Dick Bernard: Thoughts at 100 Days of “Make America Great Again”

A Message to all of us from Pope Francis, TED Talk: “The only future worth building includes everyone.” filmed April, 2017

This afternoon, Saturday, April 29, for those in the Minneapolis area or environs, and have some time open in late afternoon, take in the film The World Is My Country, part of the International Film Festival at the St. Anthony Main Theater, an inspiring true story about Garry Davis, “World Citizen #1”. Show time is 4:50, buy tickets early; be there at least 20 minutes before the doors open. Click on the above link for all details. This is the last chance to see this World Premiere, here.

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Compassion and Competition
“Senator [Hubert] Humphrey walked back to his desk, picked up a long pencil with a small eraser at its end, and said in his famous high-pitched voice, “Gentlemen, look at this pencil. Just as the eraser is only a very small part of this pencil and is used only when you make a mistake, so compassion is only called upon when things get out of hand. The main part of life is competition, only the eraser is compassion. It is sad to say, gentlemen, but in politics compassion is just part of the competition….”
Recounted in the book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri J.M.Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, Douglas A. Morrison. Image Books/Doubleday c 1966, 1983 pages 5&6.

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Today is 100 days. If you’re reading this, and follow politics even slightly, you know what “100 days” means.

I haven’t written about politics for a long while though I pay close attention every day…I hope you take the time to read this post, including the links, and, agree or disagree, give my musings some thought, and get into action.

Whether you agree with me or not makes no difference to me. Be well informed, and act.

My bias, first: We American live in what we have created. We own this polarized society, and as owners we are the only ones who can change our course.

The below snapshot I took a week ago at my usual early morning “office” carries own message, based on individual interpretation.

(Click to enlarge all photos)

“Make America Great Again” April 21, 2017

April 27, 2017, at day 98 of the first 100, the President was quoted, about the job of President of the United States thus far: “I thought it would be easier”.

Normally, this would be a simple statement to accept at face value. But I found myself thinking, “Why did he say this, now? What does he mean? Being President of the United States is the most difficult job on the planet. He had to have known that!”

From day one in Donald Trumps campaign, beginning long before 2015, the serious sounding and dripping-with-sincerity bald-faced lie has been the norm for the man. Shameless lying is his signature. He is a con man and nothing he says deserves to be taken at face value. What a terrible state of affairs for us all. To believe him, even when he looks us square in the eye, intoning “believe me” and similar, is to believe the most practiced and convincing of carnival barkers, now the most powerful person in the U.S.

Personally, I feel we, the people of the United States, made a terrible decision on selecting our national leadership November 8, 2016. Ultimately, the consequences will be most felt by the very people who voted into office, by their action, or inaction, an authoritarian U.S. President who certainly seems to be the most unprepared, dishonest, selfish and least informed President we have likely ever had whose primary expertise is “smoke and mirrors” deception with the sole goal of personal financial gain. Teaming with a U. S. Congress whose main interest is the already very wealthy, it is clear that no “swamp” was “drained” last November – the reverse seems more true. The alligators are more numerous and vicious….

I predict that in the longer term, even the greatest beneficiaries, the wealthiest among us, will ultimately regret the apparent decision to further enrich the already excessively rich. And few will ever admit we collectively failed ourselves Nov. 8, 2016.

Here is a favorite photo from just before November 8, 2016…. It still speaks a thousand words about us, as it did to me when I took it in Rochester MN five days before the election.

Sign in Rochester MN Nov. 3, 2016

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A Memory: An attempt to put myself into the bigger picture:

I know these posts have a diverse readership, more than sufficient to make these posts worth my time to compose and send.

I simply ask you to consider how you feel about the direction of your state and your country and your world at this point in your life; and, most importantly, to consider how you fit in the picture going forward from today. “The ball is in our court”; everyone of us are part of the team that will determine our own future as a country, and that of the world in which we live.

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We Americans, are affected by the history of our now 230 year experiment in democracy. One just doesn’t wash off the legacy of slavery, exceptionalism, the New Deal, etc. All of our shared history, written or unwritten, affects us daily. We are the sum of our history which has its positives and its negatives.

To attempt to put my arms around this huge matter, I visualize a basketball game in a tiny school gym when I was a kid in rural North Dakota sometime in 1953-54.

The game came back to mind six days ago, at a movie theater in Minneapolis MN.

In tiny North Dakota towns back in 1953-54, boys basketball was a staple. The team usually wasn’t championship calibre, but game night was important to the town.

Often, there were scarcely enough boys to come up with five players and perhaps three or four substitutes.

Girls? Sometimes, rarely, there were girl teams. But mostly the role of girls was to cheer lead the boys at the game. It was the women’s “place” in the game. It was the boys who were on the court, in the competition against some other town.

This single night in 1953-54, I remember the court. There are teams, there are two benches; there are a few local spectators, cheering on their team. And there are the rest of the people – the vast majority, even of this tiny town and surrounding area who, for various reasons, are absent.

We were the visiting team that night, which in those days meant we were our only cheerleaders. The small crowd was for the other team.

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Every one of us can visualize similar teams of all sorts we’ve been on, or around, and we can remember the teams that worked and the ones that didn’t. We might remember some of the the team players: the star, the ball hogs, the gifted, generous, selfish and abusive and on and on and on. We know what worked, and what didn’t, from experience. We know….

In that long ago game was a player who I first met for the first and only time on that basketball court back in 1953-54. Of course, at the time, he was just another guy identified by a number on his basketball uniform.

I next met this man a second time perhaps a dozen years ago. His name was Martin Olav Sabo.

He and I were in a conference room in downtown Minneapolis, he at the head of the table and me part of a group meeting with him. In the process of comparing notes, we discovered that we had once played basketball against each other in the tiny gym in his hometown of rural Alkabo, North Dakota, sometime in 1953-54 school year. (Here, you can actually see the school in which we played against each other over 60 years ago.)

Meeting over, Mr. Sabo and I went back to other things in our respective lives.

From a farm kid, Martin had become a very prominent citizen in my state. Before he died he was honored by having a building at his Alma Mater, Augsburg College in Minneapolis, named for him.

He had been a Minnesota State Representative 1961-1979, and after that a U.S. Congressman in Washington, from Minnesota, from 1979-2007. He and countless others made politics an honorable profession.

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I think of Martin Olav Sabo today because last Sunday I had the honor of presenting to his wife, Sylvia, a copy of the Minnesota Declaration of World Citizenship which Mr. Sabo and many others of both political parties in Minnesota proudly signed in March, 1971. You can view an 8 minute film clip about that Declaration here. His signature is on the second line, the House Minority Leader; in the first line above him, is the name of the Senate Majority Leader, Stanley Holmquist, who speaks in the film about the need for the Declaration of World Citizenship.

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Back then, and today, everyone of us were invited to participate in making our world a better place, from the simple act of voting, to actually becoming one who impacts on decisions.

Today are many openings for players on the court in our town which is called our country, our World.

How about you getting more practiced, more involved?

Basketball “rescued” from certain death in a shopping center parking lot April 24, 2017

“TEAM” AMERICA?

Why write about Basketball, when the topic of this post is so obviously politics in the United States of America, April 29, 2017?

Today, like that single night back in 1953-54, our entire country, and the world itself, is that “town”, and every single one of us are a crucial part of the cast of characters with roles that we may not be able to simply visualize or define. What I am doing for my team is important, but even more important, how is my team building a better and greater community for everyone, everywhere, far beyond my individual computer screen?

Of course, Basketball (and other team sports), like politics, involves competition, and winning and losing. Hubert Humphreys quotation at the beginning of this post was an expression of this reality. (Humphrey was a small town S. Dakota boy.)

Maybe it is the nature of humans to celebrate winners, not losers. We want the trophy, the prize. Cooperation is boring. As Sen. Humphrey pointed out, Compassion has lesser standing. Workers for compassion toil in the shadows of the news, until there is some catastrophe like a tornado, and then the attention is only fleeting.

But even in competition, team sports of all sorts need and value cooperation – “teamwork”. Anybody who knows team sports knows the problem when one of superior standing is allowed to “hog the ball” in one way or another. Ultimately, everybody loses including, most certainly, the supposed “winner”. Similarly a coach who is in it for him or herself alone, will not be a coach for long. Successful teams enroll and support everyone.

We also know that inevitably “winners”, even the best, ultimately lose. There is only one NBA champion each year. Very, very rarely are there dynasties, and they don’t last. So to with national dynasties: history is littered with the ruins of grandiose notions.

There seems a natural tendency to equilibrium, even in the simplest of matters.

Back in those long ago years, we kids used to play “king of the hill” on a snowbank or such. Whoever got to the top won, and instantly became a target for the others. The reign wasn’t long. And what was the point of winning? Not much, if viewed in the longer term.

Next year the Super Bowl (professional football) is here in the Twin Cities. Other than being disruptive to the lives of almost all of us who have to drive the roads, etc., the crowd in the arena will be only the tiniest of a portion of the entire population. Only a few can actually watch the gladiators in person, and most of these will probably follow most of the action on giant screens in the arena itself. Inside the stadium, “super boxes” will separate the most successful from the others.

Just attending the Super Bowl is a prize for winners, on the field and in the stands. It lasts a few hours, and then what?

Only one team will leave the field with the gigantic rings symbolizing victory, to be stored in a safe place. Of what real value is that ring, long term, to its owner, and his heirs?

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Beyond who won, and who lost last November, and beyond the polls that give instant assessments of non-reality, comes the life we all are living real time.

Succinctly, every one of us, everywhere, are all part of the team, from the greatest to the least, wherever we live in the world.

We best never forget that.

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A final thought:

Recently, I received an excellent summation on the practice of politics from a Liberal, a major elected officer in my state, who sent a quotation delivered by a Conservative Governor of Minnesota back in 1961.

The quotation was from inaugural address of newly elected Governor Elmer L. Andersen, already a wealthy man, and veteran state legislator, who said this to his House and Senate colleagues and, by extension, to his fellow citizens of Minnesota:

“May I say that my approach will not be one of extreme partisanship. It never has been. It will be my purpose to work with both groups of both houses, and with every individual legislator in achieving constructive legislation.

I am convinced that our people want and are willing to support a strong elementary and secondary school system’ they are proud of our great universities; they realize the importance of the state colleges and junior colleges. Likewise we want an excellent mental health program, a forward-looking correctional program, fine highways, humanitarian welfare programs, and all of the other essential services state and local government provide. However, it is essential that we have jobs and payrolls if we are to have the revenue to support all this.”

My correspondent said in conclusion “Governor Andersen was a remarkable leader, and we need more of his public-minded spirit and across-the-aisle consensus-building in all levels of government.”

I very much agree.

Competition? Fine. Mixed with a very large dose of Cooperation, working together for the betterment of all.

Get involved. There are many ways. Choose your own method, and get to work. We are the solution.

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