapolis Star Tribune six months later: Dick B STrib 4-20-02001

I think I was right, then.

*

What is ahead, three days into a genuine tragedy in Paris?

After 9-11-01, normal shock was transformed into a disastrous war with Iraq which lives on in ISIS in its assorted descriptions and manifestations. The monster has been created, and we created it.

Odds are 100% certain that there will be other incidents, if not in France, somewhere else. Let’s not forget, however, that there have been other incidents, before. Oklahoma City in 1995 comes to mind; the Littleton school killings in 1999. On and on.

What I hope for now is what I hoped for 14 years ago: a mature adult response by national and world leaders to a serious problem. Hopefully we learned at least a few lessons from the post 9-11 debacle.

I’ll watch how the French respond, and I hope it won’t be hysterical as ours was, after 9-11-01.

*

Here, with her permission and my thanks, are Christine’s comments earlier today: “We are hearing now [lunch time in France, 6 a.m. Minnesota time] about the war developments (bombing from the French over Daech headquarters in Dakka, the US initiative from President Obama about oil tanks in Syria (New York Times) …. It does not stop. And testimonies, interviews….The terrorists were preparing the attacks from Belgium and the Belgium people are collaborating with the French….

We have an extraordinary meeting of the Senators and Representatives together in Versailles to listen to the President Hollande. (He has no right to penetrate any of the Chambers) at 4 o clock (our time of course). President Hollande is extremely worried about more imminent terror attacks and therefore keeps people being frightened and anxious. He wants to keep the “emergency state” up to 3 months and that is the reason for bringing this extraordinary assembly because he, alone, can only make that decision for 12 days. To make it longer, he needs to be approved by both chambers. This emergency state gives the government more rights over private rights like arresting people, searching in private houses, expelling people and depriving some from the French nationality… and more….”

POSTNOTE November 17:
Several days after Friday the 13th I’ve been attentive to the “chatter” of genuine real people (beyond on the headlines and the news leads on television news).

Out in LaMoure we were at a gathering of 150 people Saturday night. A few hours after the tragedy, the topic of Paris didn’t come up in any way in my hearing; at another meeting last night, it wasn’t mentioned either. Yes, there is e-chatter, but it is far less than after 9-11-01.

My favorite summarizer of national news helps bring me up to date each day, and here is his digest overnite. He seems to catch the mood pretty well.

Perhaps, just perhaps, unlike 9-11-01, 11-13-15 is potentially reflecting more of an adult response to a situation.

I can hope.

In my home office, within eyeshot to my left, are two boxes full of paper, 9″ in height. They have been there for a dozen years, and I cannot bring myself to throw them out. They are two years of e-mails between friends between 9-11-01 and the end of November, 2003. Someone else will have to throw them out when I’m out of the picture. I guess they represent an important part of my own personal history.

#1061 – Dick Bernard: September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2015

NOTE: I’ve added a postnote to this post.

Nuclear weapons, from display at Hiroshima Nagasaki Exhibit at Landmark Center, St. Paul Aug 23, 2015

Nuclear weapons, from display at Hiroshima Nagasaki Exhibit at Landmark Center, St. Paul Aug 23, 2015

Seventy years ago today, September 11, 1945, my mother’s brother – my Uncle and Navy Lieutenant George Busch – was on board the Destroyer, the USS Woodworth, which had anchored the day before in Tokyo Bay. (WWII was over, the surrender signed nearby on September 2, 1945.)

I know this from the ship daily log books which I had requested back in the 1990s. Uncle George was on the Woodworth, from January, 1943, through the end of the war, till docking in Portland Oregon October 20, 1945, thence reentering into American civilian peace-time society.

Presumably on September 11, 1945, those on the Woodworth had an opportunity to take a look at what was left of Tokyo.

from Bombers over Japan WWII, Time-Life Books 1982, page 198

from Bombers over Japan WWII, Time-Life Books 1982, page 198

Perhaps some of them – perhaps my Uncle George? – did as my Dad’s cousin and best man, Marvin, an Army veteran, who was field promoted to Colonel by the end of the war, and was for a short time head of a Prefecture on Japan. He told me once that his first act on reaching Japanese soil was to “piss on it”. So it is with showing dominance over enemies after conquest, and disrespecting the vanquished, even though his Prefecture was far from the seat of things militarily – it was just a rural area in northern Japan.

The war in the Pacific had been a vicious one for all, and in addition, Marvin’s cousin, my Dad’s brother Frank, had gone down with the Arizona at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Marvin and Frank, circa 1935, probably Oakwood ND

Marvin and Frank, circa 1935, probably Oakwood ND

There have been lots of September 11ths before and since 1945.

September 11, 2015, in addition to the obligatory nod to THE 9-11, will probably feature, on TV tonight, the endless commercials attacking one of our MN Congressmen who apparently is not condemning the Nuclear Agreement with Iran and is viewed as politically vulnerable. One ad ends with a horrific fireball, a “mushroom cloud”, as if it is some unique invention to be pioneered by the Iranians if we don’t see to it that they’re kept under our heel. Such propaganda is expensive and persuasive. We have become slaves to sophisticated media messages which are difficult to escape.

But there are alternative realities as well. Tomorrow somewhere in the Twin Cities a large number of new citizens will proudly take the oath, and graduate to full citizenship in the United States. It is doubtless a ritual shared in all countries, all that differs is the precise way it is done.

And these new citizens will be proud of their new citizenship, as they’re proud of their own homeland, and are likely more aware than the vast majority of us about what it means to be an “American”. They’ve had to study our system, and they are knowledgeable. Sorry, more of us aren’t as aware….

We all will do as we will do today, and tomorrow and next week and on and on and on.

Three simple suggestions:

1. To become acquainted with the organization Green Card Voices, which is doing very significant work to bring to life those who have spent years as Green Card holders in the U.S. enroute to citizenship.

2. If you’re in the Twin Cities, take time to go to the Landmark Center in St. Paul, and see the exhibit provided by the City of Nagasaki about the bomb and its affect August 9, 1945. It is a relatively small exhibit, but if you pay attention to it, you’ll easily be there more than an hour. It’s on till November 28. The schedule is here:
(click to enlarge)
Hiroshima Nagasaki001

3. To pick up and reread, or read for the first time, George Orwell’s “1984”, published in 1949, which I probably didn’t see till college days. It is rather disquieting to translate his novel to present day American terms: actors like “telescreen”, “Proles”, and all of that. (I looked up September 11, 1984, and there really wasn’t all that much happening that particular day. But Orwell was in many ways a visionary, and most of us are todays Proles, who allow life happen to us without much regard to the consequences.)

Each one of us has a certain command of our own “ship”, and we can impact positively or negatively on how it sails, and how it impacts ourselves, and others.

Have a great day.

Same source as above, Aug. 23, 2015

Same source as above, Aug. 23, 2015

POSTNOTE: After publishing the above I watched the 9-11-2015 evening news which, as expected, emphasized again, on this 14th anniversary of 9-11, the continuing national mourning of what seems to be our now perpetual “Pearl Harbor”.

No “mushroom cloud” ads appeared, as erroneously predicted by myself, perhaps because a concerted effort to stop the deal failed in the U.S. Congress on Sep. 11 – a date probably specifically strategically selected for the vote.

No doubt, we experienced a tragedy 9-11-01, but the biggest tragedy of all is our continual obsession of the need to be in control; and the seeming narrative that the only way to prevent war is to be stronger and more threatening than the other party in preparing for the next war…more or less the narrative of George Orwell’s 1984. We seem to need to have an enemy to validate our existence. We are made to live in constant fear of some other.

9-11-01 took the lives of 3 Minnesotans, it was reported tonight. In the 2000 census there were 4.9 million Minnesotans. (There were 281 million Americans in 2000.) After 9-11 has come continuous war, Iraq, Afghanistan, ISIS/Syria, with all the attendant loss of life and disruption of normal lives, including the present day refugee crisis. ISIS/ISIL is a direct outgrowth of our actions in Iraq, including regime change.

We don’t seem to learn, we need to change the conversation, beginning within ourselves.

I wonder if we have the capacity to do this….

#1058 – Dick Bernard: The Humanitarian Crises that we watch on Television. That little Kurdish boy who drowned….

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

It was heart-wrenching to see this picture in an e-mail this morning:

(click to enlarge)
demo on sunday

Here is the text of the e-mail: “Join us on Sunday, September 4 [6?], at Minnehaha Park [Minneapolis MN] to DEMAND an end to inhumane treatment of refugees, an end to tight border regulations and border walls, an end to police abuse of refugees and immigrants everywhere.

While a little Syrian boy didn’t survive his journey to safety around the world, the image of his body washed up on Turkey’s shore did. Images are not enough. As hundreds of thousands of people undertake the dangerous journey to Europe’s asylum, we must take to the streets to demand the world support them and keep them safe.

MEET AT MINNEHAHA PARK AT 11:45 TO BEGIN THE RALLY. BRING SIGNS AND SMALL DONATIONS FOR MOAS (MIGRANT OFFSHORE AID STATION) WILL BE COLLECTED AS WELL.

REPRESENTATIVE KEITH ELLISON WILL BE HOSTING HIS LABOR DAY PICNIC AND WE HAVE A CHANCE TO REACH A WIDE AUDIENCE.

See our facebook page for more info.”

I’ve watched on every newscast the last couple of days first, the Turkish policeman carrying the lifeless body of this three year old Kurd who, with his mother and brother, drowned attempting to reach freedom. Yesterday and in today’s news we see the anguished young father returning to war-torn Syria to bury his wife and children, saying he does not plan to leave home again: he had left to help save his childrens future; now he has nothing but memories.

The news is full of stories about the tens of thousands seeking refuge from war-torn Syria in other places. We seem to say, “not our problem”….

What troubles me, as an ordinary American, is how insulated I am from these harsh realities. It is so easy to deny our place within the family of man, Watching the news images doesn’t affect me – we see so much of this so often on the tube, but most of us rarely experience anything like it, personally or through people we actually know.

We are isolated from an awful reality of so many. And life goes on: go to the State Fair, the last summer weekend at the lake, etc., etc.

For some reason, the TV image of the Turkish policeman carrying the lifeless Kurdish child reminded me of a long ago photograph from the Fargo Tornado Jun 1957003. The previous day a deadly tornado came through Fargo and West Fargo, killing at least seven people, including this little girl:

Fargo Tornado Jun 1957002

Of course, ten years ago came Katrina, devastating, particularly, New Orleans.

Ten years later, all is not back to normal, though everyone tries to put a positive face on our response to that tragedy, short and long-term.

It’s old news. So easy to forget.

Many years ago, perhaps sometime in the 1990s, an African-American minister put things in their proper context for me. I need to revisit his lesson….

By random chance, I happened to be listening to Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith (now called On Being) on Minnesota Public Radio, and her guest was a former evangelical Bishop down south somewhere.

He had built a very large congregation, based largely on expert preaching about the reality of Hell. He filled the hall, so to speak.

One day, at home, he happened to be watching the television news and saw the procession of refugees from the Genocide of Rwanda (1994). In the picture were children.

At that moment, he said, his definition of Hell changed, and the next Sunday, so did his message: Hell was not down there, for bad people; rather it was right here on earth for those poor refugees, particularly those innocent children.

For him, it had dire consequences. His congregants didn’t come to Church to hear messages like “hell on earth” as applied to real persons like themselves – that was too close to home for them, apparently.

His congregation quickly declined, and he literally had to start over.

I don’t remember his name, and thus I can’t find archival record.

For a moment, though, he changed my attitude, and it is good that I can remember it at least the anecdote now, and get more personally engaged.

We are, all of us, part of a much larger world, than just our home, town, state, or nation.

We best not forget that.

NOTE: Follow up post published on Sep 7, here.

COMMENTS:
from Alberder: This was a powerful post. Thank you.

from John: The hell on Earth part is true. The refugee/migration crisis of today will only get worse. But just imagine how much money is being made by the military industrial complex.

from Annelee who grew up in Nazi Germany, whose father refused to join the Nazi Party, then was drafted into the German Army as a road engineer:

Time moves on, the little Kurdish boy’s drowning, the Turkish policeman holding his lifeless body, the inconsolable father will shake most people up for a while — little will be done and people will move on with their lives glad they are not in the refugees situation.

I am guilty too of moving on with life —but memories of my past will not leave me.

I remember 1945 when 3 million Sudetenland Germans [what is now western Czech Republic] were forced to leave their homeland; when residents of what became East Germany left their homes and lived in refugee camps for a decade or more.

As you know I have a little doll house chair that keeps my memories alive. Today, my aunt Lisbeth is so much on my mind [one of those expelled from Sudetenland]. I still can see her when she handed me the little chair— she took it from her home— even though she had lost everything— she thought of me.

“Papa? may I ask why God leaves us so alone? I am NOT losing my faith, just questioning?????”

I watched 2020 last night when the Holy Father [Pope Francis]—spoke via phone to homeless and refugees.

A young man told his life story: His Mexican father brought his family to Texas where they worked to have a better life. The young man attended school in Texas— when he applied to attend the university, it was found that he and his family were illegal immigrants from Mexico. He and his family were deported to Mexico where they live in a homeless shelter.

Germany has so much to be ashamed of — from 1933-1945 — but I am proud that Germany will take 800,000 refugees to ease the suffering of people who were caught in a web not of their making.

———————————
My niece Manuela was here [from Germany]: I always tried to console Mama when she wished we would learn what happened to Papa [Annelee’s father, who refused to join the Nazi party and was drafted into the Germany Army to work on road construction – he was an engineer]. I always said that maybe it was better not to know.

Manuela: “I always wanted to know what happened to my grandpa [Annelee’s Dad] during or near the end of the war. I had it researched, which is costly, but possible now. here is what I have learned so far:

[Annelee’s Dad] was taken prisoner by the Russians during March 1945—-

He ended up in Siberia where he with other German prisoners of war built roads.

After 1945 Poland demanded German Prisoners from Russia —Papa was selected with a great number of other prisoners to be sent to Poland —- Poland sent these prisoners to Auschwitz.
While there they were killed to avenge all the Jews that Germany had killed at Auschwitz.”

NOTE FROM DICK: This is a particularly profound commentary on the reality of war. Annelee has been to Auschwitz four times, and never knew what Manuela, her niece, has revealed. The Jewish population of Poland was virtually obliterated by the Nazis; but a similar number (though fewer as a percentage of the population) of Poles were killed as well. Annelee’s “Papa” did the right thing, refusing to go along with the Nazi line, but was punished by the victors anyway. Those of us who feel we are insulated simply by virtue of thinking righteous thoughts have best think about this again. We are part of whatever system we happen to be in.

from Larry, in Fargo ND: Excellent piece on the refugees, Dick. Your comparison of the photo of the three-year old from Turkey with that photo from long ago is, sadly, appropriate and thought-provoking. As Shakespeare wrote, “what is past is prologue.” Truer words, unfortunately, were never written.

from Jeff: Good piece.

The photo was one of those that ends up changing minds. (starting to see some help for these unfortunates in EU)

As to yr preacher who had a change of view on “Hell”, I do remember that, think there was a magazine piece on him a few years back.

We apostates prefer to point to the continuing occurences of bad things happening to innocent people of course as proof of the absence of a “just” god.

Since the death of this innocent child alone, much less the people found suffocated in locked trucks, or hacked to death in Rwanda, Nigeria, (add your location), defies certainly the logic Of St Augustine and Aquinas, but certainly extinguishes the dim light of faith for many of us as well.