The Process of Politics.

Tuesday was Precinct Caucus night in Minnesota. I attended mine. More on that below the Eagle. But first:

The response to the free preview week for new film, The World Is My Country, was gratifying. If you missed the film, or wish to watch it again, another week begins February 14 at World Beyond War. Look for details here, at February 14. Consider a financial donation to help complete the process for release of the film, here. People like ourselves make such projects possible.

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J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy, Jan. 18, 2018

And if you have even the slightest interest in Climate Change, regardless of your personal position on the issue, you’ll find J. Drake Hamilton’s talk to 37 of us three weeks ago to be very informing (photo above). Her topic, Next Steps on Deep Climate Action: How can Minnesota Lead. You can watch it here. J. had recently attending the Climate Change followup conference to Paris’ COP23 in Bonn Germany, Nov 2017, and her report was very interesting. Her interest is in engaging with people of varying points of view. She is Science Policy Director at highly respected Fresh Energy.

Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head…. photo by Dick Bernard, October, 2008, at dedication of gift by Mary Lou Nelson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The Precinct Caucus

We in the United States live in a world of politics. Politics is something we love to hate. On the other hand, we are the people who make politics function…or not. Something of a personal mantra: we get what we deserve, local, state, national…. Nobody says we can’t get involved, but few do.

There were 21 of us in the caucus room for Precinct 5 on Tuesday night. Mostly we were within two miles of the high school where the meetings were held (a few came to sign in, and left, but were considered in attendance). We convened at 7 and we adjourned shortly after 8 p.m.

We seem to have been fairly typical in attendance: TV news reported about 30,000 attending the Democrat caucuses; perhaps 11,000 the Republican. The state results for Democrats and Republicans are here. There doubtless were smaller gatherings for other parties, but like most places, Democrats and Republicans end up being the only viable parties. There are about 4 million registered voters in Minnesota.

Simple math: with everyone welcome, and no one turned away, about 1% of eligible voters attended the Minnesota caucuses. 99% had better uses for their evening. From the ranks of the 1% will come the decision makers on candidates and party platforms for the months ahead. Lack of civic engagement is a self-imposed problem for the general electorate.

I don’t think Minnesota is atypical.

Along with routine mandatory business of a caucus, our main purposes on Tuesday were three: 1) to elect delegates to the March 10 Senate District Convention; 2) to consider policy resolutions for the party as proposed by those in attendance; 3) meet declared candidates for office who stopped by the room, and do a “straw poll” of who we preferred for Governor at this moment in time.

There were over 4,000 caucuses on Tuesday night, so we didn’t see any major candidates in our room.

I made a very brief statement in behalf of the gubernatorial candidate I am supporting, but by that point in the meeting the voting had already concluded. This was not a campaign stop.

I was gratified, and I said so to the group, that all three candidates for our open state legislator seat were young people (by my definition, people who appeared to be under 40 – two women and one man). We were a diverse bunch in our caucus room, as were the candidates who declared for office. I like that, a lot.

Everyone who wished will be able to attend the Senate District Convention as a delegate (March 10). Eight resolutions on a variety of issues were proposed and passed in our room, some with questions and very civil debate. They will all go forward to a committee that will sift and sort all proposed resolutions, as the process continues.

After the Senate District Conventions will come Congressional District, then Republican and Democrat State Conventions, as the 2018 election contests heat up.

The Practice of Politics:

Our precinct, like most, was like a friendly neighborhood gathering. We are “birds of a feather”, so to speak. But politics, even within political parties, is not bean-bag. There are three candidates for our seat in the Minnesota House. Only one of them will get the endorsement. Our “straw poll” for Governor listed five candidates. By the end of the State Convention only one will get the nod, and lest we forget, Gov. Dayton ran against the party endorsed candidate eight years ago…and won. Strange things can happen.

The practice of politics in a democracy has always been and probably will always be a matter of competition of ideas. We are in a new and much more dangerous era where competition (and bipartisan resolution) has been replaced by the practice of conquest and domination – winners and losers. We see it today, every day, in the national conversation. It is unhealthy, and destructive. Hopefully this unhealthy way of doing political business will collapse before our society does.

“Politics” and “Government” used to represent positive values in a democracy. This is no longer true. “Truth” is only what is necessary to win; and does not have to be true. Most recently, our President suggests that is is almost treasonous to not give him an ovation with each statement – a false validation. It is easy to feel crazy these days.

What we can do is to become well informed about all the candidates wishing to represent us; to support our preferred candidates with time, talent and money (very few people donate much to, especially, local candidates). If we dislike the scourge of big dark money in politics, the antidote has to be our own donations. We need to learn to be very skeptical of positioning against an opponent; similarly, sanctifying our own favorites. No one is as good, or bad, as they are portrayed. All successful candidates have to work with different constituencies with differing beliefs and priorities. In the long run, purists of every stripe are doomed to failure in a pluralistic society, as ours is.

There is no nirvana in politics. Neither does there need to be the disgusting nonsense we have been experiencing in this country in recent years.

There is much more to be said. Let’s start here!

The World Is My Country

PRE-NOTE Jan. 27: I watched the on-line version a few hours ago. Note PS in this post if you experience any difficulty with your computer. The on-line film is perfect quality. (Do watch all the way through the credits, and complete the evaluation found there.) Free through Feb. 1. My e-mail: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.


It’s arrived! The free week on-line full length preview of “The World is my Country” begins Friday, January 26, through Thursday, February 1, 2018. To watch it go here, and sign in. Then enter your access code CGS2018.

You are welcome to share that special code with all your friends, on Facebook, Instagram or whatever. It can be played as many times as you want but only during the free week.

Not sure if you want to take the time to watch a movie? Then please take just 2 minutes to watch the short video about the standing ovation and excitement generated by the film when we showed it at the World Premiere at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International film festival: here

I have literally watched this film evolve over the past seven years since I learned of the project, and from the beginning I have been impressed with the rich and little known historical story the film tells, and its appeal to those from high school age to senior citizens. From the beginning I’ve been a volunteer champion for it. Give the film 84 minutes of your time this weekend. I think you’ll want to encourage others watch it as well between now and the end of the preview week February 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if you watch it a second time.

In my opinion, this is a film that is ideal to watch in a group setting, among people of varied ages and similar or differing points of view. It encourages reflection leading to rich, civil conversation. It is about past, present and future…and our role. It is not a “birds of a feather” presentation. Yes, it has a point of view, but open to differing interpretations, on serious contemporary local and global issues.

Yes, the film is “free”. But nothing is ever free – you know that. I’ve watched Arthur Kanegis, the director of the film, put over a decade of his life plus all his resources into making this film to save this important story from the dustbin of history. He’s making this preview available to you in the hopes that you’ll help sponsor it at more film festivals or hold your own mini-fest of films for a better world. Please consider making a voluntary donation to help pay for final licensing and related costs so that this film can play on public television stations and be publicly released. This is a film deserving to be seen now and for years to come. You are part of its future.

Here is a flier I put together which can be shared: The World Is My Country006

More information about this 84-minute film is here.

Comments/Questions? dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

Enjoy the show! (I’m quite certain you will.)

To show the film to your friends using your laptop and a projector or television:
1. Make sure your laptop has a strong WIFI signal to be able to stream the video without hesitating.
2. Connect your laptop to the TV or projector using an HDMI cable, description here.
(If you have an older laptop that lacks an HDMI port then ask a techie about other connection options)
3. Plug a good speaker into the headphone jack of your laptop or of the TV so you can have louder and clearer sound.
(you might have to use the “sound” control panel of your PC to choose if the sound goes right from the laptop or goes through the HDMI cable to the TV or projector.)
4. Enjoy! And invite everyone who watches to let the filmmakers know how they feel by filling out the survey here.

Epiphany – A Nation, and World, of Immigrants

Today is Epiphany Sunday, the “We three kings of orient are” day; the “babe in the manger at Bethlehem”.

Epiphany is more than the Bible story; here’s another meaning of the word (see definition #3). We are at an “epiphany” moment for our country, our society. How do we approach this era?

Today, Fr. Griffin talked about the challenges ahead for those who depend on voluntary donations from charities, for instance – the downside of “tax reform”. He talked for a bit about the Dreamers (DACA folk), Americans who entered life with “illegals” as parents, and these are hard-edged days against immigrants of any sort: America for Americans.

The “babe in the manger” would probably be deported, back where his parents came from.

In every pew were postcards, which I share here in pdf: DACA002, and in photo form (click to enlarge):


The Church and I don’t share notes, of course – I just happened to be there – so they didn’t know about Fridays post about “The World Is My Country”, whose basic theme ties into immigrants of all sorts and from all places at all times. Take advantage of the opportunity to pick up some positive energy as offered in the film.

After Mass I picked up a couple of fliers I had seen last week. One is a program a week from today at the Basilica, conducted by the American Refugee Committee: Refugee Stories002.

The second is a very interesting four page “A Case for Solidarity” published by the Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis: A Case for Solidarity001 (four pages).

And do sign up for the free film, The World Is My Country, Jan 26-Feb 1. You don’t have to leave your computer screen….

“The World Is My Country” , an inspirational film.

One Page flier here:World Is My Country004The World Is My Country002 Jan. 26 – Feb. 1.
Sign up for pass code here. Include “CGS” in registration box.
You can probably watch the film on your home television. Everybody’s system is unique. Ask your nearby tech whiz – grandkids are great sources – to help you connect one to the other. Here’s an on-line tipsheet.
January 26 through February 1, 2018, the new film, The World Is My Country, will be available, free, on-line, in a special password-protected site for Citizens for Global Solutions. You’ll be able to share the CGS password with others, so they can see the inspiring story of Garry Davis, “World Citizen #1”. I strongly encourage you to at minimum view the film, and to share this communication about it.

I first learned of Garry Davis and plans for this film project in 2011, and from early on have remained active as a volunteer in, and contributor to, the project.

In the fall of 2012, I showed a very early draft of the film to a dozen high school students in St. Paul – I wanted to see how they’d react to a story told by a 90 year old man, about his adventures which began more than 50 years before they were born. It was there that I observed that this story would attract and keep the interest of young people. The World Is My Country is a permanent demonstration to today’s and future generations that citizens can and do make a difference.

All ages, I have learned while watching subsequent audiences view the film, find the film both interesting and inspiring.

The World Is My Country is the story of a young song and dance man who enters World War II as a bomber pilot. His experiences caused him to rethink the notion of war as a means to solve problems. Garry Davis is that man, and he tells his story in person at age 90. The film features rare footage of events like the opening sessions of the United Nations in Paris in 1948, and the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More than half of the film is devoted to addressing the idea of solutions which are open and usable by ordinary citizens as ourselves.

Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), an organization in which I’ve long been active, has been involved since the beginning and sponsored the very successful World Premiere of “The World Is My Country” at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in April, 2017. The filmmakers were very pleased with the success of this CGS sponsorship – as you can see here. That’s why they are offering this free week – to invite others to help sponsor the film at other film festivals, or even hold their own mini-film festival showing three or more uplifting films about global solutions. The free-week movie will state that it is a Film Festival Screener and can’t be copied or reproduced.

I helped arrange for Twin Cities public TV (TPT) to see the screener – and they liked it so much they want to broadcast it. However, TPT can’t do so until the filmmakers raise $35,000 to upgrade rights to the historic footage from “Film Festivals Only” to “All Rights and Media.” Arthur Kanegis, the director of the movie, explained to me that footage houses have preserved all the amazing historic footage in cold storage over the decades. Therefore, they charge high prices for filmmakers to license it. His plan is to raise the money by getting lots of people involved in showing it in film festivals around the country. He hopes viewers will pre-order the DVD and buy screening kits, T-shirts and other items to raise the funds needed to be able to show the film on PBS stations across the country, show it in theaters, and distribute it on sites like Netflix and Amazon.

To pre-register for the free week click here and spread the word. Also, look for the website and password at this blog on January 19. This special film will accessible to anyone with the password and access to the internet from January 26 to February 1.


The most recent newsletter of Citizen for Global Solutions MN can be read here: CGS-MN Newsletter 2018 January final. The national CGS website is here.


Coincident with the film is a year long exhibition entitled 1968 at the Minnesota History Museum in St. Paul. It is a very interesting exhibition.

Directly related to both the film and the exhibit was a project of a bipartisan group of Minneapolis-St. Paul area leaders from 1964 forward which directly connected with Garry Davis, including in 1968. You can read and watch evidence of this project here (Lynn Elling, and the film Man’s Next Giant Leap); and here.

A history of Minnesota’s efforts with World Citizenship can be read here: Minnesota Declarations002, especially pages 3-10.

Related Post, Sunday Jan. 7, here

The French-Canadians; The Franco-Americans

Years ago I signed up for a workshop – I think it was titled “Family of Origin” – and the first assignment was to find out what we could about our ancestors, something which I had never explored before.

I was 40 at the time.

My parents took the bait; I found that my Dad was 100% French-Canadian, with very deep roots in Quebec, though near lifelong North Dakotan.

There are millions upon millions of people with French-Canadian ancestry today; hundreds of thousands of them in my own state.

“Quebec” (name first established in 1608) long pre-dates use of the name “United States of America (1776)” and “Canada” (1867). Here’s a National Geographic map from my copy of the Historical Atlas of the United States, Centennial Edition, 1988 (p. 96). Note the extent of “Quebec”. This was before the naming of “Canada”

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My first French-Canadian ancestor was in North America in 1618, and French-Canadians have had a very rich subsequent history all across North America.

I stay active in the quest to keep this rich culture alive, and yesterday prepared a reintroduction to be sent to our local mailing list. The 9-page mailing is here: French-Canadian001

If you wish, open and just scroll through the link. I’d especially recommend the last four pages, a recent essay entitled “Why Are Franco-Americans So Invisible?” by David Vermette, which appears in the Winter (Hiver) 2017 edition of Le Forum from the state of Maine.


I dedicate this post to my great-grandparents, Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette, who married at what was then called St. Anthony, soon to become Minneapolis MN, in 1868; thence 1875 to the Dayton MN area, thence to Oakwood (near Grafton) North Dakota in 1878.

Below is the tintype photo of them about the time of their marriage. Clotilde would have been about 5 when they arrived in Minnesota Territory from eastern Ontario in the early 1850s; Octave was about 17 when most of the Collette family moved from St. Lambert QC to St. Anthony (later, Minneapolis) in about 1864.

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Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1869

I also dedicate this to my grandparents: Henry Bernard, born 1872 and raised in rural Ste. Sylvestre Quebec, coming to North Dakota in the 1890s; and Josephine Collette, born 1881 at the now disappeared Red River town of St. Andrews, where the Park River enters the Red. They married in 1901 at Oakwood ND.

Henry Bernards of Grafton ND about 1920, with visitors from Winnipeg. Henry, Josephine, Henry Jr, Josie, and Frank Peter are center part of photo. Their home was on the bank of the Park River, then 115 Wakeman Avenue.

Dick Bernard – A look at immigration, past….

POSTNOTE: Flo offered this comment on Sep 6: “Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.” My position, too, though it’s mighty hard to understand an opposing position when it conflicts with so much of what I understand to be the truth!”.

Dick: In a way, this mornings Just Above Sunset addresses the the quandary: “The Power to Hurt Others”. And Neal Gabler offers an excellent commentary which relates: “The Conversation We Should Be Having”


There is a long list of self-imposed crises for Congress to deal with in Washington this month. The most recent is yesterdays bizarre action about the Dream Act (DACA). Atty General Sessions being designated to publicly announce Donald Trumps decision, rather than the President saying so himself, says a great deal about this President-Who-Loves-Publicity.

You can read a more lengthy summary about the pending demise of DACA, etc here.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. We all are rooted elsewhere. One of my grandfathers (Bernard) was an immigrant; four of my eight great-grandparents (Blondeau, Collette, Busch, Berning) immigrated to the U.S. Four of these five were men; the fifth a young girl.

Then there are the great-great grandparents…. We each have our own stories.

Even Native Americans, if one goes back far enough, immigrated to what is now the U.S. They had a very long head start on the rest of us.

Collectively, we have plenty of low marks in our history, subjugation and virtual annihilation of Native Americans, and Slavery for our early history two primary ones. But generally, as a nation, we have tried to improve over time, to learn from our mistakes. We are better than we were.

What is happening now is backsliding, an outrage.

Where is the welcome mat today? Congress has avoided dealing positively with immigration reform for years. What chance is there that the next few months will be any different? Who knows what is in Trumps mind? It’s up to each of us to make that difference. We each have to be that “member of Congress”, rather than somebody else.


Yesterday’s announcement caused me to dust off a family history I compiled several years ago, including interesting detail about my great-grandmother Clotilde (Blondeau) Collette’s early history in Minnesota, including the citizenship paper for her father, Simon (name recorded there as Blondo – not an uncommon error). (Much of these pages are with deep thanks to cousin John Garney, and friend Jean-Marc Charron.)

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Blondeau, misspelled. This was very common in documents, for varied, reasons, including, very often, illiteracy (Simon was illiterate).

There are eleven pages, here: Blondeau 1850s U.S.001.

Succinctly, Blondeaus arrived in the U.S. somewhere in the early 1850s, in the Minnesota Territory no more than a couple of years later. (Minnesota became a state in 1858. Ellis Island opened in 1892.)

In 1868, in St. Anthony (now Minneapolis), Clotilde married another immigrant, Octave Collette. Here is a tintype taken somewhere around the time of their marriage. These are two of my great grandparents

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Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1868


These polarized days, when I hear people talking about issues, they’re talking to/with people who agree with them. Their position, of course, is not only correct, but it is the only position articulated; except that the other side is wrong, without need for rationale.

For 27 years I worked in an arena where arguments, regardless of how petty, started with both sides certain that they were right. Of course, two opposites can’t be correct.

The effort was to find resolution, not winning.

Consider the possibility: when you make a mental note of all the reasons your position is “right”, spend an equal amount of time consider the opposing position.

Attorneys, whose business is “winning” and “losing” are well advised to know the oppositions “side” as well, or even better, than their own.

Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.

Donald Trump/Charlottesville; Woodrow Wilson/Birth of a Nation

In memory of Heather Heyer, fatality at Charlottesville, and the other injured at Charlottesville VA.

Recommended reading: The Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra.


Sometimes it may be useful to consider a problem from a different perspective.

With all the justifiable horror of Charlottesville, I have been noticing, within my own circles, increasing attention to being positive; to be, as most of us have found most ordinary Americans to be, very positive people, accepting and generous – inclusive, not exclusive. A part of a global community, not an isolated island. Individual positive actions make a very large difference.

In the last couple of days I have seen references to a time about 100 years ago which showed us reverting to our worst – the Jim Crow era – and I want to offer an old book found in a shed as food for thought. (Here’s more about “Jim Crow”.)

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From the Birth of a Nation Reprint of the 1905 book, The Clansman

Recent talk has been about President Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) who had a particular affection for segregation. It was during his term that the racist film, Birth of A Nation, hit the screen. The silent film played in the White House.

You’ll notice that Woodrow Wilson was Democrat; and Jim Crow Laws were passed by Democrat legislators in primarily the deep south. Abraham Lincoln was Republican. We are often reminded of this. The shift in ideology (policies of exclusion shifting political party “sides” as it were) happened fairly quickly, most likely in the 1950s.) A pioneer in this shift was Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey in the late 1940s. Civil and Human Rights became largely a Democrat thing, and still is. The Party of Lincoln is now the Democratic Party….


We, regardless of party, like to pretend we’re insulated from racism – we’re not racist – but it’s helpful to be honest about this.

Out on the old North Dakota farm, amidst the junk, I found a book with an intriguing title, The Clansman (frontispiece of the book is in the photo above).

The Clansman is probably still available, and I’ve encouraged people to read it to get a taste of those horrid old days post-reconstruction. It is a nasty book, not pleasant reading, but very instructive particularly in these mean times exemplified by Charlottesville, Virginia.

The whites – the slave owners – were terrified of free blacks, seems the essence of the message of “The Clansman. What would happen now that slaves were free? Today, of course, our national leader has ginned up fear of others, generally: “Immigrants”, “Muslims”, “Mexicans”…. If you’re in one of these target classes, you know the feeling of contempt and fear. If you’re not – like myself – it is much harder to appreciate being excluded.

The ND farm “Clansman” was a re-publication, in about 1915, of the 1905 book. It was published during the Woodrow Wilson administration, most likely in conjunction with the release of Birth of a Nation (1915), since it includes some photos from the “photo-play”.

How did this old tattered book get on the farm? Why was it kept, to be found in 2015 in a shed? Lots of questions without answers, as all of the residents of the original farm are dead and gone.

The book was once property of the Moorhead (MN) Public Library about 120 miles away, and there is only one indirect family tie I know of there. Beyond that, everything is speculation.

Somehow or other, the fact of the matter is that The Clansman spent the better part of its 100 year history on a small farm in rural North Dakota.


The direction our country goes from this day forward is up to we citizens – every single one of us.

We’re the only ones who can redirect. A large part is who we choose to elect to U.S. Congress, state Legislators, Governors, etc. The heavy lifting has to be our own, much more than lamenting or complaining.

There’s plenty of information available about the problem. I highly recommend the Southern Poverty Law Center site. It has a long history of following hate in the United States.

Meanwhile, each day I am more and more aware of how kind people are being to each other…. I don’t think it is my imagination. I have taken time to notice.

It is time for some creativity to work to tamp down the cancer of racism which is, thanks to the current President, out of the shadows, a festering wound. Change happens by action of individuals, one positive act at a time.

Our entire national history is rooted in slavery: we’ll probably never eradicate this part of our national DNA, but we certainly can tamp it down, starting with ourselves.

COMMENT: Just a couple of data points relating to the shift to the GOP by the Jim Crow advocates, who when I was growing up were referred to as the Southern Democrats. When Ike was in office, these southern racists were firmly in the Democratic Party. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there was a significant movement by these folk to the GOP, largely during the 1968 elections. The most significant movement took place in 1980 by those referred to as Reagan Democrats. Those folks now call themselves Evangelicals, and they are the homeland of the majority of the KKK chapters. They make up approximately 17% of the nation population. Combine that with the 9% of moderate Republicans and you have the 26% of the population that currently make up the GOP base.

Another interesting point that I’m sure you are aware of is that Trumps dad was a Klansman. He participated in a 1920 or 1924 demonstration march. They didn’t dare go into New York, so the chose to do the march across the bridge in New Jersey.


Related: Just Above Sunset summarizes the last few days at the White House.

The Philando Castile Memorial on Larpenteur Avenue, at entrance to State Fair Grounds, Falcon Heights MN August 10, 2017

I was in Roseville for a meeting on August 10, and had a few minutes, so drove over to nearby Falcon Heights to my old neighborhood to see the site where motorist Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop a year ago. The police officer was recently acquitted of wrongdoing in the tragic incident, which involved guns. I’m of the mind in this situation that the ease of access to guns made the incident more likely. I wrote about this here.

This incident does not relate at all to Charlottesville, except that fear and race quite definitely entered into the equation. I urge dialogue.

Sign on a lawn, the next block up from where I used to live, August 10, 2017

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

“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.

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

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.

#1241 – Donna Krisch: Diary of a Working Visit to El Paso. A Lenten Reflection

“SNIP” Feb. 27: “We decided on a menu of macaroni & cheese with tuna and peas, spaghetti and a carrot/yellow squash combo and apples. I started the meal and all at once was joined by a woman from Honduras who really knew how to cook. I speak basically no Spanish but could understand very well that I had not cooked the vegetables correctly. We were then joined by a woman from Brazil so none of us spoke each others language but we all knew the language of human.”
NOTE FROM DICK BERNARD: A long and very powerful witness to the less publicized side of our neighbors in Mexico and Central America by retired teacher, Donna Krisch. (She and I “share” North Dakota roots, and an Aunt, long deceased.) I hope this essay diary of two weeks in El Paso is shared broadly. All photos, excepting Statue of Liberty, by Donna Krisch, click on any to enlarge. Guest columns, such as Donna’s, are always welcome here. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom for information.
Wednesday February 15, 2017
Today four Basilica of St. Mary (Minneapolis MN) members plus myself will leave for El Paso Texas to help in a shelter on the Mexico/Texas border. We have two nurses in our group and the rest of us will help however we can. The people coming to the shelter are seeking asylum from violence in their own countries. We have heard most are coming from the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
We arrived in El Paso yesterday afternoon. During our stay we will be staying at a beautiful, old convent of the Loretto Sisters directly across the alley from the shelter where we will be working.

Arriving at El Paso

Clothing room at the shelter

Dormitory for volunteers

When we arrived at the shelter a Brazilian woman with two small children was being taken to the airport to catch a flight to Boston to meet family having spent the night at the shelter. The morning was spent getting a tour of the facility, and sorting clothes that were collected by the Basilica children. In the afternoon, we met with Eina Holder, director of the shelter. She gave us a brief history of the shelter and an update on what we can expect to be helping with during our stay. In December, there were some days where up to 150 asylum seekers stayed at the shelter mainly from Central America and Brazil.
People coming to the border are questioned, fingerprinted by Border Patrol and processed at a facility an hour away. Some are required to wear an ankle bracelet with a tracking number and a phone call is made to a family member or friend vouch for them and send them travel money.
ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will bring them to one of 3 shelters. Nazareth Hall receives asylum seekers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and people will stay for 1-3 days and then either travel by bus or plane to meet family somewhere in the US. In the last few weeks the number of people seeking asylum has dropped so significantly that two of the shelters will be closing next week. Starting Monday, Nazareth Hall will be the only short-term shelter open. No one can explain why. Some possible reasons we heard were increased border patrol and also the new administration’s stance on immigration.
We have been treated so kindly by everyone we have met.
Friday, February 17, 2017
This morning we went to the shelter at 9 AM. Our work for today would be to continue to organize clothing, disinfect and disassemble cots, and organize the storage room full of supplies.
At noon, we attended a peace gathering in front of the El Paso courthouse. We were introduced to Fr. Peter & Sr. Betty. Fr. Peter is 94 years old and Sr. Betty is in her 80’s. They have devoted their lives to the work of the poor in Central and South America. They currently live and work with the poor in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. It was as if we were in the presence of saints. Each Friday they are among a small gathering of people that bring their tattered peace signs and stand on the corner for an hour.
After lunch, we went for a tour of Annunciation House. This shelter houses people seeking asylum that need to have more than 24 hours to figure out where to go. Some may stay for months. It is run by volunteers and houses up to 100 if needed. Upstairs in the house we saw the dining room and kitchen. Eina our guide then took us into the chapel which also serves as a bedroom when the shelter is crowded.
On the wall behind the make shift alter was a cross made of metal boxes each containing a shoe found in the desert where people might have crossed.

Cross of shoes found in the south Texas desert

One of the shoes in above photo

The story Eina told was of a young child traveling with her mother. The mother had written the phone number of the relative in America where they would go to live with in ink on the child’s hand. Along the way, the mother died. When the little girl was finally found, she was holding her fisted hand very tight. When she finally opened it the phone number was smeared so no one could decipher the number.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Today started when Eina, the director of the shelter where we are working took us to her church to meet some of the young teenagers that came unaccompanied to the border and are now at Southwest Key a facility for children and teens.
Three times a week, they host groups of 10+ youth to come, play games, do a prayer service and have a meal like pizza and soda. Each week groups of youth ages 3-17 come to Rico center for three hours away from the detention center. This ministry is named in honor of the priest’s nephew who was murdered in Mexico.

Poster at Rico Center

Seeing these young people not knowing what they have been through, what they have seen, who they left behind at home was very moving for all of us. We prayed with them and for them. When we were leaving, the young woman leading the group thanked the “white people” for coming.
After lunch, we returned to the shelter to finish up tasks to be ready for people arriving on Monday.
*In 2015, there were 75 shelters that house children along the US-Mexico border housing approximately 14,365 unaccompanied minors. Rico ministries and the detention centers collaborate to provide this program for youth in detention. Their future is unknown, they may be deported, they may reunite with another relative. If a pair of siblings comes to a center and one turns 18 they will be separated and the 18-year old will go to adult detention. You have to ask yourself what kind of a nation does this to children.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Beautiful sunny morning in El Paso. Eina picked us up for mass at 11:30 and we drove across town to El Buen Pastor parish in Horizon City, a suburb of El Paso. The church is in one of the poorest neighborhoods of El Paso and is surrounded by a very wealthy suburb.
When we arrived. the church was already filling up 45 minutes early. I have never felt so welcome in a Catholic church. The priest welcomed us during the sermon and we were thanked by the entire community at the end of the mass. During the handshake of peace, a little 4-year old boy came over into our pew, crawled through the entire pew, and shook everyone’s hand. After the 2-hour long mass we purchased 80 tortilla’s, to deliver to the farm workers at their center in downtown El Paso.
When we arrived at the farm workers center we were greeted warmly by a man named Carlos Marentes who runs the center. The center is located on a corner where farmers will pick up day laborers to work in the fields if there is work. They have lockers and showers and sleep on the floor. At midnight, they arise and stand out on the street and wait to be picked up if there is work. Of all we have seen so far this for me was the most difficult. Grown men with skin like leather, sleeping on the floor. Maybe it was because of growing up on a farm but I saw in those men my brothers and uncles and really for no other reason than luck is there life so very different.
We introduced ourselves and they introduced themselves and the Mexican state they are from. We then joined hands and said a prayer. One of the men I was holding hands with was missing half a finger and another I am sure must have Parkinsons Disease.
The work they were doing tomorrow was picking hot chilis. Apparently, they pick by the 20-gallon container and for each one they fill they get a chip which will then be exchanged for money. The plants are low growing so if you are tall you need to crawl through the fields on your knees. We were told by the end of the day their hands feel like they have a fever. Carlos thought they may also be planting onions. To do that they poke their fingers into rock hard ground and put onion plugs in each hole. For all this earn an average of $6,700 per year (just over $500 per month).
Monday, February 20, 2107
Our day started this morning at 9:15. We cleaned this huge gathering room called the Sala. After packing up the 40+ cots and them stashing them away we sorted through a great number of toys, vacuumed the rug to get ready for the next group of travelers. We received instructions on how the intake process works.
At 1:30 an ICE van pulled up to the shelter and dropped off 4 families with a total of 9 people. Usually the processing center feeds them lunch but when they arrived they had not eaten. The group were a father and son from Brazil who were going to Boston, a young mother with a two-year old and a seven-year old from Guatemala going to Florida, a mother and her 16 year old son from Guatemala going to Nebraska, and a father and his 10 year old daughter going to North Carolina.
After a short interview one of the workers tried to call their US families waiting for them. We then helped them find a new change of clothes, show them their rooms and help them find the showers.
Every Monday a local church brings a delicious meal of beans, rice and shredded beef. One of the men that brought the food sat down at our table and talked about why he does this work. He told us that 5 years ago he was an engineer and very successful owner of a construction company when he had a heart attack. He was lying there close to death when he decided his life had to change. He decided he needed to give back because his life had been so good so he now makes and serves dinner every Monday night at the shelter.
Things we found out about the families: the Brazilian man decided he wanted to go back to Brazil. He had left two daughters behind. For him to do that he would not ever be able to get back into the US again, plus he would need to go to a detention center until a whole planeload of detainees needed to go back to Brazil. The mother with her 16-year old son was pregnant with him the last time she saw her husband. The 10-year old little girl was complaining of her legs hurting and the dad just said that yesterday they had spent the entire day running.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Today seemed like a long day. We started at 10:00 with a meeting to write a shopping list for the shelter and then purchase the food. Three of the families from yesterday are waiting for bus tickets sent by their receiving families. The father and his ten-year-old daughter will be leaving on the bus at 4.
The process when families arrive looks something like this. The director of the center and one of our Spanish speaking volunteers do the initial intake (finding out what papers they have, finding out who to call to receive them, etc.) From the office, they are taken to their sleeping rooms.
Next, they are taken to a used clothing room to pick out one set of clothing because they literally come with the clothes on their back. The final stop is the shower where they each are given a hygiene kit with everything they need. After they shower we give them sheets and blankets to make their beds.
Today the refugees did not get dropped off by ICE until about 3 PM so by the time they finished everything another church group had come in with the evening meal which we shared with the families. After dinner, we helped them make their beds and get settled in.
The group that arrived today were two families from Brazil. One of them was a father and his 1½ year old son. They left Brazil because they had witnessed what he called a “massacre.” His wife and their older daughter will come soon maybe tomorrow. The reason they came separately and not together was they would have been separated at the border. The father would have gone into a detention center and the mother would have come to the shelter with the children. The other two families were from Guatemala.
One was a nineteen-year old mother with a 3-month old baby the other family was an older mother with her six-year old daughter. The young mother and her baby were both extremely dehydrated so even though the baby was trying to nurse the mother had no milk to give. The baby screamed uncontrollably for most of the early evening. Although complete strangers the older mother stayed with the younger mom through the night to make sure she and the baby got plenty of fluids… amazing compassion.
We had the chance to see for the first time the electronic ankle bracelets. I had imagined maybe a small band. They are at least two inches wide, battery operated and the batteries need to be recharged on a regular basis or ICE will start looking for them.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Nazareth Hall got the call that 32 people (12 families) would be coming to the shelter by early afternoon so we sorted clothes, got bed linens ready and made sure we were prepared for their arrival.
This has been the largest group to come in since we came here. This time a huge white ICE bus arrived. We all felt a bit more prepared for what needed to be done.
During intake, I noticed a woman and two children. Throughout the process tears were streaming down her face and her two little girls were patting her on the back. Apparently when they arrived at the border her husband was taken away to detention and she and the girls were sent on. Everyone was once again very hungry so we served snacks while they were waiting to do their paperwork. While everyone was waiting, we noticed many of the people did not have shoe laces. Apparently, they are taken away when they arrive.
We left the shelter at 5:15 to attend a memorial mass in honor of Juan Patricio. The young man was killed outside the Annunciation House Shelter 15 years ago. We walked through luminaries that lined the sidewalk to the spot he was killed. We sat on benches in front of a makeshift altar outside. The mass was attended by many young people and many older adults.

Walk for Juan Patricio

Mass at Annunciation

Thursday, February 23, 2017
Many of the asylees [those seeking asylum] were leaving the shelter early in the day to go to the bus station.
Today people were leaving to be reunited with families in Maryland, Florida, New York and many more places. Because they will be riding the bus for several days and have no money the shelter sends them with a travel bag. Travel bags are made up of a blanket for each, sandwiches and fruit, snacks, water, and if they have children some sort of toy and pages to color. Some bus trips take over 36 hours. They are also given a winter coat if going to a cold climate state. Once the bags were made we started preparing for a new group of asylum seekers.
At 10:30 we got the call that 15 people (7 families) would be coming in the afternoon. After everyone was settled we put travel bags together for each family.
Tonight, we had an invitation to go to dinner at Villa Maria. This is a home for woman in crisis that need a place to stay until they can get their lives together. Women with mental issues, addiction and homelessness come to this shelter. Women from a variety of age groups live at the house. They usually stay up to two years.
Recently, however, women are being pushed to move out more quickly due to reductions in money from HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] The home is run on grants and a fundraiser each year. We had the opportunity to sit down with the women and enjoy a wonderful meal that they had prepared. This special place houses 22 women and offers support and counseling, job training and access to classes at a community college. It is a very calm place with a courtyard in the middle.
We are so impressed with the organization, the planning and collaboration of these shelters. All of the resources are donated and all the staffing of the centers are volunteer.
Friday, Feb. 24, 2017
We got a call this morning that Nazareth Hall will be closing today because of an inspection of the attached nursing home. All asylees will be taken to Annunciation House until further notice. We are glad to have an afternoon to rest.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Matthew 25: 35-40
For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty
And you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made
me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you
visited me; in prison and you came to see me.
. . . I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of
the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.
This is the reading Rubin Garcia referred to as we met with him this morning. What we thought would be a 20-minute meeting lasted 2 hours. Rubin Garcia started working with the immigrants 40 years ago when he quit his job and with the help of the archdiocese of El Paso opened Annunciation House. He has since opened many shelters as the need arose in the immigrant and the asylee community. All of the shelters including staff are operated by donations.
He started off by saying we probably should take down the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The words ring hollow.

Statue of Liberty New York City harbor late June, 1972

Joni and Tom Bernard at Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972 (Photos by Dick Bernard)

Mr. Garcia believes that the church has failed to raise awareness for these most vulnerable people. The clergy need to start talking about Catholic Social Teaching. After 40 years and countless groups of people coming to the border to raise their own awareness nothing has changed.
In 2014 the first wave of immigrants arrived. They arrived in south Texas and because of the numbers immigration asked Rubin Garcia to house people in El Paso. He agreed with the stipulation that he would receive no money from the government so the government would have no leverage over these people.
From October 2016 thru January 2017 the arrivals of people needing shelter went up to 1,000 refugees a week. Since the new U.S. administration has taken office the numbers have dwindled significantly. Mr. Garcia thinks people are not coming because of new U.S. immigration policy and posturing. He said there is no official policy on who gets detained, and who doesn’t. The number of government run and private detention centers has risen with the surge.
In Mr. Garcia’s words our new President changed mindsets with the power of fear and the power of repetition of lies. He repeated the terrorist threat many, many times during his campaign. Mr. Garcia said we should ask ourselves how we feel about the leader of our country given absolute freedom to lie. What do we tell our children? He compared the terrorist threats to car accidents. Since 2011 there have been 80 deaths due to terrorists and 600,000 deaths due to car accidents. So, should we ban cars? Do we fear the car companies for making cars?
He encouraged and challenged us to talk to our neighbors, both however they voted about what is already happening in America. Find out what people are afraid of in regards to immigration. He also encouraged us to sit down with our pastors and ask them how we should be responding as Christians.
His biggest fear at this time is that the U.S. will set up immigration courts at the border and no one will be granted asylum. Once turned back they will be in Mexico which does not have the accommodations to house Asylees.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
This morning we have an invitation to visit Sr. Betty and Fr. Peter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We are to cross the San Antonio bridge from El Paso, Texas to Mexico. Sr. Betty assured us she would meet us at the bottom of the bridge. We had a difficult time finding the right bridge and when we asked the response was always, “You’re going to Juarez??”

Fr. Peter and Sr. Betty and Cathy.

For over 5 years starting in 2005 Juarez was known as the murder capital of the world but in the past few years murders have dropped considerably. It was the city Pope Francis chose to visit in 2014. In any event, we were happy to see Sr. Betty at the bottom of the bridge.

Juarez, Mexico, border city of El Paso TX

Housing from the street in Juarez

Going from El Paso to Juarez was quite something. Crumbled streets, very primitive housing almost appearing to look like the site of a city that had been in a war. We made our way by bus to the little house and yard that Sr. Betty and Fr. Peter rent.
It seems like an oasis in the middle of a desert but is located in one of the poorer boroughs of Juarez. They served us eggs from their chickens and we talked about their years working for peace and justice in Central and South America and for the past 20 years living in Juarez. At 94 years of age Fr. Peter continues to say mass at one of the boroughs in Juarez. Sr. Betty at 84 has classes for women on her porch. She took us out to her backyard to show her chickens, and the tomatoes she had just planted. In their back-yard they have a covered area where she has made memorials to various groups of people that have been murdered. She has painted murals and listed all of the names of these people. There are murals for slain journalists, murdered women, students and men and people that have died in the desert.
Juarez has had many problems over the past few years. Early in the 2000’s American companies set up Maquiladoras (factories). A Maquiladora is a factory run by a U.S. company in Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor and lax regulation. Workers usually work 6 days a week for an average of $6.00 per day. When they first began workers especially women were drawn to these factories. There is a reason we can buy cheap goods in America. Sr. Betty was telling us that one of the companies was John Deere. The same job if done in America would earn a salary of $25.00 per hour. Hardly a living wage.
Monday, February 27, 2017
It is hard to believe this is our last day to work. We got a call that Annunciation House was receiving 39 asylum seekers (12 families) and needed help. About 2 PM ICE came with two white buses and dropped them off. It was basically the same procedure as Nazareth House with the exception that the men would stay at Annunciation Shelter while the women and children would walk two blocks to Casa Theresa. Some of the Basilica group stayed to help find clothing for everyone and I went to Casa Therese to make beds. Once beds were made there was dinner for 22 that needed to be made.
We decided on a menu of macaroni & cheese with tuna and peas, spaghetti and a carrot/yellow squash combo and apples.
I started the meal and all at once was joined by a woman from Honduras who really knew how to cook. I speak basically no Spanish but could understand very well that I had not cooked the vegetables correctly. We were then joined by a woman from Brazil so none of us spoke each others language but we all knew the language of human. The Honduran woman’s 10-year old son squeezed limes to make a beverage.
When everyone had their plates filled we all joined hands and said grace. It was truly a moving moment, I will never forget.
While this was taking place, the people were registered and given medical treatment if they needed it.
The stories of some of these women will stay with us forever. One woman carried her paraplegic son on her back the entire way from Honduras. Another woman and two children had wandered through Mexico trying to get to the border for the past 3 months. They slept in woods and would beg to sleep in people’s yards. At each place, they were told they needed to leave after one night. Another young girl maybe 12 or 13 year of age said her whole body hurt and was stiff. Apparently, there is this holding facility called the icebox because it is so cold at night where people can only be detained for 24 hours but she had been there for a few days.
Over the past two weeks not once did we see a potential terrorist. These are the poorest of the poor looking for a life free of violence. They come with their children, they come to be reunited with family, they come to make a better life for their families. Everyone I talk to in Minnesota seems unaware that this is happening here at our border. How can we the richest nation on the planet turn our backs on our brothers and sisters.
Thank you to the Sisters of Loretto for their hospitality and all the people we encountered during our time in El Paso. This is an extremely generous and caring community that works tirelessly to make life better for the poor.
POSTNOTE FROM DICK: Politics and Compassion are very uneasy companions. A dozen or so years ago I came across a succinct and very powerful explanation of the relationship between politics and compassion, made by then U.S. Senator, and former U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. You can read it here. I read it some months after a powerful visit to Haiti, and after the Iraq War had commenced. The brief paragraph or two spoke many volumes.
Donna Krisch reflects on the very human side of the migration (refugee) story.
Others with the microphones and media and levers of power much stronger than Donna or myself can better publicize “illegals”, “drugs”, and the seamy underside of immigration. The comment by Rubin Garcia (above) brings it home: “He compared the terrorist threats to car accidents. Since 2011 there have been 80 deaths due to terrorists and 600,000 deaths due to car accidents. So, should we ban cars? Do we fear the car companies for making cars?”
Back at the beginning of the worst of the Great Depression, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a statement that deserves repeating, over and over and over: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Even Native Americans, the first immigrants, initially came from somewhere else.
The only ancestor I personally knew who was an immigrant from another country was my grandfather, Henry Bernard, who came to North Dakota from Quebec about 1894. His only language when he arrived was French, and he had a first grade education. Doubtless it took years for him to speak English fluently.
He died when I was 17, and I knew him well.
Four of six of my great-grandparents immigrated to America, long before the Statue of Liberty became the welcoming beacon (and lest we forget, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France.) My circles – all of our circles – are full of immigrants.
We do not honor ourselves by our present day fear-filled approach to people whose only sin is, as proclaimed at the Statue of Liberty, “yearning to breathe free”. We will, one day, be called to account….

Dick Bernard: The 15th day after inauguration.

Related Posts accessible here.
Sunday till Thursday, the end of January, the beginning of February, 2017, we were visiting a friend who has lived for over 50 years in a northern Minnesota town of under 2,000. We have been there before – we are friends for many years. It is always a pleasant visit.
Of course, we’re in the beginning of different political times, and this was a few days to notice things. For starters, I noticed a small photo of our friends “Gentleman Soldier” (below) who she had met in the aftermath of WWII in Germany, and later married, and lived and raised their family in rural America, for over 50 years, till he died in 1998.
I asked to borrow the 2×2 1/2″ photo, and scanned it. It is below (click to enlarge).

“Gentleman Soldier”, rural Germany, 1945.

It got me to thinking about those authoritarian days our friend and all Germans became accustomed to the 1930s, the days which ultimately left their country in ruins, and themselves, starving.
Back in the beginning, in the 1920s and 1930s, communication was primitive compared to today, not much difference between Germany and the U.S. There were newspapers, of course, and other printed material; there were telephones, but seldom used, and telegraph was more likely and reliable for emergency use. Radio was in its infancy (the first American radio news broadcast was about 1920).
Today, of course, all is different. Makes hardly any difference where you live, you have hundreds of choices of media.
We watched cable and regular news on the channels she preferred. We read the newspaper and the magazines she received, etc. It was just like at home. We could watch the beginning of the new administration in Washington just like anybody else. The new President couldn’t contain himself, with yet another reference to “fake” news (it seems to mean, that which does not flatter him).
Our friends rural community is like (apparently) most during this election time: basically conservative Republican. In the just completed election, the now-President won about 60% of her counties vote.
These would probably include the old guy (maybe my age or younger) who was railing away at the town bowling alley which doubles as the morning coffee hangout. He was raging against those present day immigrants and refugees taking free stuff that belonged to him. His friend didn’t seem to agree with him, but wasn’t about to argue.
The rural town dates back into the late 1800s, and was virtually 100% settled by immigrants from Norway and Sweden but, I guess, he thinks those immigrants were somehow different than today. My guess is the anti-immigrant guy comes from that immigrant stock.
Our friend shared last Sunday’s church bulletin from her church in town. She said the pastor was a veteran, two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. His words are well worth the time to read in their entirety: Pastors message Ja 29 17001 I wonder how the flock received his words. And how many other pastors are pondering how to approach the business of politics in this new American environment.
Our friend also shared what was obviously a hand-made Christmas card with a beautiful piece of art painted on a piece of cloth. It was from a friend with whom she had shared a deeply personal tragedy many years before.

Light in Darkness

Her friends Christmas letter was profound, in part saying:
“My birthday on November 8th began with chilled champagne and the expectation of emotional celebration It ended with the appalling realization that life as we know it will never be the same – in the worst ways. With each new nomination and each middle-of-the-night tweet, the darkness has become more real and more frightening.
The Gospel of John contains no stable scene – no manger, angels, shepherds. No Christmas pageant script. It’ short and to the point: in the beginning was the Word…the light shines in the darkness…the Word became flesh….
In the midst of our discouragement we also sense the fires within to be torchbearers. We will surround ourselves with people we respect who will inspire us and light the way for us to think and act outside our comfort zone. We will donate more time and money to the organizations that support the values we hold dear. We will treat the environment with care. We will contact our legislators. We will be advocates for the people who will undoubtedly suffer discrimination, fear, and injustice under this administration. We will do what we can to welcome the stranger and feed the hungry. We will be the intentional in showing kindness and compassion.
We will do our best to be reflections of the Light. The Light that shines in the darkness.
Let your light so shine.”

POSTNOTE: In the last 30 miles to our friends town last Sunday, I got to thinking: there were, after all, almost 66,000,000 of us who voted for the candidate who won the election, but lost the electoral vote. What if, what if, every one of us committed, each week, in the next year, to do a single action aiming to positive change in direction of our country?
That would come out to nearly three and one half billion (3,500,000,000) actions.
How about it?
And I must also share this commentary from page 47 of the January 30, 2017 Time magazine: Time Jan 30 2017001. It speaks for itself.