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Barbara Gilbertson: “It was an amazing experience, the [Women’s] March [on Washington, Jan. 21]”.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

NOTE: Barbara, of the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, is one of the two people I know who actually participated in the Women’s March Jan. 21, 2016. Barbara writes in response to my blog of January 24, 2016. In response to my request to reprint her response as a stand-alone post on my blog, she included this comment: “Funny about Moana. It’s the only Oscar nominee film we’ve seen this year. Loved it!”

Barbara Gilbertson:
It was an amazing experience, the March. Turned out I went to D.C. Bold choice for someone who doesn’t much like long bus rides, crowds, and some days even more than one person at a time.

I threw together a commentary for the Strib {Minneapolis Star Tribune]. It was weak sauce, and I don’t expect to see it published. but it helped me gather my thoughts. In much the same way as dissecting a movie after you’ve seen it before you go to the movie reviews to see whether you liked it.

The March was inclusive by every definition.
The March gave me experiential learning about intersectional feminism.
The March gave me a new framework for intersectionalism that extends beyond any given individual.
We had a boatload of intersectionalism at work in Washington, D.C.

I didn’t know anything but the diversity had crossed my radar until I got home.

The last two hours on our bus (#3, and named to honor Patty Wetterling) turned out to be the foundation for my 36-hour experience with the March and the Marchers. In the crowded confines of that bus, random access to a microphone (voluntary — some chose not to speak, but very few) emboldened those whose stories we had never heard to speak. Actually, more like summaries/overviews than stories. With deep dips to the core of the speaker. Powerful and often painful sharing. Knocked my big, knitted socks off. In fact, I suspect socks were flying all over the bus.

At age 74, I was the oldest woman on board. The youngest was 17. We were white, black, Asian, Hispanic. Male, female. Sexuality diverse. Experienced politically alongside neophytes. Extroverts and introverts. Telling true stuff about ourselves in the context of the March and the immediate aftermath…what we’d expected, what we got, what we thought we’d gotten but needed to digest. Some anger, some despair, buckets of tears and enough shared information to ramp everyone up at least one notch on the empathy scale.

Everywhere, all weekend long, The Big Question: What next? It was never answered to anyone’s satisfaction. Because no one knew/knows, exactly. But we started up a FB [Facebook] bus group (within three minutes of its being suggested…those college students are techie whizzes). We have been sharing extensively ever since we got home. The MN “chapter” of Women’s March on Washington is active. The national group is active as well. There are calendars of “do this today” ideas. There are hot issues surfacing almost hourly. With Trump in the Oval, how could it be otherwise?!

This is by no means an exclusive endeavor. Neither was the March. It was totally inclusive and, as it turned out, totally safe. Nothing bad happened. And it didn’t take long to know during the March/rally that someone always had your back, wherever you were, whatever you were doing. Not in a cosmically holy way, but in a very human being way. Small children. Babies. Moms and dads. Singles. Groups.

It’s only been 48 hours since this eagle landed. So frankly, I don’t pretend to know the answer to “What next?” But I’m absolutely confident there will be a “next.” Maybe a March. Maybe something different. The Blitzkrieg HQ’d in the Oval is intended to be upsetting and off-putting. And it’s working quite well. But what got started in DC (and St Paul, and Chicago, and LA, and Kenya, and little towns all around our country and the world) is not going away. It’s bigger and stronger than a hot, one-time idea.

I’ll keep you posted. But likely you and your compadres won’t be sitting around waiting for invitations or permission or, or, or to rise to this national crisis. So cross-posting seems like a marvelous idea, don’t you think?

POSTNOTE FROM DICK:: Check back in a few days to this or any blogpost at this site. Quite frequently, people submit comments which are both thoughtful and interesting. This blog is published usually about two to three times per week, on various topics. Guest submissions, like Barbara’s, are welcome. The main criteria are that they be constructive and respectful. Dick Bernard

Friday, January 20, 2017. Some Thoughts Towards A Better World

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Related posts: January 6, 10, 13, 24, 25, 28, Feb. 3, 9.

Today, an event is happening at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

Some thoughts.

*
(click to enlarge photos)

Participants at Third Thursday divided into small groups to take a quick look at one of the three treaties under discussion. This is one of the groups.

Last night I was at a meeting of 27 people, sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions MN. I’m VP of the group, so I know the back story of this “Third Thursday” progam. The program was recommended before the Nov. 8 election; it turned out to be a very interesting discussion around three important United Nations documents: “The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women”; “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”; “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities”. (the links cited are very lengthy point of source documents. We worked from summary documents provided by the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center. See photo below).

At such conversations, you rapidly learn about how complex seemingly simple things are; and in two hours we could barely scratch the surface.

After the meeting, I gave Dr. Joe Schwartzberg a ride home. We debriefed the evening, and the implications of what is ahead. Joe is an International Emeritus Professor at the University of Minnesota, and an acknowledged expert of the United Nations System. His recent book, Transforming the United Nations System. Designs for a Workable World, would, in itself, occupy several weeks of discussion in a book club setting. I know, I participated in such a group a couple of years ago.

Such is how it went for me the night before todays inauguration.

*

We are a nation of very good people, generally. Look around you. Most recently, this fact was brought home to me in the January, 2017 issue of the Washington Spectator, a small publication to which I have long subscribed. You can read it here: Spectator001. We also live in a world chock-full of very good people. People in my group wonder what we can do now and later. Here is a guide. I’d suggest passing these along, and printing both out for future reference.

*

So, what to do today, being among the category of citizens some would call “losers”; and taunt “get over it”?

I looked on my always messy home office desk Wednesday night to see if there was something there which demonstrated my feelings at this point in our history. I found two items:

(click to enlarge)

Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN 2016, and button, Liberty and Justice for All, acquired at some time in the past.

Perhaps today would be a good day to relisten to one of the speeches given by Kailash Sadyarthi at last June’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum. You can access it here. You will note there are four separate talks available, including his keynote, plus other powerful talks from the same Forum. (Information about the 2017 Forum is here. They are always outstanding. If you can, attend.)

What will be today, will be. President Obama leaves office with a 62% approval rating; his successor enters with a 32% approval rating.

The first official acts by the new President will likely be as advertised: to begin the attempt to dismantle the Obama legacy: “Obamacare”, and on and on. It makes little sense, but what do I know?

I don’t know anyone who is going to DC for the inauguration.

I know two people, both women, one from Minnesota, one from New Mexico, who are going to Saturday’s Womans March. One, a grandmother, will be accompanied by her adult granddaughter. “Leaving early Friday morning for DC. On a bus. Turning around after the March/rally, and heading back home. My adult granddaughter is going with me, along with some friends. Gonna be wild and crazy heading east. Heading home, I expect lots of sleepy people. Me, for one.”

While I have soured a bit on the effectiveness of protests, we plan to join the St. Paul MN link – 10 a.m. at St. Paul College.

Those of us of the peace and justice persuasion possess an opportunity now. It is also a challenge. Too many of us have sat back and pretended that someone else would carry our message for us; and complained if it wasn’t carried exactly or as far as we had wished.

The ball is in our court now, in every place that we live, and in every group that we are a part of.

*

This is our country, too. And we are very big assets to this country’s quality of life. Let’s be witness to that.

I look around and without trying very hard I see hope. Two of many additional examples, just within the last day or so:

1. Tuesday came a long message from a young friend, Walid, who has set a course to make a difference. In part he said: “I really think hope is stronger than fear. There are a million reasons to justify killing, hate and crimes. As a refugee I tell you that I will have a better and more passionate crowd if I go out there and say I’m going to the middle east to fight, there are less passionate and more nay sayers when you say I’m going to the middle east to work for peace. Peace sounds too naive till it actually happens. The results of peace are far stronger than the results of hate. The process of creating peace is way harder and more complicated than the process of generating hate and wars.”

(NOTE: I have personally noted, too often, that even the peace and justice community seems sometimes to revel more in conflict than in seeking resolution, which requires compromise. It is something we need to own ourselves.)

2. Yesterday morning, my friend George, a retired teacher, among many accomplishments, stopped by the coffee shop and asked if he could have a couple of minutes. He made a proposal, too lengthy for this blog, but essentially described here*. He’s donated $500, I’ve put in $50…because he asked. And I’ve sent his proposal to 15 people who I thought would be particularly interested in it.

Succinctly, he learned of this project by a simple Facebook search to see if anyone was around who he remembered from an early teaching experience 48 years ago. He happened across this project, coordinated by one of his former students, who, like him, was also a former Peace Corps Volunteer.

That’s as simple as it gets, and we all are in proximity to similar opportunities frequently. We are all in many network.

There is lots of work to be done, and we can do it one small bit at a time.

* – A little more about the proposal. Ten kids need to raise $30,000. They are from the Greenway School district, which is, according to George, a series of tiny communities between Grand Rapids and Hibbing MN on the Minnesota Mesabi Iron Range. Their communities include such places as Taconite, Marble, Calumet, Pengilly, Trout Lake Township, Iron Range Township, Greenway Township, Lawrence Lake Township and Nashwauk Township. More than 53% of the 1,000 students in pre-K to 12th grade qualify for free or reduced lunch.

POSTNOTE:
I dropped Joe off at his home. We said good night. He waved good night; upstairs I saw his partner, Louise, wave as well. Great folks, great friends.

Back home, an e-mail came from Arthur Kanegis concerning his now complete film, “The World Is My Country” about “World Citizen #1”, Garry Davis. This is a film that everyone who cares about making a difference should watch for and promote. The website is here.

For those interested about todays center-of-attention:
1. 1999 Thoughts from conservative icon William F. Buckley, as reported in Red State.
2. Just Above Sunset for Jan. 19, 2017. Always a good summary of current events.

SATURDAY, JAN. 21Just Above Sunset summarizes comments on inauguration day.

COMMENTS:
from Kathy: Today I am caught between appreciating the “peaceful transfer of power” mentality, which I appreciate and respect and the urgent need to push back, speak out, etc. weird day…so sorry to see grace and wisdom lift off in the helicopter.

from Robert: Thanks for sending “my thoughts on inauguration day” and related thought-provoking items. You should have been a prof at UM leading philosophical seminars, etc., as you excel at such. America will survive Trump and cronies but will be damaged in many ways, large and small, as will the world. 2020 can’t come soon enough.

Best wishes for a winter filled with discussion with passion.

from Richard: Thanks for sharing. I agree with you 100, maybe even 110 %. I think, unfortunately, you and I, and many other geezers, dreamers, of our age and history, simply don’t get it. We completely misunderstand the modern world, the connectivity, the lack of interest in “facts”, or “truth”, and the fascination with entertainment, action, the fight, and the inability or interest in processing words.

Make your argument to me on pinterest, or youtube. If not, you are simply meaningless. [Some years ago, my teachers union] sent me to Yemen, with [a colleague], and then to Egypt. I was happy to survive, and after looking at classrooms of 160 kids in [a large Middle Eastern city], that don’t even exist anymore, I was never more humbled, and still feel that way. Our issues are small blips on the radar screen. Glad to know you are well, and still busy in retirement. I admire the commitment! Keep at it, but recreational travel is also a good idea.

Response from Dick: Great to hear from you, a “voice from the past”!

I do “have a life” beyond the blog, etc., and I understand completely your frustration about communicating across the generation and informed citizen gap, and today’s fascination with (really) nothingness as opposed to substance. Indeed, we came from a time in the relatively recent past where informed citizens and idealism seemed to be more acceptable than now (at least from the public information/disinformation frame). I have one former friend who keeps me well stocked with disinformation. I don’t block him, only so that I can see the subject lines – what the alt right is spreading via YouTube, etc. Horrible stuff.

Folks who know me well, now, would probably agree that I remain in the struggle and a main objective is to get young people (like we were, once) very actively engaged in their own future. After all, it is THEIR future.

There are lots of Walid’s out there. We just have to get them engaged, and get out of their way! (I am reminded of a retired Pastor friend, Verlyn S., who in the 1960s found himself as a minister to/with college students in varied college and university settings. This was in the turbulent years of Vietnam, etc.

Late in his life (he died a number of years ago), he received a distinguished achievement award, and I was in the audience when he gave his brief remarks. He said something I’ve never forgot, though I can only paraphrase from my memory: back in his young Pastor days, he wasn’t protest oriented, though he was a supportive pastor to the students of his faith. He said, from his recollection, that back then, like now, the vast majority of the students were mostly about the business of surviving college – just like today. Perhaps two percent (2%), he estimated, were activists, the protestors of the day. He said this to an audience who was getting discouraged. It didn’t then, and doesn’t now, take 100% to make a difference. As Margaret Mead so famously said years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

From Christina, to her kids: I like Keillor’s thoughts on religion [link here]. I have shed more tears during this transition period than I want to even admit. I cried when Obama gave his farewell speech, I cried when he had the farewell ceremony for Joe Biden. I cried at the inauguration listening to Trump say things will now be different. It won’t be just talk but no action, thinking of all the things Obama has done. How Trump was able to walk into a much better place than what Obama walked into when he was inaugurated. I cried when the Obama’s left on the helicopter for Andrew’s air base. I cried when I saw the group that met them when they got there. I pray that God will Bless him for all he has done and I thank God that He Blessed us with 8 years of of his presidency.

from Emmett: On the plane ride home from Palm Desert, I was reading through information on the seven deadly sins that I had collected to support the notion that humans are a very unique life form when it comes to morality. Few of any of those sins relate to any other life form on earth. In any event, as I was reading through the material, the thought that was running through my head was: How can the people that support Trump and the GOP leadership consider themselves as religious conservatives? They represent the worst of humanity. We have Paul Ryan wanting to take away health care and funding for the needy. And then there is Mitch McConnell whose actions indicate a complete void in principles. And then Trump himself. I was visiting with a doctor from the VA this morning and he was telling me about an interview of Trump and his daughter. The daughter was asked what she and her father had in common and answered “Real Estate and Gold”. When asked the same question, his response was “Sex”. I had not seen that interview, but had seen one where he was talking about one of his granddaughters and commented something about hoping she will have nice breasts. They talk about draining the swamp, which they may eventually do, but first they have to collect enough scum from the swamp to fill those 3,000 to 4,000 government jobs to complete his administration. And when I was watching the Walid Issa film, I was thinking the same thing about Netanyahu as being as scummy as Trump.

Two Christmas Gifts

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016


(click to enlarge illustrations)

Tuesday brought an unexpected assignment: the kind that goes along with the general category of “honey, do….” Ellen, my spouse’s long-time friend, needed a ride to a doctors appointment, and there was a schedule conflict. I volunteered.

Ellen is a long-time U.S. citizen, of African descent, whose accent betrays her growing up in one of the islands of the British West Indies. Ellen’s appointment flowed out of a knee problem so serious that she had to be transported by ambulance recently from the city bus on which she was riding for medical care. The pain had been too excruciating.

Back and forth to her job requires 3 1/2 hours a day on the bus, part of which requires a two block walk to the bus stop closest to her home, and a transfer in downtown Minneapolis. It has been very cold recently, and one day was just too much. Ellen badly needs a knee replacement. She needs her job more. She has no car.

As I drove her to and from the appointment we chatted about this and that. Ellen is someone you’d enjoy visiting. Even on the worst of days, she is upbeat.

I noted the big difference between Christmas weather here and on her home island. She’s been here a long time, and she thinks the snow is an important part of the Twin Cities Christmas season.

We talked a bit about Christmas back home on the island, and it brought out her own nostalgia.

I didn’t take notes – I was driving, after all – but she talked about how at Christmas time people from the churches went around singing Christmas carols in the town in which she lived. There was visiting, small gifts exchanged, other rituals that go with important occasions.

An apparently important event was the seasonal changing of the window drapes in homes…I gathered it was not a competition, rather an opportunity to admire and compliment the work of the occupants of the homes.

It brought to mind simpler times, not filled with fashion, and day after exchanges at the malls, a quest for things for which we have no need, as we have here.

There are many more pieces to this story, of course.

But on a Tuesday afternoon in St. Paul MN I got a great Christmas gift, thanks to my spouse and her friend, Ellen.

(In the caption for this post, I talk of two Christmas Gifts.

The second gift came in the form of the Christmas card which included the two pictures you see above.

This came about the same time as my visit with Ellen, and came from Mohamed, who I have been honored to have as a friend for 63 years. Mohamed (his birth legal name) I knew by another name way back then in rural North Dakota. His faith, then and now, Mohammedan (Muslim).

There was a brief message with the card, but the card really says it all.

“Let there be peace on earth” goes a song oft-sung.

Let peace…and its necessary neighbor, justice…begin with each and every one of us.)

The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: A Sailor and his Ship, the USS Arizona

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
On the USS Arizona, sometime between 1936 and De. 7, 1941.  Probably part of ritual of crossing the Equator for the first time.  Photo likely taken by Frank Bernard.

On the USS Arizona, sometime between 1936 and De. 7, 1941. Probably part of ritual of crossing the Equator for the first time. Photo likely taken by Frank Bernard.

You can easily determine the photographers location when he took the above photo by comparing with the following painting. (click to enlarge any illustrations).

Book cover (see referemces below)  The above photograph seems to have been taken on the foredeck of the Arizona.

Book cover (see referemces below) The above photograph seems to have been taken on the foredeck of the Arizona.

I’ve written often about my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank Bernard, who perished on board the USS Arizona, Dec. 7, 1941. My reference link with his – and my – story is here.

In todays post, along with personal comments about Pearl Harbor, I revisit two aspects of the USS Arizona that I have not touched on before:
1) The intersection of the lives of Uncle Frank and the USS Arizona; and
2) reflections from a diver who was assigned to visit the Pearl Harbor grave of my Uncle and the 1176 of his shipmates who perished on-board December 7, 1941.
#1 and #2, below, come from a book I’ve had for 25 years: The Battleship Arizona, An Illustrated History, by Paul Stillwell, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD 1991.

The ship and its crew rest in peace. As I write, this date, there are only a very tiny number of survivors of Dec 7, 1941, still alive.

1) TWO LIVES, AS THEY MET AND MESHED: UNCLE FRANK BERNARD, AND THE USS ARIZONA, AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO HAWAII AND PEARL HARBOR:
(Info about 1936 forward from pp 323-332 of the Stillwell book)
24 July 1915 – Frank Bernard born in Grafton, North Dakota
12 October 1916 – USS Arizona commissioned at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn.

4 September 1935 – Frank Bernard enlisted in U.S. Navy at Minneapolis MN; his home address 103 Wakeman Avenue, Grafton ND.
8 January 1936 – Frank Bernard transferred to the USS Arizona

15 July – 12 August, 1936 – Frank’s first visit to Pearl Harbor. (The Arizona had been to Hawaii, but only on two occasions, both in the 1920s. It’s previous locations were the western hemisphere, earlier primarily coastal U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean areas; in later years primarily west coast U.S. and Pacific, usually on maneuvers of one kind or another.)

1-4 April 1938 – (at Lahaina Roads. The brief link about Lahaina is interesting.)
8 – 21 April 1938 – Pearl Harbor

The Hawaii years, 1940-41.

10 April – 23 October 1940
(Alternated between Pearl Harbor (PH) and Lahaina Roads (LR)
10-25 April LR
26 April – May 13 – PH
14-23 May – LH
24 May – June 9 – PH
18-21 June – LR
22 June- 14 July – PH
15 July p August 1 – LR
2-19 August – PH
19-30 August – LR
30 August – September 5 – PH
5-9 September – LR
13-23 September – PH
(Most of next three months primarily at Bremerton/Puget Sound WA)

1941
3 February – 10 June PH*
* 17 June – 1 July at San Pedro. Reunion of Frank Bernard with the rest of the Bernard family at Long Beach CA June 22, 1941
8 July – 7 December PH

THOUGHTS FROM A DIVER WHO VISITED THE TOMB (from Battleship Arizona, Stillwell, pp 286-289).

“In 1983-84 Navy and National Park Service divers conducted an underwater archaeological survey of the wreck of the Arizona. The project, which was funded by the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, had several objectives…The results of the study have been published in a book [Submerged Cultural Resources Study] edited by Daniel J. Lenihan, principal investigator for the Submerged Cultural Resource Unit of the National Park Service.

U.S.S. Arizona, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

U.S.S. Arizona, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

[Interview by author Stillwell, 5 Mar 1990] One of the divers on the National Park Service team was Jim Delgado, and he was involved in a follow-up phase of the study in 1988. He has dived on a number of sunken ships, including the collection of naval vessels used for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Despite his considerable experience in the field, he explains that diving on the Arizona was something special. He compares it with being in the Oval Office of the White House or perhaps in Abraham Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater. He says that he and other divers did not want to enter the ship because they felt they would be trespassing in an area where they weren’t supposed to be.

When he was under the water, especially in the area where the Arizona’s galley used to be, he could look up and see the people watching him from the cutouts to the sides of the white memorial. As he swam around the submerged hull, he was reluctant to touch it or to look too closely into it. He had a eerie feeling that someone might look back from inside, even though reason obviously told him otherwise. He looked into a hatch and saw all sorts of marine growth and twisted metal choking the entrance, and he noted that the deck was covered with silt. Unexpectedly, something emerged from a hatch, startling him. When it floated into the light, Delgado saw that it was a globule of fuel oil, freed from the Arizona after nearly fifty years. It rose slowly to the top of the water, then spread out to produce a sheen on the surface.

While he was swimming underwater, Delgado was overcome by a sense of time warp. The world above had changed dramatically since 1941, including the building of the memorial. But the hull of the Arizona was largely the same as it had been after the magazine explosion had ripped her asunder. True, she was corroded and covered with marine growth, but the essence was still there – the same hull that had been built seven decades earlier in Brooklyn. Shining his light in through one porthole, he peered into Admiral Kidd’s cabin, which was largely undamaged. He saw heaps on the deck that could have been furniture. On a bulkhead was a telephone; Admiral Kidd had undoubtedly used it many times. Elsewhere he saw the tiles that had been the deck of the galley. On the deck were pieces of silverware and crockery, obvious evidence of human habitation many years earlier. He saw nothing that looked as if it have once been part of a man, and he was relieved not to.

When he swam near the bow, Delgado saw evidence of the cataclysmic explosion that tore the forward part of the Arizona apart. The decks were rippled. Pieces of steel appeared to have been crumpled as easily as if they had been made of paper. Beams and decks were twisted into grotesque shapes. The ship showed some evidence of damage aft, but the hull was largely intact – certainly in comparison with the bow. By the time he dived on the wreck, no ordnance was visible, although divers had seen some 5-inch projectiles earlier in the decade. Delgado and his fellow divers found no sign of the kind of large hole that a torpedo would have made in the side of the ship. When the Park Service divers/historian emerged from the grave of the Arizona, he was covered with oil and filled with a profound sense of having been close to something he calls a “temporal touchstone” because it has so much value now as part of the American culture….”

Dad visits his brother Dec. 18, 2015, represented by his son, Dick, and the blue t-shirt he used to wear when he went for long walks, and the Collette family reunion t-shirt (his mother was a Collette from Oakwood ND).

Dad visits his brother Dec. 18, 2015, represented by his son, Dick, and the blue t-shirt he used to wear when he went for long walks, and the Collette family reunion t-shirt (his mother was a Collette from Oakwood ND).

A PERSONAL REFLECTION: DECEMBER 7, 2016

This is what I know about my Uncle Frank Bernard: he was 26 years old when he died; he was quite a bit older than his fellow crew members. When he went into the Navy, it was, best of all, a job. It was during the Depression; he had been in Civilian Conservation Corps, and getting in the Navy was a good opportunity. He was a ship-fitter, which I understand was like a welder. He was unmarried, but had met someone, probably in Bremerton WA, who he apparently hoped to marry. She apparently was divorced, but I have never been able to learn who she was. He was a good sailor, from basic training on.

My uncle and the 1176 others who perished with him on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor were, I suppose, peace-time casualties – it wasn’t until the next day that war on Japan would be declared.

The men on the ship would have known about Hitler, and the war in Europe, and almost certainly knew that tensions between the U.S. and Japan had been building for many years. At the same time, it was quite clear that the attack on Pearl Harbor was one which was indeed a surprise, not known till the last minute. (I describe an excellent new book about this topic, here.)

I often think that Frank’s Dad, my Grandpa Henry Bernard, was unwittingly part of the history that led to the death of his son.

In 1898, likely in the fever of patriotism around the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbor, Grandpa and others from the Grafton ND area were among the first ND volunteers to enlist for the Spanish-American War. He and his ND Company spent a year, 1898-99, in the Philippines, which became America’s outpost in what the Japanese considered their sphere of influence. While among the first troops to arrive at Manila, the Spanish had basically already been defeated, and most of their time was spent fighting Filipinos who’d just as soon see the U.S. go home. The company lost four men in battle at Pagsanjan Falls, near Paete, Luzon.

Tour over, in 1899, Grandpa and the crew stopped in Yokahama enroute home from Manila (picture at end of this article). It is a picture that speaks a million words.

By late 1941, war planners thought that the Philippines would be a more likely target than Hawaii for the Japanese.

After the attack:

On Dec. 6, 1941, those on the Arizona and elsewhere at Pearl Harbor, would have had no idea about the deadly four years to come; about 50 million dead in WWII, hundreds of thousands of these, Americans; the Holocaust; the Atomic bomb….

The great prospect of peace which came with the founding of the United Nations in 1945; then the endless wars which someone always declares are necessary, but which never really resolve anything. Each war, it seems, provides a pretext for the next war.

In my opinion, for we, the living, is that the next big war, if it comes, carries the prospect of ending civilization as we have come to know it. Nonetheless, someone will be tempted to “pull the trigger”. It matters who leads.

Our nation’s default setting through almost all of its history has been achievement of power through war. War is what basically built our country; and it is war that expanded our empire to an unimaginable and unmanageable extent.

War brought prosperity; it could as easily bring defeat. There is evil; there will always be war. But we need to guard against war as the first and only solution to problems.

The illusion now sold is that we can again be as we were: the very premise of “Make America Great Again”.

It is a proposition doomed to fail. It can only be achieved at someone else’s expense, which simply ramps up anger and the desire for revenge.

We need to change our national conversation, one conversation at a time.

The solution…or the problem…lies in each one of our hands.

Our future depends on each of us.

Here are a couple of items to possibly help give definition to the years since 1941:
1. A personal compilation of American War Deaths over history: War Deaths U.S.002
2. America at War (from the American Legion magazine): America at War001
(The first is only about American war deaths, simply to help me get some personal definition of the changing problem; but the reality is that we, and many others, now possess the capacity to destabilize and destroy everything…as could have happened had cooler leadership heads not have prevailed in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.)

Also, take 30 minutes to watch the 1971 film entitled Man’s Next Giant Leap. It was produced by my friend Lynn Elling, Naval officer in WWII and businessman, who died some months ago at 94. It can be accessed here. The people who put this film together, business and civic and political leaders, Republican and Democrat, believed in the possibility of peace, and they can be examples for us to follow.

As the hymn goes: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Henry Bernard, middle soldier, in Yokahoma Japan, enroute home1899

Henry Bernard, middle soldier, in Yokahoma Japan, enroute home1899

The family members in the story are, at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard.  From left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry's parents and siblings, in Long Beach June 22, 1941.

The family members in the story are, at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard. From left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry’s parents and siblings, in Long Beach June 22, 1941.

COMMENT:
from Annelee: I read Uncle Frank, When will we learn? However, War with Japan and Germany were justifiable.

Response from Dick: There is no question that war was “justifiable” in both instances. However, I do have a couple of points.

First, it has long been my contention that America waited far too long before entering WWII, which began two years before Pearl Harbor. As a country, we were isolationist, and there were other complications such as a – let’s be honest – not terribly friendly attitude towards the Jews, and an otherwise close relationship with Germany in all senses of the word.

Second, I am always interested in when history is deemed to begin. Pearl Harbor didn’t begin our history of relationship with Japan, for instance. We were sowing the seeds long before. My Grandpa and his fellow soldiers enlisted, I’m pretty sure, to support defeating Spain, with the battle cry “Remember the Maine”, but their service was far from Cuba, in the Philippines on the island of Luzon (Manila). The Spanish-American War was Teddy Roosevelt’s war, largely, supported by the Press, and it seems to have been a war of acquisition, not defense. In the end analysis, it really had little to do with Spain, and more to do with American expansion, and in the case of Japan, what became “our” Philippines was within their sphere of influence, and far closer to them than Hawaii. Like us, they apparently had pretenses of power, and we were boxing them in.

Plus, we long had a very dismissive attitude about the Japanese, generally. People my age who grew up in the United States remember things purchased from Japan which were more in the curio class than anything else. “Japan” was a synonym for “cheap”.

Japan and some other places might now be jewels of capitalism, but at what cost in lives in WWII? I think we have a big blindspot in this area, and we’ll find out if we try to “Make America Great Again” the cost of national pride at the expense of others.

A concluding comment: As I write I remember that letter in German written by my Great Uncle in Dubuque IA Feb. 14, 1924 to his relatives in Westphalia (borderland of today’s Netherlands). At the time of his letter, he’d lived in the United States for over 60 years. In a very long sentence, which the translator described as emotion laden, he remembered a slaughter day conversation from perhaps 1850, and comments his grandmother made about the French during the time in the early 1800s when Napoleon had designs on controlling Europe.

He said this: “I will never forget how, each year on slaughter day, as we cut the fat pigs and cows apart, dear grandmother would say if only the dear Lord will let us eat it in peace and good health, and then, each time, she would tell how the French took everything of hers, in addition to all of the oppression they had to endure, and dear grandfather would tell how the French and the Russians took him and his father with (their) horses and wagon to drive under orders for weeks and, how the horses couldn’t go anymore, and how they were then whipped and left by the wayside (to die) and that the Busch’s homestead had been their lawful property but was taken away by the French, no wonder that my father left his home with his sons [for America]. France’s history has always been full of war and revolution for the last three hundred years and Germany was always the oppressed, if they will ever become peaceful?”

The phrase, “you lost, get over it”, takes on new meaning with this very long emotion filled sentence.

#1190 – Dick Bernard: My Brush with Fidel and Cuba.

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

A few mornings ago a friend at a neighboring table asked “out of the blue”, “so, are you going to Cuba?”

This was a head-scratcher. At the time, I hadn’t learned that Fidel Castro had just died in Cuba. At any rate, while I have an interest in Cuba, generally, my life doesn’t revolve around it or its politics. But no question, the Revolution in Cuba in 1959 has certainly impacted American politics for many years, and it long pre-dates the Castro brothers and Che Guevara…and they were not the villains.

My major “brush” with Cuba came in an Infantry barracks at Ft. Carson CO in late October, 1962. We GI’s were alerted that President Kennedy would be speaking to the citizens in the evening. A few of us gathered around the 9″ television owned by the Mess Sergeant, and watched the Presidents speech. Outside our barracks, perhaps a half dozen miles to the west, was Cheyenne Mountain, then and still the headquarters of NORAD* and, we were advised, one of many Colorado targets within range of the Soviet missiles being taken to Cuba.

The next morning, Tuesday, October 23, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News filled in the blanks, as known. Many years later I spent the time in a Denver library to find the specific issue that came to our Company office that morning. Here are a few pages: cuba002.

Here is part of page one:
(click to enlarge)
cuba001

The rest of the story is anti-climactic. By the time Pres. Kennedy spoke to us, the crisis was nearly over. Extraordinarily tense diplomacy saved the day. Other than a few days of putting up with more intensive preparation, life went on as normal at the base.

And for the 54 years since then, Cuba has been a constant enemy, and Fidel Castro outlasted 11 U.S. Presidents.

Actually, Cuba is a fascinating place, and deserves much more of a fair shake than it has gotten these last many years.

Out at the ND family farm I found a “History of Latin America” published about the time of 1959 coup. In the chapter on Cuba, the final paragraph says this: “Reflecting on the sorry state of Cuba in 1960, the onlooker could say that two things are reasonably clear: Cuba was indeed overdue for a revolution, and revolutions are never mild and gentlemanly.” Here is the entire chapter from which that quote is taken, with apologies to the author, Hubert Herring: Cuba to 1963001.

For those interested, I have had several posts about Cuba. They can be accessed here; here; here; here; and here.

That’s more links than I thought I’d find.

Personally, I prefer we work at racheting up the friendship, rather than making sacred the enmity. The Cuban people deserve a break, too.

* – I linked, here, the Norad Santa website. It seems fitting for the season. Here is the other NORAD link.

POSTNOTE: My favorite Revolution story comes from my Dad’s cousin, Marvin, then a very prominent banker in a Minnesota city. We were visiting sometime in the 1990s. For some reason the topic of Cuba came up, and Marvin said that at the time Castro came to power he made a $5 bet with a friend that Castro wouldn’t last six months. “Guess I lost that one”, he said.

Dick Bernard: The 98th Armistice Day (aka Veterans Day #62)

Friday, November 11th, 2016

November 11, 11 a.m., 2016

This is about Armistice Day, though my free cup of coffee today comes compliments of Veterans Day by virtue of U.S. Army duty 1962-63. I’ll wear my dog tags today, but mostly think about the Veterans for Peace Bell Ringing at 11 a.m. which I will have to miss for the first time in many years.

army-62-63-dog-tags-field-utensils-1962-63

Years ago my mother remembered the first Armistice Day from the perspective of a nine year old on the family farm about 5 miles “as the crow flies” from tiny Grand Rapids ND.

Mom’s sister, my Aunt Florence, “was born the year World War I ended [Nov. 3, 1918]. The hired girl and I were out in the snow chasing chickens into the coop so they wouldn’t freeze when there was a great long train whistle from the Grand Rapids railroad track. In the house there was a long, long telephone ringing to signify the end of World War I.”

WWI was a very nasty war, including for the U.S. which entered only for the final year. One of Grandpa’s hired men was killed in the War. The World War I flu, aka Spanish Flu, raged across the U.S. 1918-20. Mom and grandma got it, but everyone in the family survived…this was not always true.

WWI was supposed to be “the war to end all war”.

Of course, “the war to end all war” only spawned an even worse war, World War II.

I am moved to write about this today because recently I was helping my friend, Annelee, edit her third book. Annelee has written about growing up in Nazi Germany, and her third book, tentatively titled, “And That is That”, is intended to sum up her 90 years, the first 18 of these growing up in what was supposed to become the “1000 year Reich” of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.

For a few short years the Hitler experiment seemed to work, particularly for those who joined the Nazis (Whose ranks did not include Annelee’s parents). But dreams died hard.

In a draft of her chapter entitled “War”, Annelee wrote “I believed then that WWII would be the war that ended all wars.” She was born in 1926, and like every other German, suffered immensely the ultimate consequences of the Third Reich collapse which was obvious to all beginning in 1943.

Hitler’s avenging the humiliation of Germany at the end of WWI had failed.

We never seem to learn.

There have been numerous wars since WWII, of course, all of them justified by someone or other, none of them doing anything other than fueling the next war.

War is very good for business.

Now we are entering the era of “Make America Great Again”. “At whose expense?”, I wonder….

It was a good slogan, lots of sales of hats and stuff, but I doubt anyone has any idea what it will really mean, if anything.

These days there are almost no military people – maybe one in a hundred Americans actually go into the service. Cynically, maybe another bigger war will “Make America Great Again”?

As I end this piece, I’ll simply reprint something I did back in March about the human cost of war, just to America, through its involvement in Wars. And our human cost has been very low compared with other societies around the world.

Let’s make “Armistice Day” mean something more than a free cup of coffee for someone with a set of dog tags. Why not rename Veterans Day to Armistice Day, as it began. Veterans everywhere are honored on Armistice Day. And give peace a chance.

(click to enlarge)
Human Cost of War001

The history of American war as seen by the American Legion magazine May, 2015: America at War001. We are a nation addicted to war, I think.

Dick Bernard: Two Gentle Books for Peaceful People….

Friday, October 28th, 2016

The old ballad comes to mind as I begin this post: “Home, home on the range, where the deer and the Antelope play, where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

As this latest round of “daily dismal” – the 2016 election season – nears an end, I’d like to invite attention to some truly positive inspirational books about people like us; like the folks most of us are blessed with next door; the people we see at the grocery store, in church, out walking in the park….

The two books (click on the titles for more information about each):
“Green Card Youth Voices”. 29 Immigration Stories by young people at a Minneapolis High School
“A Peace of my Mind American Stories” 63 people, 40,000 miles across the USA

In my opinion, both books deserve and will receive national recognition.

Very briefly:
Green Card Youth Voices
It was a privilege to listen to three of the 29 authors of this book read from and discuss their experiences as Green Card Youth, immigrants to the United States. The three, pictured below 2nd, third and fifth from left, were Zaynab Abdi (pp 1-4) from Yemen; Fosiya Hussein (pp 113-115) from Somalia; and Wendy St. Felix (pp 109-111) from Haiti. (The other two in the photo, visitors at the talk: Lulu, a PhD student from Brazil; Shimri, a peace activist from Israel.)

October 20, 2016, Minneapolis MN

October 20, 2016, Minneapolis MN

It is very easy in these days to become terminally cynical about any hope for the future.

Kids like these (and there are lots of them) bring hope back.

Green Card Youth Voices is more than just pages and pictures. Each story includes a link to an on-line video interview with the author; and there is a Study Guide at the end of the book. So the book is not a destination, it is a beginning of a journey.

I highly recommend getting to know the organization, Green Card Voices. I had the very happy privilege of meeting the Executive Director of the organization, Tea Rozman-Clark, where her group was having one of its first programs, at Hosmer Library in South Minneapolis, in Nov. 2013.

A Peace of my Mind American Stories compiled by John Noltner.

american-stories001

I met John Noltner some years ago when he was beginning a photo journalism project, interviewing people engaged in peacemaking. His first book, A Peace of My Mind, and subsequent traveling photograph display which has been very well received around the United States led him to a 40,000 mile journey around the U.S., and lengthy interviews with 63 ordinary people about life’s stories and lessons.

September 27 I was privileged to be with a large group listening to John talk about his project.

Sitting nearby, it turned out, was the subject of one of the stories, Deanna Thompson (pp 44-45) a six year survivor of Stage Four Breast Cancer, teacher of religion at Hamline University, St. Paul, a positive example for us all.

Deanna Thompson (at right) Sep 27, 2016

Deanna Thompson (at right) Sep 27, 2016

Another story is Padre Johnson‘s, Cody WY (pp 86-87). The students above are holding Padre’s 1992 book, Journeys with the Global Family, recounting his time spent with people in 159 different countries in the 1970s. His is a remarkable story.

John Noltner’s trip to American Stories is described here, including link to a long interview in the Smithsonian on-line newsletter.

There you have it: two new books, 92 stories by and about ordinary people – people like us. These are ideal gifts for yourself, and others, at any time. Every story gives cause for reflection. Check them out. They’re an investment, not a cost.

IN MEMORIAM:

Connections may seem random. They really never are. Everything has a reason.

A year ago this week my friend, Lynn Elling, then 93, seemed more and more determined that there must be a meeting about peace at his favorite restaurant, Gandhi Mahal, in Minneapolis. I knew what he wanted, but precisely who and what was not clear this time. Finally, I went to his home, and eight of us met with him on Friday evening, Nov. 6 (photo at end of this post).

It was Lynn who had invited me to the initial event of Green Card Voices in Nov. 2, 2013. It was through Lynn that I had some time earlier met Padre Johnson.

Lynn’s resume for Peace is long and stellar. He could not, would not, “put his feet up”. He too-well remembered the carnage at Tarawa Beach as a young LST officer in WWII.

Sep. 21, he was at the Dedication of The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis as a Peace Site.

Our Nov. 6 meeting ended, and Cathy Manning took Lynn home.

The next day, Nov. 7, he was admitted to the hospital, and except for about two days near his death he didn’t come home again.

He died Feb. 14, 2016, at the doorstep of 94.

Lynn, there are others after you who carry on your work. Thanks for your efforts.

In peace.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant.  The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant. The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

#1163 – Dick Bernard: 9-11-16, and the dark days of 2001-2009

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Friday, my wife and I and our 87 year old neighbor Don, went to the local theatre to be among the first to see the new movie, Sully, the incredible story of the emergency landing of an airliner in the Hudson River off NYC in January, 2009. “How can you take a 90 second event and turn it into a 90 minute movie?” my friend asked.

Very, very easily. Take in the film. The basic true story is here.

*

Of course (I’m certain), the movie was timed to be released on the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9-11-01, even though the near-disaster actually happened in January, 2009.

I have feelings about 9-11-01. At the end of this post, I share a few personal links from that period in time. I will always have doubts about certain and substantial parts of the official narrative about what happened that awful day, though that labels me as a “conspiracy theorist” I suppose. So be it.

*

But what occurs to me this day in 2016 came to mind a few days ago when I found a cardboard envelope in a box, whose contents included this certificate (8 1/2×11 in original size).

Notice the signature on the certificate (Donald Rumsfeld) and the date of the form printed in the lower left corner (July 1, 2001). (Click to enlarge).

cold-war-certificate-001

The full contents of the envelope can be viewed here: cold-war-cert-packet003

Of course, people like myself had no idea why the article appeared in the newspaper, or how this particular project came to be.

It is obvious from the documents themselves that the free certificate was publicized no later than sometime in 1999; and the certificate itself wasn’t mailed until some time in 2001 to my then mailing address…. The original website about the certificate seems no longer accessible, but there is a wikipedia entry about it.

When I revisited the envelope I remembered a working group of powerful people called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) formed in the late 1990s.

The group as then constituted no longer officially exists, but had (my opinion) huge influence on America’s disastrous response to 9-11-01 (which continues to this day).

Many members of this select group, including Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard B. Cheney, strategized to establish permanent U.S. dominance in the world, and had very high level positions in the administration of George W. Bush, 2001-2009. PNAC was no benign committee of friends meeting for coffee every Saturday. To cement the notion that to have peace you must be stronger than the enemy…there has to be an enemy. If not a hot war, then a cold war will have to do. Keep things unsettled and people will follow some dominant leader more easily.

Their Cold War ended in December, 1991, as you’ll note, which likely was cause for concern. 9-11-01 became the magic elixir for a permanent war with an enemy….

(I happen to be a long-time member of the American Legion also – the Cuban Missile Crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam era were part of my tour of duty in the Army – and much more recently, the Legion magazine
updated talk about the Cold War, here: America at War001.)

My opinion: there remains a desperate and powerful need by powerful entities to sustain an enemy for the U.S. to fight against and, so goes the story, “win”, to borrow a phrase and “make America great again”. As we learned in the years after 9-11-01, dominance has a huge and unsustainable cost. But the idea still lives on.

The mood of the people of this country is for peace – it is simple common sense – but peacemakers have to do much more than simply demonstrate against war to have it come to pass, in a sustainable fashion.

*

Yes, 9-11-01 was very impactful for me. Here are three personal reflections: 1) chez-nous-wtc-2001002; 2) here; and 3) here: Post 9-11-01001.

I have never been comfortable with the official explanations about many aspects of 9-11-01 and what came after. It is not enough to be ridiculed into silence. Eight years ago my friend Dr. Michael Andregg spent a year doing what I consider a scholarly piece of work about some troubling aspects he saw with 9-11-01. You can watch it online in Rethinking 9-11 at the website, Ground Zero Minnesota. Dr. Andregg made this film for those who are open to critical thinking about an extremely important issue. I watched it again, online, in the last couple of days. It is about 54 minutes, and very well done. Take a look.

Let’s make 9-11-01 a day for peace, not for endless and never to be won war. Humanity deserves better.

(click to enlarge. Photos: Dick Bernard, late June, 1972)

World Trade Center Towers late June 1972, New York City

World Trade Center Towers late June 1972, New York City

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972.  (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972. (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Here, thanks to a long ago handout at a workshop I took in the early 70s, is a more normal reaction sequence to a crisis. As you’ll note, it is useful to allow 9-11-01 to live on and on and on. It is not healthy.

(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

#1160 – Peter Barus on politics; plus, an opportunity to view the entire 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

NOTE from Dick Bernard: Peter commented after last weeks post on Swiftboating Hillary Clinton. His always perceptive remarks are below. He writes from Vermont. His previous posts can be found here.

In addition, recently I received the link to all of the plenary session talks at the outstanding 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis. The Forum was outstanding, and I was privileged to attend it. At minimum take a look. The Forum was especially great this year.

PETER BARUS:
In the political discourse effectiveness is measured against what we’re after in the first place. Are we seeking to support a candidate by defending their “narrative” (meaning, the carefully focus-grouped, workshopped and spin-doctored story saturating the corporate media channels)? That’s defending the story, not the candidate. Are we seeking to hold a candidate’s actions and words up to the light of proven fact? Usually we test for consistency of word and deed, and leave fact out of it. Are we hoping for some break in the timeworn, corrupt and entrenched “system” that might finally, for once in all of history, provide for an actual election that is actually free and fair? And results in the elevation of an incorruptible and honest leader? Well, we do almost universally profess to be in favor of exactly that.

The candidates know this terrain very, very well. Bernie Sanders (my Senator) knew from the start that he would fail to be nominated, much less elected: he knows how things are done in America. But it was a kind of reverse-Reagan action: he hoped to shift the center to make an election include values and voices that are always marginalized. Clinton is of course a master of the Way of Washington, and has achieved real and incontestable stature the old fashioned way: she is more “pragmatic” (ruthless and cunning) than all the other aspirants to the Oval Office dare to be. Saving only the Republican Nominee. As for that celebrated personality, his expertise is in fighting by his own rules: on his turf, with him as referee.

In a fight, the first thing is to choose the ground. The Republican did this years ago, and has owned it completely. We may think it is a stupid choice, an insane choice, an immoral choice; but it is the ground on which the candidate stands and hurls his challenges. And it is going to be very tricky for the Democrat to fight him on some other battlefield than the one where he is already fighting. Consider that to hold a debate, the venue will have to be TV, and that’s the ground the Republican has staked out. Clinton’s ground, of international relationships, deep personal understandings with and of world leaders in their political contexts, the management of continual wars around the globe, and the staunch backing of Wall Street – all that is already on TV, and out of her hands. Her ground is part of his ground. Welcome to my world. Said the spider to the fly.

The second thing in a fight is never box a boxer, or wrestle a wrestler. Somebody is going to have to fight a Reality TV host. On Reality TV. That’s two fundamental principles of warfare that he has, and she doesn’t, going in.

The real assets in this campaign are not the money, or the power-brokers, or the smoke-filled rooms. Not the people you insult, or those abandoned by the American Dream, or disparaged for loving Jesus, or too proud to take a government handout. No Minorities or Special Interests matter here. Nor the battle-scars of the top diplomatic office in the United States Government. And most certainly not your “gender”: Lucretia Borgia? Imelda Marcos? Maggie Thatcher for heaven’s sake? What’s sex got to do with it?

No, none of that. What really matters now is attention. Human attention, focused not on the candidate, but on that candidate’s pointing finger, moment by moment. What do they point at? Is it the moon? A reflection? Which candidate will garner the highest ratings while giving us the finger? We will hear all about the type of fake nails on hers, and the exceptional length and girth of his.

There is this funny thing about the human brain. What it perceives it also acts from. This happens before the intellect is engaged. All the intellect can do, after attention has been seized, is rationalize the accompanying behaviors. And there are two basic reactions to the Reality TV candidate’s performances: apathy or outrage. And both of these human responses stoke the fires of his campaign. Outrage for or against, it doesn’t matter at all, the campaign balloons. See, it’s not a “for or against” switch: it’s an On/Off switch. And the light goes on either way while we’re frantically fighting over who gets to flip the switch.

Meanwhile, one candidate trumpets ever more crazy bigotry and xenophobia, and outright lies about economics and his penis; and the other candidate, already trapped in the same discursive space with the opponent’s genital dimensions, sounds like a teacher from a junior high school civics class, going hoarse trying to yell above the noise of excited teenagers as the bell goes off. “DO. YOUR. HOMEWORK! THERE. WILL. BE. A. TEST!”

Whichever candidate’s chosen ground becomes the scene of the big showdown, the real issues will not get any airtime. Instead, one candidate will throw any reasonable discussion into chaos, and the other will flounder helplessly grasping at straws to regain some fraction of public attention. That fraction will hear defensiveness and righteous disdain. And that triumphant, derisive laughter. And the pundits will analyze each nuance of foreign policy, the cost of a wall on the Mexican border, and and whether Clinton killed Bin Laden to silence him about their relationship. But most of the viewers will have passed out by then, after the cathartic relief of seeing the Strict Father put the Nurturant Parent in her place.

Never mind that the former Secretary of State has conducted war after war in precisely that way, sowing chaos. With the Air Force, the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA, and organizations that fund aspiring dictators, like the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute. Pragmatic, utilitarian (non-partisan) tools of State. And her opponent has no experience whatsoever with actual invasions, airstrikes or drone-killings; he just uses metaphorical weapons, like the Big Lie, the verbal sucker-punch, the innuendo, the question-as-fact, the straw-man, the begged question, the categorical denial, the stonewall. And of course, mockery and derision. Tools of Reality TV.

It’s happening on TV. The President is elected on TV. We’re in the domain of attention, remember. In this campaign, a shooting war might get attention, except what’s new about a war? War is just background white-noise now, to most Americans. If it comes up at all it will be to blame the former Secretary for losing it. Whereas a good one-line chant like “lock ‘er up!” will cut to the bone.

But. There is hope. We are not just stimulus-response machines. Your attention please: it is your attention. You can direct it elsewhere. Your attention is yours alone to give. Don’t let them snatch it away. Make them work for it, at least. Take ownership of your attention. Talk with people who are like you, and not like you, face to face. Ask questions, and listen to the answers. We could, theoretically at least, elect a President in an election, and not Reality TV.

Then when those politicians point at something, you can tell whether that’s the moon they’re pointing at, or just the reflection in a mud-puddle.

COMMENTS:
from SAK, in England: Thanks Mr Bernard,
Mr Barus’ comments about choosing the ground for a fight brought to mind part of the reason the UK voted to leave the European Union. The nationalist far right politician Nigel Farage chose the ground to fight on, the same ground Mr Trump has chosen: immigration. The EU means free movement of EU citizens among the member states – it does not mean borders open to all & sundry as the poster Mr Farage hung on his bus seems to imply [hordes of apparent non-natives coming into somewhere]. Furthermore the UK is nowhere near “Breaking Point” as far as welcoming European citizens who wish to live and work there. It seems truth is the first casualty not only of war but of political campaigns as well.

POSTNOTE: Pertinent and timely: Today’s Just Above Sunset, “Under the Volcano

SECOND POSTNOTE, a column in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, the headline says it all: Threats replace political dialogue at State Fair. The exact same example the writer uses in her article was used by some guy I had never seen before out in small town North Dakota in March, 2014, commenting on Hillary Clinton outside a building. At that time, 2 1/2 years ago, Hillary Clinton had not been a politician since being appointed Secretary of State in 2009, and when she was a politician, she was simply one of 535 members of the United States Congress. Hatred without benefit of fact is still easily transmitted. The guy who accosted the woman in the op ed would have been a good candidate for the ruffians who enabled the Third Reich in the early days.

#1157 – Dick Bernard: Two Books Well Worth a Read: Shawn Otto’s “The War on Science”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s “Unrestorable Habitat”

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Back in January a mysterious e-mail appeared in my in-box from someone named Cynthia. She had googled the name Lois Phillips Hudson to see if anything would come up, and found me. More on Mrs. Hudson’s book, “Unrestorable Habitat“, “below the fold”…

(click to enlarge photos)
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A few months later came an invitation to hear Shawn Lawrence Otto read from his new book, The War On Science.

I know of Shawn’s past work, always first rate, and I bought the book, and it made my summer vacation book list.

I read, and learned a great deal from, both books.

They are, on the one hand, very different; but on the other, very similar. One is by an old lady written when she was my age range. Mrs. Hudson, is a retired college professor, quite obviously grieving the loss of her daughter to illness. She writes about the deep conflict she sees between today’s natural world and technology, compared with her youthful days in the midst of the worst of the Great Depression and World War II which followed.

(The retired college professor died before she finished her book, so one has to speculate on what her ending would be, but that actually contributes to the richness of her passionate expression of feelings on her past and present, and our future.)

The other book is by an author who painstakingly and expertly documents not only the very real “war on science”, but on other areas susceptible to manipulation of public opinion. Shawn Otto expertly reviews the problem, and then devotes much of the meat of the book to ways towards solutions.

SHAWN OTTO’S “THE WAR ON SCIENCE”

I highly recommend “The War on Science” to anyone with even a tiny bit of interest in topics like science, marketing, politics, and the incessant manipulation of personal and public opinion (propaganda) in our own country. Get to know the name “Edward Bernays”…. He enters the story by name at page 257.

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the book, which is a very interesting history of science and its not always consistent position of esteem in our society (thus “war”); in addition, The War on Science is an equally interesting history of propaganda as it has been used in America especially related to marketing of products and ideas going back as far as WWI.

There is so much interesting and well argued information in the book that I would do a disservice by simply doing a once over in a review.

You need to read the book.

Best to take a look yourself. There are many formal reviews of the book at Amazon.com. One of them is mine.

You will see the book is being very well received.

Personally, I found “The War On Science” to be unusual in a couple of respects:
1. It nicks most everyone, including scientists, who get complacent and think they have found and can sit righteously on their own truth, as they define the term “Truth”. The book is heavily footnoted: 59 pages of sources.
2. Most importantly, fully 87 pages of the book discuss ideas for how individuals and groups in our society can move toward solutions to what seem intractable problems.

The War On Science is an excellent basis for book club discussion, as is Lois Phillips Hudson’s Unrestorable Habitat (following). Give both a serious look.

Unrestorable Habitat001

LOIS PHILLIPS HUDSON AND UNRESTORABLE HABITAT (continued)
A few days ago I was at a nearby park, completing “The War on Science“.

This day my phone rang, and on the line was long-time friend Nancy, from Hibbing, calling to comment on Unrestorable Habitat which I had sent her some months earlier and she had set aside and was just getting around to reading.

She had set it aside, but was finding it to be a marvelous book, a strong compliment coming from a retired teacher of English.

Unrestorable Habitat is one elderly woman’s reflections about her life, a certain huge business in her hometown of Redmond WA, some local fish, the loss of ability to imagine, and really, about all of us, everywhere in the so-called “developed world”.

Hudson’s book centers on an issue much on her mind as she grew older: the conflict she saw between salmon and big business in her town with lots of looks back at remembered pieces of richness flowing from her own very real hardships as a farm daughter during the worst of the Great Depression in North Dakota, then in Washington state, and forward into WWII in Washington. (She graduated from Redmond WA high school in 1945.)

Hudson died before she completed her book, but there is far more than sufficient “meat on the bones” to be published exactly as left by her: her opinions about post-9-11-01 contemporary U.S. society.

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Some years back, I had blogged several times about aspects of Hudson’s 1962 well known book, “Bones of Plenty“, written about the worst of the Great Depression in rural North Dakota, and that is what Cynthia Anthony found in her random internet search. Cynthia, this mystery lady from New York, had become archivist for Mrs. Hudson’s papers, and asked permission to link my posts, “numbers 490, 495, and 565, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson” to her Lois Phillips Hudson Project, a website dedicated to preserving Ms Hudson’s rich but now basically unknown legacy.

It was Nancy who had earlier called my attention to “Bones of Plenty“; and now I was the one who had called Nancy’s attention to “Unrestorable Habitat“.

(Nancy had Mrs. Hudson as a teacher at North Dakota State University 50 years ago, and had vivid memories of her. She was a great teacher, Nancy said. She mentioned one quote by Hudson – at page 24 – that particularly caught her attention: “As..the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a father who frequently assured me that the brightest woman could never be as bright as your average man….” Unrestorable Habitat is peppered with such reflections.)

Once into Unrestorable Habitat, she found the book very interesting and thought-provoking.

Unrestorable Habitat so caught my attention that I purchased and distributed 100 copies, starting about 100 days ago.

Nancy was one of the recipients.

Here is the letter I enclosed with each book: Unrestorable Habitat

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Let me leave it at that. “Unrestorable Habitat” is worth your time, as is “The War On Science“. Each can encourage you to “Do Something”.

The two books complement each other.

I hope you “take the bait”.

August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016

POSTNOTE:
1. Some readers might say, about “The War on Science“, that I don’t know enough about science to learn.
Not at all true. In my own review of the book (it’s probably the 22nd or so, link above) I acknowledge that I had virtually no science education in the tiny schools I attended growing up. My opportunities to know science were basically ad hoc, like watching Sputnik blink in the North Dakota night sky in 1957, or getting the Salk Vaccine not too long before. “The War On Science” is more than just a primer, but written to an audience who knows nothing about science. It is a learning tool in itself.

2. In the solutions section of “The War on Science“, Shawn Otto has a section entitled “Battle Plan 1: Do Something” (p. 371).

In her own way, Mrs. Hudson in Unrestorable Habitat was (I think) trying to begin a conversation: where can or should the new ways fit with the old, and complement, rather than compete with, each other? She wrote at least some of her draft on a laptop in a coffee shop, so what some might perceive as a rant against technology, at least part of her text was simplified because of the very technology she railed against.

There is room for conversation. She was Doing Something.

Earlier today I was at Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and afterwards noted again the three trash containers downstairs (photo above).

This experiment goes back a couple of years, when my friend Donna and her committee got a small grant to get recyclable containers for use in the coffee area. They were Doing Something.

The experiment has never worked as it was supposed to. If one looks in the bins, there are admixtures of items, despite the verbiage on the containers. One can say it failed.

But I don’t agree. Who knows, among the hundreds of us who visit that area each Sunday, there is someone who gets an idea for use back home, maybe if only in their own home? Great ideas start with experiments that seem to fail. But to start them, someone has to “Do Something”.