#744 – Dick Bernard: Some Proposals for this Fourth of July

Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune has a good quiz to test your knowledge of the U.S. The column, including link to the test, is here.

Heritage House, Woodbury MN Summer 2013

Heritage House, Woodbury MN Summer 2013

Today, July 4, is supposed to be a simple kind of day in the U.S. My daughter described it well: “grillin’ and chillin'”.
This particular July 4 is a tad more complicated, if one wants to pay attention to complexity. Edward Snowden is a man sort-of without a country in the Moscow airport; the President of Bolivia was detained somewhere since his plane was suspected of harboring Snowden; and then there is something going on in Egypt, whether bad or good depends on the interpretation. A good long summary of Egypt is here for anyone who wishes.
And then there is a matter of our own less than pristine history. A surprising post I saw yesterday about a monument to a major American mistake in one war came in yesterday. The writer is not a “usual suspect” for this kind of essay. You can read A Memorial to a Mistake here.
We don’t like to own mistakes….
There is tradition for us, today. Ordinarily the theme is some variation of War, down to the Fireworks tonight “the Bombs Bursting in Air….”.
A pretty typical musical version would be this song sent to me by a friend not long ago. It is very patriotic. Good tune. But I left this comment “Such an angry self-righteous song. I’m an honorably discharged Army vet from a family full of military vets. My uncle went down on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor. Saddam Hussein and bin Laden were our useful “friends” years before 9-11-01…how soon we forget. I’m lifelong U.S. and I love this country; but we are part of the world, not above it or in dominion over it.”
I’ll see if my comment is “approved”. I posted it July 2, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. CDT.
I’m a patriotic guy, but my patriotism is canted somewhat differently than the singers and fans of that song.
Just for consideration, I’d like to propose looking at some alternatives to a war-based celebration of our Independence.
All you need to do is to take a look, and make up your own mind:

1. I’m proud to be a Founding Member of the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation.
The Founder of this foundation, Dr. Michael Knox, is a friend of mine, and he noticed some years ago on a visit to Washington D.C. that there were no end to memorials to War, but reminders about Peace were in short supply.
Michael and I do not agree in all particulars about his project, but we are totally on the same page about celebrating Peace at least similar to our obsession with War.
Take a look, and consider becoming a member of the Foundation, and letting others know about this fledgling and important group.
2. A photographer and journalist I know, John Noltner, is continuing a nationwide project for which he has already achieved significant success.

I asked John for something I might add to this post. Here are John’s words about his project:
“What does peace mean to you?
It’s a question I have been asking people for the past four years for a
collection of portraits and personal stories called A Peace of My Mind.
The goal is to find the humanity in every person…even our adversaries.
Perhaps through hearing the stories of some who are like us, and others
who are quite different, we will be able to see past the rhetoric that
confounds our national dialogue and develop a more compassionate way of
engaging with the world…in our own families, our neighborhoods, and the
international community.
To hear some of the stories of people working toward peace, follow this link.”
Invest some time in learning about this project, and consider contributing to its success.
3. The Snowden affair reminds me of someone I’d never heard of till a couple of years ago, Garry Davis, who was a U.S. bomber flight crew in World War II. And after his brother was killed aboard a Destroyer off Italy, his bomber group bombed one of Germany’s large cities.
Davis could not get out of his mind the sense that one senseless killing – his brothers death in War – simply begat another – his bombing Germans.
He knew there were innocent victims down there below him, people like himself, and like others he knew. After the War he decided to renounce his U.S. citizenship and became a Citizen of a World, with tragi-comic results. He became a citizen of everywhere, but was accepted as a citizen nowhere.
He had idealistic intentions. His only crime was wishing to renounce war between nations as a solution to problems, and for a time he had a huge following of people equally sick of war, having just experienced World War II.
People working together to solve problems became Davis’ mantra.
His is a fascinating story. He is still living, but at 92 frail. Indeed, a movie of his life is in preparation – I’ve seen a long preview of it. You can watch the trailer here.
Watch the trailer – it’s 7 minutes – and consider contributing to the completion of this very important film of witness to peace. Here’s the link to do so.
4. Peacestock. Finally, for interested persons in the Twin Cities area who are interested in the policy topic of Peace, consider Peacestock on July 13, in rural Wisconsin not far from Red Wing MN. Here’s the link for that program. I’m a long-time member of Veterans for Peace.

#441 – Dick Bernard: The International Day of Peace; and a Dream for a U.S. Peace Memorial

UPDATE Sep 21: President Obama addressed the United Nations this morning on the issue of Peace. You can watch the entire address here.
Today, September 21, 2011, is the International Day of Peace, and odds are it won’t get a lot of attention in the main stream media.
That’s a shame.
We are a country, indeed a world, oriented to and dominated by war and enmity and death. Google the word “Peace” and there are, it says, 788,000,000 potential sources; but for “War” there are nearly three times as many sources: 2,240,000,000….
It’s just a sad fact.
But peacemakers are not a tiny diminutive bunch without a voice. There is lots of positive action in great numbers of places in diverse and positive ways.
Here are two focus points to help pay attention to this day:
1. One of a great many good sites about the International Day of Peace is Peace One Day. Take a moment to visit and look around the site of this pioneer organization dedicated to Peace One Day. And do something for Peace today. Here’s Google’s list about International Peace Day.
2. As to the Dream of a U.S. Peace Memorial, take a listen to founder Dr. Michael Knox on a Tampa FL Public Radio Station earlier this week. The interview is about an hour, and very interesting.
Make it a priority to listen to the interview today, and while you’re listening, visit the website for the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation here.
I’m honored to have been a Founding member of the Peace Memorial project since 2006. There are, thus far, 17 of we Minnesotans – thirteen individuals and four organizations – who have enrolled as Founding Members in Minnesota ($100 contribution to the cause); 11 – nine individuals and two organizations – who have taken the time to enroll in the Peace Registry*. We’re a small number, thus far, but it’s a start.
I would urge you to become similarly enrolled; and to let others know about this project. This is a project that will take many years to reach fruition, but people like ourselves need to build a foundation, now, to recognize Peace as a national and world priority, in the past, now, and in the future.
(There are many points of view about how to get to ‘yes’ on recognizing Peace. Dr. Knox would attest that he and I have had our own conversations and our own differences about the fine points.)
But I very enthusiastically join Dr.Knox in his commitment to build awareness of and support for a U.S. Peace Memorial.
In the meantime, have a great International Day of Peace today.
* – Founding Members here; U.S. Peace Registry here.

Dr. Michael Knox at Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, October, 2010

#379 – Dick Bernard: Memorial Day 2011. Confusing Times

Today I will probably attend a Memorial Day observance sponsored by Veterans for Peace near the Minnesota State Capitol; I’ll wear the Buddy Poppy purchased at Hibbing from a VFW member on May 13, and a Forget-me-not purchased from a Disabled American Veteran here in Woodbury a couple of days ago.
Yesterday I drove over to a Minneapolis Church and put up a display for and answered questions about World Citizen and A Million Copies. The founder of World Citizen, Lynn Elling, still living, was a Navy officer in WWII and again in Korea who witnessed the horrific aftermath of Tarawa Beach and has since devoted his life to seeking enduring peace. He is the subject of A Million Copies, along with Dr. Joe Schwartzberg, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. Joe is a military veteran in the Korean War era.
The ‘center piece’ for that display at the south Minneapolis Church was this photograph of Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank Bernard, in happier times in Hololulu, before he probably woke up just in time to die on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. He is one of a boat-load of members of my own family circles who served this country in the military, including myself.
Some did not return alive.

Frank Bernard of the USS Arizona at Honolulu HI sometime before December 7, 1941

So it goes.
Memorial Day is a day of mixed messages. We honor the fallen, true, but only our own.
In too many ways we seem to still revere War as a solution, when it never has been a solution: one War only begets the next, and worse, War…. Their deaths justify more deaths….
I offer two other websites this day – places to reflect on this business of Memorial Day.
The first is this from the Washington Post, a site with photos of our soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I did a rough count at this site, and it appears that in the year since the last Memorial Day, 132 in U.S. service have died in Iraq; 494 in Afghanistan. There have been 6,013 U.S. military deaths in all, just since 2001. Compared with WWII and Korea and Vietnam, the casualty numbers are small, which makes it easier to diminish our ‘cost of war’.
The deaths are tangible reminders of an endless debate over the need for or wisdom of War. This will be played out millions of times today, whenever somebody has a thought, or reads a paper or listens to radio or watches TV.
I looked at another long-standing website that has labored mightily to keep accurate records of the carnage in Iraq during the past decade: conservatively, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead from war – this in a country roughly the size and population of California. War is not one-sided, with only soldiers as victims. It is mostly innocent civilians who die.
The cost of war is far more than just our own cost in lives on the battlefield and, now, over a trillion dollars in national treasure just for Iraq. One of the last e-mails of the day, yesterday, was from a friend who had just attended a funeral of her friends husband “…62, mental illness, cancer, Agent Orange. His Purple Heart was there and other medals. His son [both are Marine vets] told me the Veterans Administration wouldn’t listen to his Dad. Do you know where [the son] could get some help?” Was that man a casualty of war too? There are lots of ‘walking wounded’.
I will follow up on the request. I’ll see what I can do.
We are a nation in love with War: if you’ve been to Washington D.C., or any State Capitol, see the monuments.
Can we act for Peace?
I’d invite you to visit the website for a group of which I am proudly a member, the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation.
Consider joining.