#342 – Dick Bernard: Part 12. Dropping in on Madison

“Dropping in on Madison” was a no-brainer for me on Friday. I was enroute to Chicago, and the car would have steered itself towards the Capitol at the Hwy 151 exit. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

Wisconsin State Capitol March 4, 2011

It was a gray afternoon, in the low 40s, when I parked near the Capitol about 1:30 p.m. Fifty miles down the road, into Illinois, the rain would begin.
All in all when I visited was a quiet time. A relative few protestors were on the sides of the building.
I had an open shot at some of the now-famous Ian’s Pizza, but passed on the opportunity…I’d just had lunch with Jermitt and Karen a few miles west at Portage (more on them in a following post).
I walked to the Capitol building past a large collection of news vehicles, ready to upload to the world news of happenings in Madison. Some nicely groomed guy, artificially front-lit, with the Capitol in the background, was preparing to do some report from the scene. Another reporter interviewed a solitary AFSCME worker. As I was leaving, some reporter and, probably his producer, were comparing notes on good places to eat in Madison. You can’t work all the time.
Such is how it is in the internet age of instant communications. The protesters know they need the media; the media knows they need protesters, the more unruly the better. Neither is much interested in “fair and balanced”. Somewhere out there is the audience, disconnected from the action by sometimes tens of thousands of miles, but with a front row seat nonetheless.
The next day, Michael Moore showed up at the Capitol while I was in Chicago, and without question he became a media event which I didn’t have the opportunity to see. Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Michael Moore, and he knows the rules of the contemporary communications game. I haven’t seen television since Friday, but I suspect the people in those mobile units, and behind the microphones and cameras got lots of audio and visual on Saturday, thanks to Michael Moore.
In my quite boring time by the Capitol, I became most captivated by a small gaggle of protestors. Their leader, with a bull horn, often supported by the group, was taunting the Governor who apparently was somewhere behind one of the windows in front of them. Everyone was very well behaved, though a bit raucous. Here’s my photo:

March 4, 2011, at the Wisconsin Capitol Building, approximately 2 p.m.

At one point a small roar came out of the assembled protesters. Apparently there was a sighting of someone inside a window of the Governors office. But that soon ended.
That scene defined as well as any the absurdity of such conflicts.
If by some wild chance the Governor had come out just to engage the group in civil conversation, the assembled group would have been dis-armed and probably not know what to do. Similarly, if that same Governor had said to the small group, “Come on up. Let’s talk,” there would have been a similar dilemma. Such is how it is in conflict mode.
When you’ve painted yourself into a corner, as the Governor and his legislature backers have, it is all but impossible to concede on any point, and a death struggle ensues.
Similarly, as the protesters are finding out already, the long haul on the line is very, very boring. Sooner or later you run out of speakers who can motivate; sooner or later the cameras and the people with the notepads and the microphones go on to the next crisis, and there you are, sitting by yourself on a damp, cold uninviting piece of pavement.
No question, I’m with the protestors in this crucial struggle to retain workers rights to organize and bargain. But the support comes with acknowledgment that being with them, even at a distance, requires some kind of formal commitment from me. Words like this are not enough.
Visit over, I headed for Chicago, and an unintended coffee at Wally’s Donuts the next morning…stay tuned.

#319 – Dick Bernard: "Watching" the State of the Union

I “watched” the State of the Union address in its entirety last night. The word is in quotes, because, while I sat in front of the TV, I mostly watched with my eyes closed.
In other words, I listened, like one would be forced to listen in pre-television and instant analysis days which in historical terms are really very recent.
I didn’t stick around for the responses of Reps Ryan and Bachmann. In historical terms, such responses are really very recent.
I have my own e-mailing list, and when I awoke this morning sent out the four overnight analyses received on internet, the first from the President himself, and advised readers that from this point out I’d send out only their own personal commentaries. The punditry and political ‘blab’ will be interminable and predictable. Talking heads, talking.
Nothing is left to chance in today’s management of news and images. Every single person sitting in the House Chamber last night knew that they were potentially on-camera every second. Their focus was likely not really listening either. Rather it was to have the appropriate stage-look: enthusiastic, bored, angry…. “You lie” was out this year, and good riddance. Rep. Gabby Giffords empty chair spoke volumes without saying a thing.
Personally, I thought the speech was very good, but that’s simply personal opinion. I’m a strong supporter of this President.

The President’s “Sputnik” comment really resonated with me: I was a Senior in high school when Sputnik launched in October, 1957, and in those years we occasionally watched Communism blink over Capitalism in the clear night sky of North Dakota: in those years, the newspaper published where and when to watch for the blink as Sputnik tumbled, reflecting light from the sun. I wish I would have kept one of those Fargo Forums including a tracking map.
I hadn’t cleared my Freshman year in college when Castro took over Cuba in 1959, and I was a Junior in college when John F. Kennedy was elected U.S. President in 1960; and in the Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. I saw the transition from then history to newer history, ‘boots on the ground’.
All of that was then. Back then, the war was over ideology; today, I believe, the War is over how or whether the generations which follow mine will survive or thrive. 1957-58, even with the much-played Red Menace of the Soviet Union, was a really simple time compared to today. We couldn’t imagine, then, even the possibility of running out of things, like oil; or other things, like the internet which has already been so much a force for good…and, yes, evil.
Now the debate begins about the future.
Frankly, I have zero interest in what the pundits say, or who the politicians blame.
I will focus on two quotations, one of Margaret Mead, the other of Gandhi, which “frame” the home page of my website which acknowledges the contributions of two of my personal heroes, Lynn Elling and Prof. Joe Schwartzberg.
Our future is NOT a spectator sport.
Either we’re on the Court helping to constructively fashion the solutions for our future in small or large ways, or we have no right to complain about the results.

#297 – Dick Bernard: Bells for Haiti, January 12, 2011

My post for today re Haiti.
January 10, 2011 post on Haiti

Twin Cities focus News Release
for the Bells for Haiti Committee:
Honoring Haiti, One Year Later:
Bells to Sound Across Minnesota on Wednesday, January 12th
City Halls, Churches, and Schools to Toll their Bells at 3:53 PM: Honoring Lives Lost in Haiti—and Recognizing Minnesotans who Helped

Contact: Therese Gales, American Refugee Committee
tel 612-221-5161;
Minneapolis, MN (January 11, 2011)—One year after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, churches, schools, universities, and city halls across Minnesota will toll their bells in unison on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake—Wednesday, January 12, 2011, at 3:53 PM CST—for 35 seconds, the duration of the Haiti quake.
The Bells for Haiti initiative—started by an ad hoc group of Haiti advocates from Minnesota—has garnered participation from around the country and Haiti. With support of Mayors Chris Coleman and R.T. Rybak and the Archdiocese of Minneapolis / St Paul, churches and schools in communities both small and large throughout Minnesota will toll their bells. Some participants include: Minneapolis City Hall, the Cathedral of St Paul, Luther Seminary, St Mark’s Episcopal, the Basilica of St Mary, Hamline University, St Olaf College— as well as small communities like the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis which is home to six Visitation sisters. Trinity Lutheran Church in Hovland, MN, on Minnesota’s North Shore is participating—the bells are caked in ice and snow today…if the church bells are unusable tomorrow, participants will bring their own bells to toll. Communities in Oregon, Chicago, Vermont, Florida, and Haiti are also participating. A full list of participants can be accessed here.
“In just 35 seconds, thousands of people in Haiti lost everything,” said Jacqueline Regis, a Haitian-American attorney and author who is also a member of the group organizing the “Bells for Haiti” effort. “Through Bells for Haiti, we want to bring people together a year after the quake to honor those who lost their lives, recognize the millions of people who still struggle to find hope—and also recognize people from all across Minnesota who stepped forward to help the people of Haiti.”
The earthquake took the lives of 250,000 people and left more than 1.3 million people homeless. A hurricane and cholera outbreak have also worsened the situation. At the same time, thousands of Minnesotans—concerned parents, doctors, school children, architects, teachers, nurses, and many more—stepped forward to help.
“We want Bells for Haiti to be a reminder—that we are stronger together than we are alone,” added Regis. “We want to tell the world that we remember… and will not forget.”
The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers are co-sponsoring the Bells for Haiti effort.
Two Twin Cities community events are known, which relate directly to Bells for Haiti:
Wednesday evening, Jan 12, at 6:30 p.m., a simple rice and bean memorial dinner will be offered at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 46th and Colfax Ave S in Minneapolis. The dinner will be followed by a memorial service at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome.
Thursday evening, 7 p.m., Ruth Anne Olson will read from her book Images of Haiti: Stories of Strength. The reading is at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1917 Logan Avenue South Minneapolis (north end of Lake of the Isles.)
UPDATE JANUARY 7, 2011: Interest/Momentum is building. Note Facebook entry. Please share with others you know who may have an interest.
A general news release describing Bells for Haiti which can be adapted for use anywhere is accessible here.
Visit the Bells for Haiti Facebook page, here.
Map comparing size of Minnesota and Haiti here.
Nearly a year ago, January 12, 2010, at 4:53 p.m. Haiti time, indescribable horror descended on Port-au-Prince and the mountains south of Haiti. Estimates vary, but as many as 300,000 lives were lost, and more than 1.3 million were, in an instant, left without homes. Government buildings, including the iconic Presidential Palace, were destroyed.
The catastrophe followed a season with four tropical storms which devastated Haiti in 2008; and was succeeded by a Cholera outbreak still raging.
Haitians are an indomitably hopeful people, impossible to defeat. But the events of the past eleven months can seem almost insurmountable.
After the quake, on April 26, 2010, 35 individuals representing 25 organizations with long term interest in assisting Haiti met in a Minneapolis church.
The sole purpose of the meeting was to begin to get to know each other.
Out of that initial event came a simple e-mail contact list. It was agreed to call the group KONBIT-MN/HAITI, essentially, a group whose sole purpose is to keep the conversation going between groups of diverse interests. Konbit-MN/Haiti has no meetings, no Bylaws, no Dues, no Fund Raising. Some would say that means it has no purpose, either. Why “Konbit” (pronounced “cone beet”)? The Kreyol definition Here.
It is through the idea of one member of KONBIT-MN/HAITI, and the joint effort of a working group of a dozen members of the alliance, that an idea, Bells for Haiti, came forth for remembering in some significant way the one year anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake, January 12, 2010.
“Bells for Haiti, January 12, 2011” is now on the web. Fliers in English and Kreyol are below. Click on either flier to enlarge it.

The details as now known are on a Facebook events page, where individuals including you, the reader, are invited to not only indicate your attendance at this virtual event, but also to help make others aware of the event wherever they live. The guest list is beginning to build, and with your help it can build exponentially over the next 28 days.
The Konbit Committee realizes that not every gathering place has bells. There is room for virtual bells; there is room for 33* seconds of silence at church services and other gatherings in the days immediately preceding January 12. Etc.
Different cultures have different traditions. For example, in Haiti an alternative may be beating on pans, bot teneb (defeat darkness). Individual groups can plan their own activities to mark January 12.
But the essential idea is call attention to an anniversary of an awful event in Haiti, and at the same time, enroll the entire community of humankind in working together for our mutual betterment as a world society that cares for each other.
You and/or your group are invited to join with KONBIT-MN/HAITI wherever you live, whatever you do.
Make the 33 seconds on January 12 a personal call to action for yourself.
THE GROUPS REPRESENTED BY 39 PERSONS ON KONBIT-MN/HAITI. Listing of an organization does not constitute an endorsement by that group of this activity, even though the representatives of Konbit are in agreement with this activity. Other groups are invited to join KONBIT-MN/HAITI. Simply respond to the author of this post (see about page for e-address)
Annunciation Catholic Church, Minneapolis; American Refugee Committee; Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis;Church of the Risen Savior, Burnsville MN; COFHED (Christian Operation for Health, Education and Development); El Milagro Lutheran Church, St. Paul; Fonkoze; Haiti Justice Alliance, Northfield MN; Haiti Justice Committee, Minneapolis; Haiti Outreach; Healing Hands for Haiti; Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis; Messiah Episcopal Church, Minneapolis, No Time for Poverty; Rotary International “City of Lakes” Club, Minneapolis; St. Albans Episcopal Church, Minneapolis; St. Clements Episcopal Church, Minneapolis; St. James Episcopal Church, Minneapolis; St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, St. Louis Park, MN; St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, Maple Grove MN; St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Minneapolis; St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Minneapolis; Spare Hands for Haiti; World Wide Village.
Other initial endorsers (co-sponsors) of this activity:
Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN)
Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP)
* – Estimates vary on the duration of the initial shock in the earthquake: 33 seconds is one estimate; 35-40 is another…whatever the actual duration, the devastation happened in hardly more than an instant.