Peace & Justice

...now browsing by category

 

Dick Bernard: The Korean Peninsula and Poland, very briefly…

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Book recommendation from Marie: A book you might be reading is: Age of Anger A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra.

*

Hubris always ends badly*.

This date the great meeting with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump occurs in Hamburg. The only U.S. representative with Trump will be Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State. Yesterday, Trump gave a major speech to an invited audience in Poland. In the same time period North Korea successfully launched an ICBM which signalled its capacity of delivering a nuclear warhead as far as Alaska.

I’m an old geography major, old enough to have had my college degree a year before I was sitting in an Army barracks in Oct 22, 1962, watching President Kennedy tell we Americans about the Cuban Missile Crisis where Russia was said to be delivering ICBMs whose range was as far as Cheyenne Mountain, below which I was sitting near Colorado Springs Colorado.

It seems a good time for a tiny briefing about Poland and Korea….

KOREA.

(click to enlarge)

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

Note especially the red rectangle at center in the map. That rectangle is about 125 miles wide, giving an idea of the scale of the map. Note Seoul, and Pyongyang, and Tokyo and Hiroshima, all hi-lited in yellow, as well as the 38th parallel, the demarcation between the two countries** since the end of what has come to be known as the Korean War (though it was never a declared war).

The Korean peninsula is not a place for a “loose cannon” on any side…. Note the CIA Fact Book about both North Korea and South Korea. For comparison, Minnesota has a population of about 5 1/2 million; N. Korea about 25 million, S. Korea about 51 million. In land area, N. Korea is slightly larger than the state of Virginia; slightly smaller than the state of Mississippi; S. Korea is a bit smaller than Pennsylvania, a bit larger than Indiana.

Google Maps notes that you can’t get from Seoul to Pyonyang by road. Still the map is interesting. And a guided missile is a very short trip away from both in the area of the 38th parallel. Tokyo and the rest of Japan are not that far away, either. Here’s the Japan briefing book from the CIA.

POLAND.

If there was ever a place for a white nationalist to give a speech, it would be Poland. Here’s the CIA Factbook on Poland. Poland has not been treated kindly by history: Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin….

I have been to Auschwitz, Krakow, Czestochowa and Gdansk (2000 and 2003).

My grandmother was in 8th grade in about 1896 when she learned the geography of Europe. Here is the map from her textbook which shows Europe as it existed then. Most interesting to me is that this map, from a standard text for American Catholic Schools at the time, does not even name Warsaw, already a major city**.

(click to enlarge)

As we learned when we visited Auschwitz in 2000, Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish times) was basically a prison camp for 140-150,000 Poles, about half of whom died; adjoining Birkenau was the extermination camp for the Jews. Nearby was a third forced labor camp, Monowitz, part of the I. G. Farben Buna factory (from the book “Auschwitz, Voices from the Ground” purchased at Auschwitz, May, 2000).

Pope John Paul II, the “Polish Pope”, born in 1920, grew up in nearby Wadowice, Poland, and thus felt the full impact of both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. His world view was likely shaped by his experiences.

I remember, from the time of our visit, that perhaps 10% of Poles fell as victims of WWII; as well as virtually all of the Polish Jews. (Note here.) Of all countries, Poland was among the most devastated by WWII.

On the other hand, our dear friend, Annelee, who grew up in Hitler Germany, lost her Dad to the war. He was a conscript who refused to become a Nazi, though he would have benefited from such a move. They are not sure where or when he died, though it was likely in Russia. They lived in terror of being taken over by the Russians after the war (they weren’t).

* “Hubris”? Some time back I was giving a ride to my friend, Joe, a retired distinguished international emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota. The car conversation got around to Napoleon and Hitler’s misguided attempts to control all of Europe and Asia, attempts which failed. “Hubris” is how my friend defined their actions. In a different sort of way, yet very similar, Donald Trump is trying to translate a slogan into action: “Make America Great Again”, but I think the world leaders are a bit wiser now. This won’t stop the macho coffee conversations about “kicking ____’s ass” (fill in the blank with whomever or whatever the target of choice might be.

There has never been a good time for hubris. Most certainly not now, when we are a global society, with the capacity to destroy ourselves.

It is time for cooler heads everywhere to prevail, one person, one conversation at a time.

Back to you.

Comments welcome to Dick_BernardATmsnDOTcom.

Another map from the same 1896 text. Click to enlarge. Note that Moscow is not even mentioned.

** – Note comment from anonymous below.

COMMENTS
from Jeff: Old maps are interesting. My German grandparents on my mothers maternal side emigrated from Pomerania, which was then part of Germany, is now part of Poland. I think it was originally East Prussia , which eventually became Germany under Bismarck. A majority of the people in Pomerania were German , some had Polish surnames but were Germans. The maps of Asia are more interesting… Iraq doesn’t exist as it was part of both the Ottoman empire and Persia. Syria didn’t exist, and look where the Ottoman empire extended around Arabia encompassing Israel, Palestine, Jordan the Gulf emirates, parts of Saudi Arabia. Vietnam was a colony of France, India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore a part of the British Empire…..

Response from Dick: Indeed. Most of us have only the thinnest veneer of knowledge about the world as it was or is, even our own country. It makes for problems…and opportunities for people who benefit from simplistic notions of superiority or such. One of my vivid memories from the trip to Poland was at the Krakow Cathedral in early May, which I think was Constitution Day or such in Poland. There was a Mass there, and after Mass, one of the people we met was an ancient man (WWII vintage) wearing very, very proudly his Polish Army uniform. I should dig out the slide. It was just an old Army uniform, festooned with whatever decorations he had received ‘back in the day’.

“Tribes” are useful, and sometimes important, but more often than not dangerous. A friend gave me a CD by a superb Irish Tenor, including assorted songs, mostly of lament. One which sticks especially is “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, about an Aussie who encounters the Turks (the Ottomans) at Sulva Bay in Gallipoli is WWI. Listen to it here.

A year or so ago we went to the Russia Museum in Minneapolis to see the exhibit on WWI from the Russian perspective. One caption I remember quite vividly. Apparently, the Kaiser and the Czar were first cousins, the German and the Russian rulers. And apparently WWI really started with some argument over something or other. This was before the assassination….

from Jeff: Actually the Kaiser, the Czar, and the King of England were all cousins… It wasn’t that long ago either.

from Fred: Very well put. Excellent idea to use a little geography and cartography to assist the uninitiated.

from Terrance: I have been amazed over the past 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union how little we learned from the Catholic textbooks about how many people from various little nations, religions and ethnic backgrounds were forced into the USSR. If they weren’t Catholic, they were dismissed in our Geography classes as irrelevant.

** from Anonymous: I read your blog about Poland and Korea and agree with you that we Americans need to be better informed about both. But may I offer a few critical comments?

You stated that “the 38th parallel, [was]the demarcation between the two countries since the end of what has come to be known as the Korean War.” That is not correct. The 38th parallel was the the boundary from the end of WWII until the start of the Korean War. The de facto boundary since that war has been the cease-fire line at the time of the truce which ending the fighting (in 1953). That line was to the north of the 38th parallel in its eastern sector and to the south in the western sector. (In 1980 I crossed it to visit a national park in what passed from North to South Korea in 1953.

The blog was interesting.

from Norm: Great observations and commentary, Dick.

I am not an old geography major albeit old I am. On the other hand, I am and have always been a geography buff going way back to my early introduction to them in National Geographic. I have always loved maps of areas ranging from those of a township to a state to the nation and to the world, whatever their purpose but mainly that show geographical features and political boundaries although the latter change frequently in boundaries, name and existence.

I served nearly four years as a USAF photo radar intelligence officer which was later categorized by the folks in the public sector when describing my work history as that of a cartographer which it essentially was in many cases.

I have always been intrigued as well by how natural geographic features such as rivers, mountains, large lakes and so on can affect the politics of things. For example, the folks on the leeward side of the mountain range having different political views and customs let alone cultures than those on the windward side of the range or on the other side of the river or large lake or whatever.

That is just very interesting to me, Dick.

Dick Bernard: The Scaffold (a Sculpture, a Gallows); with reflections on Whitestone Hill, a 1997 Commemoration at Mankato and other items.

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

June 29, 2017: Recommended by a reader: The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Chief Red Cloud, an American Legend

*

POSTNOTE 5:20 p.m. May 31 – A decision was made about the Scaffold today. See comments section below.

POSTNOTE 8:30 a.m. June 1 – This seems an appropriate place/time for a general timeline of historical events impacting on this conversation: FAHF Timeline 001. This two-page document was prepared by the French-American Heritage Foundation in 2016 as a beginning sketch of relationships in Minnesota and surrounding areas.

UPDATE June 2 here

*
ORIGINAL POST May 31
If you are around the twin cities and follow the news at all, you’ve heard the controversy about the new proposed exhibit at the refurbished Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden. The tentative decision has been made to remove the Scaffold, and today is the official meeting about it. The issue is of such concern to me that I hand-delivered a letter plus photos to the Executive Director of Walker Center Tuesday afternoon. There has been, and will continue to be, news in Minneapolis Star Tribune, if you wish.

Here’s a photo I took of the sculpture at issue on Sunday:

(click to enlarge)

The Scaffold, from Lyndale Avenue, May 28, 2017.

To begin, here are the positions of the sculptor and the Walker Art Center, as found at the sculptors website (click on the tab “NEWS”). This perspective, probably not seen thus far, helps provide relevant background. In part, from the artist statement: “Scaffold opens the difficult histories of the racial dimension of the criminal justice system in the United States, ranging from lynchings to mass incarceration to capital punishment. In bringing these troubled and complex histories of national importance to the fore, it was my intention not to cause pain or suffering, but to speak against the continued marginalization of these stories and peoples, and to build awareness around their significance.”

Before I visited the above website, I had delivered the following personal letter, along with photos, to Walker Art Center. The letter is presented as sent, with slight additions in brackets to help give additional context. I’d be interested in other perspectives, if you wish.

My letter to Walker Executive Director Olga Viso, May 30, 2017:

“We are members of Basilica of St. Mary. Each time we drive home we pass by the Sculpture Garden heading south on Lyndale.  So it was, Sunday, about 11 a.m. We saw the “Scaffold”, and then read about the controversy in the STrib.  Later that afternoon I went back for a closer look. 

The Scaffold should stay. Its message is powerful and it is needed. This is a complex issue.  In my opinion, both the Walker and the advocates for removal are making a serious mistake in taking down this powerful work. Everyone will be the losers.

To be clear, I’ve long had an interest in the disgrace of December, 1862, in Mankato, and the events which preceded it, and the long history of running the Native Americans off their land, however that has been justified. The existence of the Scaffold is essential to an essential conversation.  Yes, it is stark, as it should be. I am grateful that it was contemplated, completed and installed, and yes, for the controversy which brought it to my attention.

September 21, 1997, I traveled to Mankato for the solemn dedication of the Memorial there, indeed I visited briefly with the Sculptor.

At the Mankato dedication, September 21, 1997.

The Dedication Plaque at Mankato 9/21/1997

Perhaps the Mankato executions drew me because one of my earliest Minnesota ancestors, Samuel Collette of Centerville, was a private in the First Regiment of Mounted Rangers, General Sibley’s command, Oct. 6, 1862 – Nov. 28, 1863, and thus quite possibly he was at Mankato at the time of the executions.  Samuel came to Minnesota in 1857, from Quebec.  Depending on one’s particular point of view, in this instance, he was good or evil.  For a year he was part of the militia which drove the natives west of the Missouri River and on to Reservations. [The official narrative of the Rangers, written about 1890: Mn Mtd Rangers 1862-63001].  

Both my paternal and maternal ancestors have benefited from white settlement taking native lands in northeast and south central North Dakota. My mothers parents had been in North Dakota four years when the monument was set at the site of Whitestone Hill massacre, about 30 miles from their new farm.  As you likely know, the Whitestone monument is to the dead soldiers who had been part of the unit which massacred the Natives encamped there for the annual buffalo hunt. Years later a simple symbol – an unlabeled boulder down the hill from the monument – was placed remembering the slain Native Americans.  I’ve been there many times [most recently a year ago].  More on the deadly encounter here. [Longer articles can be read at Whitestone Hill 1863001, and Whitestone 1863 at 1976002]

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

At Whitestone Hill Aug 1994. Below soldier graves is a plain stone monument to the Indian victims in 1863

Succinctly, I’ve thought a great deal about the Hanging and similar atrocities in our past, and in the world itself…the focus of the Scaffold.

Were I in charge, I’d suggest a timeout of weeks, months or years to talk about what this all means.

Removing the Scaffold, will not destroy it or put it in hiding – I took 19 photos of my own yesterday; removal will do nothing to improve understanding or relationships or anything else.  

Looking at the Scaffold for the first time, Sunday, from the other side of the fence and the protest banners, I thought it would present an excellent focal point for better public understanding of our often inglorious history as a people.  

The Scaffold, with the Basilica of St. Mary in the background, May 28, 2017.

Put the sculpture in its own “prison” if you wish, surrounded even by concertina wire, but do not remove it. Let us see it, with a large plaque explaining what it is; why it was envisioned and commissioned. Let us talk about its meaning, publicly.

There are analogies, though every such event/place/circumstance is unique.

In 2000, we were with a Pilgrimage of Christians and Jews from Basilica of St. Mary and Temple Israel to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other holocaust sites.  

At Birkenau the horrid railroad tracks, examples of the awful barracks, even the remains of the hideous ovens, are kept as permanent reminders of the horrors that happened there.

May 4, 2000. Approaching the entrance to Birkenau death camp, Poland. Photo by Dick Bernard

I have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. several times.  The memories displayed are not abstract.  There, you are confronted with the reality of the horror.

I am only a citizen….”  

Others at that meeting today in Minneapolis will move towards a decision on what to do. My hope is that the Scaffold remains and becomes a point for us to look at ourselves, reflectively, and work towards a better future.

May 28, 2017. Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden Site.

One of the protest signs at the site, May 28, 2017

Your opinion? My e-mail dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom if you want to share thoughts with me, and with others through this post.

COMMENTS:
1. From Norm: I’m with you Dick. There aren’t enough such things to remind us of our past indiscretions.

2. from Virgil: Your position is well explained. I think you know me well enough that I would be an ally to not forgetting history as it has been lived with its particular circumstances for communities and individuals across the globe.

Thank you for your very clear explanation and for creating a platform for facing issues which should influence our thoughts about the place others should have in a world where dominant stories represent positions of a strength that should be tempered through a call such as you are putting forth.

3. from Jerry: Thanks, Dick, for your response to the new art at Walker Art Museum. I agree with you that the scaffold should remain and reasons for it given. We keep trying to hide the history of our relationship with the Native Americans and so much of it is very painful. I need to get over to see the art piece myself.

4. from Jeff: I agree with you on this.

The recent art display on lynching in America at the Museum of Modern Art in St Paul was excellent. Open wounds need to see sunlight to heal.

I think part of the issue is that native americans were not consulted on the piece. They should have had a seat at the Table.

5. from Bill: Dick, as an 8 year old child I had a very personal experience with this 1863 Indian uprising when my neighbors took me to the 75th anniversary of the uprising in Mankato in 1938. I approached a very elderly Indian man and made a comment to him about how bad the Indians were and he responded to me “Little boy, remember there are two sides to every story!” I have never forgotten that wisdom when ever there were sides being proposed in an argument.

As an adult I have read about the circumstances that led to the Indian uprising and have come to the conclusion that the Indians had been betrayed by the White politicians of the day in their promising that land along the Minnesota River would be set aside for Indian settlements only to have much of these lands taken over by the flood of European immigrants occurring about that time. Just one more broken promises of the White Man to the Indians.

6. from Greg: I must confess to being a contributor to [the Scaffold] controversy, albeit unintentionally. I remember attending the Lunch with [my City Councilperson] at which Olga Viso, the Walker Executive Director, described the artwork being added to the garden.

For some sad reason this controversy potential escaped my thought process. Thus, I failed to speak privately with her to politely express my strong opinion the Walker was making a major mistake in proceeding with the installation in the manner they had chosen, apparently without first meeting and speaking with members of the Native American community.

I agree that The Scaffold should ultimately remain. I also understand the reaction of the people who oppose The Scaffold, but this reaction does not seem to be acknowledging the valuable educational value of this art work, and that the Native American community will benefit from such educational value, as will we all.

7. from Jermitt: Thank you once again for your thoughtful and inspiring commentary. As a Nation we continue to fail in our commitments to the Native American Communities. And we continue to cover up our faults. Only through lessons from the past can we prevent similar atrocities in the future. Thank you, my friend.

8. from Janice: Powerful blog. Thank you for forwarding. You articulated my views—although with quite a personal history to back it up. I think it can be a powerful and important part of our city. I hope they can reconcile all the parties. Already, look at all of us who now know of this history, who were ignorant before (me included!)

9. from Johnathan: Beautifully written and expressed – US owns its share of national shame. Sunlight heals wounds. Native American voices must express their perspective on The Scadfold. Asking forgiveness is a means of educating future generations to the worst and best of the human condition. Thank you for sharing a great example of balanced and mindful view of facts…and the realities continued to be faced by Native Americans – and all human beings.

10. from Catherine: I too would like to see the sculpture remain, but I would stipulate that it be under the curatorship of the artist along with the local tribes of wherever it’s being displayed. It’s their history and they have never had proper control over it in the history books or the art world. The scaffold itself is painful — that’s the point — but unless it’s exhibited as a teaching tool and a public apology, it could be downgraded easily by trivial popular culture. That has to be avoided. Years ago the Mpls Art Institute had a controversial show on the costumes of the Native Americans for a secret religious ritual. Out of respect they worked closely with the local native population and had the galleries blessed by one of their elders. Even so there were complaints but overall that gesture was appreciated. I think the Walker meant well but went about it wrong.

11. from Catherine, 4:43 p.m., 8 minutes after preceding: Looks like we’re all too late. It will be dismantled by the Dakota and burned at Fort Snelling. That will be impactful at the moment, but what will remain of the many lessons learned?

11A. from Dick: Thank you, Catherine. I heard the same news at 5:10 p.m. on the news. I’m glad I made the effort, and I think burning the symbol will not be as effective as it being used as a long-term learning tool. But…the decision is made, apparently.

12.from Florence: Recently the daughter-in-law of friends of ours had a painting displayed at an art gallery in NYC. The subject was of a 14-year old boy who had been mutilated and hung to die, accused of raping a white woman, in the 1940’s. Yes, he was black. There was a huge out-cry from the African American community and a demand that the painting be removed and destroyed for dishonoring them. I supported their sentiments in my heart, as I support the sentiments of the Native American community against the Scaffold sculpture. Both artists had good intentions, but failed to talk with people from the injured communities. Those injuries don’t go away with time. We need to “walk a mile in their shoes.” I understand that the Walker Art Center has reached an agreement with the Native American community to remove and burn the sculpture/playground. I’m grateful.

13. from Paul: Dick, I, too, have been pondering this “Scaffold” incident. However, I have a very different conclusion than you.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

You seem to argue that the sculpture, “Scaffold” has good intent. And I can agree it has spurred a meaningful and perhaps eventually productive discussion and long deserved public attention to the history of injustice represented by government conducted executions.

However, another view of the sculpture and its prominent display at the Walker Sculpture Garden is to see it as an example of cultural appropriation by a white artist and the white dominated Walker Art Center.

Mostly we see cultural appropriation when the dominant culture uses artistic or cultural characteristics from a minority race or nationality. Sometimes these are displayed in offensive ways such as a tomahawk or headdress used by a sports team. Other times they seem more benign such as using in a new way some hot sauce borrowed from Mexican style cooking. I think back to when white hippies wore afro hair styles – clearly cultural appropriation. When is it wrong? Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it is not so wrong at all.

But what about the “Scaffold” is cultural appropriation? The indigenous people and other groups who have suffered the long-term trauma of past aggressions against their ancestors have a primary claim of ownership to the use and remediation of that trauma in our white dominated culture. The artist and the Walker failed to recognize that claim. While attempting to stimulate the healing dialog that is so needed, they failed. The did not even realize that the people who most need to have the power over the remediation of their cultural trauma were being ignored in the creation and the installation of this sculpture. From their point of view, it is white domination all over again. Just another example of the white power players deciding what is good for them, what is the best way to confront their trauma, what is the best way to start the healing.

At the very least, the artist when he first conceived the sculpture a few years ago, owed to the descendants of the victims for whom he had so much sympathy the opportunity to be part of the creation of the sculpture and it’s presentation. The Walker Art Center likewise owed those same people a chance to know about the sculpture and weigh in on its merits and the way it should be displayed (or not displayed).

Good intentions do not excuse colossal blunders. There is a reason that quote at the start of my thoughts is famous.

Now it is time for the next steps to be taken in concert with the people who are the victimized cultures. The Walker, the artist, other institutions have this responsibility. They should provide opportunity for these steps. They are not the leaders in this. They should be the followers. They can apply their resources to the cause and help facilitate.

14. from Fred: A very thoughtful piece on a terribly complex subject. Your family and personal history makes you well qualified to consider the topic. I hadn’t considered the situation in Minneapolis in the light of the German decision to preserve evidence of the Holocaust. The Mankato scaffold and what it represents should be burned into the minds of Minnesotans and their fellow countrymen.

15. from Dick: Here is the official report of the result of the Mediation which will remove the art work. I will next comment after the structure is burned.

16. from Maryellen: Thank you for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the controversy over the artwork called the scaffold. I read through all the comments with great interest.

The hangings of Dec. 26, 1862 are a haunting thing. It will take a lot more than this artwork to put these ghosts to rest.

This parallel lacks some exactness, but I bring it up for painful contrast: the scaffold is a form of execution and so was the cross. How would the early Christians have reacted to a ‘Cross’ created as a Roman work of art? Even with the intention of reminding everyone of its horror?

And yet, it is true that this ‘Scaffold’ may help, if only by reminding us all.

17. from Barbara: Dick – This is the best response I have heard. And I agree with you.

18. from a boyhood friend in ND: Interesting reading. There have been, and still are, some very horrible people living on this planet. We have talked about the book that I am trying to write about religion and the difficulty that I have on the issue of morality because of how hypocritical people are. I don’t know whether there is an afterlife with a heaven and hell, but if there is a hell, it will be full of folks like our founding fathers for what they did to the Native Americans and their enslavement of other humans. It would also be filled with the Europeans that were responsible for not only for the invasion of North America, but also the invasions of South America, Africa, Australia, and portions of Asia during their colonization movements, and what they did to the native populations.

One thing that I am always curious about is the big deal that the world makes about the German Holocaust. There were more Iranians killed in the Iranian Holocaust that we were partially responsible for, and far more Native Americans, and possibly Armenians at the hands of the Turks. So why do we all make a big deal just about the Jews. Hitler killed more Christians than Jews. Where are all the monuments and museums commemorating the deaths of all those Christians. And what about the hundreds of Christians that have been killed by Israel in Gaza? Over 400 in just the 2014 attack on the UN shelter in place facilities. Don’t they count? I could go on and on, but to no avail. It is unfortunate though that historically evil has generally trumped good.

And thanks for that bible atlas that you got from your friend. I will take good care of it and will return it if Joe wants it back. I got a kick out of your notion that this is a hand-me-down from a Jew to a Catholic, to a Muslim. I would have thought that you would know that to be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or any other of the Abrahamic sects, a prime requirement is that you worship the Earth God of Abraham, and that from our previous discussions of my book, I do not believe that the Earth God of Abraham exists, like so many others that are pursuing a set of beliefs that are more consistent with our current knowledge base. I am what is called a freelance monotheist. That was a term coined by a lady back in the 1990s, whose name I cannot remember. [Karen Armstrong]

19. from George: Being from MN and from a southern MN family I immediately related the scaffolding to Mankato. I see it as an item of horror not of art. Just as I see Kathy Griffin’s attention grabbing ploy to not be comic “art” but in poor taste, and definitely not a threat.

19A. Response from Dick: One of the most interesting comments so far has been from Maryellen (above): “It will take a lot more than this artwork to put these ghosts to rest.

This parallel lacks some exactness, but I bring it up for painful contrast: the scaffold is a form of execution and so was the cross. How would the early Christians have reacted to a ‘Cross’ created as a Roman work of art? Even with the intention of reminding everyone of its horror?”

I happen to be lifelong Catholic. I hadn’t thought of the cross piece before. There is hardly a more ubiquitous piece of art than the cross, including in church art. I’d guess Christians would consider the crucifixion on a cross as a “horror”, but nonetheless it seems acceptable as art. The question is a difficult one, I’ll say. Which makes the conversation even more important.

20. from Stacy: I liked your article and the perspective you have on this. It would be a shame to sweep this under the rug when it is such a opportunity for conversation and reflection.

21. from Sandy:
Good and meaningful thoughts Dick! You certainly can speak with great knowledge on historical events and issues. thanks

22. from Rebecca: Because of your interest: Re: the Walker Art Center sculpture, I want to recommend to you the book An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, in paperback this year from Beacon Pr. It won the 2015 American book award. After reading this book last month, I contacted the author, a now 77 year old white/Indian woman scholar of American history who lives in California and is emeritus from one of the California universities. I contacted her just before the Walker art museum scandal had happened. I have invited her to come to the Twin Cities to speak and I will hopefully have an announcement about it at the MAP delegate meeting June 13th.

22A. Response from Dick: Thank you, Rebecca. Re “Because of your interest”, I’d like to share a few thoughts about what brought me to this particular place in my own history awareness and position on the sculpture issue. I’m North Dakotan, living there through college (1940-61). We lived, and thus I grew up, in a succession of tiny towns throughout the state. Basically, I’d say, the towns were Catholic; or Lutheran; there were Germans from Russia (mostly), and Scandinavians. That was our notion of “ethnic diversity”. This was back in the days when Catholics and Protestants had little to do with each other, to the point of outright hostility. There were others: Jews, Moslems, but they were rare and very unusual. It was not an enlightened time.

My mother grew up on a farm, which became very much like my “hometown”, as it was a consistent place in my life. My Dad grew up in a town of a few thousand, and his Dad was chief engineer in a flour mill.

I have said publicly as far back as the 1980s that “Indians” to us were about the same as “Negroes” in the south, even less fairly treated. Indeed, the situation for the Native Americans was probably worse, as they were on Reservations. My earliest memories, experienced, not spoken, were between 1945 and 1951 when, on occasion, we drove through the Ft. Totten Reservation near Devils Lake ND. I say “through”, it may have been beside – I don’t know for sure. What I am sure of is the sense I had as a kid that this was where the Indians lived, and it wasn’t a place you’d want your car to break down.

A few years later we lived a few miles west of Wahpeton ND, and I attended a tiny rural school and I was on the high school basketball team. At least twice we played basketball against the “Wahpeton Indian School” team out at the School of Science gymnasium. I remember the “Indian” ball players as very quick. I think that this was the same school, at about the same time, that author Louise Erdrich‘s father was superintendent. My Dad was school superintendent then at our tiny school. Both times we played on the Indian Schools court. Again, there was nothing spoken. The Indians were in their place, and it wasn’t with the rest of us.

Until the air bases and missile facilities of the late 1950s, there were few if any Negroes in ND.

I read somebodies memories of growing up in northeast North Dakota in the 1880s, and she remembered her French-Canadian mothers admonishment to the children: “Don’t trust the Indians or the Norwegians”!

I don’t have any Native-American ancestry – I’m half French-Canadian (Dad) and German (Mom) but I know of relatives of my French-Canadian grandparents generation who had strong native American ancestry. It is not at all unknown to me.

I first took a very active interest in Native Issues perhaps in the 1980s; in Whitestone Hill in the early 1990s. I am guessing the 1990s was the first time I knew of Whitestone (since it is remote – you need to be going there to really know it exists), and I’m also guessing it was a trip from the rural ND farm the 35 or so miles to see it. It is an impactful place, remote, alone, in its way beautiful. Rarely have I been there with any other visitors on the grounds. If one wishes an opportunity to meditate, Whitestone is a good choice.

My intention is to write more about this issue as time goes on, probably after the lumber is burned.

For certain, feel free to pass this along to the author you mentioned.

Thank you again.

22B. POSTNOTE, DICK June 9, 2017 The Scaffold has been disappeared from the news, replaced in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune by a long piece in the Variety Section, “Something to crow about”. Where the Scaffold was would have been the first sculpture seen as visitors entered at the “New Entry. It has been disappeared.

The culminating event, the burning of the pieces of the Scaffold, has been postponed.

Personally, I think the apparent leadership of the Native American community and its allies missed a major opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation, and possibly they recognize this now, and too late. The Walker doesn’t distinguish itself either. One can only imagine the behind the curtain discussions, and debate, within both camps.

I may wander down to see the new Garden June 10. At some later date, when/if it is decided to burn the pieces of the scaffold, in one ceremony or in many, I will try to cover that story as best I can, if I am privy to information about it.

I’m satisfied that I did what I could.

The photo below is of artifacts found over many years at the North Dakota farm of my ancestors, probably from plowing. Their home was three miles “as the crow flies” from the James River.

May a path be found to Peace. The June 2 post contains updates as I have found them over the last two weeks.

(click to enlarge)

from the North Dakota farm, found sometime after 1905.

23. from Norm: Thanks for your commentaries on the scaffold as well as your remembrances of growing up in the vicinity or the Fort Totten reservation and/or at least driving through it.

I grew up just a few miles from a reservation in Carlton County occupied by the Native Americans who now operate the successful casino located at I-35 and H-210 west of Carlton and south of Cloquet.

The conventional wisdom when I was growing up as well is that you did not want to have car trouble while driving through the reservation, especially around Sawyer which is on H-210 west of Carlton.

The Native Americans were seen in the same light as were negroes in the south and other parts of the country as well just as you said was the case in the state that you grew up in and where I was stationed for eighteen-months at the Minot AFB until being shipped to Thailand.

To this day, many of the residents of my home town and the surrounding area especially those near the ditch-bank areas northeast of town, continue to hold the Native Americans responsible for the lack of deer in the area because “they can hunt at anytime regardless of the season” and so on. They also hold them responsible for any thefts or damage that occurs to property and residences just outside of the reservation.

I had the good fortune to work with many dedicated Native Americans when I was the chief of EMS for the Minnesota Department of Health for several years. We utilized several talented folks from the Red Lake reservation and others as part of our testing crews as well as for the ambulance transportation services in the Red Lake area and on the White Earth reservation as well…and other places beyond that .

It was a privilege to work with them just as it was to work with all number of committed volunteers all across the state who provided basic emergency medical response services to their communities.

The fact that an Native American couple did come off of the reservation to a home just northeast of Cromwell a few years ago and kill a young couple and then stole their new truck that they later tried to burn on the reservation did add fuel to the fire of that perception no matter that the couple was later tried, found guilty and placed in prison.

Thanks again, Dick.

23A. Response from Dick: Thank you. Re your last paragraph “The fact…in prison”, I always pay attention to how such incidents are treated if by “people like us” versus “other”. A dramatic pre-9-11-01 example was Oklahoma City, where initially the suspect was somebody who apparently looked middle eastern. When it became known that it was two white anti-government guys, the conversation seemed to change, immediately.

We have a very long way to go….

(click to enlarge)

June 11, 2017, about 11 a.m. at southwest corner of the space formerly occupied by the Scaffold.

24. Dick Bernard: I returned to the site again this morning (June 11). A quick storm had passed through, refreshing the space. At the corner of the site of the former Scaffold location, I saw the flag and flower shown above. I don’t know who put it there, what their intention was, how long it will remain…. It was definitely put there on purpose, as would such symbols be seen at the Vietnam Wall in D.C. or elsewhere.

I want to comment briefly on my forbears role in this story, which I hope will continue long after “the ink dries” on these words.

Shortly after Whitestone Hill (1863), the final Treaty transferring Indian Lands to the United States was concluded at Huot Crossing in northwest Minnesota, at the Red Lake River (Huot Old Crossing 1863003). It was to the Treaty land that my French-Canadian ancestors came in 1878, and a number still remain to this day. They settled in Dakota Territory, not far west of the Red River. North Dakota became a state in 1889.

In 1904, my German ancestors came to North Dakota, taking virgin prairie south of Jamestown, perhaps 35 miles from Whitestone Hill, which with hardly any doubt they had never heard about. Whitestone had occurred over 40 years earlier – like the late 1970s compares to today. Indeed, they came across Indian artifacts such as the hammerheads shown above. These were turned over in plowing the prairie. Their farmstead was about three miles from the important James River, and on a rise in the surrounding countryside. Most likely it was a good vantage point in native days, as it is, still.

I doubt that either group, nor any of the ordinary settlers, had any notion of having stolen someone elses land. But, maybe they did?

What we’re left with is the present, over 150 years and many generations after the fact.

It has occurred to me that an appropriate resolution at the Sculpture Garden might be to have a mutually agreed to and designed nature garden (common on the Sculpture Garden grounds) placed at the exact site where the scaffold stood for those few days. That is just a suggestion.

Leaving the garden this morning I decided to take a closer look at what I called the “Chime Tree” yesterday. I was most intrigued by the story accompanying it. Both are pictured below.

The Cottonwood at the Sculpture Garden, June 11, 2017

Explanation of the history of the Cottonwood Tree

I wasn’t sure what kind of tree it was, yesterday, but when I saw the word “Cottonwood”, I thought of a story I had written some years ago about another Cottonwood on the North Dakota farm. Here it is.

Let us keep working towards reconciliation, no matter how long or hard the road.

25. from Mary Ellen: I read everything. So much to process. So many important perspectives. I was stunned by the choice of memorial placed where the scaffold stood so briefly– an American flag and a white carnation. What does that mean?
Yes, keep this going!
Right now I have nothing to add. Still thinking.

25A. from Dick, June 18: I was over to the Sculpture Garden today. The flag and white carnation were no longer there. A mystery perhaps no one else will notice or care about. For me, the Sculpture Garden has taken on greater significance than it ever had before.

Marking Times – Some thoughts on Memorial Day 2017

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Have a good Memorial Day. This morning (beginning 9:30 a.m.) I’ll be at the Vietnam Memorial on the MN State Capitol grounds for the annual Vets for Peace Memorial Day observance. Stop over, if you’re in the area. (See end of this post.)

This Memorial Day musing began with an unplanned detour on a north suburban Minneapolis highway on May 18, and concluded with a powerful musical May 26, about a post WWI farm family and community in northern Minnesota.

I hope my musing might bring back to you some memories from days past. All families have legacies which we inherit, and pass on…. (My own family list is at the end of this post.)

(click to enlarge the map, click a second time for greater enlargement, explanation below)

part of 1940 Shell Oil Co. Road Map for Iowa.

*

Some days ago I drove to an annual dinner in my old stomping grounds of Anoka County MN. Road work required a detour, and I found myself on Minnesota Highway 65 in Blaine MN, a route to/from work, which I had traveled daily for three years, 1966-69. The approximate six miles, from about 80th Ave NE in Spring Lake Park (1st Ave is downtown Minneapolis) to what used to be called 125th (Main Street east from Anoka) came on this day to be a reflective trip for me – a time to reminisce.

Hwy 65 at 109th in Blaine MN May 18, 2017

These days, the route is strictly suburban, and middle class; home to the world known National Sports Center. Back then, near 50 years ago, Blaine was just developing. Small tract starter homes were blooming west of the highway, ending about at 109th as I recall. To the east and north were essentially nothing but sod farms, and occasional small businesses and rural homes of the day.

I crossed Clover Leaf Parkway at about 94th Avenue NE, and remembered that back then I saw the large barn of Clover Leaf Farms, then a well known company name in the Twin Cities. The farm is long disappeared, but there remains an interesting history of the place here.

This is how history comes back to mind, unintended. The past is never that far gone.

As I drove up that stretch of “65” (as locals would say), I was listening to Vol IV of a CD collection from the 100th anniversary collection of the Minnesota Orchestra: it had been an impulse purchase at a garage sale a short time earlier. Playing as I drove that stretch was Mozart’s Piano Concerto #25 in C Major – a personal favorite. I stopped at Roosevelt Middle School, the place where I had been a teacher from 1965-72, and looked to see when the selection I was listening to had been recorded. Nov. 15, 1957, it said. I remembered Nov. 1957 in my life: we were at my Grandparents farm in Henrietta Township ND, probably at Thanksgiving, and in the evening we gathered on the lawn to watch Sputnik blink its way across the night sky – in those years, the newspaper printed the track of that first satellite in their areas.

I was a senior in high school.

in 1957, “CDs” were many years from becoming part of our vocabulary; now that same CD is rapidly becoming just another fossil. The computer on which I compose this blog, doesn’t even have a CD player as part of standard equipment.

Bernards, Summer 1956, at Anoka MN roadside park

Ah, Sputnik…it gave fuel to the space race and a real emphasis on science in American schools, and all of the other assorted things, good and bad, that went with the Cold War. Ah, CD’s….

Back home a few days later I was looking through a bag with some remaining items from my Grandfather Ferd and then Uncle Vincent’s desk at that farm, and came across several old road maps I had found there after Uncle Vince died. One of them, a well worn one of Iowa roads and towns in 1940, included the map of the U.S. which leads this post. This was, of course, printed long before the Interstate Highway System, which was designed as America’s autobahns, first and foremost a military defense highway system. I first drove on a section of Interstate in 1958, between Jamestown and Valley City ND. “A million dollars a mile”, they said of its cost, then.

My trip down memory lane, at least this trip, culminated last Friday night when we went to see “Sweet Land, the Musical” at Minnesota History Theatre. We were part of a packed house. Its last show was yesterday, though my guess is that it will be back. But you can still access the movie of the same name, or read Will Weaver’s short story which inspired both film and musical, “A Gravestone Made of Wheat”

Short synopsis: Sweet Land is of the triumphs, trials and tribulations of small farmers in Minnesota, from post WWI when a German war-bride came to marry a Norwegian farmer, when anti-German prejudice was still very high. Years later, the intended husband helped save a neighbors farm, and the community in turn helped them save his own farm. It is story of humanity, about greed and about generosity and the tension between invaluable legacy and valuable land. A further history summary of the era, from the program for Sweet Land, is here: Sweet Land001

The show begins with a for sale sign on the property, whose owners have died; it ends with the land not for sale…. I thought of my own families 110 year old farm which recently has begun a new life in North Dakota.

I thought of all of the inhabitants of that farm, now all but one deceased, and those of the neighbor farm whose owners were brother and sister of my own grandparents.

*

For this Memorial Day, I remember all of those people who lived for all or part of their lives on that land in rural LaMoure County North Dakota. May we be good examples of their raising us up.

The children of Ferdinand and Rosa (Berning) Busch: (born 1907-27) Lucina, Esther, Verena, Mary, George (Lt., U.S. Navy, Pacific Theatre 1943-45), Florence, Edithe, Vincent, Arthur (U.S. Army 1945-46).

The children of August and Christina (Busch) Berning: (born ca 1907-28) Irwin, Irene, Lillian, Cecilia, Rose, August (Captain U.S. Marines, Pacific Theatre WWII), Hyacinth, Ruth, Ruby, Rufina, Anita, Melvin (U.S. Army, Korea).

These families felt the cost of war. The husband of one was killed over Italy near the end of WWII; the son of another committed suicide on return from Korean war – he couldn’t leave the war behind; the brother-in-law of another, my uncle Frank, went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor; a neighbor of the family, Francis Long, was killed in action, hardly a year into active duty in WWII. Everyone is affected by war. This day the tendency is to honor the fallen, who we call “heroes”. But among us are survivors, suffering in assorted ways from the effects of war. War is insane. We need to work very hard to rid ourselves of the impulse of war as a solution to problems.

And there are other true heroes who have committed their lives to finding some ways to seek peace.

Last night we watched the always moving Memorial Day program on PBS. At the end of the program Vanessa Williams and choral group sang the Hymn which captioned my 1982 Christmas greeting. Below is the cover, and here is the text of that card: Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

.

Listen: “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin With Me.”

COMMENTS:
from Donna: Thanks for your inspirational words once again. This Memorial Day I am thinking of my relatives in Germany where my daughter and sister are currently visiting. Rich and I had the opportunity to visit them in southern Germany last October and it is amazing how welcoming they all were. While there I could not imagine leaving the beauty of southern Germany and arriving in North Dakota. It must have been a rude awakening that first winter. I expressed this to one of my cousins from Germany and he said “well if they hadn’t left they would most certainly been part of World War I & II”. Apparently during WWII my relatives would draw around their feet and then send their foot outlines to my dad and he would send back shoes. Growing up in an the all German community of St. Mary’s I am sure that all of our neighbors and friends had family back in Germany that were caught up in the two wars.

from Annelee (who grew up in Nazi Germany): Dick,Thanks for the Peace and Justice memorial Day 2017. I learned a great deal about the past as you took us down along the highways of memory lane. You brought alive the toils and struggles of your ancestral families on the farms. Then they were asked to give their sons. They were called to serve and they gave their lives.

Times have changed, some for better, some for much worse. Young men throughout the world since then have died and are still dying to serve a cause?

I remember my papa: I don’t know where he read, heard or came to the conclusion on his own.

He always said when our young men were called during WWII, and he learned that that many he knew had died — he shook his head and said
“WAR IS INSANITY AND INHUMANITY OF MEN TO HIS FELLOW MEN— I MAY NOT REMEMBER IT EXACTLY.

WAR IS STILL GOING ON, AND IT WILL CONTINUE AS LONG AS WAR AND ITS COST ARE GLORIFIED AND WE NEGLECT LIFE AND ALL ITS BLESSING PEACE COULD BRING.

from Christina: What great thoughts for this Memorial Day!

Veterans for Peace at Vietnam Memorial on MN State Capitol Grounds, May 29, 2017.

It was a chilly, blustery day, but there was a large group who gathered. Below are a few photos from the annual gathering.

May 29, Veterans for Peace gathering.

Ceremonial Bell Ringing remembering those who have died.

May 29, 2017

Dick Bernard: Overwhelmed.

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Some thoughts

This post began as a draft on May 7, 2017, and included only the next paragraph and the photograph below. That was 18 days ago. I decided to wait with more until the Congressional Budget Office had scored the hastily passed bill “Killing OBAMAcare” (the title of the initial draft of this post). Now you can read the details of the scoring, and some of the summary of the last few weeks news via my favorite blogger, Just Above Sunset, which publishes six nights a week, the most recent reaching me at 2:01 a.m. my time. Your can read the entire post here. Consider a free subscription….

*

May 7 – Some day there will be an official iconic photo of the victory scrum at the White House on May 4, 2017. For now, this will do:

(click to enlarge)

Celebrating the first step in replacing Obamacare, White House, May 4, 2017, from front page of Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 5, 2017.

*

May 25 – When I saw the “victory” photo, I thought back to endless group photos over the years, long before the days of thousands of images to pick from. In any group were those who didn’t want to be there, but felt obligated to show up; those who were in the picture but deliberately stayed hidden, and on and on and on. That’s what I saw in the photo….

Today I changed the headline of this blog to “Overwhelmed”.

“Overwhelm” has always intrigued me – there must be a “whelm” out there somewhere. I looked the word up. Here is a little discussion.

Well, these are times that people like me do feel “whelmed” to the point of “overwhelmed”: there seems no way to get ahead of the abundant craziness, where “winners” seem to want to rub it in on “losers”. Resolving disputes is for the weak, or so it seems to go. Raw Power rules.

So, our “First Winner” meets the Pope at the Vatican, yesterday; not long before he’s giving affirmation to the President of the Philippines who feels justified in going around executing people presumed to be guilty…. The so-called “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representatives is another similarly important story.

Going through some old papers yesterday I came across an old handout entitled “Why nobody loves a pessimist”. Take a look. It is here: pessimist002. Well, it is a pessimistic time for people like me, but I remain an optimist about the future.

Then take some time figure out some “doable” things you as an individual can do towards a better world. There are thousands upon thousands of options to be engaged. A week ago the American Refugee Committee distributed a neat pamphlet which laid out the general theme. You can access the pamphlet here, at the top of the page.

POSTNOTE: Pessimistic as the outlook may seem, crank up her optimism and stay in the quest for a better world.

Towards the end of the above referenced Just Above Sunset, there is some important and simple current and credible data: about 4 in 10 Americans consistently still support the President, however, in the past few months those who strongly support him have gone down from about 3 in 10 to 2 in 10.

That leaves 6 in 10 who seem inclined to another way of doing the nation and the world’s business.

That 6 of 10 is all of us, and it’s up to us.

POSTNOTE 2: Just Above Sunset, about NATO and Trump, etc. published early Friday, May 26, here.

Mark Petty: Witnessing at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Pre-note: Early in March, Mark Petty who is on a volunteer board with me, announced he’d be absent from our next meeting due to a pending trip with The Advocates for Human Rights. Following his return from the March 18-25 trip to Geneva, Mark filed the following report, which speaks eloquently to a citizen working to make a difference. His report is presented with his permission. Related, Thursday evening in Minneapolis Daniel Wordsworth of the American Refugee Committee will speak. All details are here: Wordsworth May 18 17001

(click to enlarge)

Mark Petty, Geneva SW, March 2017

I along with other volunteers of the Advocates, partners and The Advocates staff lobbied more than 100 UN Human Rights Council delegates in March. We traveled to Geneva as part of The Advocates’ work to help end violence against women and the death penalty, and to advance the rights of religious and racial minorities.

While in Geneva, the team met one-on-one with Human Rights Council delegates about recommendations for countries’ Universal Periodic Reviews; delivered 14 oral statements to the Human Rights Council; presented at parallel events on violence against women, human rights in South Africa, and domestic violence legal reform; participated in closed-door briefings with UN treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Human Rights Committee.

“The work of our volunteers at the UN is priceless, from making oral statements, to presenting information to delegates, and so much more,” Jennifer Prestholdt, director of The Advocates’ International Justice Program. “They make a world of difference.”

While in Geneva, Switzerland, I delivered an oral statement on behalf of the the Advocates for Human Rights as well as interacted with the delegates. Below I wrote an account of what was going through my mind prior to the delivery of the oral statement and included a video of my presentation of the oral statement as well as the written oral statement.

The Human Rights Council (Council) is the principal United Nations inter-govermental body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights. Based in Geneva, the Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States elected by the General Assembly but all 193 countries in the United Nations plus observers can participate in the Council discussions. Only nongovernmental organizations in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions. The Advocates for Human Rights has special consultative status with the United Nations, allowing its representatives to make oral statements at the Council. On behalf of the Advocates for Human Rights, I made an oral statement relating to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of the Council’s interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in DRC. The statement, which I made during the discussion of recent increase in political violence in DRC, provided the opportunity for The Advocates to highlight the human rights abuses that force their Congolese asylum clients to seek safety in the U.S. The next paragraph relates to my experience leading up to the delivery of my oral statement on March 22, 2017.

The night before I was to present my oral statement was difficult. I went to bed early but woke up at 11:30 pm and couldn’t fall back to sleep till 3 am. At 8 am, March 22, 2017, we returned to the United Nations. I went upstairs by taking the escalator, passed through security by showing my United Nations badge, entered the Human Rights Council chambers and sat down. Jennifer Prestholdt, the Deputy Director at the Advocates for Human Rights, recommended I listen to what was being discussed in order to know when I would be called. Generally, the order for delivering statements was for the Human Rights Council, then the interested countries, and then the nongovernmental organizations for each country under review. The Ukraine was under review at this point. Earlier that morning I had bought a bottle of water to keep my mouth from drying out. As each person gave his/her statement, my anxiety rose. I looked at the high domed, multicolored ceiling and at the seated delegates around the room. Before I knew it, the water was gone. Now Guinea was under review. Each person called meant a step closer to my deliverance of the oral statement and an increase to my nervousness. The other volunteers and everyone from the Advocates were very supportive. Some thoughts running through my head as I sat there were: “If I mess this up, how would the Advocates react? Would I be allowed to continue my volunteer work?” and “My employer will be seeing this as well…..” During the review of Guinea, I asked Jennifer if I could fill up my water bottle. I was so relieved when she said “yes”. Before I knew it, the Democratic Republic of Congo was under review Statements were presented, and my oral statement drew closer and closer. As I looked down at my bottle, I saw there was a single swig of water inside, and my mouth was dry. I had to save those precious drops of water. The nongovernmental organizations were next. The Advocates were second in line, and the gentleman to my left was just called. As the Advocates’ name was called, I drained the last remnants of water. As I pushed the red button to turn on the microphone and illuminate the red circular light at the end of the microphone, a sudden calmness went through my entire body and then I said “Thank you, Mr. President….”

I would like to thank Thomson Reuters, my brothers (Tim, Mick and Michael), Jen and Kyle Pohl, Ellen Uhrich, my wife (Kerri) for their financial support for this UN Study-Advocacy Tour. In addition, I am grateful to Thomson Reuters in providing their employees volunteer and Pro Bono time. I am also grateful to the Advocates in providing me and the Thomson Reuters Pro Bono program the United Nations Study-Advocacy Tour.

Video with Mark’s presentation can be seen here. (You need Adobe Flash player to access.) Mark’s statement begins at 1:26:32

Mark Petty:

“Thank you, Mr. President:

“The Advocates for Human Rights thanks the Human Rights Council for its ongoing concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including recent election-related repression and increased violence by both State actors and armed groups.

“With the help of pro bono attorneys, The Advocates for Human Rights provides free legal services to hundreds of asylum seekers each year. We serve many clients from the DRC who have been forced to flee the human rights abuses. Our Congolese clients have shared with us firsthand accounts that corroborate the continued violence and serious crimes, including sexual violence, committed against civilians by both armed groups and State agents, including security forces and police.

“Our clients from the DRC share their stories of abduction, arrest, detention, interrogation and torture, including kicking, whipping, beating with batons, rape, and prolonged deprivation of food and water. Our clients also report that the situation in the DRC has gotten much worse for those who are actively involved with opposition parties, as well as organizations working to end sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers in the DRC. They describe threats, intimidation, arrests, detention and restrictions on their movement in violation of their rights to peaceful assembly, opinion and expression.

“The Advocates for Human Rights calls on the Human Rights Council to continue to monitor the security situation in the DRC. The international community should support justice mechanisms that ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of human rights violations and serious crimes in the DRC. Further, the Government of the DRC should take immediate steps to begin implementing measures from the agreement to hold elections in 2017, including releasing detained political leaders, civil society activists and journalists.

“Thank you.”

Dick Bernard: Reflecting on Benjamin Ferencz

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Someone asked me about my Mom a few days ago. Esther (Busch) Bernard died August 20, 1981, at age 72, cancer. A few months before her death I turned 41. She was a remarkable person…then again, all persons in their own ways were and are remarkable. We all have our own memories of our own missing persons in our own lives. Likely in that can of human hair I found in the possessions at the North Dakota farm where she was born and raised is some of hers. Today is a time to remember and to reflect.

*

Today is Mother’s Day, now better known in Minnesota as fishing opener weekend….

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mom’s, in all their infinite variations.

*

A few days ago I featured the quotation of an immensely accomplished mother of six, Eleanor Roosevelt, in a newsletter I edit. Mrs. Roosevelt said this: “Believe in yourself. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face…You must do that which you think you cannot do….The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
(p. 4, here: CGS News May 2017001)

Among her many accomplishments, Eleanor Roosevelt was the leader who led the process leading to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948.

*

Today’s post, however, is about a son, Benjamin Ferencz, 36 years younger than Mrs. Roosevelt, but nonetheless tied together with her by a shared history – WWII. I can only begin to explain by these few words. Perhaps you’ll want to follow up. I didn’t know Mr. Ferencz existed till a week ago.

*

Yesterday I was organizing a bunch of assorted papers on world peace passed along to me by Joe Schwartzberg, who had previously received them from the family of Martha and Stan Platt, two giants of the twin cities peace community back in the days of Eleanor Roosevelt. The assortment was from the early 1950s to the early 1990s.

The task was one I had avoided for a year or more. There were many musty old file folders, probably from the Platt’s garage, unceremoniously parked in a torn grocery bag, which in turn was placed inside a kitchen garbage bag.

Rummaging through the files among hundreds of items I came across the below letter, referencing a then-upcoming book by Prof. Benjamin Ferencz:

(click to enlarge)

(The book referred to was published, and some copies are still available for the inquiring reader here.)

I knew of Stanley Platt and his wife by reputation, though they are long deceased. I never met either, but they were legendary in peace circles in the U.S.

Benjamin Ferencz?

May 7, long time friend Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg, sent a few of us “this gem of a beautiful interview with Ben Ferencz that [he] just found” which aired on PBS July 14, 2009.

A couple of hours later, CBS “60 Minutes” had a feature segment on the same Ben Ferencz, now 97 and still a stalwart for dealing with the insanity of war.

So, in the space of a week, the unknown Benjamin Ferencz became much more a known in my own life, through a 2009 PBS program, the segment on 60 Minutes, and a 1993 letter.

The quick note is this: a newly minted lawyer as WWII ended, the 27-year old Ferencz happened to draw the short straw as the lawyer who “prosecuted 22 German officers at Nuremberg for murdering over a million people in World War II….” (from the PBS text).

The longer story, accessible in the programs above, is worth your time.

*

These days, it is easy to feel there is no hope; that individuals and small groups cannot make a difference.

Making a better world takes all of us, women, men, Moms, Dads, boys, girls, all the time.

Margaret Mead said it best, 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.”

To all, everyone, Happy Mother’s Day.

Dick Bernard: Three Opportunities At 100 Days of MAGA

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

The end of April marks the 100th day of MAGA (“Make America Great Again”).

If you are even a tiny bit concerned about our future as a planet of people, here are three programs that are worth your time, more information accessible at GlobalSolutionsMN.org (Global Solutions Minnesota*) All information at home page of this website.

1. Tomorrow (Thursday) evening, April 20, at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Dr. Roger Prestwich speaks on “Brexit, the EU and rising European Nationalism.” 6:45 p.m. Free and open to the public.

(click to enlarge photos, double click for greater enlargement.)

2. Sunday afternoon, April 23, is the World Premiere of “The World Is My Country“, the amazing story of Garry Davis, World Citizen. Show time is 2:30. Best advice to be ticketed and at the theater no later than 2:10 p.m. St. Anthony Main Theatre, Minneapolis. More here (link to theatre box office in second paragraph). Box office 612-331-7563 Tickets required for this event.

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

3. Monday evening, May 1, at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, Minneapolis, Shawn Otto addresses “Science, Law and the Quest for Freedom in the Age of Trump.” Mr. Otto’s book, “The War on Science. Who’s waging it, why it matters and what we can do about it” has just won the 2017 Minnesota Book Award for non-fiction, general. Shawn Otto is well known and respected in the Science community. Reservations required for this limited seating dinner meeting. $25 per person, $15 for students. Reserve by contacting Dick Bernard, dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom, or by mail at Box 25384 Woodbury MN 55125, or 651-334-5744. This is the 5th annual of the re-initiation of World Law Day, which began in 1964, and went on for about 30 years in the Twin Cities. Each event is filled with opportunities for stimulating conversation.

Shawn Otto August 10, 2016

* – all these events are sponsored by Global Solutions Minnesota, an organization of which the writer of this post is vice-president. We wish we could claim foreknowledge in planning these events at what is ever more apparent, a crucial moment in history, but all three came together in the random way that such things happen.

We need to be well informed. These are excellent, in differing ways, for us to inform ourselves not only about problems, but solutions, and how we can impact as persons.

Absolutely, these will be excellent events, chock-full of good and especially timely information, led by presenters who are very knowledgeable.

If you can’t go to all three, how about sharing the wealth, and find someone else to cover the other two, then talk about what you learned afterwards!

For those with an interest in the preservation of a global community, peace and justice, these can seem like very dark days. Each of these sessions will stimulate participants who wish to be more knowledgeably involved.

Shack II – Good Friday at the Basilica of Saint Mary. “God” Among Us.

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

SEE COMMENTS AT THE END OF THIS POST.

In my tradition, today is Easter. Whatever your tradition, this day, all best for a happy one!

(click to enlarge)

At the Stone War Memorial at the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, March 28, 2017. Each Minnesota County contributed a boulder on which part of a single war time letter was inscribed. This one is from Todd County Minnesota.

March 17 at this space, I posted about the film and movie, The Shack. You can revisit it here. At the beginning of that post, I very deliberately mentioned Columbine High School which became memorable April 20, 1999. At the end of that post I have now added my blogpost about The Shack written at the time I read the book in 2009, plus my Amazon review at that time. At the end of this post – postnote 1, below – is my unedited first rough draft thoughts about todays post, saved on March 19.

*

It’s been almost eight years since some friend told me about the book, “The Shack”, and now well over a month since I saw the film version in Littleton CO (see postnote 2 below). I have had some very interesting conversations about the book in the past month (including with myself!), and my antennae have been up to observe, as I say in the headline, “God Among Us”.

These are two repetitive thoughts this day:
1) Ours is an individualistic society, with a tendency to create God in our own image and to justify our own action. This is a real dilemma for organized hierarchical religion of all varieties, long accustomed to controlling the flock through one or another view of what God is, or is not.
2) We have great trouble dealing with forgiveness…of others, and of ourselves. The 1916 quotation on the boulder which leads this column merits long and very serious reflection and conversation.

*

Tenebrae on Good Friday evening at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis – two days ago – seems to bring it all together for me at this moment in my history.

We were in a jam-packed church Friday night.

The stage for Good Friday had been set for me, personally, through a brief back-and-forth between two of us – long-time good friends – earlier in the day.

I’m a regular at Catholic Mass; my friend used to be. He has his reasons.

Some snips:
J: “Happy Easter from the Apostate. I haven’t been to a Good Friday service in ages… do they still pray for the conversion of the Jews?”
D: “Maybe we’ll go tonight and I’ll let you know…we visited Auschwitz, etc., in the spring of 2000, a mixed group of Jews and Catholics from Basilica and Temple Israel. About that time, the big story was the shakeup in the famous Oberammergau (sp?) Passion Play, where the big deal was the guilt of the Jews… But, I think, there is a relatively positive equilibrium at the moment….

Seated, I leafed through the program booklet, and in the section, “Jesus Breathed His Last” on p.6, was this (click to enlarge):

Tenebrae Program booklet at Basilica of St. Mary Minneapolis MN Good Friday April 14, 2017

The powerful service continued, and at page 12 in the booklet, came a prelude: “Remarks (Please be seated.)”

Presider and Basilica Pastor John Bauer began brief remarks by talking about the tragic history of Jewish – Catholic relations, and the strong impetus to change those relationships particularly in the time beginning with Pope John Paul II.

Then he introduced the speaker, Rabbi Sim Glaser of neighboring Temple Israel in Minneapolis.

I have heard Rabbi Glaser before, and we did go to Auschwitz with Temple Israel members in 2000, so what I and the others were about to hear was not a surprise.

I would summarize Rabbi Glaser’s very powerful remarks in this way:
1) There are three major Abrahamic religions: Jews, Christians, Moslems.
2) Jerusalem is important to all these religions.
3) We all live together in this world, and we need to relearn how to communicate with each other, rather than continue isolation and division.

I usher at Basilica often. I am sure that many of these people who Rabbi Glaser was addressing from this Catholic pulpit had not been in Church for a long while. Some may have been surprised.

The Rabbi had been introduced to much applause; when he returned to the pew, seated among all of us, the applause was even greater and sustained. This at a service where the final words in the program are “All depart in complete silence“.

I thought of my earlier conversation with my apostate friend, and about “The Shack”, whose focus (at least to me) is the need for forgiveness, of others, of ourselves.

A few hours earlier, my friend and I had closed our e-mail conversation.
J: “Heck, I go [to Catholic Mass”] fairly often… at least 2 Sundays per month at least, at St Joan… and I don’t even consider myself either Christian or Catholic….
D: “Actually, I like going to church. It’s a good calming place for me. We’re a large diverse place so there’s all sorts of folks who wander in, including me, I guess.
J: “Yep, calming… agree!

The Shack? A novel followed by a movie. By traditional standards, perhaps, a purveyor of bad theology.

But what I witnessed at Basilica of St. Mary on Good Friday 2017 was the very essence of what I had read about and saw in “The Shack”. It may not seem like it, but people are beginning to get it. Let’s leave it at that.

Happy Easter.

*

POSTNOTE 1 – the early draft of this post, March 19, 2017: This post begins with two pages from an 1896 8th grade Geography book, used by my grandmother when she was in 8th grade – the final year she went to school at a Catholic school in Wisconsin, not far from Dubuque IA. It speaks for itself. (Click a second time and you can enlarge both).

The above was 131 years ago, in the United States of America, in a textbook sanctioned by my Church, the Catholic Church. It was the basis of instruction for 8th graders in a Catholic School.

We have changed, and I think very much for the better. But where we started was dismal, and for some what the standard should still be.

POSTNOTE 2: We saw the film, the Shack, literally across the street from “Cross Hill“, overlooking Columbine High School in Littleton CO. By sheer coincidence, I was visiting my family in Littleton five days after the massacre on April 20,1999. We joined the throng of people who slowly moved up that “hill” of construction remnants, to see the crosses that had been planted there by a man from another state for each of the victims killed that terrible day. It was incredibly moving.

It is long ago, now, so I don’t remember precisely, but in my memory, the day we reached the top, two of the crosses in that line had been cut down – the ones erected for the killers, the two students who had killed the others and then themselves. They, too, had perished, but denied standing as having also been killed.

In effect, they had been denied the right to be grieved – two more lost lives on an awful day.

My son and I walked up that same hill little over a month ago, and there is now a permanent monument – presently being reconstructed – remembering those killed 18 years ago.

But the killers seem to appear nowhere in todays monument, at least nowhere I can see. I can see the reasoning. At the same time, how long will it be till we can forgive, to echo that letter in the photo above, written in 1916, about the Civil War 60 years earlier.

In my opinion, unwillingness to forgive others, and ourselves, is the blind-side of forgiveness that affects every one of us. No one need qualify for forgiveness. To me, that seems to be the essence of this day, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Have a great day, and all which follow.

COMMENTS:
from Flo: Amen.

from Jermitt: Wonderful testimonial, wonderful historical story of your Grandmothers education and great lesson on forgiveness for everyone.

from Larry(wordchipper@gmail.com, with permission): Found your pieces on “The Shack” and Good Friday in your Roman Catholic Church to be thought stimulating. Will watch for the book and/or movie. I’ve bypassed the book several times but your article prompts me to maybe read it or at least look at the movie.

Regarding the Roman Church, I have my problems with this body and not just because I’m a lifelong ELCA Lutheran. I have many dear friends – like you – who are Catholics and when my wife and I have visited places like Mexico and Hawaii, we’ve attended mass at the most prominent landmark in any village, the Catholic cathedral. I find your church’s emphasis on string instruments and piano refreshing. I’m with Garrison Keillor on protesting against overly-enthusiastic organists. We have them in our church and, apparently, they’re also playing loudly in Mr. Keillor’s.

But my concerns today with your church have to do with their heavy-handed role in American politics. Although it raises my blood pressure, I listened to Catholic media, both radio and television, featuring endless praise for Donald Trump because of his stand on “abortion,” although his stance on anything, including abortion, is a bit suspect. The commentators on Catholic media sounded like they took their training from Fox News. Horribly one-sided. I called into one national program and reminded two of the on-air expounders, who were praising Republicans and blasting Democrats, that it was Democrats who put across the Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and fought for working class people, many of whom belonged to unions and were good Catholics. Also, because I’m “pro-choice,” does not mean I’m against life. I believe Republicans and Catholics ought to care as much about babies who are born – through health care, education, and so forth – as they are about getting between a doctor, his or her patient, and the patient’s God, or no religious belief. Our Republican legislators in North Dakota, many of whom are Catholics, cut health care programs for women and others but pass unconstitutional measures that waste tax dollars on wild goose chases that do nothing but please the Roman hierarchy.

Noting the personal morality record of Mr. Trump, multiple divorces, not paying subcontractors, and proposing to cut health care while investing more money with the Daddy Warbucks of the country, I just don’t get it why the Roman Church in the USA is so in love with Trump and expressed such hatred for Mrs. Clinton. They preached their right-wing philosophy so strongly during the Presidential campaign that, I believe, the should have lost their 501-3c tax exemption.

Response from Dick: Larry, it’s a rather daunting task to take on your response. I just googled the words “Catholic census” and the first link was a reputable one, Pew Research, that says there are over a billion Catholics worldwide, half of the Christians. The whole global population is over 7 billion. I usually hear that Minnesota has about 20% Catholics; the U.S. about 25%. That’s lots of folks, and I know from long experience that they aren’t all alike.

I was in college in the transition from the old to the new Church – 1958-61. Generalizing is dangeous, granted, but I think I can fairly say but “authority” took a hit in the post-Vatican II era. This was great for many Catholics; “the pits” for many as well. In one sense or other this battle is joined every day in one way or another.

Personally, I’m on what I’d call the social justice side of the debate within the church. I’m sure the authoritarian side would also say they’re for social justice, but they’re more into control, often played in the assorted debates that you cast concern about in your state (which is a state very familiar to me.)

I choose to stay within the Church. I don’t see it doing much good to drop out and start over in some other denomination. Those I would call “authoritarians” are not comfortable with the current Church, which is fine by me. The Catholic Church, like many Christian churches (and others, doubtless) has a very long history of authoritarianism, going all the way back to Constantine’s embrace of Christianity as essentially the state Church of the Roman Empire about 300 A.D. In general, where the ruler went, the people went. Some places, everybody was Lutheran; other places, something else. in the olden days sense, we’re sort of in the wild west.

I think I’ll leave it at that, except to emphasize once again Rabbi Glaser’s advice at my Catholic Church on Friday: we need to look at and talk with each other. That is risky, but the only way to break the current and very unhealthy stalemate. Just my opinion.

A LETTER: On April 17, I sent a letter to the Denver Post. I almost immediately got a call back that they were interested, and I expected it would be printed. Thus far (Apr 26) I haven’t seen it printed. So here it is:
Last month we were in Denver to visit family. I asked to visit “Cross Hill”, the place above Columbine dating back to just after April 20, 1999. March 11, 2017, we walked to the memorial.

April 25, 1999, I was in Littleton to visit the same family, who then and still, lives little more than a mile from Columbine. In a steady rain, four of us patiently trod up to those new crosses.

At the top were two fewer crosses than originally set in the ground. Those two were those raised for the killers, also students, who also perished that day. Those crosses were cut down.

I know the reasons those crosses came down.

Today I speak to the need, in my opinion, to recognize once again these two students whose personal demons led to the heinous results. They were victims too.

Forgiveness is difficult. Consider it, seriously.

#1250 – Dick Bernard: “The World Is My Country”, the Garry Davis story

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
York Langton*

Today begins the 2017 MSPIFF (Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival). The schedule promises “350+ films & events”.

I highly recommend one film among the many options: “The World is My Country“, which has its World Premiere at the St. Anthony Main theater in Minneapolis, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23. In order to accommodate possible overflow crowds, the festival has scheduled three screenings. So if you want a seat at the World Premiere, get your tickets early. All necessary information is on the Festival site accessible here.

Along with the World Premiere of The World is My Country will be an eight minute short adapted from the Minnesota film: Man’s Next Giant Leap. The was made especially for this Premiere by Arthur Kanegis and his Associate Producer Melanie Bennett, who edited it mostly from a 30 minute film made back in the 1970’s. Take a look – you’ll be pretty amazed to see what our governor, mayors and other officials had to say about World Citizenship. The short can be viewed here. The Minnesota Declarations of World Citizenship can be viewed here: Minnesota Declarations002

The World is My Country is the remarkable story of up and coming ca 1940 Broadway star Garry Davis. It deserves a full house at each of its three showings. Garry Davis, then into his 90s and very engaging, tells his own life story in the film, which is richly laced with archival film from the 1940s forward. Among the many snips from history: the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightss at the United Nations, in Paris, 1948.

New York Times front page July 29, 2013. Garry Davis pictured in lower right.

I wrote about this film on April 8, and again after its work-in-progress preview, also at the St. Anthony Main, on January 6, 2013. (See here and here.)

Garry Davis? I didn’t know he existed until his name came up at a lunch in June, 2011. Filmmaker Arthur Kanegis was in town, and a friend of his invited four of us to lunch. It was there that Garry Davis came to life for me. A WWII bomber pilot, his brother already killed in WWII, Davis couldn’t justify killing by war as a solution to problems. In 1948, he gave up something precious to him, his U.S. citizenship. He said he did it as an act of love for the United States, following in the footsteps of our founding fathers who gave up being Virginians or Marylanders to be citizens of the United States of America. He declared himself a Citizen of the World, and ignited a movement promoting world citizenship beyond even his imagination. He took a huge risk he lived with the rest of his 93-year life.

From there, I’ll let the film tell the rest of the story.

I was enrolled, that day in June, 2011, and had a small opportunity to see the dream evolve, and now return to the screen for its World Premiere in Minneapolis.

In the fall of 2012, I received permission to show an early draft of the film to a group of high school students in St. Paul. How would they react to ancient history (WWII era film and characters)? Very well, it turned out. They liked what they saw.

About 100 of us participated in Work In Progress test of the first draft of his film in Minneapolis, at St. Anthony Main, in January 2013. The reaction was positive.

Again, I asked permission to show the preview to a group of retired teachers meeting in Orlando, and they liked what they saw. And on the same trip I showed the in-progress film to the Chair and Founder of the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. He was very attentive and liked what he saw.

Time went on. Last summer, I attended a private showing of the film, now nearing completion. The process of making a film is tedious, I found, simply from occasional brushes with this one. To make a film is to take a big risk. Now it has earned its time “in the lights” for others to judge.

I do not hesitate to highly recommend this film, particularly to those who feel that there have to be better ways of doing relationships than raw power, threats, and the reality we all face of blowing each other up in one war after another. This is not a film about war; it is about living in peace with each other.

The key parts of the film focus on Garry Davis in his 20s and 30s, roughly the late 1940s through the 1960s. It’s an idealistic film, especially appropriate for young people, with an important place for positive idealism in todays world.

“The World is My Country” does not end with somebody dying (though the real Garry Davis died 6 months after that first preview I saw in 2013). Rather, its call is for solutions other than war or dominance.

Viewing this film is an investment, not a cost. It brings meaning to the timeless quotes of Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world indeed it is the only thing that ever has”; and Gandhi – “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Applications for World Passports will be available for those interested at the film.

POSTNOTE:
Here is the first, last and only e-mail I was ever privileged to receive from Garry Davis, Jan. 7, 2013. He died 6 months later.

(click to enlarge)

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

On taking risks (from a Church bulletin in Park Rapids MN 1982) (attributed to William Arthur Ward):

Attributed to William Arthur Ward

* POSTNOTE:
York Langton was a Minnesota Corporate Executive in wholesale business, and often used this quotation in talking about relationships in the 1960s.

“When the people lead, leaders will follow” is a common sense axiom in business. If people want a product, they buy it; if they don’t, they won’t. Fortunes are made by following this simple truism.

The same is true in political relationships. If people make unwise decisions in choosing their leaders at any level, they face consequences.

So, “when the people lead, leaders will follow” is an important one for all of us.

#1249 – Dick Bernard: World Premiere “The World Is My Country” Minneapolis April 23

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Anyone with an interest in and advocacy for Peace and Justice and International Issues will want to see this film, the story of Garry Davis, World Citizen #1. The World Premiere showing is Sunday afternoon April 23, 2:30 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis. All details are here (The film is one of two events linked at the header of the home page.)

(click to enlarge photos)
The occasion of Garry Davis’ death in July, 2013 merited front page coverage in the New York Times.

New York Times front page July 29, 2013. Garry Davis pictured in lower right.

The nub of this true story: Garry Davis, an up and comer on Broadway, became a B-17 bomber pilot in WWII. The contradiction of killing innocent people in the European theater caused him to give up his U.S. citizenship in 1948, and the rest of his life was spent as a “citizen of the world”.

“The World is My Country” tells this true story, through Garry Davis’ own words, and is very well-laced with archival film footage. I highly recommend the film specifically for young people interested in history and making a difference in the world we’re leaving them. It is a message of and for peace, coming at a time when we seem to have forgotten the insanity of war as solution, coming from a messenger who participated in war as a bomber pilot in WWII. But it is more than just a story; much is a solutions message for viewers.

Pre-film publicity from Director Arthur Kanegis says this: “The World Is My Country”: “A song and dance man pulls off an act of political theater so gutsy and eye-opening that it sparks a huge people power movement that paves the way for the UN’s unanimous passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Leaping off the Broadway stage onto the world stage as “World Citizen #1” Garry Davis spends the next 65 years of his life as a citizen of no nation, only Earth — travelling the globe on his “World Passport.”

Hailed by Albert Einstein for “the sacrifices he has made for the well-being of humanity,” extolled by Buckminster Fuller as the “New World Man,” and egged on by Eleanor Roosevelt to start “a worldwide international government,” Garry’s story is so inspiring that Martin Sheen introduces it as “a roadmap to a better future.” (See photo of New York Times front page article at the time of Garry Davis’ death in July, 2013, above.)

I have more than passing familiarity with this film, first meeting Mr. Kanegis, and learning of Garry Davis, in 2011. In 2012, I showed an early rough draft of the film to a group of high school students in St. Paul, and they loved it. In 2013, my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, sponsored a private and well received preview showing to about 100 people at St. Anthony Main Theater, and Garry Davis appeared via skype in a conversation with his Minneapolis friend, Lynn Elling (photo below).

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

Elling and Davis were “kin kids”, virtually the same age, both in their 90s when they died. Davis died six months after the above photo was taken, and Mr. Elling, my friend, died Feb. 14, 2016. In a sense, their lives were intertwined, impacted by direct experience of war, and motivated by a passion for peace.

Davis was about 27 when he became a World Citizen in 1948. Elling first was exposed to the World Citizenship aspect of Davis’ work in Tokyo in 1963, when Tokyo became a “World Citizenship” city. He was in his early 40s. Through his and other efforts, there were several major declarations about World Citizenship in Minnesota between 1965 and 1971. They are detailed here: Minnesota Declarations002. The signers of these documents are very interesting, as is the time of the declarations, during the Vietnam War.

Following the January 2013 video appearance in Minneapolis, Garry Davis sent me an e-mail, which included a link to the cities and other units which became “Mondialized” (World) Cities from 1950 to early 1970s. Part of this e-mail said: “In 2 years over 750,000 people registered, etc.” [the first town to be] ‘mondialized’ [was] Cahors [France]. This small southern French town (famous for its wine) actually started the “Mondialization Movement” from which the 1971 statement of “Mondialization” of the State of Minnesota derived followed by the State of Iowa on October 25, 1973. [NOTE: Minneapolis and Hennepin County MN mondialized (World Citizens) March 5, 1968.]

Colonel Robert Sarrazac, former Maquis during WWII and my principal “organization” in Paris, was the author of the first “Mondialization” declaration….”

MY FINAL NOTE:
Both Garry Davis and Lynn Elling have passed on.

I don’t know about Garry, but I know Lynn was passionate about the issue of peace and justice until his last breath.

Ours is a society which considers old people as ‘old news’. But people like Garry Davis and Lynn Elling did and do make a big difference, by building foundations, and providing an example to those of us who share their interest, and in our various ways can make a positive difference. Their stories need to be remembered and retold.

The base and the foundation were built, for us to carry on.

Other than this showing of “The World Is My Country” (which includes an eight minute “short subject” about the Minnesota Declaration in 1971), little direct evidence remains that there once was a moment when world citizenship was more than a ‘pie in the sky’ ideal. That it flowered in the rubble of WWII should remind us that war is not a game.

It is sadly ironic that I complete and send this post in the day following the latest bombing of Syria, touted as a great victory by some, and a great disaster by others. We continue in the longest war in American history, failing to learn any lessons, it would appear.

Will peace or war prevail in determining our kids and grandkids future? It’s largely up to us, and to them as well. I hope they choose peace.

See this movie, consider its message, and do what you can to have it screen in your area. And go to work.

Lynn Elling and Thor Heyerdahl, holding a copy of the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Declaration, Minneapolis MN, 1975