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#1065 – Dick Bernard: Creating a Workable World: Transforming the United Nations System

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Friday evening and Saturday,October 9&10, at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Dr. Joe Schwartzberg’s book, Transforming the United Nations System, will help focus attention on transformation of the United Nations, this year celebrating its 70th birthday. All details about this “Creating a Workable World” conference, including about conference convenor Joe Schwartzberg, can be seen here.

Schwartzberg book001

The conference promises to be a very interesting exchange of ideas about making the UN better.

There is no shortage of opinions about “the UN”. Far too many of these opinions, unfortunately, are ill- or un-informed.

Powerful people with their own agenda, who hate even the concept of the UN system, want it gone. Most of us have little or no knowledge of how the UN or its broad network (as World Health Organization et al) works. The UN is a complex system, a global community, which is often called upon to deal with impossible situations: hunger, refugees, atrocities, on and on.

One might call the UN a global mechanic, on call to take care of wrecks.

The UN was created out of the horrors of WWII, officially founded October 24, 1945, and during its entire history it has been called to help order chaos in an extraordinarily complex and imperfect world.

70 years after emerging from the ashes of WWII, it is still dominated by the five winning countries of that war: the United States, Russia (formerly Soviet Union), France, United Kingdom and China.

The most populous of its over 190 countries, China, outnumbers the smallest, Nauru, by a factor of 145,000 to one. Its power actors represent competing ideologies, only slightly dimmed by the end of the Cold War.

Dr. Schwartzberg’s academic work describes the UN system in understandable terms, and furthermore proposes a framework of solutions for the future. This major conference will be a unique opportunity to learn more, and engage in conversation, about the UN and its future role in the world.

I’ve read the book, and been part of a discussion group which talked about every chapter. It was a rich learning experience, a framework of reference.


What is the world that is the United Nations? There are endless examples….

A week ago I attended a talk by Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent of the University of Minnesota which added greatly to my knowledge of how complex this world is.

Dr. Broadbent’s topic was very simple: watching how newspapers in 18 countries treated the topic of global climate change, thus assessing national attitudes. (His website can be accessed here.)

His powerpoint was simple and very complex. Here’s a photo of one slide:

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A schematic representation of newspaper reporting on climate change....Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent

A schematic representation of newspaper reporting on climate change….Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent

This slide shows two foci; a later slide introduced a third, called Mitigation, as an approach to climate change. It was all very complex, but at the same time understandable.

Near the end of the program, a black man, a native Oromo of Ethiopia, rose to powerfully observe that none of the data presented appears to represent Africa.

Indeed, that was true, because Africa does not have dominant newspapers from which to glean the data Dr. Broadbent seeks.

But the point was nonetheless made: Africa is already, and will doubtless increasingly be, bearing the brunt of the failures of the more developed world, with consequences for us all.

Making a point with Dr. Broadbent, Sep. 16, 2015

Making a point with Dr. Broadbent, Sep. 16, 2015

(Similarly, alternative media like Facebook, now dominant over print media in many quarters, are not yet part of the analysis. The research is still a work in progress.)

Whatever your knowledge, or your feelings, about the United Nations, the October 9 & 10 Workable World Conference will be worth your time. Check it out.

The United Nations Building, snapshot, June 30, 1971, Dick Bernard

The United Nations Building, snapshot, June 30, 1971, Dick Bernard

More on the general topic of the UN at 70 here.
The matter of the removal of the United Nations Flag at Hennepin County (MN) Plaza here.

#1064 – Dick Bernard: The International Day of Peace; A Pope and the Year of Mercy*

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Today I went to the third event I knew about relating to International Day of Peace in this area. I described each of them a few days ago, here. It was a joy, not a chore, to go to these events.

This afternoons was a particularly gentle set of songs presented by Ensemble Music as part of a sing-around-the world broadcast by the organization Music Together. As I write, the around the world mini concert continues, with the centerpiece, the song “May All Children”: Song May All Children001

It is not hard to have hope, and be willing to work for it, when I see kids in action, as I did today:

(click to enlarge)

At Global Market, Minneapolis MN, Sep 21, 2015

At Global Market, Minneapolis MN, Sep 21, 2015

Yesterday, at Minneapolis’ Loft Literary Center, was an impressive dedication of the Loft as an International Peace Site. Here, singer Larry Long, was the troubadour; 94 year old Lynn Elling did the honors dedicating the peace site, as he has done for years, and Martha Roberts, President of World Citizen described the groups program of peace education. There appeared to be more than 100 in attendance at the event.

Martha Roberts explains World Citizens Peace Actions; Phillip Lund, of the Peace Writers Group at the Loft, and MC of the Peace Site celebration, assists, Sep 20, 2015

Martha Roberts explains World Citizens Peace Actions; Phillip Lund, of the Peace Writers Group at the Loft, and MC of the Peace Site celebration, assists, Sep 20, 2015

Lynn Ellling, seated, center, explains his view of peace in our world.

Lynn Ellling, seated, center, explains his view of peace in our world.

Finally, on Saturday, a moving and impressive event at the Landmark Center, the new film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard (program booklet here: Hiroshima Schoolyard001), with filmmakers Shizumi Shigato Manale. Producer, and Bryan Reichhardt, Director, and Melvin Carter, Exhibit Collection Curator of some recovered “kid art” drawn at Honkawa Elementary School within sight of ground zero at Hiroshima in 1946.

Melvin Hardy, Shizumi Shigeto Manale, and Bryan Reichhardt, following the film "Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard" Sep. 19, 2015, Landmark Center, St. Paul MN.

Melvin Hardy, Shizumi Shigeto Manale, and Bryan Reichhardt, following the film “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” Sep. 19, 2015, Landmark Center, St. Paul MN.

Very good news for readers who are interested in the film. It will be shown again at Landmark Centers F.K. Weyerhaeuser Auditorium Lobby on Saturday, Sept. 19, 26, Oct 3, 17 and 24 at 2 p.m.

This Saturday, Sep 26, atomic bomb survivor (hibakusha) Ms Michiko Harada, will speak at the same venue at 1 p.m.

This will be an inspiring afternoon. “pencil it in”, then attend!


Of course, Tuesday, Sep 21, Pope Francis arrives in the United States, bringing his message of peace and justice. What he does here, and the previous two days in Cuba, have been and will be broadly reported.

As a Catholic, I see Pope Francis as a transformational figure, much like John XXIII (visionary leader who built Vatican II in the early 1960s). Change in my church is agonizingly slow, but it does happen, and it is happening. (Here is what I wrote about the brand new Pope Francis on March 31, 2013.)

A week ago, on Sep 23, I happened to be at Basilica of St. Mary when it was announced that one of the rear doors would be sealed after the 9:30 Mass, not to be opened till mid-December. (A photo is below).

Sunday I asked what this meant.

There is a long tradition of sealing a door at St. Peter’s in Rome in a similar fashion; new this year, Pope Francis called for all Cathedral rank churches in the world to join the tradition.

It may seem like no big deal, as the designation of the coming year as the Year of Mercy, but I see it, and other attendant actions by this Pope to be a very important shift in tone of the institution that is the Catholic Church, still an immensely large and diverse community in the world.

This week the Pope will speak to Congress, and have lunch with the poor of Washington DC.

This is the kind of leader he is.

Catholic or not, he gives a good example to follow.

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Sealing the door at Basilica Sep. 13, 2015

Sealing the door at Basilica Sep. 13, 2015

Whatever your creed, think a bit about how you can make the Year of Mercy come alive this year. The Pope’s message Here.

* – Mercy, A Forced Choice: February 8, 2005. Reflections from a Workshop on Sustainable Peace: Mercy001 (See page one, specifically). Written by Dick Bernard Feb 8 and 14, 2005

#1063 – Dick Bernard: The International Day of Peace 2015

Friday, September 18th, 2015
The United Nations Building, snapshot, June 30, 1971, Dick Bernard

The United Nations Building, snapshot, June 30, 1971, Dick Bernard

The United Nations has had an International Day of Peace since 1982; and in 2001, set the day for future annual observances as the autumnal equinox, September 21, of each year. The theme is “an annual day of non-violence and cease fire”

(The observance of Peace Day at the United Nations in 2001 happened to be September 11, 2001. According to my friend, Madeline Simon, “on Sept 11, 2001, the celebration started–but was not completed, due to the attack. [The event] appeared to somewhere on the roof area [at the UN], and then an evacuation of the building followed.”)

The first Peace Day I actually attended was at Minneapolis’ Loring Park on September 21, 2003, organized by a coalition of downtown churches led by First Unitarian Society and member activist Madeline Simon. It was an inspiring program.

International Peace Day at Loring Park, Minneapolis, September 21, 2003

International Peace Day at Loring Park, Minneapolis, September 21, 2003

As time has gone on, thanks to efforts of groups such as Peace One Day, the Day of Peace has thrived. The young man whose passion led to the UN proclamation setting Sep 21 as the day to spotlight peace, Englishman Jeremy Gilley, has seen the day grow from a few curious supporters in London, to as many as a billion people who know of peace day, and take the message to heart. The film which introduced Peace Day to me in 2003 is still available, here, Peace One Day Pt. 1. Gilley’s accomplishment has been an amazing one, a testament to one man’s grit and persistence, and it has grown, and grown, and makes a difference in the world.

Check out celebrations of the International Day of Peace in your area. If none exist, become part of the solution for next year.

In the Twin Cities I know of at least three events this coming weekend (there may be more):

1) In St. Paul, at the Landmark Center on Saturday, Sep. 19 at 2 p.m. an important exhibition and film will commemorate Pictures from A Hiroshima Schoolyard. More information on this program and related events here.

2) In Minneapolis, at the Loft Literary Center on 1011 Washington Ave. S, the Loft will be dedicated as a Peace Site at 2 p.m. on Sunday Sep. 20

3) In Minneapolis, 3:30 – 5:30 at Midtown Global Market 920 E. Lake St Minneapolis more info at this Facebook link. About the worldwide event: Families in U.S., Japan, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and more will sing for peace on September 21st: To celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, thousands of Music Together families with young children around the globe will participate in a livestream of [their] song for peace, “May All Children.” For 22 hours, families from around the globe will gather and sing “May All Children” in the 4 PM hour in their local time zones, creating an ongoing live presentation of the song from many different cultures. Children, parents, and teachers from more than 30 locations are participating in the event, including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Croatia, Bermuda, and across the United States. The livestream will run for 22 hours on September 21, 2015, 12:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern Time. Live link here.

There is a culture of Peace that is alive and well in our communities, showing itself in many and sundry positive ways.

Become part of the movement to make every day, everywhere, a place of peace.

#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….

#1059 – Dick Bernard: The Little Kurdish Boy who Drowned, continued.

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Saturdays post brought an emotionally powerful response from our friend, Annelee, who grew up in Nazi Germany and was 18 when the war ended in May, 1945. Her comment, here, is worth reading, carefully, and applying to our own lives.

Sunday morning, enroute to Church in downtown Minneapolis, I met two buses whose signage said their destination was “State Fair”. Today, Labor Day, is the final day of the 12 day gluttons paradise. I like the Minnesota State Fair, and indeed was there last Monday, and if the spirit moves me I may go for a couple of hours early today as well.

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Minnesota State Fair, August 31, 2015

Minnesota State Fair, August 31, 2015

Meanwhile, back in reality-land, the picture of the drowned little boy is a haunting one, and if I end up at the Fair today, my view will be modified by events of the last few days in Europe and the Middle East.

A thought came to mind: last Monday I indulged in my once a year addiction there: deep fried cheese curds. They were advertised as having the same price as last year, $5.00, a “heckuva deal”, but the container seemed smaller than previously – perhaps a marketing strategy, less curds for the same dollars. Whatever. I bought ’em, and ate ’em and, as always, wondered why, afterwards. See them next year….

It also occurred to me that if everyone of us in the U.S. ponied up $5.00 one time, it would raise over $1.5 billion to bring help wherever needed. My $5 could be that single order of cheese curds that I certainly don’t need.

Meanwhile “over there”, the World Food Programme – one of the spinoffs originally part of the United Nations – announced it was out of money to provide minimal food relief to Syrians in refugee camps. This may have been to spur donations. It survives through international donations, including from the World Food Programme-USA.

On the news Sunday afternoon it was suggested that the U.S. State Department has devoted $4 billion to help alleviate the situation, but I’ve learned in the past to not trust numbers without more elaboration. I looked at the Department of State website and while it is a very interesting site to review, nowhere did I find such a declaration.)

Of course, I doubt many at the Fair tomorrow would think about giving up even $5 of their fun budget to help the refugees who are in Europe and those in desperate need in Syria and elsewhere. It is all so confusing. “Who can I trust with my money” is a common, and even rational, question.

And even the apparent U.S. Federal Aid of, they say, $4 billion, which seems generous, might be at least partially allocated to, for instance, the Department of Defense for war. (Though I don’t have facts on this, this isn’t a hypothetical concern. I once tried for nearly two years to get the Department of State to break down for me its own news release granting $50,000,000 Aid to Haiti in late 2003. They simply would not comply, though by the time I finally gave up, I had learned that the $50 million had gone to the Department of Defense to protect American interests, and to U.S. AID (Agency for International Development), the latter almost certainly for political destabilization of the then-sitting and democratically elected government in Haiti that the U.S. didn’t like. But it was very obvious that no one wanted me, or anyone, to know where that $50 million really went, if it existed at all.)

My sole point in all of this: I am not – none of us are – in a position to constructively change world policy on humanitarian aid in times of crisis, even if we know it is crucial. A few months wait for someone who is starving doesn’t work for the starving person. The money needs to be there, somewhere, to get used when it is needed. An at-best confusing system of assorted charities dealing with emergencies is not adequate. That is why I need to lobby harder for national and international systems, like a more effective and empowered United Nations, that is ready to step in whenever and wherever there is a humanitarian crisis as is now the case in Syria. Only there can my $5, or $10, really make a difference right away.

U. S. Navy Country Current Aug. 31, 2015, Minnesota State Fair

U. S. Navy Country Current Aug. 31, 2015, Minnesota State Fair

A final note: on that Monday at the Fair, I came across a wonderful U.S. Navy Country and Bluegrass music ensemble (above). They were so good, I came back to a second show at the Fair. You can catch them in several segments on YouTube.

At one point the leader recognized his fellow servicemen and women, “taking care of business” around the world to protect our American way of life. His was an applause line, of course, as when he asked we veterans to stand and be recognized as the service anthems were played. But herein is one of our national dilemmas. As a nation we are incomprehensibly wealthy compared to most, and our great wealth blinds us to the needs of others, including the poor in our own country, and our obligations to devote more of our resources in others behalf.

Are we able to learn? Can the little Kurdish boy who drowned help teach us a lesson that will endure?

POSTNOTE: Our initial contribution – $100 – today goes to the American Refugee Committee. They know the trade, and I know them from experience.
Comments, if you wish, to dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

#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:

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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.



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.

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.

#1055 – Dick Bernard: Dealing with Differences. The Iran Nuclear Agreement, the Koreas, North and South, et al

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

POSTNOTE, AUGUST 28: Here is the video of the entire two-hour program on the Iran Nuclear Agreement, on which I comment, below.

A few hours before attending a two hour “Round Table” on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Monday night, I was talking with a friend, who at the same time, was monitoring tweets from another friend at some political conference somewhere. A prominent Minnesota legislator was speaking at the time, and he commented, according to the tweet, that “in my district, the only acceptable vote [on any legislation] is NO”.

He would have been talking, of course, about his “base”, the majority of voters who elected him to the legislature from their district. They obviously aren’t into the give and take of what I consider healthy politics: healthy debate accompanied by compromise to reach an always imperfect resolution. Rather their idea seem “my way or the highway”. You win or you lose, and all that matters is winning…. A certain recipe for conflict where, ultimately, everyone loses.

A few hours after the Round Table, on Tuesday morning, I noted at the top of page A4 of the Minneapolis Star Tribune the below photo, which was surrounded by a long article, “Talks yield deal to ease Korean Tensions”.

(click to enlarge)

Minneapolis Star Tribune Aug. 25, 2015

Minneapolis Star Tribune Aug. 25, 2015

Clearly these representatives of enemies of over 60 years were negotiating to resolve an issue; face-to-face with a handshake to seal a doubtless imperfect deal to both sides.

The image particularly struck me because a dozen hours earlier I watched and listened to another group of four men, talking pro and con about the Iran Nuclear Agreement before a couple of hundred of us at the Cowles Auditorium at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The below photo is representative of many that I snapped of the group.

August 24, 2015, at University of Minnesota.  From left, Terrence Flower, Oren Gross, Tom Handson, William Beeman

August 24, 2015, at University of Minnesota. From left, Terrence Flower, Oren Gross, Tom Handson, William Beeman

Each photo would have seen the four characters in a somewhat different light. Photos are simply “freeze frames”, in these digital days easily manipulated to convey the desired “spin”.

The content of the Monday gathering was no particular surprise: polar opposites invited to express their positions. A good summary was provided by Eric Black who covered the session.

William Beeman and Oren Gross apparently were the main spokespeople for the pro and con side: both were well informed and convincing; the room was probably filled with partisans, one way or the other who didn’t need convincing. Everything was very civil, but there was no bargaining, not so much as “you have a good point”….

While the Monday session was strictly a talking at, rather than talking with, exercise, it was a very worthwhile use of my time, I felt. At two hours, it is too long for airing on on-line media, which is a shame. It was very interesting to hear these four panelists talk about an extraordinarily complex topic – the multilateral Nuclear deal with Iran – to an audience which was, likely, split in its opinions about whether the deal was “good” or “bad”.

We all had an informal ballot we could fill out, assessing whether the two hours changed our individual minds on whether the deal was good or not. I answered “no”. My guess is that my answer was by far the most common vote.

We were not there to negotiate; rather to listen and learn a bit more.

Of course, this was intended, but it is also very representative of an unfortunate reality in our nation today. We are a nation filled with sound bite certainties. We make judgments based on our own fragments of information about all manner of simple and complex issues.

I happen to be in Beeman’s corner on the Nuclear deal issue (Beeman, Iran Nuclear001), but always willing to listen to other points of view.

As for “getting to yes”, those four folks (photo above) from “axis of evil” North Korea; and shining star of capitalism South Korea best represent the harsh reality of actually doing a deal, where the status quo, even on relatively simple issues from a global perspective, is difficult.

The actual negotiations for the Iran Agreement of course is infinitely more complex, but the very engagement of our countries participation and leadership in the process is worthy of congratulations to all negotiating parties.

Negotiations is part of everyones life. Why should negotiating international differences be any different?

POSTNOTE: RELATED, Note the October 9-10, 2015 Workable World Conference on Transforming the United Nations System. Details here.

Here is a link to a year-long series of posts related to international issues on this, the 70th year of the United Nations.

#1054 – Dick Bernard: Tom Atchison’s Memorial; and two upcoming events

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Saturday I went to the Memorial Service for Tom Atchison, deceased earlier this month at 93. His picture from many years earlier is below; his brief bio is here: Tom Atchison002.

Tom Atchison, undated photo

Tom Atchison, undated photo

Tom and I got along very well, serving together for three years as President and Treasurer of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) 2005-2007 (his service with MAP far pre-dated my own; I believe he was one of the founders of the now 20-year old alliance.)

I didn’t know till the memorial that Tom was “absolutely critical to the start of Wolf Ridge Environmental Center which began on Earth Day, 1969″ and has since given educational programming to “over 500,000 people”.

One of my own remembrances of Tom seems pertinent here. Sometime during our working relationship with MAP, I distinctly remember him sharing with me that when he graduated from Princeton in 1944 as a physicist, he was offered a job with the “Manhattan Project“. That project, of course, is synonymous with “The Bomb”; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He declined the opportunity, and spent the rest of his working career as a “rock guy”, a research scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Mines; and spent his spare time working for a better world in peace and with justice for all.

Strange indeed how decisions made, or not, live on for all of us.

Tom’s generation is now rapidly exiting.

We tend to read and see, still, the war stories of those who served in the military (yes, Tom was a Naval officer in WWII and then in Korea, retiring from the Naval Reserves in the 1960s).

Too seldom is it recognized that great numbers of these veterans lived on, and in one unsung way or another committed to the need for peace for the survival of all of us.

I am privileged to have known many of these unsung heroes.

There is much more to be said, of course. There always is.

Farewell, Tom. You done good!


(click to enlarge both pictures. Text of both is here: Fliers001
Sunday, we went to a small but incredibly powerful exhition at St. Paul’s Landmark Center entitled “From War to Reconciliation: Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Exhibition”. The exhibit runs August 22 – November 28, 2015. Here’s the information:

Hiroshima Nagasaki001

Today the debate continues, on the pros and cons of the Iran Nuclear Deal. We’ll be at the below session this afternoon. Be there if you can.

Iran Nuclear Deal001

It is ironic to me that for some reason the awful results in 1945 of the most deadly weapons ever invented are now, 70 years later, presented as justification for some countries, especially our own, to hold on to immense stockpiles of even more deadly weapons, while at the same time demanding that others be denied the right.

It is hardly rational to talk the talk of Peace, while insisting on being armed to the teeth, and threatening, in effect, Hiroshima and Nagasaki like solutions to today’s international problems.

We should be the ones “beating the swords into ploughshares” as a witness to the intrinsic evil of war, especially of nuclear and similar weapons designed to destroy us all.

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

Same source as above, Aug. 23, 2015

Same source as above, Aug. 23, 2015

Cuba? Very important too. Here’s what I wrote to President Obama and my Senators and Congresswoman about the relationship between Iran, Cuba and ourselves….
Sens Klobuchar et al re Iran and Cuba

#1052 – Dick Bernard: A Thank You to President Jimmy Carter

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Pre-note: I was privileged to hear Jimmy Carter speak in Minneapolis March 6, 2015, in Minneapolis, at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. The near one hour talk and q&a several hundred of us heard can be viewed here.

Jimmy Carter, March 6, 2015, Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis MN

Jimmy Carter, March 6, 2015, Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis MN

A few days ago, Jimmy Carter, 39th U.S. President 1977-81, and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, announced that he has cancer. At age 90, and with a strong family history of cancer, President Carter’s long term prognosis is likely not optimistic.

Jimmy Carter has been much maligned by his enemies over the years. Their criticisms speak more about them, than about President Carter.

I happen to have always been a strong supporter of President Carter, and as his Presidential years turned into now-34 post-Presidential years, President Carter has proven to be one of our nations and worlds most outstanding and respected leaders – unless one’s criteria for success is taking the nation into war, something Jimmy Carter never did, truly a badge of honor.

Jimmy and Rosalind Carter have walked the talk of service.

He has been a prolific author. I have, and have read, most of his many books.

The Carter Center has in its 33 year history been a positive presence in many countries, particularly in the areas of human rights and health.

Jimmy Carter lent early and persuasive support to the Habitat for Humanity program.

He gave a most positive definition to the word “Christian”, for many years leading a public Bible discussion group at his Church in Plains, Georgia.

He is one of a select group, and the only American, of The Elders, an organization founded by Nelson Mandela to share wisdom with the rest of us.

When his term on earth ends, the ledger sheet will show that he more than paid his dues.

Thank you, President Carter.

#1051 – Anne Dunn: Meeting Billy Mills

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

The item which follows from Anne Dunn*, was forwarded to me by my sister, Flo, June 8, 2015. We had been trying to decide on an appropriate Native American recipient of a financial gift in honor of our Aunt Edithe. Edithe had been especially attentive to Native American fundraising appeals.

Anne’s commentary was originally on her Facebook page, and is forwarded with her permission. It helped Flo and I decide that Billy Mills organization “Running Strong“, was a good recipient for a family gift in memory of Aunt Edithe.

Possibly Aunt Edithe's introduction to Running Strong, a Date Book.  This one had no website.  The 2004 edition includes a website.

Possibly Aunt Edithe’s introduction to Running Strong, a Date Book. This one had no website. The 2004 edition includes a website.


Anne Dunn

Billy Mills, Running Strong

Billy Mills is the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. Jim Thorpe had won two gold medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Mills ran the 10,000 -meter competition at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to become the only American to ever win the gold in this event. His victory has been considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets.

A former United States Marine, he is a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. He was born (June 30, 1938) in Pine Ridge, South Dakota He was orphaned at age 12 and raised on the reservation by his grandmother. He took up running while attending the Haskell Institute (Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence Kansas.

After he graduated he joined the USMC. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine reserves when he competed in the 1964 Olympics.

He later set US records for 10,000 m (28:17.6) and the three-mile run, and had a 5,000 m best of 13:41.4. In 1965 he and Gerry Lindgren both broke the world record for the six-mile run. They finished in a tie at AAU National Championships, running 27:11.6.

On February 15, 2013, Mills met with President Obama at the White House to receive the Presidential Citizens Award for his work with Running Strong for American Indian Youth. His broad based nonprofit humanitarian organization has international ties. The medal is the nation’s second highest civilian award

In 1983 a movie was made of his life. “Running Brave” features Robby Benson in the starring role.

I met Billy Mills many years ago. We were standing over a garbage can at a school picnic on the Red Lake reservation. I was working for the Bemidji school district and had been asked to chaperone a group of Native American students that had been invited to the event.

He was disposing of his paper plate, plastic utensils and milk carton when I asked him for his (already been used) spoon. He was a bit unnerved by the unusual request but he put the spoon into my waiting hand. Then I asked for his milk carton, too. Now he was curious.

“Why do you want these things?”

“I will donate the carton to the school athletic department,” I told him. “I’ll ask that it be displayed in the trophy case. The spoon I will keep for a memento of the day I met Billy Mills.”

I suppose he was mildly flattered for he smiled and asked my name. Then he shook my hand and walked away.

The milk carton was accepted and placed in the trophy case where it stood for several years. Then, one day it disappeared! I suppose it looked like old garbage and someone had tossed it into the trash.

At first, I showed the spoon to everyone. But almost no one believed my story. The problem was that it looked like a hundred billion other plastic spoons. So one day I put it in my jewelry box and didn’t take it out for several years.

Then Florence Hedeen called to tell me that Billy Mills was going to speak at the school in Park Rapids. I decided to attend and to take the spoon with me. My friend LeRoy Chief, also from Pine Ridge, said he would ask Mills to autograph the unremarkable spoon.

The next problem was… would Billy Mills remember? Would he think I was just some old groupie trying to get his attention?

I arrived at the high school to find several friends waiting. They had saved a front row seat for me. Afterwards I approached the world-renowned speaker and asked if he would sign my spoon? He smiled and greeted me like an old friend! I took the spoon from my pocket. He whipped out his sharpie and wrote: “Billy Mills Olympic 10 K Gold.”

The event made front page news! There we were above the fold! A blurry black and white image of me with Billy Mills and the remarkable plastic spoon!
Years later he would visit the Bugonaygeshig School and run with students and staff. My daughter Annie was working there at that time. They were both former marines and ran together. After a few minutes she asked if he remembered her mother and the plastic spoon. He stopped in his tracks and gasped, “That woman is your mother?”

Mills, also known as Makata Taka Hela, lives in Fair Oaks, California, but still travels for his non-profit agency as an inspirational speaker.

I met him again when I attended a wellness conference for seniors at the Black Bear Casino Hotel (June 2010). Marlene Stately and I were sharing room 339. When I saw Billy Mills eating alone in the dining room, I dragged Marlene to his booth and introduced us.

He was so gracious! He pretended to remember me but was actually quite baffled until I mentioned my Marine daughter and the plastic spoon. Then he offered us a hearty smile and invited us to sit with him.

We sat with him for about 30 minutes and we spoke of many things. It was exciting to hear this famous man speaking with passion about helping his fellow Native Americans.

He likes to quote his father: “Follow your dreams. Every dream has a passion. Every passion has its destiny.”

His father also told him, “Know yourself and find your desire.” With desire comes self-motivation. Then comes work. With work comes success.

He ran a 5k fun run on New Year’s Eve about three years ago. Not only his daughters but his wife beat him! He saw them waiting for him to come in. I’m sure he thought about his glory days.

When had he become an old man with bad knees?

Let me leave you with more encouraging words from my hero, Billy Mills:

“God has given me the ability. The rest is up to me. Believe. Believe. Believe.”

“My life is a gift from my Creator. What I do with my life is my gift back to Creator.”

“What I took from the Olympic Games was not winning an Olympic gold medal but an understanding of global unity through dignity of character and pride of global diversity. And global unity through global diversity is also the future of mankind.”

“The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you do that, you have dignity. You have the pride. You can walk about with character and pride no matter in what place you happen to finish.”

* – Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has several previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.

A personal story about Red Lake, experienced in August, 1988, can also be found here.