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World War I, and War, generally.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Saturday, Nov. 11, turned out to be a very significant day for me.

The intention was to be at the Veterans for Peace Bell Ringing at the Minnesota History Center (MHS), and that was accomplished. The same day, the 99th anniversary of the end of WWI, at the same place, was the final day of the excellent “WWI America” exhibit. Later that afternoon, the outstanding film The World Is My Country, about Garry Davis, a WWII bomber pilot who gave up his U.S> citizenship, disgusted by war.

Those who lead wars always portray them as necessary and thus good (our “side”) versus evil (theirs). It is politically useful to have an enemy. War is not nearly as simple as that. It is the young who go to die “for our country”; and who are proclaimed “heroes” when they do…. In this modern age, it has been the innocents who are slaughtered.

The entrance to the WWI exhibit at MHS said it pretty well:

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The bare basics of WWI are simple: 1914-18, the good guys won, the bad guys lost. The truth is not nearly so simple. Part of another side of WWI came from my friend, Michael, who sent a long article from the Guardian newspaper expanding on the story of WWI. It is not politically correct from those who have written the official narrative of WWI, but it is very interesting. You can read the long article here.

In the hall outside the WWI Exhibit, Vets for Peace remembered Nov. 11 as Armistice Day; elsewhere in the building was a lecture about aspects of the War. In England, the day is now called Remembrance Day.

The local Vets for Peace especially recognizes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed 1928, which was supposed to end war permanently. The Vets for Peace podium had this explanation of Kellogg-Briand:

In “The World Is My Country”, Garry Davis went to war on a B-27 as part of the U.S. Army Air force after Pearl Harbor. In the end, his conscience couldn’t square killing innocent German people from a U.S. bomber over Germany to avenge the loss of his own brother, killed aboard a U.S. Destroyer in the European theater in 1943. At 26, he gave up his U.S. citizenship, and became a stateless citizen of the world.

Davis’ story is riveting and keeps everyones attention, and especially well suited for young people of today. The film is not yet fully released, but watch for it when it is.

Back at the Vets for Peace, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Bellringers rang their bells 11 times to commemorate the end of a terrible war in 1918. This is a long tradition of the local Vets for Peace. I have been to many such remembrances since 2002.

Back in the nearby WWI exhibit down the hall were three displays which particularly spoke to me: the first of the Treaty of Versailles, which helped lead to WWII; and the second which needs no explanation, coming as it did before woman gained the right to vote in the United States.

At the time of the Treaty of Versailles

Both my mother and grandmother contracted the influenza but survived. The hired man on the farm went to war and died.

The most powerful songs I know, about WWI, and the folly of war are “Waltzing Matilda”, and Green Fields of France. Give a listen.

Vietnam, 17 hours, 30 years, and the road ahead.

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Earlier posts on the Vietnam series: Sep 9, Sep 13, Sep 19 , Sep 21

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I watched every hour of the now complete and powerful Ken Burns/Lynn Novick retrospective on the War in Vietnam, 1945-75.

Today begins reflection after a powerful two weeks. What does this all mean to me? To us? How can I personally translate Vietnam into personal action to help us grow, to learn, from this tragedy.

Likely, midweek next week I’ll share my thoughts, such as they will be; and I encourage you to share yours as well, including at this blog space. If you wish your own blog space, just let me know. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. All I ask is respectful opinion, and willingness to share your name and your own personal role 1961-75. There is no judgement. We did as we did, then. Vietnam is an indelible part of our national history. We need to own and learn, from the experience.

To begin, among a flood of memories the series brought to the surface for me, below are two: meeting Daniel Ellsberg Feb. 23, 2008; and a totally unexpected visit to the newly dedicated Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, Nov. 14, 1982.

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Then, remembering a powerful afternoon with Daniel Ellsberg and other anti-Vietnam war activists, Feb. 23, 2008: Daniel Ellsberg 2008001 Daniel was here in connection with a powerful program conceived by peace activist Frank Kroncke about the Minnesota 8, of which Mr. Kroncke was part.

Daniel Ellsberg (at right) being recognized for his contribution to peace Feb. 23, 2008, Minneapolis MN.

Here are shared some reflections received in the last days from friends. Doubtless there are thousands of such reflections, and they are just beginning. Thomas Bass, America’s amnesia; Jon Pilger. I have not picked these to pass along; they were forwarded by friends. There is room for lots of points of view in the conversations that are already being generated by this powerful series.

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At a time like this, I feel very, very, very small…what can I do?

It is not a matter of moving on; rather feeling very, very, very small.

There is a great plenty which can be done, one small act at a time.

Just being attentive to the plight of the people of Puerto Rico, a country 4% the size of Minnesota, with 60% of Minnesota’s population, devastated by hurricane. One is tempted to say that we should pay more attention to them, because they are all American citizens. But how about the residents of tiny Barbuda, essentially completely destroyed in an earlier hurricane. How do they fit into my world view? Humans, anywhere, are our brothers and sisters. The globe has no borders.

We don’t need to live within a single event. There are endless opportunities to get constructively involved.

Tuesday, October 3, I plan to join what promises to be a very interesting 4-session course on women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are details. Course leader, Maureen Reed, MD, has sterling credentials to lead this course. Among other experiences, she served as Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, through which she worked with both the Nobel Institute and its laureates. Consider enrolling, investing, in this class.

My friend, Donna, makes another suggestion: “I wanted to tell you about a group Rich and I have joined called the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM). People from many faiths are doing some actions in regards to DACA and immigration. One action is to hold a vigil from 8-9 AM on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Whipple Federal Building [at Ft. Snelling – near the airport]. It is there that the immigrant deportation court is housed. Last vigil we had 85 people attend, including both concerned citizens and religious. Our goal is to grow this group so if you know of anyone interested please pass the word. After last vigil some attendees attended a court hearing on someone in deportation. We have done this as well and it truly feels so evil. Many of these deportations tear stable families apart. Anyway I hope you can join us sometime and spread the word. The next vigil is scheduled for October 10, National Immigration Day.”

And on, and on, and on.

Be “on the court” for solutions.

POSTNOTE:
Take time to read this: Don’t Bother. It is long and it is depressing, but it cries out for activism. We live in this country.

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.

Ken Burns “The Vietnam War” film series on PBS September 17-28 ; plus other notes

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

We saw the one-hour Preview of Ken Burns Vietnam Thursday night, September 7.

Twenty four hours later, I attended a rather remarkable event at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where a distinguished speaker, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a distinguished responder panel talked about “The Past as Prologue: the Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”. In between was eight hours on the road, yesterday, with my brother. Suffice: it was a rich and exhausting 24 hours or so.

And, of course, devastating Hurricanes continue ‘front and center’ on news pages.

1. Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War screens on your local Public Broadcasting Channel, beginning Sunday evening September 17. There will be ten nights of programs, with the final segment on September 28.

I have always had feelings about this topic, as I’m an early Vietnam era Army veteran (1962-63, stateside), and my two air Force brothers served in southeast Asia war during the late 60s and early 70s.

I will write specifically about Vietnam War from my perspective in a few days. (In Vietnam, the conflict is called “The American War”). Whatever its name, the conflict covered a thirty year period, beginning 1945, and ending April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon. “There is no single truth in war” is an apt introduction, in my opinion.

I urge everyone, particularly high school age and young adults, to view and discuss this entire series. Our moderator on Thursday said he was six months old when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. He’s 42 now…. Vietnam began over 50 years ago. Burns Vietnam is no abstract war film. It shows the reality of the times; the reality of war.

(click to enlarge)

Here is the PBS magazine, at least the pages which talk about the programming upcoming: PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

Here is the schedule of the ten episodes (each program is shown twice on its evening):
Sun. Sep 17: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 18: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Tue. Sep 19: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 20: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 21: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Sun. Sep 24: 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Sep 25: 7 and 9 p.m.
Tue. Sep 26: 7 and 9 p.m.
Wed. Sep 27: 7 and 9 p.m.
Thu. Sep 28: 7 and 9 p.m.

2. 500 Year Anniversary of the Reformation. “The Past as Prologue. The Reformation and the Future of Christian Dialogue”

Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN Sep. 8, 2017

In my growing up, as Catholic, I could not have conceived of a gathering such as I attended on Friday night at Basilica of St. Mary, the co-Cathedral of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

There were over 70 in attendance, including as speaker the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, and the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Bernard Hebda. Here is the program for the evening: Past as Prologue001

Everyone has their own opinion about religion, relationships between churches over the centuries, and the often less than benign role of religion in war itself, including today. Christianity in substantive ways has been at war within itself.

As noted, twenty-four hours earlier I had been to the preview of Ken Burns “The Vietnam War”. As noted in the above photo, the complexity of the debate about “Truth” in War was stated, and even within the audiences on Thursday and Friday there was likely a long-learned sense of conflict about “who is right”.

How can there be different “truths” about War? Or Christianity and religion generally? Well, there are differences. And pretending there is only a single valid “truth” is not productive, in my opinion.

The Reformation raises the same intense question about “Truth”. For 500 years within Christianity itself, there have been differing interpretations of Truth, often intensely expressed.

I thought the evening to be very stiumulating, and I plan to attend some of the ongoing events, which can be reviewed here: Reformation001

3. The March of the Hurricanes: About two weeks ago I used this space to follow the story of my nephew Sean and family in Houston.

It seems like ancient history, and the recovery is still at its earliest stages in Texas. This becomes a lonely time, when it seems no one is interested in the plight. Harvey is old news, shoved off the news by Irma about to reach Florida, or other crises du jour. And there are new hurricanes in the wings, and, I suppose, Typhoons in the Pacific area. Very soon Florida will be old news.

The immensity of the tragedies is beyond simplification.

On Thursday, the tiny island of Barbuda, a place I had never heard of, was basically destroyed, and its entire population evacuated to nearby Antigua. Barbuda’s website remains frozen in what it was before the hurricane destroyed the tiny country.

Friday, I picked up my brother at his hotel near the Mall of America, and he said that he had been chatting with a couple from Ft. Lauderdale Florida area who, when the prospects of hurricane hitting Florida crossed their screens, called the airport, made reservations for the next plane available. It turned out to be Minneapolis and so they came here for a vacation. At the time, Florida was anticipating the possibility of Category 5 Irma and the Atlantic coastal side. Apparently they could afford the potential disruption at home.

I don’t know if their property will be damaged by the storm, but I was struck by the contrast between the people of Barbuda, traveling in an open tow boat to some refuge on Antigua, and the couple who could take a vacation far ahead from the troubles back home in Florida.

All is so very complicated, and made to sound so simple.

Keep everyone in your prayers and do what you can to support the recovery efforts wherever they are.

Dick Bernard – A look at immigration, past….

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

POSTNOTE: Flo offered this comment on Sep 6: “Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.” My position, too, though it’s mighty hard to understand an opposing position when it conflicts with so much of what I understand to be the truth!”.

Dick: In a way, this mornings Just Above Sunset addresses the the quandary: “The Power to Hurt Others”. And Neal Gabler offers an excellent commentary which relates: “The Conversation We Should Be Having”

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There is a long list of self-imposed crises for Congress to deal with in Washington this month. The most recent is yesterdays bizarre action about the Dream Act (DACA). Atty General Sessions being designated to publicly announce Donald Trumps decision, rather than the President saying so himself, says a great deal about this President-Who-Loves-Publicity.

You can read a more lengthy summary about the pending demise of DACA, etc here.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. We all are rooted elsewhere. One of my grandfathers (Bernard) was an immigrant; four of my eight great-grandparents (Blondeau, Collette, Busch, Berning) immigrated to the U.S. Four of these five were men; the fifth a young girl.

Then there are the great-great grandparents…. We each have our own stories.

Even Native Americans, if one goes back far enough, immigrated to what is now the U.S. They had a very long head start on the rest of us.

Collectively, we have plenty of low marks in our history, subjugation and virtual annihilation of Native Americans, and Slavery for our early history two primary ones. But generally, as a nation, we have tried to improve over time, to learn from our mistakes. We are better than we were.

What is happening now is backsliding, an outrage.

Where is the welcome mat today? Congress has avoided dealing positively with immigration reform for years. What chance is there that the next few months will be any different? Who knows what is in Trumps mind? It’s up to each of us to make that difference. We each have to be that “member of Congress”, rather than somebody else.

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Yesterday’s announcement caused me to dust off a family history I compiled several years ago, including interesting detail about my great-grandmother Clotilde (Blondeau) Collette’s early history in Minnesota, including the citizenship paper for her father, Simon (name recorded there as Blondo – not an uncommon error). (Much of these pages are with deep thanks to cousin John Garney, and friend Jean-Marc Charron.)

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Blondeau, misspelled. This was very common in documents, for varied, reasons, including, very often, illiteracy (Simon was illiterate).

There are eleven pages, here: Blondeau 1850s U.S.001.

Succinctly, Blondeaus arrived in the U.S. somewhere in the early 1850s, in the Minnesota Territory no more than a couple of years later. (Minnesota became a state in 1858. Ellis Island opened in 1892.)

In 1868, in St. Anthony (now Minneapolis), Clotilde married another immigrant, Octave Collette. Here is a tintype taken somewhere around the time of their marriage. These are two of my great grandparents

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Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1868

WHAT TO DO? JUST AN OBSERVATION, ROOTED IN MANY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:

These polarized days, when I hear people talking about issues, they’re talking to/with people who agree with them. Their position, of course, is not only correct, but it is the only position articulated; except that the other side is wrong, without need for rationale.

For 27 years I worked in an arena where arguments, regardless of how petty, started with both sides certain that they were right. Of course, two opposites can’t be correct.

The effort was to find resolution, not winning.

Consider the possibility: when you make a mental note of all the reasons your position is “right”, spend an equal amount of time consider the opposing position.

Attorneys, whose business is “winning” and “losing” are well advised to know the oppositions “side” as well, or even better, than their own.

Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.

Beginning a New School Year…and a “Sha Na Na”….

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Thursday I dropped off a small gift for my daughter, Principal of a Middle School in the school district I live in. It was a 2017-18 computer produced calendar from the always popular Education Minnesota booth at the Minnesota State Fair. “Happy New Year” I said. Teacher workshop week was about over, and school begins (in almost all Minnesota school districts) the day after Labor Day. Here’s the Education Minnesota “welcome back” ad for 2017. Here’s more.

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Education Minnesota booth at Minnesota State Fair. Corey Bulman, 2017 Teacher of the Year, was guest in the booth.

(Best as I recall, the photo calendar idea began as an expensive experiment in about 1990, which was the first year digital imaging connected to computer became commercially available (see history of digital imaging here). Back then, the organization was named Minnesota Education Association. It was, as stated, an expensive experiment, but as best I know every year since the photo calendars have become very popular, a tradition for many, and, I suppose, less expensive, too. It is a great connection of educators with the community.)

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In one way or another over 50 million students are beginning their public school year (in Minnesota, this happens tomorrow). Here’s another view of the same data. Another 5 million or more public school employees (teachers, administrators, secretaries, cooks, bus drivers….) enter school with them. In all, that’s about one of five Americans.

All, beginning with school bus drivers, will have (or already have had) the annual nervous night before the first day of school as they arrive at their assigned places of work. Remember your own first days of the school year: new everything, starting a new year.

Of course, many other students attend parochial, or charter, or home school…but by far the largest, always, is the public school whose charter is to serve everyone, never a simple task.

Daughter Joni (referred to in first paragraph) is beginning her 14th year as a school administrator. Time flies. One of her major tasks, in addition to being Principal, is to supervise the completion of a new Middle School, which will replace her 1951 building in 2018. She’s equal to the task.

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I’m biased towards public education. Both parents were career public school teachers. Six Aunts and Uncles were public school teachers, most for a career…. I was involved in public education for 36 years – junior high teacher (9 years) and full-time teacher union representative (27). As mentioned, one daughter is, and has been for many years, a public school teacher or administrator. Nine grandkids are veterans of public schools. Another daughter was a school board member, very active in her local public schools.

Such a huge institution as “public education” is easy to criticize. All you need is a spotlight and a single someone on which to focus criticism, and a microphone to publicize it. With over 50,000,000 potential targets, there is someone there who will be in the negative spotlight.

But look at the totality before embracing the criticism….

Public education is a noble institution whose mission is to take all, and do the best they can given scarce resources: often too large class sizes, infinite varieties of individual differences and dilemmas, from family crises, to differing abilities, and even personality conflicts between human beings (teachers and students and other school employees are human beings too, after all).

Welcome back. Our country is a richer place because of public education.

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As noted, I have been very fortunate to be associated with public education my entire life.

A down side of this, as one ages, is to be witness at endings. Within the last month, I attended three memorials of public school teachers I knew, each unique persons. About seven people I knew were at the most recent reunion of the junior high school at which I taught in the 1960s and early 70s. The most recent death, Jim Peterson, former Fridley teacher, was the teacher I knew the least. His wife preceded him in death by a year, and he was felled quickly by a disease lurking inside him, so he didn’t have much time to say goodbyes.

I wrote the family afterwards that I had been to many memorials, but Jim’s, which he planned himself, was the most memorable, in all sorts of ways which don’t need to be described, except for the final song at the time we processed out of the sanctuary for the church ladies lunch.

The singer, who said she knew Jim as a neighbor and almost like a Dad, said he’d given her two songs to sing at dismissal.

The one I’ll always remember was the last, a delightful rendition of the “Sha na na” song. Not familiar with Sha Na Na? Here’s the YouTube version sung by the composer of the song back in 1969, and here’s the wiki story about Sha na na.

Imagine yourself walking out of church after a memorial service with this send off!

Do you know a teacher or a school employee or a student or one who has been? Wish them well, as this New Year begins.

POSTNOTE: My message to public schools, from “outside the walls”, remains on-line as it has been for many years. Read the message at Rethinking Community here.

Dick Bernard: Solar Eclipse Day in the U.S.

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Back of U.S. Postal sheet for the Eclipse August 21, 2017


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As I write (6 a.m. CDT on August 21, 2017), my son and spouse, Tom and Jennifer, are enroute to the Twin Cities from Denver. They left at 2 a.m., Tom said, so as to reach a particular point in Nebraska to catch the eclipse.

Daughter Lauri and the four kids are probably ready to head out for somewhere in Illinois to do the same thing.

It will be an exciting day, hopefully no cloud cover (odds against that), and even more hopefully, no accidents doing serious damage to eyes, for anyone, anywhere.

Me? I’m off to coffee as usual.

Twenty years ago I would probably be doing the same thing as the kids.

I had some interest in these kinds of occurrences. We all have our own. I still do. But, as the saying goes, “there’s a time and a place for everything”.

My Dad, 20 years gone Nov. 7, described the change well: “now I do my travelling through National Geographic”. And he was adventuresome in his own way. Twenty five years ago he “bussed” from St. Louis to Fargo ND for the ordination of the son of a long-time friend. She is now 91, and she reminded me of this event a couple of evenings ago – one of those calls out of the blue.

Dad was 84 then, and he said he was coming to Fargo for the ordination, and I worried about him taking that long a trip unaccompanied. So I met him in Fargo. He was a bit miffed, I recall. He wanted to prove to himself that he could still “solo”! But we had a nice time.

I am reminded of another celestial event. It would have been sometime in about November, 1957, I was a senior in high school, and it was on the lawn of my grandparents farm home near Berlin ND. It was one of those intensely bright sky evenings, no moon.

Something called “Sputnik” had not long before gone into orbit, and in those days the newspaper gave its readers tracking information of where and when to see Sputnik in the night sky.

Sure enough, came a blinking light coursing across the sky, at exactly the time and place announced in the Fargo Forum. My recollection was that it coursed basically from SSE to NNW (though I might be wrong). It was tumbling through the sky, and the blinking light was reflected sun rays.)

Whatever the case, we saw it.

Have a good day.

The last stamp on the USPS sheet of 16 (see above). I bought 32 stamps and used 31 of them….

POSTNOTE August 23:

The Eclipse is come and gone. Nothing to comment on in suburban St. Paul MN – actually watched it on TV and at the appointed time, about one p.m., there was not much evidence outside our home that it was other than a normal day. A cloud cover was beginning to build, which not too long later would result in some rain. But were we living 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have known anything was happening.

My son reported little luck down in Nebraska either. We’ll get a fuller report this morning.

No word as yet from my daughter about her family experience in, I think, Illinois.

It seems, though, a worthwhile day overall…a good learning experience for anyone interested, or potentially interested.

from Kathy in Oregon Aug 24: My family – [six in all]; drove down from Portland, Oregon to Mt Angel on Sunday in anticipation of the next morning’s Solar Eclipse- the first time to be viewed from the U.S. coast to coast in nearly 100 years. Mt. Angel was in the path of the total solar eclipse and so Grandma’s home -a short 15 min walk to the Abbey hill, would be the perfect place to stay!

Next morning, with much excitement we made our way up to the Abbey (about 9 a.m.), stopping from time to time to view the progress of the moon’s eclipse of the sun through our solar glasses.
We found a great spot to sit on the north slope of this ancient hilltop, situated in the midst of Oregon’s north Willamette Valley. Monks, Scientists/equipment, seminarians back for their first day of school, professors, employees and friends (us) shared in this experience of a lifetime.

At total eclipse, we felt a collective sense of wonder and awe… a mystical oneness with all of God’s creation! At this moment of complete totality, in one voice, a spontaneous cheer erupted! The monks intoned the beautiful Salve Regina. After the brief 1.39 min. of darkness, the sun triumphed once again, spreading it’s warmth as the stars faded and the moon sailed on to the east.

I turned to observe my family next to me and saw tears trickling down [my] granddaughters cheeks beneath her solar eclipse glasses…(tears which in turn prompted more tears from her mom).
Along with the blessing of family- this magnificent display from the heavens, touched us all in a deep, forever, holy place….

PS. I was reminded later, as I observed my grandchildren, and then butterflies in the garden -doves on my patio, that the beauty and majesty of wonder of God’s creation is all around us every day in big and small ways …we need only to notice 🙂

Semper Fi*

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Emblem of United States Marines


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Monday morning, 8:53 a.m., an odd e-mail from my daughter: “I have very few details and am “on call” today. Spencer is at his MEPS appointment this morning and will, at some point (likely Lester afternoon), swear in. I’ll do my best to keep you posted, but for sure this isn’t a “must attend” if you follow. Keep your phones close and if it works, great…if not, mark your calendars for July 9 which is his ship date!”

July 9 was last month. “MEPS”? “Lester”? We’ve all done rushed e-mails! (More later in this post).

I went on to my morning meeting where six of us were to discuss a film-in-progress about dialogue on how to help promote world peace and justice through suggesting positive changes in the United Nations.

Six people suggesting reforms to a 72 year old institution representing over 190 nations? The idea sounds preposterous, but I’ve been around long enough, and close enough, to know that bottom up ideas can and do make a difference. You just need to be patient, and never expect your name in “lights”. We are a global society, and if there is ever to be peace, it has to begin with all of us in each of our own small and larger ways. Indeed, world society is making positive progress.

Most of our Monday morning group had been at a small dinner the previous evening (below). Joseph Schwartzberg joined us on Saturday; Deb Metke couldn’t.

from left, David Lionel, Ron Glossop, Gail Hughes, Deb Metke, Nancy Dunlavy. Dick Bernard took the photo, and thus is the empty chair.

I stuck around till about 12:30 Monday afternoon, then excused myself.

There was a phone message from my daughter: “Spencer will be sworn in at 2 p.m. at Ft. Snelling. Come if you can.” “Sworn in”? “To what?” He’s just becoming a senior in high school. Once again, what was MEPS?… I called Cathy. “This is all I know. Do you want to come along?” “Sure.”

We were there in time. Seven others had come, on short notice, to be there for Spencer. Spencer was there to be sworn in as a Marine, with a report date of July 9, 2018. Three other young people were sworn in at the same time. MEPS turned out to be the Military Entrance Processing Station. As the blanks were filled in, it wasn’t a great surprise. Spencer, a great kid, has long had an interest in the possibility of military. This was his next step.

I was visibly emotional as he was sworn in. For me the emotion was simply recognizing another passage point for another of my grandkids, growing up. That he was enlisting in the military wasn’t a point of issue for me (a “peacenik”). The person swearing in he and three others, a 22 year veteran, a first class representative of the military, said only one percent of the U.S. population is in the uniformed services. I’d like for there to be no need for these folks. There is.

I’m a veteran myself, from a family full of military veterans, and while I see no good ever coming out of any war, and the young are always those sent off to fight, and die, there is sometimes a need. One can only hope that the current chain of command acts responsibly for Spencer and all of us. (In the entry to MEPS was pictured the Chain of Command as of August 7, 2017.)

August 7, 2017, MEPS, Ft. Snelling MN

Today I’ll be sending Spencer a copy of the orders to report for Army duty that I received back on January 10, 1962. Back then, they bused us to Ft. Carson Colorado. There were 18 of us. We didn’t know, then, that we were going into the Army at the early stages of what came to be known as the Vietnam era. Ten months later was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I learned about through President Kennedy’s address to the nation on a small television in an Army barracks a few miles from Cheyenne Mountain, a possible ICBM target.

(I looked at the map of military posts in the United States in the reception room, and apparently Ft. Carson is no longer a full-fledged base.)

One can hope that the service will never have to “bulk up” again.

It’s our responsibility to do our part to end war.

Meanwhile, Congratulations, Spencer! And I’d encourage readers to become interested in and possibly involved in my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, whose founders in 1947 were persons who had been deeply affected by WWII, and thought there was a better way than war and killing to solve problems. Some of us were among the ones meeting Monday morning (above).

Spencer, August 7, 2017

POSTNOTE: As Spencer begins his year preparing for active duty, here’s a graphic I gave him within the last couple of years:

(click to enlarge)
.

And as he signed his enlistment papers, the most difficult current hot spot is the Korean Peninsula, where difficult decisions will hopefully be made very, very carefully. In our democracy, we are the ones who select these decision makers….

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

These are the kinds of things a grandfather thinks about, when his grandson is about to be a member of America’s military.

Congratulations, and all good wishes, Spence.

* – Semper Fidelis

Dick Bernard: The I-35W Bridge Collapse, Minneapolis MN, August 1, 2007

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

We head to “the lake” today for our annual week at Breezy Point north of Brainerd MN. We have the same week each year. My computer takes a vacation, too. Likely, tonight, the local Elvis impersonator (he’s very good) will do his gig by the dock, and we’ll have an enjoyable time.

Ten years ago, August 1, we were at the same resort, watching the news, and up came an announcement of the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minneapolis. We first had to figure out what bridge it was – it’s not a normal route. In my computer photo file – the index says “Apple iPhone 6:38:13 pm” – someone, apparently at the Guthrie theater not far away, had taken a photo of whatever was happening just down the street, later sending it to me. I have a guess. See text below. In due time, the scope of the tragedy became known: 13 dead, 145 injured. The bridge took years to rebuild; there were lawsuits and financial settlements, and talk about our crumbling national infrastructure.

Thursday of this week I crossed the replacement bridge twice, to and from a 5 p.m. meeting at St. Anthony Main. The significance of ten years ago at this very spot didn’t even cross my mind. Life goes on, memories are short. So long as we avoid the personal potholes of life, we can, in our affluent society, largely ignore our responsibility for the greater reality around us. My opinion: our neglect of our infrastructure (which in my definition includes our inability to even work out differences of opinion amongst ourselves) is our slow-moving and continuing 9-11-01 – a disaster in progress.

(click to enlarge)

Photo of I-35E Bridge Collapse August 1, 2007 via iPhone, quite likely from the Guthrie Theater.

Back on August 1, 2007, I had an e-mail list – no blog – and there were a flurry of comments, from which I reprint two, below. A month later, when the area was reopened for people like myself who wanted to see the scene, I went down and took a few photos, three of which follow.

Here’s from Jody, August 1, 2007, 11:57 p.m.: Tonight, I took my kids to Minneapolis to see the musical 1776 at the new Guthrie Theater. I called it an early birthday present to myself, and their gift to me was to go happily from start to finish.

I decided not to take I-35W. It seemed, I don’t know, like the wrong road to take, though it would be my normal way into town. We took an alternate route and got off the highway at about 6:08. There had not been too much traffic and we were very early for the show. The road we were on, Chicago Avenue, went right downtown and suddenly, as best as I can describe — it was chaos. The fire truck that came by first just about pushed the SUV out of his way to get by. Emergency vehicles were coming at us from three directions. I hardly knew where to be — on the right, off the road, stopped — it was just bedlam. I finally got into the parking ramp where it felt safe. My adrenaline was rushing; it was pretty clear something was wrong. Some emergency vehicles had boats.

The Guthrie overlooks the Mississippi River. We joined an ever-growing crowd at the window. The theater has a long beautiful seating area, comfortable chairs, great view — and there we could see the bridge in the river. We could see the smoke from the burning tractor trailer. Emergency vehicles. People. And there was shock. Horror. Cell phones not working. Huge number of bystanders crowded the banks of the river from all angles to watch.

7:30 show time. The seats were not filled. We waited. The show started late which isn’t typical, I hear. We had front row seats, but the mood was subdued. We made an effort to become involved with the production, which was truly wonderful. Part of me felt guilty that I was sitting there. Why hadn’t we gone down to help — although I’m sure our help wasn’t what they needed.

I am only home twenty minutes and trying to catch up with what happened from the television vantage point.

We talked on the way home about the fact that while if I had taken 35W, we would have gotten off the exit before the bridge — but the family joke is that when I have both kids in the car I get to talking and miss my exit (one famous trip to the airport turned into a long trip).

We’ve had calls and emails from friends all over the place, so I thought I’d write. And now eat some ice cream.

I-35 Bridge scene Sep 2, 2007


(click to enlarge this photo, and you will see a black building closeby to downtown Minneapolis. That is the Guthrie Theater, and the vantage point from there would be very similar to the photo you see at the beginning of the post.)

from Mary, Aug. 2, 2007, 4:34 p.m.: My cousin Lois __ survived the 35 bridge crash. She is my mom’s sister’s oldest girl and we attended her [family] reunion together on July 22nd.

After work, most routes were congested and she tried 35 going north and found it stop and go, She was not able to get off because drivers would not yield to her signal. Fortunately, She had driven (inched) to nearly the north side and her maroon older sedan dropped 60 feet with the failing bridge, landed hovering on the frontage road. She walked out of the scene with a truck driver to the Lutheran Center and was taken to U hospital and treated for spine injury. She chose to go home and is recuperating in Arden Hills.

She is grateful she did not drop into the water and she notes her car has had national press coverage. I saw it in the NYTimes slide series. Sadly, her perception was that the car next to her did not make it. She welcomes prayers during this tragic time.

I drove to work under the bridge for 3 years choosing slow life. Last week I walked to my work at Ted Mann Hall a few blocks from there. To avoid the pollution of slow moving freeways, I use alternative routes often.

I welcome the wake-up call to invest in our infrastructure, protect our people and reevaluate transportation-work viability.

(The photo below is of the north side of the bridge, roughly where Lois would have been. The photo above shows a road going under the collapsed bridge which would have been Mary’s usual route.)

Collapsed I-35W Bridge, Minneapolis, Sep 2, 2007

Looking at the destroyed bridge, Sep. 2, 1007, from the parallel bridge just downstream.

POSTSCRIPT. There is a continuing tsunami of national news swirling around the current administration and Congress. A good summary of the last few days is here. I agree with the George Will “snip” which is included in this summary: “Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.” Every one of us has shirked our duties for far too long, expecting – and blaming – the President, whoever that might happen to be, for every thing, real or imagined. Ideologically I’m not a George Will type, though his opinion is well worth a read.

Dick Bernard: Castile-Yanez

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

If you opened this post, you know the names and that the Jury decision in this case was national news last night; and occupied a great amount of space in today’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune (our at home newspaper).

I’ve written twice about this case, both in the summer of 2016. You can read them here; and here.

The most powerful recent writing I’ve seen about Yanez-Castile is this Jon Tevlin column, written June 11, 2017, at the conclusion of the trial and as Jury deliberations were about to begin. It is worth your time.

I deliberately connect the two names, the motorist who was killed; the policeman who killed him.

They are both the victims, but in our “win-lose” society, it will be difficult to see this mutuality of relationship. We tend to take “sides”. Both polarities are valid, but not if one polarity is considered exclusive of the other. Both Yanez and Castile, to my reading, were good people, contributors to society. Castile is dead; Yanez and his family have to remake a life, somewhere, somehow, after a year of almost certain personal hell. In a sense, they died as well.

My hope is that there is lots of room for rational conversation about the issues raised. I can understand the polarities of the opposing camps. The demonstrations at the State Capitol last night were 15 minutes from where I write; when I did the second post cited above, after a Minnesota Orchestra concert last summer, a demonstration was gathering close by Orchestra Hall. The hard work will come when people can have civil conversations about what we can learn from this and other tragedies.

Fitting our gun-wealthy society, Yanez and Castile both had guns, both had them legally. (Tevlin says 265,728 Minnesotans – about 1 of every 20, perhaps one of 15 if you factor out kids – have permits to carry a gun).

Every police calculation has that in mind when engaging with any personal situation.

All of the rest about this issue you can read on your own. My editorial: “no guns, no death”. Of course, that won’t solve the argument.

Then I’ve noticed the other matter, conveniently dropped into the conversation, marijuana….

(The most accurate descriptor of me would be “tee-totaller” from youth to now. A soft-drink guy at gatherings.)

The “pot piece” will be discussed while folks are indulging – a beer, a drink, what have you; probably with a distinction for the drug, pot, what role did it play?

*

If you’re into reading, I’d recommend the new book “A Colony in a Nation” by Chris Hayes. Very early in the book – pages 16-19 – the stage is effectively set for this book, whose title comes from Richard Nixon’s speech to the 1968 Republican Convention (p. 30).

Take the time to read the book. It is timely.

*

As always, Castile-Yanez will disappear in a few days, as will the protests.

The goal ought always be long-term solutions, which are messy, and take lots of work, but are always worth it.

COMMENTS:
from Gail: Thanks, Dick – you always give us something to think about!

from Norm: A good and thoughtful set of observations, Dick.

Consistent with the concern Shawn Otto expresses in his book, the War on Science, this is another situation where people will focus on what they believe at least in the short term and ignore what the evidence showed or did not show. Obviously, in this case, the 12 person jury of his peers, including two African Americans, did not find that the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to find Yanez guilty of the charges against him beyond the high bar of a reasonable doubt.

And, not surprisingly, the many folks who “knew” that Yanez was obviously guilty claimed that the system was rigged against them and one person even claimed that he/she hated the state of Minnesota in spite of all of the benefits that it provides to many folks thanks to the largess or generosity of its taxpayers.

Interestingly, while so many folks believe that the system failed them once again, not too many years ago, they thought that the system worked just fine when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the two murder charges brought against him because the prosecution, ill fitting glove and all, had not proven Simpson’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt…even though to many, many folks, the star NFL running back was “obviously” guilty as all hell.

Later, a civilian court did find him responsible for the death of the mother of his children using a less stringent level of doubt.

from a friend of many years: I am having a difficult time seeing any equivalency between losing your life and leaving a grieving family behind …. and losing your job because you are immature or just a scum bag like those folks that were responsible for all the Native American deaths reported in that package of articles that you recently sent me. With the host of ongoing discussions about the deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcers, I have had a number of discussions relating to this issue with our local sheriff and other local law enforcement officers that I know. A common theme amongst the law enforcers is that they are trained to shoot to kill versus shooting to disarm. There was an elderly Native American wood carver sitting on a bench in Seattle carving a piece of sculpture who was killed by a police officer a couple of years ago because he had a knife and did not put it down quickly enough to suit the officer, and the officer went scot free. We cannot know what was in the heart of Yanez, but to pump five bullets into his victim brings both factors, bigotry and immaturity, into question. If Yanez was gripped by fear, a bullet into the leg of Castile would have quickly brought his hands to his wound. When I was a kid, 11 or younger, I would toss a stone up in the air and shoot it with regularity, taught to do so by my sister, who could do the same. So if we could shoot a small stone moving through the air, why can’t a trained law enforcer hit something as large as a leg? Immaturity or bigotry? When you pump a clip of bullets into a person, the intentions are clearly to ensure that you have killed that person. Yanez or someone in the force that provided him a gun should spend their lives in prison. Think about this false equivalency that you put forth.

from Dick, brief response to my friend, and others: For whatever it’s worth. I qualified as expert with the M-1 rifle in the Army days, but otherwise my gun career was plinking at gophers with a 22 – that sort of thing. I have never owned a gun, and consider their use whether offensively or defensively as a liability, not an asset, regardless of whether you’re a “stand your ground” homeowner, policeman, or gang banger settling scores. With a gun, you always lose. And that’s why I emphasized the gun in the Castile-Yanez article.

Every senseless death is a tragedy for an entire constellation of people. The larger problem, I think, is that we all tend to retreat into our preferred response…the many commentaries on this I see tend to start from a particular frame of reference. One really excellent and powerful response I had asked to print, the writer did not want printed, for whatever reason. It would have helped this conversation grow. Hopefully the writer will do more than just share the observations with me. So it goes.

from Dick, June 21: There were three comments to this post; only two of them are above. The third was very powerful but the writer asked that it not be posted, and I respect those boundaries.

Last night, the police car dash cam coverage of the shooting was broadcast for the first time; today’s paper was full of news….

How to deal with this tragedy as a learning opportunity is not at all clear. The tendency is to take a polarized position one way or another.

We all can pronounce what could have/should have happened in all aspects of this case. We have the luxury of this judgement. Philando Castile and Jeronimo Yanez had their deadly and tragic moment. I wonder how I would have reacted, if in either persons position that fateful afternoon in 2016. A couple of years ago I was pulled over for what turned out to be failure to signal a turn. For me, it was not a neutral event. I was very nervous. And I’m just an old white guy justing driving from point A to point B.

It would be nice to have a rational and ongoing conversation, but early indications don’t seem to point in that direction.

I think it will be difficult, and it may be impossible, to learn from this tragedy to help prevent the inevitable next one.