“Who’s Governor?”

Friday I was on the observation deck of the always impressive North Dakota State Capitol.

Bismarck ND from the ND State Capitol, June 29, 2018.  (The Pioneer Statue can be seen near the end of the mall – a nearer image is later in this post.)

A father was with two of his elementary school age sons: “who is Governor of North Dakota?” he asked, as they stood by photos of North Dakota’s past Governors and Lieutenant Governors.

ND Governors, at the observation deck of the North Dakota State Capitol, June 29, 2018

I am a very active student of history, especially family history, and indeed was on the Capitol grounds because I was at the ND History Center on a history project I’ve been working on for years: the history of my own family in North Dakota.


There has always been a healthy – and largely deserved – degree of respect for those we elect to represent us.  Even if we dislike the person elected, there is a tacit acknowledgment that someone needs to lead.

Since the earliest territorial days, certain types of people have aspired to political power.  They have had different philosophies, and strengths and weaknesses, but overall, in our entire history, they generally respected the notion that they represent all of us, especially those with less ability, less power, even those with differing ideas.  So, for instance, it has always been recognized that some citizens cannot live independently; that not everyone has the ability to succeed as defined by the successful; that government has a responsibility to help everyone succeed, and in the process enables the entire society to be a caring and successful entity.


Our grandson Bennie, and his parents, are just three of innumerable examples of a need for greater and larger sense of “community”.  Forty days ago their lives changed, at the bare minimum, for a long, long time.  They could be any one of us.  Where is society for them?  Where will it be for us, when we need it?  Individualism is fine, but finite.  We all need more than ourselves.


A young German, commenting on my previous post, says it very well about today’s political world in the United States: “From early on [Trump] proved that he is NOT a politician—he is a businessman, and leading a country and politics is not business— it doesn’t work that way.”

Here’s another view on politics, from a 1929 publication for young students found at the old North Dakota farm (the actual text in context is page three, here: Warps 1929002 ).  All was not ideal in 1929, of course.  Note Q. 156 about the Ku Klux Klan, and the answer….  History is a process.

(see pdf referenced above)

A synchronous (in my opinion, functional) society must truly care about everyone regardless of capability or belief.  Ours is an irreversably diverse society.  And our leaders, regardless of party, must work together, to accomplish the things that will enable us to survive in a world without borders.  There is no “good old days” to revert to.


Today we are in very serious times.  If you have the time, read “Unending Chronic Discontent” for a longer summary…with a challenge, to you.


At this moment, we seem to be working against our own best interests as a nation.

As July 4th comes around, we are a country dangerously out of balance (think of a washing machine with an unbalanced load), led by too many for whom temporary ability to dominate and control is the domnant  ethic.

The currently dominant faction is a very odd coalition which, through assorted means, has decided to attempt to tilt all of American society permanently into its own definition of normal, even though its ideas are not at all in synch with the mood of much more than an ever smaller minority of the country.

The fantasy to “Make America Great Again” will come at the expense of everyone, including the supposed beneficiaries.

The lust to control is easily visible.  Most recent is the effort to assert long term impact on, and in effect control over, the U.S. judicial system; as well as manipulating election systems to favor a certain demographic.  Or to permanently disempower potential rivals who might make other laws.

All of this has happened before, one time or another, but not to the carefully planned (and technologically assisted) degree that we have seen, particularly in the last generation, and most particularly in the age of Trump, in alliance with the “Tea Party”.

The “odd coalition” of which I speak?  It is greed, in alliance with religious ideologic purists: sort of a modern day parallel alliance of the “robber barons” and the Prohibition advocates of over 100 years ago: different groups working to concentrate wealth and impose social values….  Neither movement ended well “back in the day”, but before their excesses died, they did an immense amount of damage.

Their days were not the “good old days”.


We Americans will survive this, but only with an extraordinarily active citizenry which not only speaks out, but votes, and votes intelligently, paying attention to every candidate who is running for every office in every community in this country.

Working together, we’ll begin to restore balance.  If not, I fear for the future of our nation.

ND State Capitol June 29, 2018

The Pioneers, North Dakota Capitol Grounds, June 29, 2018


from Mary: Thanks for you thoughts about leadership and democracy. I agree that we are in very serious trouble.Voting is crucial. There are days when I read or watch TV news that I feel assaulted. One of the best things at had I did  for nurturing my spirit was to see the movie “Mr. Rogers Will You Be MY Neighbor” It was fantastic, as was HAMILTON,

The above old reference book, found in the “junk” at the ancestral farm, helps give context to the political structure of the state of North Dakota about 1911.  The 547 pages, including biographical information about politicians of the time, give excellent context for the below panel, one of thirteen seen at the ND Historical Society on June 29, 2018.  Who we select to lead us matters a great deal.

ND Historical Society display on WWI and North Dakota, seen June 29, 2018

The Face of America

COMMENTS at end of this post.  Also, reference is made to a recent  iconic photograph, which was adapted for the cover of the current Time magazine, here.

The Volleyball Court at Carver Lake, June 20, 2018

Tuesday I was doing my usual walk, whose midpoint is the beach area of Carver Lake in Woodbury, part of an often bustling city park, family reunions, playground for kids and the like.  My time of day, there, is usually earlier in the morning, and so it was, Tuesday.

We’ve had an abundance of rain, lately, and Tuesday the left side of the volleyball court looked like a small lake, with standing water.

I didn’t know this as I was coming down the hill.  An older man, approaching from the other direction gestured in the direction of the court.  I learned why when I neared the bottom of the hill.  At the new  impromptu “lake” of the volleyball court were four young deer.  Three of them were just hanging out, but the 4th one seemed to be having the time of its life, cavorting in the shallow water just like some little kid who has been magnetically attracted to a mud puddle.

That youthful deer was being like any little kid…having a lot of fun.

I thought of another photo from a couple of days earlier, one that most folks have now seen: that little person being separated from Mom in McAllen TX.   Quite possibly that photo is an upcoming Pulitzer Prize winner, but it is a photo of a family tragedy, all of us included in the tragedy.

“Tough love” inflicted on families with children.  Is this the new face of America?   Or are we comfortable with this attitude over our history as a country?

There is a great plenty of “news” out about the cruel issue of exclusion of people seeking refuge in our country.  I’ll let my word, “cruel”, suffice for my opinion on the matter.


The rest of my words in this post will focus on two items, which possibly may assist in the converation.


Excepting Native Americans, we are all children of recent immigrants to this piece of ground called the United States.  Someone preceded us, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.  It wasn’t a first class arrival for them, but they arrived on our shore,  after 1886, welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, itself a symbol of friendship from France to the Unites States.

June, 1972. Joni and Tom Bernard at the Statue of Liberty.

Since 1980 I’ve been family historian for my own families of origin, and in that time you learn a lot about ‘back stories’.  To begin, I’m virtually 100% “white man”, a DNA mix of French, German, English, Irish, Iberian peninsula, likely Portugese.  The French-Canadian side has been in N. America for 400 years now.  The German side came between the 1840s and early 1870s, long before Ellis Island.

I am in the privileged class.

In my family tree, the first German family I know migrated here in 1844, and included two children born in Germany, ages 5 and 2.  A later German family came right after the Civil War.  One daughter died at sea, so the stories go.

The French-Canadian side, Quebec from the early 1600s, first appeared in the U.S. sometime around 1850, arriving in Minnesota with 7 children ages 18 to 3.  My great-grandmother was 5.  It must have been a difficult journey.  They came years before there was railroad connection to this area, and their trip from eastern Canada to here must have been a real adventure.   No time for a diary, for certain.

All our ancestors arrived here, similarly.  I wonder what they would think of our brand of “welcoming” these days.  Yes, they endured discrimination – we have always been harsh to newcomers, it seems, unless they fit our preferences and needs.  But they came, to build this nation.  We didn’t build this nation, they did.

Now, to the new generation looking for a better life on our shores, we’re saying “stay home.  This is OUR country, not yours”.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.


Some months ago I attended a most interesting lecture about phases of immigration to our America.  With apologies to the presentor that day, here is my very inadequate summary of what I heard; errors are inadvertent and mine.

1790-1880 the U.S. had open borders for free white persons who could naturalize after two years.  Of course, at the time person meant men.  This was the Naturalization Act of 1790.  Indians were the conquered; Africans, slaves.

1882-1952 came more harder edge times.  The Chinese Exclusion Act.  Exclusion of convicts, lunatics, idiots or public charges, anarchists, previously deported and illiterates….

1924 came the National Origin Quotas.  About this time a decision was made to make American Indians citizens of their own country.  Of course, by now, they were basically kept on “reservations”.

1965 there came legislation “to keep white dominance” (my note) in immigration policy.

1980, the Refugee Act created policies to help certain groups.  Best I can recall, these were not “goodness of our hearts” refugees; rather people who had been on “our” side in places like Laos and Vietnam.

From 1986 forward, according to the speaker, came the current attitude of “criminalizing of migration”.

Again, a caveat: these are rough notes which I decided to keep.  There are lots of blanks to be filled in.  My notes don’t touch the Japanese being interned, or German U.S. citizens being mistrusted at the time of WWI and II.  Or the Jews finding themselves less than welcome in this country during the time leading up to World War II.  And on it goes.


The “Face of America” these days?

We are basically a land filled with very good, decent and hospitable people: I see this every day of every week, and I get around.  We are not the hard-edged Trump fringe, fearful and hateful, the ones who currently have an edge.

Changing course takes lots of individual actions, one person at a time, far beyond reading the words on this piece of paper, or any number of others.

Get on the court, in action for decency in this still great country of ours.

Give some thought to two of my favorite quotations: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,
indeed it is the only thing that ever has
.”  (Margaret Mead); “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)

POSTNOTE: I noted with interest and concern the announcement yesterday that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council: “the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.” (Associated Press).  There are plenty of newspaper references about this today, here, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

This withdrawal, and the others, as from the Climate Accords, Iran, etc., represent weakness not strength: a “my way or the highway” approach to “deals”.  My Dad was fond of saying, “a quitter never wins; a winner never quits”.  I think there’s a lot of truth there.

It is sadly ironic that this year, December 10, is the 70th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights, passed unanimously (eight abstentions) by the UN with Eleanor Roosevelt and the United States in a leadership role.

I have always been proud of my country, the United States of America.  In our efforts to continue dominance of the world, we are defeating ourselves.

Rather than becoming stronger under the Trump and right wing ideological conservatives, the U.S. is becoming weaker and the results will show in the long term.


A good summary of current events: “The Tough Guy Blinks Momentarily”

Another, here: “The Killer Elite“.

Most interesting article about immigrant genealogy here



from Jeff:  I  think the solid right wing 25%  of the population could care less about these kids being separated, they are the other.

Then there is another 15-18% that support Trump and GOP policies … many of these were not happy with this policy as they have a moral empathy that can extend at least in the case of innocent children to the others sometimes.

I question if that 25% are good decent folk.   How can they be if they support racism, policies like this and get excited over a lying demagogue.   They might bring you a hot dish when your spouse is ill , they might show up at a family funeral and pay their respects… but I honestly believe they are devoid of extended moral values.

The real problem for the Trumpistas is that by and large they are older and white… a fading demographic.

So stopping immigration is almost required for their survival.  I know there are fringe elements that are younger.

But the true base is older .. .i.e. Fox News audience.

My wife’s uncle , a bond trader and financial advisor always seemed like a normal reasonable guy,  but he is an unrepentant Trump supporter.   I really wonder how to deal with him in 2 weeks when I visit Chicago for their family reunion.  Avoid the subject I guess… I just don’t understand how an intelligent rational person could fall for this nonsense.

[Paul] Krugman article today maybe answers it… the devils bargain for the conservative plutocratic class… kowtow to racism and lying and misogyny if it captures political power so you can pass tax cuts, deregulations, etc.

But toddlers in cages?

from Molly:  Thanks, Dick, for the comments and the link to Just Above Sunset… wow, quite the incisive article!

from Florence: German Americans were also interned in concentration camps during WW II, just because they were suspected of possibly being disloyal to the US. There was a “camp” in Cass Lake, MN. The internees were generally conscripted to work for farmers and other food producers. The Minnesota Historical Society has very good handle on this “consequence” of a WW.  Thanks for the insights!

from JP:   Well done!!!

From a long-time and valued friend:  Dick, How many of your ancestors came illegally?  I and most people support legal immigration I think.  At the college, I worked with student visas, etc. Laws were passed but not enforced.  When the by the book guy comes along and enforces the laws it is then his laws and policies. Bogus I would say. The Kennedy area [era?] passed the current laws including separation but have not been enforced [it would be helpful to see the evidence]. The reason is they should never have been pas[sed]. Trump should not have tried to enforce these laws but got them changed. Now by his executive order the separation will not take place any longer. It truly is crazy times we are living in.  The old saying “Dammed if you do, Dammed if you don’t” seems to prevail.

Response to my friend:  Below the Statue of Liberty photo I self-identify myself as a “virtually 100% “white man” ”  Thus, of course, my ancestors came legally, because they were “white men”.

As for the law, it has always been and still is primarily made by “white men”, but that trend is shifting too, though not quite enough, yet.  Here’s the demographics of the current Congress in Washington.

What I have noted over the past few years in particular (post 9-11-01 to be specific) is that the Congress, whose responsibility it is to pass and enforce legislation, has abrogated its authority as a way to avoid (pass on) its responsibility to someone else, the President, the “bureaucrats”, whomever…never themselves.  Such laws are difficult to negotiate, so to avoid this, there is simply a refusal to negotiate, and you see what is now close to happening again…the Republican “Conference” passes something without any involvement by the minority (Democrats), and then blames the Democrats.  It is dishonest, but for the partisan faithful, it works.  Of course, if it is “bad”, the Democrats get blamed whether or not they were even partially responsible.  There is no need to talk about “good” here – Trump is leveraging an anti-immigrant wave to which, thankfully, many citizens are now responding.

Re the Law, the greatest oxymoron I know is the declaration from any lawyer that a particular Law is “clear”.  If that was true, there wouldn’t be need for lawyers, who by and large are the ones who make and interpret the laws before other lawyers, called Judges.  “Legal” is always an “opinion”.  Having said that, I identify most closely with the mantra that the “force of law is preferable to the law of force”.  Having said that, I’m a reasonable person.  Every single one of my posts gives my philosophy.

Of course, the demographic, “white men” is not so clear, either.  If the election allowed only “old white men” to vote, my side would probably lose, though not my much.  There are millions upon millions of us who are in philosophic agreement with me.  Here’s some pertinent research from a long-time respected and credible source.  It’s 2014 data, but probably quite current.  I tried to make my point about the coming change in an earlier post, here.  Go to the link entitled “World Law Day 2018” and read pages 25 and 26 (I’m suggesting that this entire post is worth reading).

Bob Dylan’s timeless song lyric is worth noting, “the time’s they are a’changing”.

I will work hard to temper the authoritarian streak of our current political regime to build a better future for everyone.

Bobby Kennedy

PRENOTE:  You’re an occasional visitor to this space?  If you’re interested in what I’ve been musing about, click on any month on the calendar at right, and the posts for that month will come up.  June 5, I published a brief post on Iftar, for example.


Today, I went over to the excellent 1968 Exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.  The exhibit runs through mid-Jan. 2019 and is well worth a visit.  Today was my third visit to the exhibit, specifically to remember the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles (he was shot on the evening of June 5, 1968, and died after midnight.).

The 1968 Exhibit is much more than just about Bobby Kennedy.  1968 was a tumultuous year, and the exhibit catches it in a manner that everyone can understand.  There were lots of school groups today.  It occurred to me that a student just completing kindergarten in 1968 would be 55 today.  Time (History) flies by and it takes work to preserve and make it relevant to future generations who should learn from its many lessons.

1968 Exhibit, Bobby Kennedy, Minnesota History Center.

A display entering the exhibit gives highlights of each month in 1968.  Here’s June:

I liked Bobby Kennedy.  I have no particular stories to share.  At the time of his death I was a junior high school geography teacher in suburban Minneapolis.  June 5 – a Sunday – was at the  very end of the school year.  We were, pardon the expression, still “shell shocked” from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr on April 4.  Our country seemed to have gone crazy.  Every month (above) had its theme.

There are endless stories and interpretations of the meaning of Bobby Kennedy, then and now.  We were better for his having been with us; he didn’t live long enough for us to know if he’d be nominated for election for President.

The 1968 Exhibit gives numerous other cues to conversation about other significant events the same year.

If you’re around the Twin Cities, take the time to visit, sometime in the next months.

June 5, 1968, Los Angeles CA


from SAK:  

Thanks for the post, Robert Kennedy deserves to be remembered & yes admired. Many have mentioned that he was very influential while brother John was president – some even said he was the brainy one. While a student in the US I listened to JFK’s speeches at the university library. Impressive. How the standards have fallen . . . today we have tweeters. Perhaps Robert helped write these speeches but there is no doubt John knew a thing or two about oratory.

This book was published yesterday:

The Assassination Of Robert F. Kennedy by Tim Tate and Brad Johnson.

& here’s a British paper’s take.

This impromptu speech by Robert is very moving.

and here is something he said about consumerism & “economism”:

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman‘s rifle and Speck‘s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Thanks again for reminding us of a great man and, sadly, of a great tragedy!


Pope Francis A Man of His Word

Yesterday we went to an outstanding film whose narrator is Pope Francis.

We saw this just released film at the Edina Theater.  Here is information about the film, including reviews.  We both would give it the highest rating.

Pope Francis needs no introduction on the world stage.  Nor does St. Francis of Assisi, the Saint whose name he chose when elected Pontiff in 2013.  The film, largely and intentionally and very wisely in the Pope’s own spoken words (closed caption), is for anyone.

But this film is much more than a man sitting in a chair talking to a camera.  There are abundant visuals from around the planet, including his speaking to the U.S. Congress.

The film would speak most clearly and profoundly to persons who have any sensitivity to the issues of the survival of the planet, and issues of justice.  This would be expected from Francis, whose 2015 Laudato Si is subtitled “On Care For Our Common Home“.

Its message is not a comfortable one for those of us in the United States, which has less than 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s gross national income.    Those two numbers say a great deal….

Take the time to see this film.  And pass the word.

Watching Death Happen.

PRENOTE: I began this post on Mothers Day, 2018.

Mother’s Day was a beautiful day in the Twin Cities.  We had been to Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and I was waiting for Cathy near the southwest ground level door.

I heard a rustling in the grass and dry leaves and  caught a flash of something or other to my right.  It was enough to startle me, and I looked quickly, and there, at sidewalk level a couple of feet from me, lay a healthy looking mouse, only this mouse was clearly in the final stages of dying, lying on its back, its legs reflexively  writhing, it’s eyes open, but it’s body clearly out of its control.

Its run as a mouse was about over.

What does one do at such a moment?  You don’t call 9-11, or animal rescue for a dying mouse.  I did nothing.  Cathy came.  I didn’t tell her about the mouse.  We left.


Somehow I see our country much like that mouse and its surroundings (including myself) on Sunday.

Spring is beautiful up here; people look satisfied enough at the coffee shop.  The externals at this 15th of May, 2018, look and feel pretty normal.

“Don’t worry, be happy”, as the saying goes, “not my problem”.

But somehow I see our nation dying, as that mouse was on Sunday.  Something has got hold of too many of us, and it is not healthy for our body as a nation.

The Current Occupant of the White House is completing his process of killing the legacy of his predecessor, President Obama, with relish and the apparent agreement of Congress: Obamacare, COPS 23 climate compact, Iran Nuclear deal, on and on.  Anything at all that represents Obama successes, killed or on the chopping block.  A President (and by extension his “base”) seem unconcerned that there are tens of millions of people like myself who deeply respect the Obama’s and what they endeavored to do for the nation and world, and who deeply respected Hillary Clinton, and Bill as well, as dedicated and extraordinarily competent public servants.

Yesterday was only the most recent example: moving the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was more than a symbolic slap in the face of an entire world culture.  Here is a good summary of yesterday in Jerusalem and Israel.  It speaks for itself.  What happened in Jerusalem yesterday is a slap in the face of all the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and the vast majority of people who call themselves “Christian”, not to mention the community of nations that make up our diverse country and world.  “Christian” does not stop at the boundary of “evangelical”….

Sticker seen recently on a late model car with Illinois plates.

It has now been announced that “Make America Great Again” has been replaced by “Keep America Great”:  today’s version of “Mission Accomplished”.

The message to people like myself and the rest of the world is that we can all go to hell.  We’re losers.  It’s Trumps world now.

Tax “cuts” enacted with great fanfare will bring temporary false prosperity, quieting the masses, but give these cuts a few years, and the very same people who are now happy, will be hurting, and wondering why.  There is no ‘free lunch’…less taxes is less service; less of a safety net; less security for those who are not wealthy, which is the vast majority of us.  It is the super-wealthy and large corporations that got the real permanent tax cuts.  The rest got a few scraps, soon spent and forgotten.


There is such a surrounding of willful destruction going on (others would say renewal) that it is hard to see through the rubble and keep moving forward.  But I give a damn.

Personally, I’m not a quitter.  Quitting for me is no option.

At the same time, I know I can’t accomplish anything by myself, or presume that it has to be “my way or the highway”.  I had far too many years of dealing with differences to know that someone who feels dominant can, indeed, impose his or her will on others…but only temporarily.

I have more words, about many things relating to the national train wreck we are witnessing in real time, may not feel the effects of for perhaps a number of years.  The reckoning will come for us, as it was coming for that poor little mouse on Sunday morning.

Pay attention.  This is happening on your watch – on all of ours….

A Teacher Union Dinner

Wednesday evening I traveled out to suburban Minneapolis for what I believe is the 19th annual year-end appreciation dinner of the Union representing the teachers of the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

This is not an unusual trip for me.  I’m sure I’ve missed a dinner or two over the past 19 years, but that has been rare.

I was invited to speak at the first dinner.  It was a memorable event for me.  It was a Tuesday – May 4, 1999.  National Teacher Day.

Three days earlier I had slowly trudged up “Cross Hill” above Columbine High School in Littleton CO, viewing, with my son and family, the wooden crosses erected in memory of the thirteen victims of the carnage on April 20, 1999.  One of the thirteen was a teacher at Columbine High School.  My family lived, then and now, about a mile from Columbine.

May 4, I decided to wear the exact same clothing I had worn on that rainy and slow walk up Cross Hill – actually a pile of construction dirt – as one of hundreds of pilgrims to the site of the first school massacre in the United States.

I recall, that evening in Anoka, talking about a second grade teacher, Clem Gronfors, who was a special hero to my daughter, Joni.  In 1999, Joni was a teacher herself, and today, in 2018, she is a Middle School Principal.  I recall Susan Evert, formerly a President of the teacher union during its single strike in 1981, burst out in tears in the room when I mentioned Clem’s name.  That very day she had delivered “meals on wheels” to Mr. Gronfors, by then long retired from teaching.

Susan was at last nights dinner for a time, and we chatted.  She is the same Susan only, as with all of us, a bit older.


I wish I could just conclude this post with the above memories.  But it would not be honest.

Last nights dinner, while having  its usual share of light moments, including a delightful improv program by the Mystery Cafe, had a palpable and darker side, never mentioned by anyone, but hanging over the room full of teachers like the vog currently over the Big Island of Hawaii.

These are darker, more uncertain times for, among many others, public schools and their teachers.

Visible evidence have been wildcat statewide teacher strikes or major demonstrations in several states in the United States in past months – strikes and large and very visible public demonstrations occasioned by slow and deliberate strangulation of public education by legislatures and the federal government.

There is an ominous federal presence over public education policy.

The NRA seems to have successfully defanged, at least for the moment, the Parkland students campaign for common sense changes to gun law.  Money talks.

Probably on most teachers minds last night is the looming decision of the United States Supreme Court on the most recent attempt to destroy or at minimum severely handicap teacher unions – an effort that has been ongoing since the 1970s.

As I write, the Supreme Court decision is expected very shortly – it was actually expected this week – and when it is released, whatever it says will be national news.  No one knows what it will be, but few think it will do voluntary unions any favors.

Watch for it.  And look at the decision more carefully than most news, regardless of the verdict.

And take a moment to consider what we are doing to ourselves in this country, especially if we are in the vast majority called “working people”, whatever our occupation.


This has become a time where the rich are getting much, much richer, and the poor, poorer.

Where do you stand?

Dick Bernard, son of two public school teachers; nine years a junior high teacher; 27 years (1972-2000) field staff for Minnesota Education Association, then Education Minnesota, including nine years (1972-81) with what is now Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota; father of four, grandfather of nine, two of whom graduate from high school within the coming month.

LeMoyne Corgard, retiring President (4 years) of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, 39 year career in public education. May 9, 2018

Retired educators, from right, Julie Jagusch, Dee Buth, John DeSantis May 9, 2018

Mystery Cafe cast with guest teacher performer, May 10, 2018

The Stoop and the Postcard….

A few days ago a friend mentioned that she hasn’t seen many blog posts from me lately. It’s true: I’ve been on-line less. Part of it is my wordpress has for some reason been cantankerous. Another, though, is a bit of disspirit. We are at a very dangerous time in our history as a nation, and too many seem to have the attitude, “What, me worry?” (Alfred E. Neumann, Mad Magazine.) We have an autocrat in chief; a Republican party controlling Congress that enables and exhibits enabling behavior that in the days when Alfred E. Neuman was born (1954) would have outraged that same party – coddling Russia and the like.

We’re in strange times. Just Above Sunset catches it this morning: The Old World Now Gone.

But I am an optimist, and I’ve had something of a mantra throughout life thus far that “patience and persistence pays”, and I’m not inclined to quit. So, at the end of this post is a bit of optimism from my state’s Attorney General, sent out a few days ago, and before that a couple of pieces of nostalgia from times preceding mine. Just some things to think about.

The Stoop and the Postcard:

Recently I came across two seemingly unrelated items: a photo I took of a door stoop in Norma Township ND in Dec. 1999; and a postcard sent to my grandmother in Henrietta Township ND in 1911. I offer them to encourage reflection about a country that was.

Stoop at the Anderson Place, Norma Township ND Dec. 1999.

This was the entry to a country farm home where many children were raised about 100 years ago. My first wife’s mother was one of these, and this thus represents, now, five generations of Americans. All of us have our stories, our own stoops (that piece of iron on the edge – anyone who grew up on a farm, especially, knows what that was for – to at least put a dent in the farm dirt and manure from the barn….)

The Depot, Eagle Butte SD, 1911

The contents of the postcard are below. Here is a pdf of the letter: Eagle Butte SD003

The postcard contents.

This was a card about relationship, the story never to be totally told. Grandma, then, was 27 years old, with two youngsters, four and two (the youngest my mother). “D.A.L.” was probably someone who had moved, perhaps a nearby farm wife, probably someone who’d taken up farming there about the same time as my kin: 1905.

I leave the interpretation to the reader. They needed each other then. We need each other now, more than ever. And we won’t survive if we continue to cherish individualism and polarization and power, at all cost.

MN Attorney General Lori Swanson March 13, 2018:

“Leaders should inspire us to be our best. Our leaders achieve the most when they are optimistic about America’s destiny. The best leaders know that negotiated compromise, not unbridled polarization, is what moves America forward.

FDR’s optimism gave the country hope in the Great Depression. He observed: “The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” And he described negotiation as follows: “For the young people here: practicality is a good thing. There are times where compromise is necessary. That’s part of wisdom. But it’s also important to hang on to what you believe.”

John F. Kennedy optimistically foresaw a moon landing, a Peace Corps to share America’s dream, and a new era of civil rights and individual dignity. To achieve progress, he noted in his inaugural speech: “Let us never negotiate out of fear; but let us never fear to negotiate.” He was quick to point out that “compromise does not mean cowardice.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. optimistically shared his dream that “…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…That all men are created equal.” He embraced optimism by declaring: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” As to compromise, he said: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, a great inspiration for the women of her time, said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor had this to say about compromise: “We must be willing to learn the lesson that cooperation may imply compromise, but if it brings a world advance it is a gain for everyone.”

Mahatma Gandhi described human progress this way: “Human life is a series of compromises, and it is not always easy to achieve in practice what one has found to be true in theory.” As to polarization, he said: “A principle is the expression of perfection, and as imperfect beings like us cannot practice perfection, we devise every moment limits of its compromise in practice.”

Social and economic progress occurs in America when we embrace optimistic leadership and treat each other with respect and dignity, not insults and name calling….”


Overnight came an e-mail from a peace person, “strongly support[ing] direct talks between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.” The entirety of the e-mail is at the end of this post.

The comment brought back to mind a memory. I’m one of those odd ducks who don’t mind the label of “family historian”. Each family seems to have at least one of us, attempting to carry forward the story of their group, sometimes uncovering stories someone or other feels are best left untold.

And so it was that in my extended family genealogy I made an entry in the early 1990s: “William 3-13-33 to 3-14-54”, buried in a cemetery in Rockford IL.

I was 13 when William died, 900 miles from our home in Ross ND. So when I did the genealogy, I was a bit curious about William, but not enough to do any actual digging.

In 2011, William’s younger brother, Thomas, died, and his daughter passed along the usual information. It presented an opportunity to ask about William, so I asked, not really expecting a response.

Shortly came a letter from Lisa, born 1967. Somewhere I still have that letter, but its contents stick in my mind: William, the letter said, had been in the Korean War, and came home a very tortured young man. This particular night, March 12, 1954, William once again laid his memories and anxieties on his friends.

This night, one of these friends, probably frustrated by Williams constant laments, made a suggestion: “why don’t you just go home and kill yourself?

William took the advice, shooting himself at home, where he lived with his parents. Thomas, his brother, was 12.


I have just now re-looked at the family history, and noted for the first time that William decided to end it all on his 21st birthday. I wonder how his bar friends reacted on hearing the news. For the first time, I connect a trip we made to Chicago in the summer of 1955, where we stayed overnight with the family. The wife was my mother’s first cousin, a year older, born a mile away in North Dakota in 1908. It was a small family reunion occasioned by a tragedy a year earlier. All I remember is that we arrived at night, greeted at the front door by Irene and Carl, the parents of William.


It was 64 years ago, this very day, that William died in Rockford IL. I was 13, old enough to remember Douglas McArthur, but not the fine points of why the Korean Peninsula has been divided into North and South for all these past years.

Personally, if the Koreans will ever reach rapprochement, it will not be because of the U.S., China or anyone else; it will be the Koreans themselves who decide that enough is enough. The Winter Olympics presented an opportunity for a tiny start, and no one should expect miracles, most certainly not from Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un doing some deal of some sort (while at the same time, Trump is saber rattling to dismantle the multi-lateral negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran.)


Here’s the rest of the overnight e-mail. For the record, I’m a U.S. Army veteran (1962-63) and a Veteran for Peace for many years…as a citizen, what do YOU think?

Veterans for Peace [a chapter]… strongly supports direct talks between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It is time to end the state of war between the US and North Korea. The prospect of a US attack on North Korea leading to North Korean nuclear retaliation is horrendous. We are appalled at the negative attitude towards these direct talks between North Korea and the US now evident in much of mainstream media. We wish to remind everyone that it was “the experts” who led us into previous disastrous foreign policy actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Direct talks and negotiations toward peace on the Korean Peninsula will be a positive step for all of humanity.

March 5, 1968

50 years ago, March 5, 1968 – it was a Tuesday – the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners adopted “A Declaration of World Citizenship”. Three days later, on March 8, the Mayor and City Council of Minneapolis adopted the same Declaration. Less than two months later, on May 1, 1968, a large contingent of suburban Minneapolis mayors, as well as a who’s who of the political and civic leaders of the time, participated in a flag raising at what was to become Hennepin County Plaza.

The actual resolution is here: (click to enlarge, double-click for more)

Declaration of World Citizenship March 5 and 8, 1968, adopted by Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis.

Details about the events can be read at pages 3-10 here: MN Declarations Mar 18003. (The other pages describe several other significant and analogous events, and you see names like Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson….)

50 years later, today, we’re a country in turmoil, possibly about to see the beginning of a trade war, where positive relationships between parties are a dim memory, and our country is in a state of acute dysfunction. “We, the people” elected the leaders 50 years ago and in more recent times. What has happened to us?

1968 was a worried time, of course. Everyone with access should take time to view the exhibit “1968” at the Minnesota History Center this year.

February, 1968, was the Tet offensive in Vietnam; a display at the exhibit says that the last week of February, 1968, was the deadliest week in the deadliest month for American military losses in Vietnam. Martin Luther King was assassinated April 4, and on and on.

Still, the narrative in Minnesota, then, and other places was much as it was after World War II. We needed to figure out how to get along. War was a waste.

1968 now seems to have been such a quaint time. 2018 by contrast seems in so many ways so bizarre.

Getting to the Declaration in 1968 took citizen work. It was a years long process started by two Minneapolis businessmen, who in 1963 had seen in person the Tokyo government declare itself a World Citizen City. Tokyo in turn had followed the example of other cities, who had “mundialized”. Lynn Elling, one of the leaders, many years later recalled to me that when they took their idea to then-Minneapolis Mayor Arthur Naftalin, his first response was “what the hell is mundialization?” (See it described at the link.)

Of course, each declaration fit each communities circumstances. In Minneapolis/Hennepin County, 1968, the culminating event included raising the United Nations flag beside the American flag, fully in compliance with the U.S. Flag Code. Former Governor Elmer L. Andersen (Republican) gave what he considered one of his most important speeches that day. (page 6-7 at MN Declarations Mar 18003)

The most important subsequent events occurred in 1971 when Minnesota declared itself a World Citizenship State.

All were not happy campers, of course. Mayor Naftalins archive included 16 letters from citizens, 13 of them distinctly anti-United Nations; all but three of them from other states. The protests were vigorous, but hardly overwhelming.

The UN Flag flew at Hennepin Government Center for 44 years, until it was unceremoniously removed by the Hennepin Board of Commissioners March 27, 2012. They could, of course, fly any flag they wanted, but their excuse for taking down the flag – violation of the U.S. flag code – was false, and to this day I am not certain the chain of events which led to the flags demise (though I have some pretty clear ideas, I will not share since my opinions would likely be denied.) Four of the current Hennepin Commissioners were among those voting to take down the flag six years ago. They would know the story.

Two lengthy blog posts remain as a “file cabinet” for this issue, for anyone interested, here and here.

“We, the people”, in our democracy, have a huge responsibility: to elect those who serve us.

If we don’t like what we see from our government leaders at any level, we need first to look at ourselves – were we cause in the matter for change?

There exists today an international organization called Mayors for Peace. Take a look.

#MeToo. Time for honest conversations…lots of them.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sometime before she began first grade in about 1913 my Aunt Lucina got a Valentine from a young friend, Stella, who lived on a farm a couple of miles down the road in Henrietta township North Dakota.

(click to enlarge illustrations)


Her friends Mom helped make this card for her daughter. Most likely it was delivered in person by horse and buggy. A year or so earlier, rural telephone (“two longs and a short”) had entered the vocabulary of these country neighbors, but in those days the phone was “party line” for everybody, and not for casual use. Stella was apparently missing her young friend down the road, my Aunt Lucina.

Valentine’s Day has a very long history. You can read about it here; (do a quick scroll to “Modern Times” for the more contemporary history.

All of the following are Valentine cards from the Busch farm in ND, which I had borrowed from Uncle Vince and Aunt Edithe, and scanned years ago. They were in a box, and I wrote a bit about them a dozen years ago. My post says there were 19 Valentine’s in the box. I scanned the nine you see here.

The remaining illustrations in this post are all from that same box, that same scan, just waiting for the appropriate time to see the light of day, albeit on a computer screen in 2018.





Valentine 1911

Valentine 1913

Valentine 1913


The following are my scattered/random comments as we wade through the swamp of #MeToo. #MeToo is about relationships of one sort or another gone awry. It has overtaken most everything else in the national conversation the last few months, but if you think about it, the high profile #MeToo’s are very few and very rare.

What follows are some personal unpolished thoughts out loud, hopefully to encourage other thoughts out loud, but mostly to encourage people of different genders, ages, points of view, to discuss together, in person, the “#MeToo” issue. There will be squirming and defensiveness, but the conversations are worth having, far better than the insanity we’re going through today.

I have relevant experience with this, beyond simply being a human being.

As a teacher union staff person from 1972-2000, I and my colleagues had plenty of experience with the “sex” issues of those days: accusations similar to todays, most in the area of inappropriate contact between student and teacher; often front-page news. They were also rare, mostly men were accused (but not all), and mostly there was provable guilt to some degree (but not always). There came to be instant and severe punishment: almost automatic loss of the license to teach.

There was an over-reaction by society generally, and by the teacher community. Some saw individual incidents as opportunities to tar the entire teaching profession, particularly the Unions (including myself) whose duty was to represent our members. At the height, my own union adopted a “no touch” rule for members to avoid problems. It made sense at the time, but was also crazy (such as the female kindergarten teacher afraid to help tie a kindergarten boys shoes).

“Innocent until proven guilty” was not part of the conversation. I’d say it was impossible to get a fair trial that ended with exoneration, or rehabilitation. Once charged, you were presumed to be guilty.

How little we have learned EXCEPT that “sex” has become a very useful political tool….

Fast forward to today, very, very briefly: Full disclosure: two of my personal heroes, Al Franken and Garrison Keillor, have been felled by the recent rounds of #MeToo. Again, once accused, convicted. The “whole truth” unnecessary; all that matters, the result. If you like the outcome against one person, be aware, another person you like, including yourself, may be next on the chopping block.

For some reason I kept the Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 Minneapolis Star Tribune, whose top of the front page headline was: “Most believe Franken’s accusers“, with subhead “But nearly half of voters say senator shouldn’t have stepped down.” This was a month after the first allegation against Franken was made, for something which occurred before he ran for U.S. Senate, an accusation accompanied by a single photograph suggesting…. Then came some other allegations, “anonymous”. Then the “court” of public opinion:

(click twice for additional enlargement)

We may as well dispense with hearings or courts or privacy: just take a poll and publicize it…the sample will render the verdict. This is a dangerous way to do things.

I did watch 60 Minutes Sunday night, the “#MeToo” topic was one of the segments. I’m sure you can still watch the segment on-line. Now we move, righteously, to kill sexual harassment. It is a wonderful idea. So was prohibition, and the move to eliminate abortions, or to keep slavery, or get rid of illegals…the lists of schemes to prohibit go on and on and on.

To #MeToo as an issue: I read, and I talk to people of other genders with possibly differing points of view…. “Sex” is a part of every one of our beings. It has a very long history. In our country, there is a fascination with sex, as practiced by someone else.

The objective must be to make things better, rather than to attempt to make things perfect.

Then there is our national moral and legal arbiter Donald Trump. While there is much talk about the sanctity of “due process”, including from me, there is no level playing field when it comes to Trump. It is hard to imagine that he will ever be found guilty of anything. He is a proven serial liar – nothing he says can be taken at face value, even in writing, most certainly not in court, and sexual harassment is generally a very personal deal, rarely public, subject to interpretation. He needs only to deny…and countersue.

Lots of people who should know better, say what he allegedly did happened long ago…we should get over it. (There is something of that mantra about Judge Roy Moore, whose incidents happened, they say, “40 years ago”.)

Trumps reputation as a very rich man is that he is one who can afford to, and does, counter-sue almost at every opportunity. If you have power and lots of money, you can buy much better “due process” justice than if you are poor or less powerful or one of those teachers I used to represent.

With Trump, we have what we deserve, and we’re probably stuck with it. Make it a learning opportunity.

A NEW FAVORITE BIBLE STORY comes via an evangelical guy who attends an every Saturday Bible Study one table away from me at coffee. There seems to be an intended public witness by the half dozen men who usually attend, all nice guys, and knowledgable.

Anyway, a few Saturdays ago one gentleman – likely a PhD and a very decent man from all indications – was saying he’d been at something or other and the speaker talked about the first two commands in the Bible: “have sex and eat“. It got a good laugh from the assembled Christians….

Comments are welcome, but probably this forum is not the best – engage with others where you live.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And Ash Wednesday, too.

From Norm: Those old valentines brought back many memories of my grade school days when we used to exchange them I school. As I recall, there was usually a box set-up in our home room that had been decorated by our creative peers with a slot on its top for us to insert the valentines that we had brought in.

The box would later be opened on or close to Valentine’s Day and its contents distributed with all of the be my valentine messages on them.

I can even recall a few valentines that had a small red sucker attached to them as well.

Thanks for bringing back those special memories, Dick.

from Jeff: I think you make a good point, and one often pointed out, that if you are able, you can buy more due process if you can afford it.

I think the #metoo is a good thing, but while he said she said isn’t always right, sometimes it is (Aziz Ansari)