Some comments on Covid-19 at three years, here.
Monday is Memorial Day, and as is my usual practice, I’ll join the Vets for Peace commemoration at the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds (near the Vietnam Memorial at 9:30 a.m.). Peace and War are always in attendance at this event. This year, overlaying the peace conversation is Ukraine. Whether spoken or unspoken, should we be involved? If so, how much?. Personally, as a peace activist, I strongly feel that Ukraine, the U.S. and other allies are doing the right thing in pushing back against Russia’s brutal invasion of a sovereign nation. At the end of this post is a recent presentation worth your time.
Today I want to devote my space to two Monuments: First is the monument to Spanish-American War veterans in Grafton ND which has been in place since 1900. I visited the monument on April 24, 2023. (My grandfather Henry Bernard and my grandmothers cousin Alfred Collette were part of Grafton’s unit, mustered in 125 years ago this month, initial training at Fargo ND, thence Presidio San Francisco.)
The second monument, in Independence MO, is to Andrew Jackson, seen by my brother earlier this month. This display presents an interesting solution to a dilemma about monuments like these: how should different attitudes be respected as time passes. Is there an alternative to just tearing one down?
The Spanish-American War Monument at Grafton ND, erected 1900. Almost every town of any size has some memorial to war; almost never to peace. Why?
The intention of the following is to encourage thought and discussion about War and Peace and their meaning in our own lives. Personal bias: War will always exist and is never productive in the long term, and worthy of being questioned; Peace is and will always be aspirational, as we know from our own personal lives. The soldiers, such as described below, are seldom evil; wars are sometimes necessary. War, and Peace, can be very complicated.
Here is the Grafton Centennial History account of Company C in what was called the Spanish-American War: Grafton ND Co C Sp Am War. (Within the link, Grandpa Henry Bernard is easy to find in the large group picture – top row, farthest left.)
Here is all of the verbiage on the public monument itself, including (below photo), the contents of two of the plaques. Grafton ND Sp Am War Monument0001.
Grandpa was not neutral about this monument or his units service. They served, and as per the above several of his colleagues were killed or died in the service of the United States. The below photo shows Grandpa and probably the other last survivor, Gjert Heggen, at the annual observance at the monument, which I think was in August of each year – the time the unit arrived at Manila in 1898. (As wars go, the war against the Spanish in the Philippines was very short. Of course, there’s a longer story.)
Undated, may be a different year than other photo.
Grandpa had his 27th birthday in Manila. Near 43 years later, Henry’s son, Frank, died aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. He was 26. Alfred Collette, who came home with the unit in 1899, later returned to the Philippines, spending the rest of his life there, including spending most of WWII as a prisoner of the Japanese in Santo Tomas. I knew two of his children, Alfred and Julie. One of his children, my cousin Marie Josephine, was killed by shrapnel in crossfire in the liberation of Manila in 1945. Another cost of war entered the family conversation. (The 4th child, born after WWII, died of illness when a teenager, and he is interred in Bacolod P.I.)
The Andrew Jackson Monument at Independence MO, represents a different take on the historical treatment of conflict.
Recently brother John, beginning a recent bicycle trip over the first portion of the old Oregon Trail, noticed a plaque next to a monument to Andrew Jackson at Independence MO . The two photos, taken May 1, tell their own story, and are an idea for those who think that the only solution is removal of an offensive monument. The monument and the plaque engage in a civil conversation about an important historical issue. Perhaps we can learn something from this.
POSTNOTE: I don’t pretend to have any answers about resolving the conflict about war itself. War and Peace are constant combatants. All I assert is that denying that there is no other legitimate ‘side’ to an argument is in the end self-defeating. There will always be differences of opinion.
I don’t know why Grandpa Bernard volunteered to go to war in the Philippines, only four years after arriving at Grafton from Quebec, but he and many others did just that, and they were proud of their service.
The architect of the Spanish-American War was Theodore Roosevelt, later one of the most progressive of U.S. Presidents, admired for many things, but also promoter of the war that in more recent years has been correctly called the Filipino Insurrection (and indeed was so identified on the 1900 monument in Grafton).
There is also no question that sensational journalism and the sinking of the Maine in Havana harbor fueled patriotism in the spring of 1898. And North Dakota was truly Teddy Roosevelt’s adopted home for several of his most important formative years. In fact, the Roosevelt Presidential Library is being planned for Medora ND. North Dakota was truly Home Team for Teddy Roosevelt. He lived in North Dakota for several years in the 1880s.
MORE POSTNOTES: Viewing tip: Tuesday evening we watched the first segment of three on “Living With Hitler”. The film is on Twin Cities Channel 2 (PBS). If you can catch the film, anywhere, do watch. The series is about how a civilized society didn’t wake up until it was too late, and the dream of a 1000 year Reich collapsed after only a dozen years. The series has lessons for us in the U.S. Next showing of the first segment, “Our Last Hope” is Mon May 29 at 2 p.m.; “The People’s Community” airs May 30 at 8 p.m., again on the 31st at 2 a.m. and on June 5 at 2 p.m.; “Downfall and Legacy” airs June 13 at 8 p.m., June 14 at 2 a.m. From the website: “LIVING WITH HITLER is a three-part series that explores how the German population – and those in occupied territories – lived through the Nazi era of 1933 to 1945. The regime which Hitler established during his time in power made a more damaging, enduring and controversial mark on Germany and the world than any other.”
This commentary, “Violence as Brand” by Tom Sullivan, fits the above series ‘like a glove’. Germany’s road to ruin under the Nazi’s got its early energy from sanctioned political violence against others…. Sullivan asserts we are living with political violence today.
Finally, very recently, an organization I’ve long been part of, Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), sponsored a talk by an advocate for Ukraine. Thursday, we received a transcript of the talk, which I forward below for the information of anyone interested.
I present this without taking a position either in support of, or against, anything presented by the speaker. I think the information is worthy of your consideration about these most difficult times in a land far away from the United States.
from Robin, MAP Leadership Team:
POSTNOTE 3, Memorial Day: I have a brief post for Memorial Day, here. Additionally, are two columns about the seditious conspiracy conviction of Stewart Rhodes, by historian Steven Beschloss, here, and Robert Reich, former cabinet member in the Obama administration, here.
from Len: There is much to memorialize and be thankful Bless you Dick Bernard!!!
from Fred: Very interesting retrospective, particularly re the Spanish-America War. Not many families can boast having a representative in the first Battle of Manila, more on that later, and a casualty in the 1945 Battle of Manila.
NOTE from Dick: Fred also wrote an article on this for MNopedia. You can read it here. Most likely, the North Dakota unit was in the same group as the Red Wing contingent.
from Brad: Nice to read your blog, and very happy to see your continued work for peace. I shared the pic of your the Spanish-American war with my brothers. Both are married to Philippine women. I never heard about Uncle Alfred in the war, POW status, or living there with family. My father went to Manila at the end of WWII, and I doubt he knew either.
from Peter (commenting on the StarTribune article at the beginning postnote4): Reading the Strib piece, I’m sad but not surprised. The popular narrative about how the peace movement has died is greatly exaggerated. I expect many more such stories, probably less credible than the one you cite, in which the violent assault on Medea Benjamin seems very likely to have been the act of an agent-provocateur.
There is now a heavily-funded effort by federal agencies to “manage” media platforms. It’s all being done under “disinformation, misinformation and malinformation,” which has been in the news lately in various contexts.
Closer scrutiny to these operations reveals that the purpose is not to control false stories, but to shut down dissident voices. The tradition of journalistic skepticism has all but disappeared. Matt Taibbi’s reporting on this is definitive and well sourced.
But the general response has been to shoot the messenger, to paint him as a pariah in his own profession. So the credibility and integrity, such as it ever was, of the mainstream press has tanked.