The Fourth of July

Last evening I was continuing what seems to be a never-ending review of personal “archives” (what most would probably call “junk”).  In yet another envelope of pictures – this from the Busch-Berning family reunion in July 1993 – I saw this picture I knew I’d taken, but had misplaced for a long time.

On the back of the photo was the story: “Teddy Roosevelt was President when [my grandparent] Busch’s moved to ND [in 1905].  This Print was in glass frame – and in very bad condition.  Not worth saving.  Found in basement.  “Portrait” of all President of U.S. through Teddy Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was 26th President (24 are pictured.  Two were elected President twice, not consecutive.”

1993 was 28 years ago, and the print, sadly, no longer exists.  It is my evidence of the value of taking pictures, and saving too much stuff for too long.  Pictures indeed are worth a thousand words…or more.  If you look, closely, the Presidents are named at the base of the photo.  Roosevelt ascended to the Presidency after William McKinley was assassinated; and was elected in his own right in the 1904 election.  My grandparents bought their new farm in late 1904, and moved there in the spring of 1905.

Joe Biden is the 46th President of the United States; like Roosevelt was, a former Vice-President.

The Personal Dimension:

Until I found the photo, the title of this draft was “The 2%“, and the first lines as follows:

In 2010 I was at a celebration of a group called the Hawkinson Foundation which included honoring my friend, Rev. Veryln Smith, for his many years as a peace advocate.

Here is the tribute to Verlyn, as written for the event: Verlyn Smith001.  (Verlyn died in 2012, at 85.)

Verlyn offered his thoughts on peacemaking that evening, and one part of his talk has stuck with me these past years.

The premise I planned to explore in this blog was very simple:  as noted in the tribute to Verlyn (above link), the meat of his career was as a campus minister during the worst days of the Vietnam War.  In his spoken remarks, he said he had no particular attachment to the cause of peace at least initially, and as he thought back to those years, he guessed only perhaps 2% of the students could be considered peace activists.  Most were simply about proceeding with their education.  But the activist 2% made a huge difference, including to him, personally.

He made this remark to a room full of peace activists, who were giving him an award for his years of activism, and thus it has stuck with me.

This comment was amplified for me, twice, in the last 24 hours.

First, I began reading the outstanding new book, “Preventable” by Andy Slavitt, about the Covid-19 pandemic, now hopefully winding down at least a bit.

At page 96, Andy quoted his high school son Zach’s analysis about individuals making a difference: “…each of us can be responsible for 40 lives saved or lost [in the pandemic]…was the best way I knew to do that….”  Zach was just doing the simple math.  Everyone one of us can make things worse, or better, by our own behavior.

Then, this morning at Catholic Mass the Priest, an outstanding homilist, focused on a phrase in today’s Gospel reading, Mark 6:1-6, where Jesus was trying to make a difference in his home town of Nazareth: “3-Is he not the carpenter,* the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4* c Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

In other words, as so many of us internalize when we speak to those we know best, the feeling “what does he (or she) know?” is hard to shake.

Even Jesus was dismissed as just “the carpenter” in his hometown.

The point made at least to me was, “march on”; you must, to make a difference.

As for the photo which leads this post: in our society we have gotten very sloppy about our primary role in whether this country succeeds or fails.  Too many of us vote in the most superficial way, perhaps only once every four years for a single candidate, for President.  Great numbers of us don’t vote at all.

We are all the persons ‘in the mirror’.  We get exactly what we deserve.

Pay great attention to the obligation of informed voting for candidates for all positions.  The next election is 16 months away.  You have a great plenty of time to make a difference.

July 4, 2021


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