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Posts from the ‘Observations’ Category

6
Jun

VISITING HO CHI MINH’S MAUSOLEUM AND ENVIRONS

As a member of a group of American academicians sponsored by the Council On International Educational Exchange Seminar we met with Vietnamese colleagues at Hanoi University and University of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  Seminar theme:  VIETNAM”S HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES (January, 1993).  Journal entries provided information for a course I had been teaching for some years, namely,  VIETNAM AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.  The following journal entries have an interesting story to share and are indelibly held in memory.

“Wednesday, January 6
This day provided events I had wished to encounter for some years and insomnia the night before proved no detriment in savoring this fascinating day. We boarded our bus and traveled thru town and busy traffic to the square where Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. Dominating the area is the grey stone bulk of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The entire complex suggests the apotheosis of Ho as the embodiment of the secularist Marxist state. Prior to visiting the mausoleum we gathered in a small building to view a video describing the Mausoleum as to architecture and symbolism. The Mausoleum is an abstract presentation of traditional Vietnamese architecture, built of marble and precious wood drawn from all parts of Vietnam. Begun in 1973 and finished in 1975 it contains the embalmed body of Ho encased in a glass casket on top of a platform in a cold room guarded by soldiers standing at attention at the four corners of the casket. The Mausoleum is closed for two months each year when Ho’s body is sent to Russia for preservational treatment. Streams of Vietnamese march in file two by two in a steady stream as they enter the monument. Noticeable are the many children marched in double ranked file for veneration of Uncle Ho. We were required to leave our cameras on the bus. Lining up two by two we proceeded into the tomb following a wreath with a ribbon emblazoned with the group’s CIEE initials and carried ceremoniously by a soldier to be placed at the entrance prior to our entering the tomb room. I found viewing Ho emotionally moving, especially in respect for his single-minded tenacity in achieving independence for his people through a brilliant combination of political and military strategy and tactics. The evening prior our group thought the laying of a wreath was appropriate for American academicians. Three of our group were of the military and there was question whether they would have exceptions. They did not. Emerging from the mausoleum I purchased a set of stamps commemorating the career of Ho and the battle of Dienbienphu.

After taking pictures of the Mausoleum we walked by the structure that had housed the French Governor General, now a government building. We proceeded to Ho’s home nearby., very Spartan two-roomed quarters on the second floor. There was an open to the outside conference below.  In Ho’s private rooms were an old windup clock and a radio of 190 vintage. Ho’s home is located near a large pond and an approach to the pond where Ho would come and clap his hands to attract the goldfish for feeding.  I recall a photo of Ho performing this ritual he enjoyed so much.  We did the same with success clapping our hands and feeding the fish. In the immediate vicinity is the symbol of Hanoi, the One Pillar Pagoda built in 1049 under the Ly Dynasty, resting on one stone pillar that rises out of a lotus pool. We toured the museum nearby dedicated to the career of Ho and completed for his centennial birthday celebration. Exhibits chart his career with artifacts, displays, documents, letters, etc.  Interesting for an American is that from he Vietnamese perspective, even with Ho’s career, American involvement is only one phase and in terms of the history of Vietnam our involvement is a footnote while for us it is an exclamation point. On leaving the museum I had made the prior comment to a military historian and she thought the comment apt.

After lunch we proceeded to Hanoi University for our first sessions with Our Vietnamese colleagues. Presentations dealt with the history of Vietnam  particularly focusing on “renovation”, their term for Gorbachev’s perestroika. Basically they are seeking an economic model to make Vietnam wealthy in a manner supposedly consonant with Marxism. (Shades of contemporary China). That evening we shared a banquet with our hosts at our hotel. Eating with chop sticks and sharing conversation proved stimulating. I had an extended chat with a student who had spent time in Australia and was majoring in philosophy. He seemed uncomfortable that Marxism was being taught as truth.  He was obviously skeptical.  Apprehending truth, I observed, might be a more tentative enterprise and, therefore, the communitarianism of Marxism and the individualism of the Anglo-American tradition might be pragmatically combined.  This student had never been to Ho’s tomb as, he stated, Ho wished to be cremated and, furthermore, Uncle Ho should not be deified.  Also noted at this banquet was the fact that Vietnamese men are heavy smokers much to the discomfort of many Americans.”

Several days later a colleague and I, both teaching American involvement in Vietnam courses, visited the War Museum.  The journal records the following fascinating experiences.

“Before visiting the War Museum we took pictures of a statue of Lenin across the street in an attractive small park.  Visiting the Army Museum was emotionally moving.  Tracing the military history of Vietnam spanning centuries confirmed the relatively minor role of America in this saga of people’s’ success in repelling invasion and foreign domination. The French presence and ultimate defeat at Dienbienphu and removal after the 195 Geneva Convention brooks largely in the story. Interestingly, however, in aiding historical perspective from the Vietnamese perspective  is the placement of a huge tank (American) at the main entrance – a tank used in the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.  An inner court has heaped in a gigantic pile the broken parts of B-52 American bombers with a Russian Mig fighter aircraft triumphantly displayed resting on top of the American junk pile. Various artillery pieces, missiles, American armoured carriers are displayed.  Touring buildings take the visitor through the French phase, 1946-1954, presenting photographs, documents, and artifacts. Dienbienphu is the key battle described and illustrated.  A room in another building treats the American phase commencing with 1955 but concentrating on the period after escalation in 1965.  Captions read:  THE UNITED STATES AND ITS PUPPETS.  Especially poignant is a heaped mound of Pilots’ helmets, flight jackets, various arm patches and insignia.  The famous photo of a depressed LBJ in the Oval Office after the Tet Offensive in 1968 hangs prominently on the wall. adjoining this display is another huge room again displaying artifact from the American phase dominated by a tank that crashed through the gates of the Presidential palace in Saigon at the final collapse of South Vietnam in April, 1975.”

See this Bartling Scholarship web site Home Page under Lectures (written works) for the course syllabus of The Vietnam Wars And The American Involvement. Introducing the syllabus to the Bartling Scholarship web page I wrote: “American Involvement was still uppermost in American consciousness in the decade of the eighties.  Consequently I felt the need to design and offer a course on the subject. The course was prepared on sabbatical in 1987 at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

31
May

YEAR 84 – ANNIVERSARIES AND CONTINUED BLESSINGS

On the cusp of my 85th birthday (6/3/1928) a retrospective musing on YEAR 84 may be in order. Ruth and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary on December 27th, 2013. Anniversary observance was shared with four Twin Cities families that included mates and several grandchildren. High point of a delightful family gathering was sharing with each a copy of the homily I read that my father delivered at our wedding.  The homily text based on Isaiah 43 read: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. ”  Theme:  THOU ART MINE.  Subsequent to the family anniversary we shared a special evening with a daughter and mate  who were celebrating their twenty- fifth wedding anniversary on the same date as Ruth and myself.

Recently Concordia University observed the annual Employee Recognition Service. Recognized are years of service to Concordia University, St. Paul. Another category recognizes years of Service to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  The program notes in my behalf read:

Fred Bartling – 60 years

Fred came to Concordia in 1961 to teach at Concordia Academy and joined the College and  University faculty until his retirement in 1991. He treasures his years with the academy boys having experienced prep school at Concordia in Milwaukee, Wis. Fred’s tenure was most pleasurable and he thanks his colleagues, students and Lord or the privilege of his teaching vocation.

A footnote.  What appear above is the result of editing what I wrote. Dealing with teen age young men demands gentleness and understanding. I had experienced prep school and was familiar with the drill. I never had many problems with discipline. I simply responded to reality: “You can’t fight ’em – join, em”. We shared, in the main, personal regard and learned much socially and intellectually along the way. At the College and University level I taught a wide range of courses relating to American history. Especially meaningful for me was lecturing and sharing friendship with minority and South-East Asian students and developing new curriculum resulting from the Civil Rights 60’s. Matters of race, gender, and social equality had to be addressed.  This I did with passion.

YEAR 84 – ANNIVERSARIES AND CONTINUED BLESSINGS

A RESPONSE

Well advanced in age and well past the Biblical three-score and ten life has a new verve and satisfaction here at Becketwood – numerous new friends, couples, opportunities to serve in the cooperative. Ruth has committee assignments and so do I. Physical activity remains important and our individual choices in that regard are individual,  except in summer when the beach beckons. Relative good health has been a special blessing. But at heart – the attraction and love that bound us remain as always assured.  Most importantly the meaning and purpose of our marriage is our children, their mates, and grandchildren. The pleasure I had as father of six children enriched my life. Raised them in a shared playfulness and permissiveness, and, in my view, parenting without letting ethical value lose foothold is fundamental. Parenting discussed in my blog at this website regarding pygmy parenting sets the tone. I have little use for law unless it is informed by grace as bedrock for meaning in life. Law is the schoolmaster to draw us to the Gospel. I hope some of those values were reflected in dealing with family and marriage, and my relationship to my students over five decades.

My maternal forebears chose Psalm 103 as The Family Birthday Psalm. As a member of that lineage I claim Psalm 103 as My Birthday Psalm.  At age eighty-five with long life comes the reality that the day is far spent and the shadows of evening are lengthening. But Underneath are the Everlasting Arms. “Praise the Lord, my soul!” Psalm 103 is a hymn declaring the vastness of God’s love as supremely shown in love and compassion of his people as sinners and upholding them as frail mortals.  Indeed, “Praise the Lord, my soul!”

23
May

REFLECTIONS: THE FUTURE OF RACE

Recently Reflections, the Yale Divinity School’s biannually published magazine of theological and ethical inquiry,  crossed my desk. The spring theme of 2013 Reflections is: The Future of Race.   Gregory Sterling, Dean of Yale Divinity School, writing From the Dean’s Desk, observes that the last election season “virtually ignored race as an issue. It is naïve to think that we have moved beyond race . . . (race remains) a contentious field of resistance and hope”. Dean Sterling notes that the “dehumanizing history of slavery is still with us. A weary reluctance to face it remains with us too.” The dean points to tensions between black and whites, demographic shifts with the eclipse of the white majority and increase Latino and Asian-American numbers. Spring Reflections contains some thirty contributors with their take on contemporary issues regarding race.

On the home page of this website under FRED’S STORY is a piece I completed in January, 2008.   Shaped By History is introduced as: “Living in the deep South during the Civil Rights Revolution. Learning to distinguish between American Ideal and American Reality. A Historian’s reflections of personal experiences in developing and teaching African-American and Women’s  American History”.  The essay optimistically concluded: “The morning after the January 6, 2008 Democratic presidential caucus in Iowa the Minneapolis Star Tribune featured a political cartoon. Pictured is Martin Luther King, Jr. reading the paper headline Obama Wins with a background sign I HAVE A DREAM. King is musing Somebody Pinch Me! What a remarkable path America has journeyed . . . when the front running Democratic Party presidential candidates are an African-American male, Barack Obama, and a female, Hillary Clinton! Questions of race or gender no longer disqualify anyone for consideration for presidential candidacy. Without question the American ideal of freedom, justice, and equality is closer to reality today than it was forty-seven years ago. . . . Having lived through the Civil Rights Revolution and the struggle for political, economic, and social equality during the Sixties I am confident regarding the ultimate closer achievement of that struggle. Study of American history has shown the redemptive nature of American reform tradition urging American reality to reflect more clearly American idealism.”

Shortly after completing Shaped By History I came across an essay questioning overly optimistic assessments  of the Civil Rights Revolution. The article asserted: “It is a false idea that there is unity in progress and that things change in one big step'”. With progress, perhaps,  I noted,  comes,  backlash. 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, fifty years after the March on Washington, and the recent reelection of the first African-American president is it naïve writing in 2008 that American racial, gender, and equality “reflect more clearly American idealism”.  I concur with that view but have come to be more cautious in assessing progress. Results of the Civil Rights Sixties has resulted in American reality reflecting more clearly American idealism. Reform movements, however, urging racial, gender, and social justice do not change “in one big step”.  Constance vigilance in championing the American Reform tradition is essential.

18
May

SHEEPSKIN (PIGSKIN) WOOLFSKIN – RHETORICAL FAUX PAS

cartoonblogRecently on Mother’s Day (5/12/13) the Star Tribune social/political cartoon on the Opinion Page  pictured a student graduate with sheepskin (diploma) clutched in hand and a vicious wolf (woolfskin) with threatening incisors clutching the graduate’s back side with student debt as a tattoo inscribed on its mangy fur.

Sheepskin immediately caught my attention reminding me of a rhetorical faux pas uttered from my pulpit some fifty-five years ago. My first charge after ordination was to develop a town-gown congregation and church at Washington State College (university today) in Pullman, Washington. Property had been purchased and a church built adjoining the WSU athletic facilities and football stadium. Students were to graduate that afternoon. In a rhetorical high note I observed: “When you get your pigskins this afternoon”.  Imagine the delight of students imagining literally hundreds of pigskins (footballs) being tossed about at the forthcoming commencement exercises. Rhetorical faux pas, indeed, but harmless.

On another occasion on a Mother’s Day observance in the prayers ending worship I read from a pamphlet of prayers prepared for the various Sundays of the church year. Trusting previous use of those prayers I failed to read the prayer or add my input  prior to reading that prayer.  Imagine my consternation when the line appeared and there was not chance to carefully edit my words. The clerical rhetorician could only forge forward stating: “Pray God to preserve us from CARD PLAYING, BEER DRINKING MOTHERS.”  Too late and mortified the rhetorical faux pas was counter to my feminist persuasion in that pre-feminist time. What can be more fun then playing cards and drinking beer with mothers!  I did  that with my six children’s mother and her women friends, all mothers, for sixty years. A colossal rhetorical faux pas and actually a law oriented counter grace theological take.

Which goes to prove: a speaker’s pulpit or classroom podium makes one vulnerable to the rhetorical faux pas! The preacher or professorial lecturer must be mindful of embarrassment or misunderstanding that awaits when uttering a too glib or poorly constructed statement.  Merriment or misunderstanding lie in wait.

7
Mar

Teacher/Student – Intellectual Teeter-Totter

March 7, 2013

The following is a revision of remarks made at FREDSTOCK – the public introduction of ( fall of 2011) The Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship.

“The teacher, in the process relevant to the academic discipline or subject taught, must analyse educational aims and the methodological approach to learning. This process ought to occur in relationship to the teacher’s personal quest for knowledge, self-fulfillment, and meaningful relationship with the surrounding world context.  What applies to the teacher applies to the student as well.  In terms of the academic disciple being taught the teacher evaluates the student’s search for knowledge and meaning.  This appraisal, however, is consistent with the maturity and quality  of the student’s search for knowledge and self-fulfillment.

Formal education can be defined as the teacher “drawing out” a student’s internal powers and potential; as the supplying knowledge of the external universe; or fostering a meaningful relationship for the student between self and the physical social environment. Education, so defined, pertains to both teacher and student.

The instructor follows the guideposts of philosophy to shape his intellection, that is,  the analytic, evaluative, speculative, and integrative functions of philosophy. This is done to scrutinize the validity of answers the teacher propounds in response to the questions posed  by the teacher’s discipline. The educator-teacher must constantly evaluate beliefs by philosophic analysis.

The student, as well, should be involved in creating a coherent philosophy of life drawn, in part, from the teacher’s discipline. If the foregoing bears consistency it follows that the capable teacher is the kingpin of the educational task. On one end of the teeter-totter log will do for the artful teacher – the other end belongs to the student. The only relevant question the teacher poses in self-evaluation is whether a contribution has been made for self and student. A teacher’s aim will be to develop the best in each student  in terms of potential in achieving the apex of development. This is achieved applying philosophical method to the educator’s discipline and the teacher’s understanding of that discipline. Thus both student and teacher-educator are in perpetual dialogue of mutual evaluation as both together quest for knowledge that adds the dimension of meaning to their lives.”

1
Feb

NAPOLEON’S WATERLOO – Military Miniatures

February 1, 2013

One of my Academy “lads” favored me with four photos of his erstwhile hobby displayed in his newly purchased display case military miniatures depicting Napoleon’s Waterloo.  Tim Utter, admission counselor at Concordia University, was an Academy student during the years I was an Academy instructor during the early and mid-sixties. Tim is a member of the Academy class that inaugurated The Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship two years ago. He is a respected friend and a knowlegeable lay historian. We have been sharing dialog regarding the miliary miniatures illustrating Napoleon’s Waterloo debacle. We share verbatim that dialog.

(Tim) Fred, Happy New Year:

Back in 1965, I started a strange hobby:  painting military miniatures. The hobby ended about 1980, but in recent years I bought a display case. Thought you might appreciate the attached pictures . . . 1,100 figures in all, illustrating scenes from the Battle of Waterloo. Best wishes to you and Ruth. 1/18/2013

——————

(Fred) What a wonderful and serendipitous surprise. Recently at lunch with one of your classmates I was given Victor Hugo’s Les Miserabiles.  A huge volume of some 1200 pages. I read a few sections daily. Marvelous writing with an interesting plot for a history buff. Just completed a few evenings ago Book First WATERLOO, pages 265-312. – a careful description of the battle. Your visual depiction helps my understanding. Now I can visualize what a “square” meant and implied. Your display of the building gave insight what was involved. I suspect you may have been aware or even read Hugo’s account of the battle. Your hobby is not strange at all but most meaningful. Do you plan to take this up again as a hobby – nice way to go as you approach retirement? I ran into Hugo in Vietnam as he is enshrined as an important spiritual teacher (French Indochina connection no doubt). I have a blog on the Cao Dai and saw a painting (picture) of Hugo at their temple entrance. (See blog on this site: Bahai and Cao Dai Religious Sects:  Syncretistic Monotheism, 11 /4//2012)  1-18-201

——————

(Tim) Yes, “squares”  were formed to repel cavalry attacks. That is why cavalry attacks at an enemy’s wings, then sent in mass infantry columns to break the center – which he did at Waterloo. It was the same strategy used by Lee at Gettysburg, implemented as Pickett’s charge.  And,like Lee,  Napoleon had tried to soften up the enemy with a huge artillery barrage. However, at Waterloo, Wellington’s Anglo-Allied Army had laid down on the reverse slopes of the small hills, waiting for the artillery barrage to end and awaiting the infantry column in turn. Ultimately, Marshal Blucher’s timely arrival with his Prussian Army that rolled up Napoleon’s right flank completed the victory.

Wellington and Blucher met at the small village appropriately named “LaBelle Alliance.”  While the battle was actually fought at Mont St. Jean.  Wellington chose to name the battle after his headquarters at Waterloo – much more anglo-sounding. By the way . .  when Churchill died, he made arrangements that his political rival, Charles DeGaulle, would be forced to come by train to Waterloo Station, rather than the more convenient Victoria Station. (1-28-2013)

———————

(Fred)  Very interesting and informative. Ruth agrees this would be interesting for a blog on The Bartling Scholarship.  I would need your permission. And if so would you send me again the pictures of your Military Miniatures displayed in your new cabinet? Cordially – Fred  Regarding my great-great grandfather Wilhelm Koehler – “was a sixteen year old volunteer in the infantry (Blucher’s Prussian Army) against Napoleon at Waterloo . . . experienced a shot (wounded as well) through his jacket and spent the entire evening on three dead French soldiers.”  (1-29-2013)

———————–

(Tim) You certainly have my permission . . . a privilege. Wow!  Such detailed information about Wilhelm Koehler!  If he was killed (Fred notes – not “killed” but wounded) as part of the Prussian advancement thru the village of Plancenoit (i.e. Napoleon’s right wing), you might appreciate this  . . . http://walkingwaterloo.blogspot.com/2009/04/plancenoit.html  (1-31-2013)

…………………………

(Fred) additional information regarding Koehler found in Genealogical Data and Historical References I prepared for my maternal lineage:  “Wilhelm Koehler b .3/11/ 1797 – d. 3/23/1875.  Hanover – chief  forester of Eilenreid near the Hanover ‘Pferderturm’ (Horsetower). Koehler volunteered at age 16 for the rifleman’s corps of Kielmannegg and fought near Waterloo against Napoleon’s forces. In 1863 he was awarded the royal Guelphen Badge.” In another source a grandson observed: ” At sixteen he participated in the battle of Waterloo as a volunteer from Bremen; he was wounded and slept the whole night on top of three Frenchmen who were dead — he said”.  I have a small photo from my mother’s photo album of Wilhelm in uniform with his wife. Both in later life, perhaps close to the year 1863 when Wilhelm received his honorary badge. (1-30-2013)

………………………….

What a distinct pleasure to share dialogue with my former student and subsequently as friend over many years. Meaningful friendship and respectful dialog adds special meaning and purpose to life.

18
Nov

“Godly Gossip” / “Bountiful Feet Announcing Good News”

November 18, 2012

The 1953 graduating class of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis numbered 102 graduates. That class of which I was a member will observe shortly 60 years of ministry. Over the course of the past fifteen years  Rev. Dr. Arlo Nau has kept classmates in touch by occasionally sending news of classmates headlined: Godly Gossip. Of the original 102 graduates 57 are still living. Members of the class came from the various Concordia colleges. Concordia College, Milwaukee sent  21 of us to Concordia Seminary in the fall of 1948.  Of that number 12  of the original number celebrate with their nine living classmates but “on another shore and in a greater light”.

As a postscript to Godly Gossip classmate Arlo has requested remaining classmates submit a brief piece describing an experience in ministry that resonates personally.  He plans to gather what classmates submit in booklet form.  I offered the following:

“Recently a celebratory event (10/17/2012) served as capstone for my teaching ministry. First some background as preparation for that event. The Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship was established by Concordia Academy students at their fiftieth class reunion two years ago to honor my role as their teacher. One year ago FREDSTOCK (10/28/2011) was an event celebrating five decades of teaching ministry at Concordia University, St. Paul. The Fredstock theme reflected my emphasis when lecturing often stressing freedom, justice, liberty, and equality both as idea and reality in American history. The Fredstock theme also reflected my earlier Sixties and Seventies years teaching at Concordia when I sported long hair and sideburns, wearing a collection of necklaces, and a purse strapped to my shoulder. Teaching emphasis was a response to experiences of ministry in the Jim Crow South in the late Fifties and early Sixties and subsequently when engaged in graduate studies in American history. The Fredstock event marked the major effort to fund the $50,000 endowment scholarship in my wife’s and my name. Scholarships are awarded to history/social science majors. This fall the scholarship reached $32,000 and became a funded endowment making possible the first scholarship award. The second annual Bartling Lecture Convocation (10/17/2012) was the opportunity to present the first Bartling Scholar. The Scholar is a senior majoring in history (my teaching discipline) and plans to go to seminary to become a clergyman. He visions himself serving the church in whatever way the Lord leads him. Indeed, fitting capstone for my teaching ministry.”

My ordination took place at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Richmond Heights, Missouri on July 26, 1953 with my father officiating. He presented me The Pastor’s Companion, a small companion of orders of service, psalms and prayers.  He inscribed:

To    Frederick A. Bartling

Your ordination day,

8th Sunday after Trinity

July 26, 1953

From      Victor Bartling

(Romans 15, 29)

Upon the occasion of observing my fiftieth year of ordination Dr. Robert Holst of  Concordia University, St. Paul  wrote,  May 15, 2003:

“Fifty years of service to the church is a commendable achievement. You have served the church with your wisdom, your theology, your care for students and their learning, and your global awareness. We at Concordia are glad that a portion of your career was spent on this campus.”

Presented on that occasion in calligraphy lettering:

how bountiful are the feet of those who announce Good News  How can they believe unless they have heard of Him? How can they hear unless there is someone to preach? How can they preach unless they are sent?  Romans 10: 14-15

5
Nov

Why We Love To Hate Politicians

November 5, 2012

Four days prior to the General Election Dr. Charles (Chuck)  Graham presented a lecture: Why We Love To Hate Politician.  His audience was his fellow Becketwood Cooperative members. Known as Chuck here at Becketwood he is beloved and respected and a  stimulating contributor to Mancave discussion.  With a doctorate in political science he served as an aid to Senator Proxmire of Wisconsin in Washington, served as  professor,  and is President Emeritus of St. Cloud and Hamline Universities.  I took notes of his lecture much as I did as an undergraduate and graduate student.  Because of interest and relevance to the current political scene I share my notes. I  realize consideration of the subjectivity of what I recorded is to be taken into account.  But I attempted to be faithful in recording what I heard.

Why do politicians behave as they do?  Why the often negative view of politicians? As Mark Twain put it politicians are “Like diapers need changing and for the same reasons.”  Running down politicians is sport for many. Politicians have to please their constituents but this is a very difficult thing to do. Politicians have to speak in generalities to avoid offending. Only recourse is to dodge  matters and hedge their statements. Campaign rhetoric can be a hazard and backfire. Recall Romney’s recent attack on Sesame Street’s Big Bird, or his undercutting FEMA prior to Sandy and his need in recent days to support FEMA.  Politicians have to tread a fine line having to be politically realistic and also champion the personal mandate of ideological principle. Recall President George H.W. Bush campaign rhetoric “Read my lips – No new Taxes.”  The realistic necessity of “new taxes” may very well be the cause of his one term presidency. Life is, therefore, very difficult for the politician due to the very complexity of the voter constituencies in terms of religion and ethnicity. Nineteenth century American political landscape, on the other hand,  was rather uniform – rural, agricultural, Protestant, and white. A much more welcoming context for the politician.

Europe has a multiparty political system. Each political area has proportionate representation.  Our system  having one party candidates makes it necessary to seek allies inside the party. This leads to contention. We think  in terms of groups and not as individuals. This necessitates building coalitions. Consider the New Deal coalition of FDR  joining Southern conservatives with Northern business interests.  The parties are after the same constituents. Sharp opinions are expressed often with vitriolic language.  This results in the need for negativity in the give-and-take of American democratic politics.  Negativity is further increased in our contemporary political system influenced by TV political advertising. There is a need for political compromise but gridlock  seems inevitable. Politicians need to make deals and compromise. Politicians must determine for principle (their mandate) or compromise. Which shall it be?  Added to this is the need for campaign funding. “Deep Pockets” become involved but those interests are not for all and may represent political extremes. It is hard to have democracy function well with extreme divisive issues such as abortion or gay marriage.

Dr. Graham suggested that actually Romney and Obama  are really rather close  in viewpoint (  observe how in view of Hurricane Sandy Romney now embraces a role for FEMA).  Once in office in either case the parties can come together in political compromise.

29
Oct

Yankee GI Confronts Jim Crow

October 29,2012

Conversation in the Becketwood Mancave (basement workroom) recently had a Yankee GI veteran describe a confrontation he had  with segregation in the Jim Crow wartime South. A gentleman in his early nineties and a quietly reserved Mancave regular, raised in Minnesota, stated he had virtually no awareness of or  interaction with African-Americans prior to military training in the South during WWII.  He recalls his dismay and lack of understanding as to either the nature, history, social context, or rationale of Jim Crow racial segregation he experienced in the South.. Why separate black and white water fountains, rest and waiting  rooms?  Read more »

1
Oct

Memorable Events in my Mother’s Life

September 30, 2012

As family archivist my sister recently placed into my care some of our father’s courtship correspondence with our mother spanning the years 1916 through 1919.  Among the letters was a Chicago Tribune clipping, yellow with age, describing Chicago’s celebration of the Armistice with Germany, November 11, 1918.  After some thought the presence of these clippings included among her prized love letters was for me not too surprising.

On one occasion I recall asking my mother at her rather advanced age what events in her life stood out in memory. Without hesitation she announced: “The Two Wars”.   Read more »