Peace & Justice browsing by category


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The song was a fantasy.

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

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

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

The future is not to be delegated.

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

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

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

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

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

#1079 – Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg; Ehtasham Anwar: Videos and Papers presented at the Workable World Conference October 9&10, 2015 in Minneapolis; and Ehtasham Anwars Video Interviews of Minnesota Peacemakers, May – June 2014.

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

PRENOTE from Dick Bernard:
This post contains links to talks by 11 speakers at a recent conference on the United Nations system at 70; and to two videos which summarize thoughts of ten peace and justice advocates on their experiences in the United States.

(Content for these is accessible in the section labeled “THE VIDEOS”, below.)

1) The outstanding Workable World Conference organized by Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg relating to the United Nations was subject of an earlier blogpost, Oct. 12, 2015.

The content of the entire conference is preserved within the professionally prepared videos and accompanying papers presented at the Conference by many experts (link to the talks below). My recommendation: Watch and/or read one at a time. This is a several-day post.

2) Ehtasham Anwar, a career Civil administrator in one of Pakistans largest cities, conducted ten interviews of Minnesota peacemakers in Minneapolis/St. Paul in May and June, 2014. The videos are useful in that they give summary comments divided into threads of conversation which are amenable to discussion groups.

Ehtasham produced and filmed this project hear the end of his year as a Humphrey/Fulbright Fellow at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School. He did an expert job with this project.

In my opinion, both projects deserve broad viewing, can easily be viewed in “bits and pieces”, and would be excellent subjects for group viewing and conversations. Ehtasham’s interviews is an idea easily replicated.

Full disclosure: I was on the Advisory Committee of Joe Schwartzbergs Workable World Conference (#1 below); and in #2, I’m one of the ten interviewed by Ehtasham Anwar a year ago, and the person who had the honor of assisting him in setting up the interviews.


Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg

We are pleased to inform you that video recordings of all Workable World Conference sessions, as well as most full-text conference presenters’ papers, are now available from our web site:

This gives each of you a chance to view any of the presentations (and the Open Forum) for a second time, or perhaps catch ones that you were not able to attend during the conference weekend. We encourage you to share this link with others, so that the valuable content spreads beyond those that could make to the Humphrey School that weekend.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation, and invite you to share any input you may have. Feel free to REPLY to nancy2@ATdunlavyDOTnet.

In the very near future we plan to upload the winning Youth Essays and other outcomes of the conference. We’ll stay in touch about future Workable World actions and opportunities!

From The Workable World Trust (WWT),
Joseph Schwartzberg, Nancy Dunlavy, and all WWT Advisory Board members


Ehtasham Anwars 2014 interviews

Post containing link to the ten video interviews is found here. There are two 25 minute videos, with summary comments of ten Minnesota Peacemakers.

There are roughly ten segments, each preceded by a brief question. Each person interviewed was asked the identical questions. Thus, the interviews are easy to correlate, and to replicate, if you have an interest.

Videos are accessible only to those who have Facebook access. Luckily, these days, everybody knows somebody with a Facebook account. Ask them to help you out.

#1076 – Ehtasham Anwar: Seeking an answer to a disconnect: Americans as Peaceful People; and America’s International Image as Warmonger.

Monday, October 26th, 2015

PRE-NOTE to this post from Dick Bernard at end of this post.

The two 25 minute videos referred to by Mr. Anwar in his last paragraph can be accessed at his Facebook page, here. See Dreamworld section.

Personally, this is the most important project I feel I have ever been involved in. My hope is that you watch the videos, and then enter into discussion about what they mean in context with your own life, the United States, and of our planet Earth.

(click to enlarge)

Ehtasham (center) with Melvin Giles and Suhail, St. Paul MN Jun 11 2014

Ehtasham (center) with Melvin Giles and Suhail, St. Paul MN Jun 11 2014

Ehtasham Anwar
Through the eyes of media, rightly or wrongly, I had always seen the United States as an aggressive country, a war monger nation, and the biggest obstacle to my dream of a dream world—a world free of hunger, disease and war.

I also believed the US citizens were too mired in their own worldly pursuits that they did not have time to attend to what the US government was doing elsewhere in the world in their name and with their tax money. They either endorsed or, at best, remained indifferent to the US aggression and highhandedness abroad. Their heart, if at all it was, did not beat for the humanity at large. They were thus equally to be blamed for the death and misery that their government brought to people in many parts of the world every now and then.

And then I got an opportunity to travel to the United States and live among, and interact with, the citizenry. Myths were shattered. Concepts were changed. I met some of the best persons in my life in the United States. They were as humane, if not more, as anyone else on the globe. Overwhelming majority disapproved war. They too felt disturbed over the US hegemonic designs. They too worked for the cause of peace. They too wanted a world full of happiness and joy, not only for them but for others too.

Where then was the disconnect? My confusion compounded. With so many good people, why was there no impact seen on the US policies? Was the church and the clergy playing its due role? Those who were working for peace failed to inspire their own families, how could they expect to impact the US policies? What were the obstacles? Way forward? Messages?

My quest led me to a journey—a journey through the hearts and minds of the common Americans. During my nearly a year-long stay in Minnesota, I talked to people from all cross sections of the society: those who had given their lives to the cause of peace; those who had taken part in, and personally seen the horrors of, the World War II and the Vietnam War; those who had participated in the civil rights movement; those who were well off; those who belonged to less privileged segments of the society; those who were the academicians, and had been keeping an eye on, peace and related issues all around the world; those who claimed to have belonged to the inner circles of the US security establishment; those who spoke from the pulpit; those who used arts as a weapon for peace; the men; the women; the young; the old; the rich; the poor; the white; the people of color.

Not all of my questions were satisfactorily answered, yet, at least, I got a clue to what they were thinking. I decided to compile all my work—the interviews—in the form of a video ‘Peacemakers of Minnesota’, with three aims in mind: Firstly, to pay tribute to those who had virtually given their lives to the cause of peace; secondly, to archive their thoughts and achievements for the posterity; and finally, to help those who would want to work for peace by equipping them with greater insight into the thought process of the citizens of the sole superpower of the world for the key to global peace lies with the US citizens.
Wish me, and them, a very good luck.

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

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

PRE-NOTE Dick Bernard
In April, 2014, Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, of the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School,asked if I would assist a Fulbright/Humphrey Scholar in finding Americans who might be willing to talk about the quest for peace.

Thus, I had the great privilege of meeting Ehtasham Anwar, already an accomplished high level civil administrator in a large city in his home country of Pakistan. He was soon to return to his country after a year in Minnesota.

Ehtasham had a simple goal: to interview ten Americans interested in peace, and then to assemble a report on what he had heard.

We quickly “clicked”.

I set about acquainting Ehtasham with the Twin Cities Peace Community; and ten people were found who agreed to be interviewed. My priority was to identify elders for obvious reasons; sadly, the first person Ehtasham “met”, by attending his funeral, was Rev. Lyle Christianson. The two of them would certainly have clicked as well. I was aware that the time clock was clicking. A lady, high on my list of candidates for interview was too ill to meet with us….

Through very fortunate circumstance, Ehtasham’s Pakistan colleague, Suhail Abro, had a video camera, and agreed to assist in filming each approximately 45 minute interview; each person asked to respond to about ten questions. None of us had ever done such a video process before. As you will note, Ehtasham and Suhail did a marvelous job.

In the end, I expected to have film of the ten interviews for an archival project for the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, a group of which I have long been a member, this year celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Not only did the interviews on film appear, but Ehtasham edited the hours of individual interviews into a well-made 50 minute video (which appears in two 25-minute parts at his Facebook page).

Those interviewed, primarily elders in working for peace, are as follows: Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg, Lynn Elling, John Noltner, Mary Rose Goetz, Don Christensen, Tom White, Mary Morris, Dick Bernard, Coleen Rowley, and Melvin Giles. Given more time, we could have interviewed many more people.

A second powerful film from the same project was at the 2014 Veterans for Peace annual Memorial Day observance on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds.

Ehtashams intention, and mine, is that the films be viewed broadly and both become a resource for replication through other interviews, and especially for discussion.

I learned a great deal from Ehtasham and Suhail in my time with them, and I keep in touch with Ehtasham to this day.

For those with questions about things such as process: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

#1073 – Dick Bernard: Concert Today in St. Paul, 1 PM: “From Darkness to Light: A Journey Toward Peace & Reconciliation”

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Peace is possible. Just take a look at St. Paul, Minnesota, and its Sister City, Nagasaki, Japan.

(click to enlarge photo. pdf here: Civic Symphony Oct 18 15002)
Civic Symphony Oct 18 15001

By chance I was at St. Paul’s Landmark Center yesterday, at the same time as the St. Paul Civic Symphony was doing its final rehearsal for this performance.

It will be magnificent. I know. I heard all of it.

After the rehearsal, Music Director Jeffrey Stirling stopped by the Nagasaki-Hiroshima Exhibit (where I was volunteering), and I asked him about the now 60 year Sister City relationship between St. Paul and Nagasaki.

He said that, to his knowledge, the cities relationship, the first for any American city with any city in Asia, was largely brought into existence through the efforts of Louis Hill, Jr., the grandson of railroad magnate James J. Hill.

He didn’t know Mr. Hills specific motivation.

I asked, was there any online history of the forming of the relationship?

Mr. Spirling wasn’t sure, but directed me to the Hills Grotto Foundation. This article, there, doesn’t answer the question, but is nonetheless fascinating reading.

Another link, here, outlines the timeline of the relationship.

The exhibit at which I volunteered continues through Nov. 28 at the northwest corner of Landmark Center, on the Main Floor. At first glance, it appears to be a small exhibit. But one of the visitors there, yesterday, spent the entire time watching/listening to survivor stories on one of four DVD players, and she was engrossed. She was 7 years old at the time of the Atom bomb, she said, knowing of it as we Americans would have known it, through child’s eyes.

Leaving the exhibit, I met a Japanese-American couple, from Minneapolis, who recounted how WWII impacted on their family.

More information on remaining events can be seen here.

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

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

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

Click to enlarge any photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schwartzberg book001

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

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

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

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

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

Maryam Yusefzedah and Tim O'Keefe Oct 10, 2015

Maryam Yusefzedah and Tim O’Keefe Oct 10, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1068 – Dick Bernard: In Love With a Gun.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

(click to enlarge)

Grandpa Ferd Busch with shotgun and game  in summer of 1907, viewed from the north of his new farm home.  At  left, his Dad, Wilhelm Busch; at right his brother Frank.  At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.

Grandpa Ferd Busch with shotgun and game in summer of 1907, viewed from the north of his new farm home. At left, his Dad, Wilhelm Busch; at right his brother Frank. At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.

In 2013 I happened to come into possession of a book of poems, “Lyrics of the Prairie” by a retired professor at the college I attended beginning in 1958. Soren Kolstoe (bio here: Kolstoe,Soren-History) had retired right before I began my four years, but he was legendary at Valley City State Teacher’s College. His “beat” was psychology, but his love was the outdoors, particularly the North Dakota outdoors. I wrote about him here, including (with permission) his book of poems.

Near the end of the book of poems is this one:

Strange how much a man can love a gun;
A battered thing of senseless steel and wood,
I’ve used it hard and fear its day is done.
I’ll get a new one, or at least I should.

A sleek new job with parts that really match,
A perfect product of the gunsmith’s art;
Smooth, shiny blue, without a scar or scratch,
A beauty that should win a hunter’s heart.

Yet all these beauties leave me strangely cold.
I find the parting harder than I thought;
I know they’re good but still prefer the old,
To any new-style gun that can be bought.

This gun was more than just a gun to me,
A trusted hunting pal for many years.
It served me well and somehow seemed to be
A partner in my triumphs, hopes, and fears.

It’s battered now and worn beyond repair;
Its hunting days it seems at last are done.
But still I’ll keep it, cherish it with care,
Strange how much a man can love a gun!”

I knew my Uncle Vince loved North Dakota outdoors, and in his home were four guns – I call them farm guns – which were always ready, but, by 2013, not used for many years.

He was generally a solitary hunter for the occasional duck, deer, varmint or whatever that crossed his land. (From time to time, he’d use the shotgun to scare off the pesky blackbirds who were decimating his sunflowers – I remember that). His gun was his companion on the hunt, that was all.

So, I gave Vince a copy of Dr. Kolstoe’s poems. As it happened, it was at a time in his life when he was rapidly deteriorating in health, and five months later it fell to me to admit him to the nursing home in LaMoure. I doubt he ever looked at the book, which I found in the envelope. Life had changed his priorities.

But the possessions Vince worried about the most were his guns.

I saved them from being stolen, but I’m not sure he trusted me – someone who has never had any use for a gun, nor even owned one – to take good care of them.

He’s gone now, and I still have those guns in safekeeping, at some point to go to the family member who wants them the most.

They’re just some old farm guns: a 12 gauge or two; a .22 calibre; something that would pass for a deer rifle; a single shot out in the shed. Just old farm guns.

I think of those guns, my Uncle, Dr. Kolstoe’s poem, and lots of other things, this day after the day before when the latest carnage took place in this country at a college in Roseburg, Oregon: lots of innocent folks, and the gunman, falling to bullets from guns.

Been a long while since we in this country have crossed the boundary from sanity to insanity when it comes to guns.

Our politicians are threatened with political assassination if they mess with any one’s gun in any way whatsoever.

“Second Amendment Rights” they say.

It’s long past time we figure it out. Those folks in Oregon yesterday, now being prepared for funerals, had a “right to life” too.

Vince once belonged to the National Rifle Association, but I gather not for long. He didn’t like the policy drift of that organization.

I wonder what he’d say if he were here today, having watched the news….

Once again we have a chance to converse about this topic. And maybe a chance to do something.


from Christine: It was risky to call your message “In Love With a Gun”. Of course, one can understand your real feeling about it after reading the message.

from Claude: Very interesting, Dick. Thanks. The recent shooter had six guns on him and seven more back at home. I think it was more than one gun that guy was in love with.

On Thursday night I was returning from St Paul and listening to MPR here (dated Oct 2 but I heard it Oct 1) to a college professor being interviewed who had grown up in Baltimore in the crack cocaine days. He said it was easier to get a gun than a job. He inherited his dealer “starter kit” when his brother was killed and left a safe full of money and drugs. So this now college professor knows from the inside a lot of the gun problem. He professed never to be a gun person himself. He bought as a mid teenager his first gun just because he felt he needed one for posturing or protection (often unloaded! that seems to be a mistake?). But he knew people who loved every aspect of guns and he said that today’s gun culture is probably the same.

from Sharon: This brought memories back of my dad on the farm and the many guns he had. One was placed over the back door. They were given to nephews and us kids when he died. The rest were sold at an auction. I took the old gun that did not work anymore just to hang over a wood stove in the basement. Just sold it on E Bay last year when we moved. Thanks for sharing.

from Larry: Thanks for sharing this. It is quite powerful, and express my sentiments about gun control.

from Jim: Dick, thanks for sharing. Brings back memories of my childhood too!

from Duane: Thanks, Dick… AMEN, FGS.

from Lynn: Thank you Dick,
As I remember we credited Dr. Kolstoe for founding the EBC’s and originating it’s name.
The EBC’s had a traditional fall pheasant hunt. After the hunt, we invited our dates to a pheasant dinner which we prepared and served.

During my first teaching job in Bowdon, ND, Dr. Kolstoe spoke to our high school student body and demonstrated hypnosis with a volunteer student. After, he came to my bachelor apartment and we had pheasant, which I had hunted and prepared in a crockpot.

I had two farm guns like you describe, a double barrel 20 gage and a .22. They were strictly utilitarian and I no longer have them, left behind when I left the farm. I fired military weapons on the practice range when I was in the Air National Guard. I have no use for guns now. My son loves to hunt and he is teaching his sons proper use of guns and hunting skills.

I agree we need to do better and withdraw from the insane use of guns. I thought the task force chaired by Vice President Biden put forth reasonable legislative proposals. I would like Senator Heitkamp [ND] to introduce her alternative, since she did not support the work of the task force. Somehow, some protective mechanism should have prevented a person who was an Army boot camp dropout from bringing six guns and five ammunition magazines to an Oregon school.

from Ken: Thanks for sharing this piquant and well-thought piece. Like many, I tend to feel that the situation is rather hopeless. With a reported 90%+ plurality of polled citizens being in favor of at least more extensive background checks, still the advocates of divinely ordained 2nd Amendment prerogatives (NRA and gun manufacturers) rule the day, along with nonchalant and effete politicians who fear taking them on.Truly a problem that our system does not seem capable or competent to address, much less solve. Sad.

from Norm: I feel the same way about the limited number of guns that I own having used them and still using them for deer and bird hunting every fall, something that I really enjoy doing.

While I know that the killings in Oregon have prompted another push for gun control, I honestly don’t think that would make much of a difference in preventing such future outbursts of violence. Just like I did not think that the adoption of the permit to carry law in Minnesota would lead to an increase in gun violence as claimed by it opponents…and it did not, of course although it did lead to some business for the sign people given all of the guns are banned from these premises postings that one sees all over the place.

Of course, the laws do allow the occasional idiot who needs to have people notice him or her who wanders through public places carrying a gun visibly on his or her hip. Those folks seem to have a need for attention and probably believe that people will really “respect” them if they walk through crowds with a visible weapon on their hips.

Goodness, if their mommies had only hugged them a few more times when they were growing up maybe they wouldn’t have such a need for public attention.

I am not an NRA member nor ever will be given their far right positions on not only gun control but many other issues as well. On the other hand, I honestly do not think that more stringent gun control laws will reduce the number of incidents like the recent one in Oregon. The shooter in that instance had bought several guns over the past three years all through legal purchases. As such, the gun control laws in Oregon did not prevent him from doing what he did.

I wish that I could say that I thought that more stringent gun control laws would any future Oregon’s but I honestly do not think that they would.

from Jim: Ok Norm, we know you love your guns. But you must admit that the level of gun violence in the US is well beyond sickening toward the astounding, war-like. In the country of Columbia, which the media portrays as a hotbed of revolutionary violence, FARC revolutionaries kill about 500 per year. Columbia is a country of 48 million so a matching kill rate for the 320 million US citizens would be a little under 3400. But actual statistics for US gun violence in 2013 are 11,209 deaths by homicide, 21,175 deaths by suicide, 505 deaths by accident (Cheney events), and 281 of undetermined cause. We are bythose measures, a far more dangerous place than revolutionary Columbia.

from Charlie: Many Very Good comments here about GUNS.

Like You Norm I grew up on a farm & my Dad also kept a gun above the kitchen door. I hunted many years with him & we had a lot of fun hunting pheasants, ducks, fox, squirrels, deer & even going to Montana & Wyoming Deer hunting a few times. I also still have a couple Small Caliber guns, the shot guns & deer rifles I gave to my sons & grand sons years ago. I always loved to hunt but after my Dad died, I pretty much lost interest & only hunted a few times after my Dad’s passing. Stupid me, I even was a member of the NRA for one year & soon learned how very crazy & far right they were & still are.

Many comments here that I agree with, that it seems almost hopeless that NOT much will change.

I do feel we need much more thorough Back Ground Checks. The Change of Ownership of every gun should require a Back Ground Check, Even those like when I gave guns to my kids. A limit on the size of ammunition clips. What kind of a hunter needs more than a 10 bullet clip ? Last but not least, Ban the Sale of Assault Weapons. NO HUNTER HAS A NEED FOR AN AK-47 type Gun, I also believe we should have National Gun Laws that I think fewer of the crazies would slip through the cracks. We Do Need the Same Gun Law in Every State All Over the USA ! !

Thanks Everyone for All Of Your Great Comments.

from Kathy: Here is my personal opinion on the matter of guns.
1. Repeal the Second Amendment. We no longer need to have armed citizen militias.
2. Put a huge tax on all ammo and guns except those used specifically for hunting. Require hunters to attend a class on gun safety and require them to carry insurance for owning a lethal weapon, just like we have to have car insurance. Require them to be disabled and locked up when it is not hunting season.
3. Confiscate all other guns and ammo. Collectors must disable the guns they have, not add to collections, and register their collections with local authorities. Hunters must also register their hunting rifles. A yearly tax to own a gun and/or maintain a collection should be required. Limit the number of hunting rifles a person can own.
4. Anyone involved in a death by gun will be subject to the death penalty.
5. Shut down the NRA, and gun manufacturers.
6. Allow only ammo for hunting to be made.
7. No more gun shows.
8. Prohibit the sale or transfer of a gun to another person.

from Emmett: We are working to get an activity started here in the state of Washington to publicly highlight those persons in Congress and our State Legislature that are against tighter gun sale laws and see if we can get a national movement to do that like the $15 minimum wage movement that we started. Something has got to be done. Listening to the Sunday cable news programs, there was much discussion about the subject. Several of the discussions had to do with the high levels of crime in Chicago and Baltimore, both of which have strong gun laws, yet none of the so-called experts seemed to understand that those cities have the problem of the states around them allow gun runners to buy volumes of guns at gun shows then turn around and sell them to criminals and others just outside the city limits. We need a national referendum on the subject and the selling of guns without doing proper background checks should carry a life-in-prison punishment. This won’t solve the entire problem, but it will hopefully make some impact.

from Carol: I’ve had more than enough with the handwringing that we “can’t do anything.” I am committing to not voting in the next election for anyone who will not personally assure me that they will support (on federal/state level) the very reasonable gun control laws that Obama proposed after Newtown. Have to look up the exact language, but they were background checks for every sale, a ban on (semi-?)assault weapons, a limit on number of rounds. If some Republicans can spend their whole lives voting on the basis of abortion only, we can only look at guns. I think it is truly the only way to make a difference.

Care to join me?

from Lloyd: I took Kolstoe hunting out in the Flasher [ND] area which is where I was from with a bunch of EBC’s. We had a great time but I mostly remember knocking a hole in the oil pan of his car and ruined the motor. I have always lived with some guilt because I was driving and should have been more aware that it had happened. The poem was great and so true. I have lots of guns, or at least several and they were almost all purchased in the 50’s and 60’s. They are great relics and all work well and I still hunt with them.

#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:

(click to enlarge)

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.

(click to enlarge)

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….