Call it what you will, but from time to time, events seem to come in seeming related groups. I’ve experienced such often in my life. I don’t think they’re ‘coincidences’ or random chance.
Last weekend I finished a book I very highly recommend: Clay Jenkinson’s “The Language of Cottonwoods. Essays on the Future of North Dakota”. At page 300 came a 3-page segment on Father Robert Branconnier, in the 1960s Chaplain at the Newman Center at the University of North Dakota. The discussion was about protesting the missile complexes cropping up in North Dakota Branconnier late 1960s. Nekoma (above photo) is part of this book segment.
A day or two later came notice that Twin Cities anti-war activist Marie Braun had died at 87; a day after that, notice of a webcast featuring anti-war activist Frank Kroncke, who went to prison for his anti-draft activities in Minnesota in the late 1960s.
In the same time period, Kathy sent a most interesting series of recommendations by a group of Catholics on the occasion of the current Synod on Synodality of Pope Francis. Each of the actors referenced were Catholics during the time of their activism, so the final item is pertinent.
So, the news came in bunches this week….
I have been part of the peace movement since 9-11-01. I couldn’t see anything productive coming out of our national collective response to the disaster we experienced on 9-11. Almost every American agreed, then, that we needed to retaliate against somebody. The disaster was a gift to the warriors among us. As we all know, this started with Afghanistan, then Iraq, even though none of the 9-11-01 perpetrators were associated with these countries.
I got involved, and was so involved for a number of years. In a sense I still am involved, and will always be so, but not as active as early on. Those who know me well know the rest of my story.
Tuesday Stephen and then JoAnn let me know that Marie Braun had died, apparently unexpectedly and quite suddenly. She was 87 and legendary in the Twin Cities Peace and Justice community, active for over 40 years.
I had my longest involvement with Marie and her husband John from 2006-08, when we and a half dozen others planned and carried out the major Peace Island Conference in St. Paul. We essentially met weekly to plan what turned out to be a very successful event. Here is a period photo of Marie and John, from July 23, 2007.
John died Nov 28, 2018. He was always a partner of Marie. He is remembered here.
The celebration of Marie’s life will be at St. Joan of Arc, Minneapolis, on Thursday, July 7 at 11 a.m. Visitation at 10, and lunch after. A memory of Marie can be read here.
The next day, I joined a Zoom conversation featuring Frank Kroncke and Chuck Turchick, of the Minnesota Eight, both activists in the anti-draft times of the Vietnam War.
The entire one hour conversation can be watched here. Scroll down to Frank Kroncke.
(This site is also access to the documentary, The World Is My Country, the story of WWII peace activist Garry Davis, well worth your time if you have not seen the film.)
At the Minnesota Eight link, there is also an 8-minute link to Fr. Harry Bury, still an activist in his 90s, and then pastor at the University of Minnesota Newman Center, remembering the Vietnam years. Fr. Bury in recent times has been the inspiration behind Twin Cities Nonviolent, an annual 10 days dedicated to non-violence around September 21. Here’s this years plans for 2022, thus far. Check back.
I wasn’t active in the peace movement at the time of Frank Kroncke – I met him only in recent years. I knew Marie, and she and I were not necessarily on the same page in how to approach the issue of Peace – her gig was anti-war; mine was more pro-peace. In my mind, there is a difference. People can disagree on specifics, but be in concert on the objective. It’s part of living. Marie richly deserves the accolades she will certainly receive this week. She showed up…. And so did Frank, and Chuck, and Harry and Robert, and endless others, including today.
This brings the aforementioned Catholic “Synod on Synodality” which you may find of interest even if not Catholic. Many of those listed above were Catholic, and Catholics have always been central to issues of peace and justice.
The Catholic Church is an immense international entity and as a lifelong Catholic I can assure anyone that its membership is not cookie-cutter. It is as subject to the current American tribalism as any other group. People come and go, as do pastors and hierarchy, etc. Nonetheless there is constant effort to paint with a broad brush what the Catholic Church is or is not; who controls what, or does not.
The world-wide Catholic Synod began in 2021, worldwide. Personally, I haven’t participated – unless writing this connotes participation.
A few days ago my friend, Kathy, on the west coast, sent a summary document from an independent group who participated in a discussion by the process suggested.
Except for removing the specific description of the group and named persons, I am offering this “synthesis” as I received it: Synodality Synthesis June 2022. (The only mention of “war” is #11 in Hopes and Dreams on the last page. In #11 of “obstacles, the group reports on the what I agree is the reality of today’s Catholic Church: “…those who have left the Church are the second largest denomination in the U.S….”)
About the photo which leads this blog: The Nekoma Pyramid.
Some additional photos of/about Marie Braun.
Personal observation: By no means is the Peace and Justice movement dead, though my generation is passing on, and the situations to confront and the advocates of a new generation.
Then was the War in Vietnam; now Ukraine with all its deadly complexities….
I’m long enough with the Peace Movement to know that the road to peace is a very long slog, not amenable to simple solutions, if to solutions at all, rife with complexities not easily overcome.
As I write, the U.S. is heavily engaged in the Ukraine. This is an extraordinarily difficult situation, with no simple solution; the Ukrainian people caught in the deadly middle; others of us dealing with other dilemmas: what to do when a peaceful nation is invaded by a neighbor attempting to claim it as its own; in the process upsetting a fragile international stability; and facing individuals with sacrifices they didn’t expect, such as high gasoline prices, and on and on and on.
(I’ve contributed another $100 to the Ukraine cause, this time here, featured on the July 3 NBC special presentation.)
Martin Luther King made famous the phrase “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice“. As we know, that arc is, indeed, very long, unsmooth and uncertain. The natural tendency is to give up when success seems out of reach.
So might be said about peace, which is a twin of justice.
In my daily walk in life, I see a nation, indeed a world, of people who live in peace. But my media conveys another story, and the political conflict seems to indicate that we are at war with each other. Peace is far more popular than War; War gets all the attention….
Best we can do is to find ways that we can work together on a common goal towards a better world. This absolutely requires compromise.
When I look at the pictures included with this post, all taken by myself, I see lots of people very much committed to peace. Most of them are now deceased. This does not mean, by any means, that the movement is dead. But those of us who remain need to regroup and reassess how best to continue towards a goal which will probably never be reached.
I am a founding member of another group, The U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. And I would encourage your membership. Details are here. The Memorial is a positive aspiration.
COMMENTS (more at end)
from Brian: Good stuff–interesting to read.
from Claude: I remember during one of my business trips to the far end of North Dakota going out of my way to see the truncated pyramid in Nekoma. Years ago the Strib had an article on. It was only operational for about two weeks before it was closed down as part of the treaty with Russia limiting the very low frequency radio communications with submarines around the world (if I remember correctly). The local county and especially the small town of Nekoma had made all kinds of road improvements and expansion of sewage in anticipation of this permanent base that would bring federal dollars into the area for decades to come. But it was all over in two weeks. This was and is to me a perfect example of how our defense economy distorts and wastes limited resources.
Years before that visit in the fall of 1974 I interviewed with Morrison Knutson at the job site of the then under-construction landing strip at Cape Kennedy. During that three hour interview the interviewer made mention of this North Dakota pyramid that he himself had worked on. It was designed that way in order to withstand a direct nuclear hit as communications with our submarines would surely have been on the top list of targets the Russians had.
Fast forward to 2006 and my one and only trip Kazakhstan, I visited the glass pyramid in Astana as the capitol of the country was then called. It was and I believe is still used for a once every two year religious conference of faiths “of the book” (Hindus, Buddhists, Animists need not apply) that was organized by the “moderate” dictatorship. So the pyramid in the middle of Asia (Eurasia? You decide after looking at a globe) is dedicated to religion and the pyramid in the middle of the North American continent is dedicated to doomsday. Hmmm…
This just goes to show you that even if your readers don’t read every line of what you write, there are connections being made and insights shared with every post.
Thank for all you do, Dick,
from Jane: Ironic that Independence Day this year falls on Day 837 of the Lock-Down! Enjoy the fireworks.
response from Dick: Jane and I are friends. She’s out-of-the-park progressive but (apparently) a contrarian on the approach to Covid-19. So it goes.