Parting is such sweet sorrow

For the past several weeks Supt. Gronseth’s right and left arms have been negotiating contracts for their own superintencies. Amy Starzecki is headed to Superior, Wisconsin and Mike Cary will take over at Cloquet. These are two of the smartest administrators I’ve worked with and they are leaving at a time of financial penury for ISD 709.

Cloquet and Superior are lucky indeed.

Make of this what you will. The Trib will no doubt paper this over with cheerleading since they look on worryworts with such disdain.

News from Palm Beach

Attendance dropped as much as 90 percent at a gun show 52 miles and four days removed from Florida’s deadliest school shooting amid controversy over how prominent signs should be and whether the event should be held at all, the show’s promoter said Sunday. “It was very awkward timing,” said Kevin Neely of Brooklyn Firearms Co. “People are angry,” he said. “Do I blame them?…
http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/attendance-signs-down-gardens-gun-show-faces-awkward-timing/4WH8qOeSITWpOFNLnus8GN/

Before the Black Panther

I am very pleased by the success of the new Black Panther movie.

My littlest grandson, as white as he can be, has been salivating to see this movie for a month. Maybe we will take him to see it while we are in Florida this week.

For struggling minority kids this will be even bigger. The Panther, not poor suicidal Tom from To Kill a Mockingbird, will give them a much bigger lift.

It reminds me of Shaft in the 1970’s who gave black Americans their first ever big bucks celluloid hero. That movie spawned the blaxploitation Era of movies with black supermen.

Shaft was the brainchild of Minnesota’s own Gordon Parks whose book a Choice of Weapons I suggested as an alternative to Mockingbird. After years of Step’n Fetchits in our movies Parks knew that Black America needed to see much stronger role models.

In the Era of Obama it’s not so critical but it’s still necessary.

The downside of a good stereotype

Here’s a quick read from NPR.

We’ve come to Florida’s Atlantic coast with the King of Stereotyping our golfing President. And due, I guess, to the Parkland massacre he’s breaking stereotype and isn’t out on his greens.

2018-02-18_08-50-29

We got our grandsons away from the non-stop Parkland coverage on FOX news to throw breadcrumbs to Great Grandpa’s muscovy ducks. This is supposed to be a vacation

Nolan’s retirement has opened the floodgates

But this and other stories – the latest school massacres, years of Russian political meddling, the latest embarrassment for evangelicals who pronounced that Donald Trump is God’s instrument on Earth – can wait. We are taking our grandsons to Florida north of the massacre.

I’m not taking my computer but there is always the chance I might hazard a post on my cell phone. Or not.

Visitors during the upcoming period of quiescence are encouraged to type interesting topics into lincolndemocrat’s search function in the upper right hand corner to see what turns up. I have put millions of words online to search. As I always tell people. “I have more opinions than you can shake a stick at.”

Be advised, I spell out the “N” word in the following column – four times!

Don’t worry. I’m sure the defenders of Harper Lee and Mark Twain won’t mind.

Oh, and the Reader found or made up this cool graphic for the column I wrote: Kicking the “N” word out of ISD 709


ONE LONG FOOTNOTE:

For the second time in the last couple of weeks Linda Grover (a fellow columnist) tackles the same subject I have. Her’s is a more measured response whereas mine is a pissed off reaction to some national finger pointing at Duluth’s prissy, parochial, sensitivities as imagined by a bunch of smug, know-it-all elitists.

The one thing both columns share is an awareness of what its like to have your race made a subject of scorn in a classroom. Linda Grover, a proud Ojibwa Indian, recalls Twain’s “Injun Joe” as being a pretty hard pill to swallow. I’ll bet Sammy would have felt the same way.

Sammy was an Osage Indian kid in my sixth grade class. After hearing the author of Killers of the Flower Moon on NPR last year I have added the book to my reading list. I can’t help but wonder if Sammy’s grandparents were murdered for their mineral rights too. Solving the murders is what made today’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ironically, today President Trump is trying to kill the FBI with the help of a lot of Republican Congressional stooges.

Coda Coda

Before the day is out I will write a second coda of sorts to the previous post which I billed as a coda or the last word on the subject of the Twain and Lee books being taken out of 709’s curriculum. Saner heads have spoken out since the DNT first suggested that this curriculum change was an assault on civil rights. Perhaps the best so far comes from a Denfeld teacher Brian Jungman who concludes with these thoughts:

I would ask that white readers consider what would happen if the district required a book that explains why women should be treated equally and the dangers of sexism but that did so by mentioning the c-word more than 60 times. I don’t think we would be surprised to find out our female population was offended. So why does the n-word — when used to that same degree — get a pass?

Atticus said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I think this is what we need to do because my worry here in this debate is not that we are being Atticus. I worry that we might be Atticus’ Maycomb, Ala.

My coda will be for my next Not Eudora Column in the Duluth Reader coming out Thursday. I’ve already written two of them but each day some new angle begs for a better response. And what I will likely respond to is this self righteous email written to our current school board (no longer including me) that cries out for a riposte:

To members of the Duluth School Board,

Good job Duluth. Let’s ban more books. How about a public book burning. While your at it why don’t you ban these important books in order to reveal your Fascist colors. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Call of the Wild, The Autobiography of Malcom X, Beloved, Catch-22, The Jungle

But that will be for later today before the Duluth Reader’s submission deadline. For now I want to keep practicing my French. I’ve averaged about thirty minutes a day of practicing the language for two months. I hope to be semi-conversant before I arrange a visit to France in September on 100th anniversary of end of World War I. I’ve also begun a self-directed course of French History reading. I’m holding off on writing more about my Grandfather for the time being but that too involves the issue of the integration of black American’s into the life of the Nation. And I’ve got another trip planned this time with grandchildren. And I have three days of church activities ahead of me before my departure including an Ash Wednesday Service, a choir practice, a men’s group meeting, a pancake flipping dinner and the church building and grounds committee meeting. Pretty busy week for an agnostic like me.

The blog may suffer as a result of my other preoccupations but I don’t plan to.

CENSORING MARK TWAIN AND HARPER LEE? Coda

One of Duluth’s teachers who was brought up short by our Administration’s decision to pull Harper Lee and Twain out of the curriculum makes this argument quoted in today’s DNT editorial:

“There is no substitute. There is no novel that accomplishes what ‘Mockingbird’ does, and why anyone would deny (it) to students in a time when intolerance, violence, ignorance, and self-righteousness are rampant, I cannot possibly understand.”

I DISAGREE! Continue reading

Washington’s slaveless plantation

The public radio program “This American Life” features wondereful stories including this one by Azie Dungey. She recounts her summer as an employee at George Washington’s home, now a national park Mt. Vernon. A black woman she was hired to portray a real black slave on the President’s Virginia plantation. She was expected to stay in character as visitors asked her about her life on the plantation. As mentioned in the previous post Americans are distressingly clueless about black Americans and Azie shares her experiences with a selection of this surreal ignorance.

A taste:

“or they immediately asked questions with obvious answers that they just hadn’t thought through. Why don’t you go up to Massachusetts and go to school instead of being a slave. one person asked? Right, as soon as I can get rid of this very obvious brown skin, steal a horse and a map that I can’t read, I will be on my way.

Or they’d go into immediate denial mode, like the old woman who out of nowhere yelled at me, George Washington had no slaves. I said, yes, he did. She responded, no he didn’t. And this went on, back and forth until her son got embarrassed and pulled her away.”

You can listen to the entire hour long program including Ms. Dungey’s selection here.

Censoring Mark Twain and Harper Lee?

The DNT’s story on our Administration pulling Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird out of our curriculum made it to the Washington Post and the New York Times. A friend of mine asked me on Facebook about it today?

Harry, what’s up with the school board outlawing Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird?

I explained:

I am off the Board now so I am innocent. However, they are not banned. They are still in our libraries. It’s just that they won’ t be part of the curriculum. I think this story is much ado about nothing….however another story noted that today only 8 percent of high school students believe that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. That is alarming.

My friend told me I should read an editorial out of Post today that mentioned the 8 percent figure. Here’s the story which first publicized it.

Had our District pulled any book from our school libraries I would have joined the ACLU or any other group to object but that’s not what we did. That issue did face us in 1996, my first year on the Board, in a book which had the “N” word War Comes to Willie Freeman.

Anyone who cares about American history can not escape it. The N word appears in this blog. However, American schools seem to have been paralyzed by all manner of academic controversies. Teachers tippy toe around controversies. Slavery and race are radioactive, and Texas dependably leads the way to keep schools pro-Dixie and Christian Fundamentalist with its state-wide buys of text books that dis evolution, human driven global warming and other verboten truths and consequently impose these standards on all US text books.

Even so, both of the books scrubbed from English classes in Duluth are white centric and tied to earlier Eras in which white Americans were the champions for downtrodden blacks while the blacks had no agency. These are great books but it takes brave teachers to talk about these subjects. Too bad so many keep their heads down. This just keeps the next generation ignorant.

A couple more words to add to the thousand these pictures tell

After my Aunt Mary’s memorial service everyone was welcomed to a dinner reception about which were placed photographs of my aunt’s life and family. When I saw the two of these posed together I whipped out my cell phone to take a picture of them doing my best to hide the glare of the Tucson sun shining on them. Aunt Mary’s neice was behind me as I took the picture. She hadn’t seen them before so I told her their back story.

A few folks have no doubt stumbled upon my old web page with the pictures I took with my new Yashika Camera of my Grandmother’s Topeka home after it was blown off its foundation by a 1966 tornado. It flattened the neighborhood and six people died on her block as I recall.

The picture on the left side was taken by one of my uncles when they went to salvage things from the debris. You can see the top of a poster posed in front of the wreckage. That poster was blown up from the picture to its right of my Aunt Mary when she was a May Queen candidate at Topeka’s Washburn College. I used to marvel at this eight-foot tall poster every time I went to my Grandmother, Ruth Welty’s, basement where it was retired after Mary’s successful campaign. In the aftermath of the tornado its a little worse for wear.

My Dad was nine years older than his little sister. He had given up the life of being a bank clerk for his Uncle by the time of the May Queen festivities and was enrolled at Washburn to earn a law degree. I was in the picture by this point and vaguely remember the “barracks” (WW 2 army recruit housing) that we lived in on campus for all the newly married parents of the baby boom. While at law school my politically savvy Dad realized he could be of help to her campaign.

Any Washburn student was eligible to vote for May Queen but the older law students had little time for undergraduate hijinks and never bothered to participate. My Dad was determined to change that. He put the publicity poster for his little sister in the law school and began rounding up votes. This fetching poster was a big hit and he was wildly successful.

I had seen the ruined poster’s picture years before but had no idea I would get to see it again or that I would see the original 8 by 10 inch photo beside it. I should add that my Aunt Mary was a stunning woman even at age 82 and every bit as svelte as she was in her collegiate days.

When I was born my Aunt Mary called me “Treensie.” Every year on my birthday she would call and ask if Treensie was home. The last time was December. She was calling from a hospital where she was about to undergo a major operation although she did not yet know this at the time. Shortly afterword I learned that she was in grave condition. Coincidentally, I was scheduled to be in Northeastern Arizona shortly to visit my Brother-in-Law who would be wintering in Bullhead, City. I bought a ticket to fly to see her in what would have been the middle of this last week. That would end up being two days before what would become Aunt Mary’s memorial service. I just missed her but she would have been pleased by the memories her grandchildren told the gathering at St. Albans Episcopal Church about their “Grandmary.” What a perfect name for her.

Cooled off…for now

I forgot that I was seething before leaving for Arizona. Its not that there aren’t plenty of things to seethe about with a President whose hourly lies are not fake but but its just that rationality calls for a temperate frame of mind before making big decisions like running for State Auditor. I understand our former Congresswoman Michelle Bachman has just decided not to run but that doesn’t seem to be temperance. She evidently failed to hear God command her to run for President after she started praying about it. That’s almost enough for me to reconsider my agnosticism.

I’ve had a weekend away visiting family and helping lay my Aunt Mary to rest in Arizona.

When I start Seething I think of filing for public office – and I’m seething

I just dashed off my latest campaign finance report showing that I have $511 in the bank which I could put to use to run for the School Board again in 2019. But on my trip home from delivering it I heard an infuriating story on Minnesota Public Radio. It was about hysterical Republican Facebook Posts from GOP legislators warning that Muslim infiltrators were going to take over this year’s GOP precinct caucuses. OMG!!!!!!!! Isis in the heartland!

The story is not yet up on the MPR website but its been reported on the Minneapolis Strib.

I began the book, Driven Out, about a similar hysteria just before my August trip to China. Its about the Era of the “Yellow Peril” and the Chinese Exclusion Act back in the 19th century. It would have prevented the cousins of today’s Minnesota GOP Chair, Jennifer Carnahan, (a Korean-American) from entering the United States. It was the realization of the Trumpian and now Republican dream to limit immigration to Norwegians. To her credit Chair Carnahan, said of her party: “There is no religious test to participate in the Republican caucus,” and “We welcome those who are in agreement with the values of the Republican Party, those who voted Republican in the last election or plan to vote with the party in November.”

What inflamed the hysteria was a video of a Bangladeshi professor encouraging people to attend Republican caucuses. So did the PTL Club’s Pat Robertson, only when Pat in 1988 he was running for President and told his supporters to hide their religious convictions. Talk about a sneaky take over.

Two GOP legislators warned that this caucus training was was the first step in replacing our Constitution with Sharia Law. I found this ignorance deeply offensive. Not quite twenty years ago I made a very close friend on the Internet who was a native of Bangladesh. Claudia and I met her whole family not long afterward. Shortly after 9-11 hit America she feared the Islamic backlash that began sweeping over America. A vile bumper sticker that was part of the backlash prompted me to make a small modification to the Pledge of Allegiance I recited before our school board meetings.

Its not Muslims that have me worried. For the past ten years I have been uploading frequent posts to my blog under the category “God’s Own Party.” These have detailed the Party’s takeover by folks who believe that America is a Christian Nation rather than a nation that offers all religions equal footing under the Constitution. The category contains nearly 700 posts.

As Duluth’s perennial candidate I’m contemplating driving down to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office this summer to file for state-wide office as a Lincoln Republican. I could use the $511 dollars I’ve set aside for a school board race and jump into the fray to hurl abuse at the traitors to the spirit of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

I could direct salvos against one of Trump’s first milquetoast casualties in the 2016 campaign, Tim Pawlenty, who helped pave the way for Duluth’s disastrous Red Plan or Rebecca Otto, who as State Auditor ignored the petition Duluth voters sent her to audit the Red Plan. She’s angling for the Gubernatorial race but if Chris Coleman or Tim Walz get get the DFL nomination she could retreat back to the Auditor campaign. I’ve already hurled a little abuse at her. She deserved it and I know something about State Auditors.

The first rough draft…..

of History.

It made it to this week’s Reader. It begins:

I stopped in a used bookstore in Bullhead City, Arizona, last week and found about 25,000 mostly paperback books. I asked for the nonfiction section and was directed to four shelves containing perhaps 100 books. If the lion’s share of romances, westerns and thrillers in that store reflect our psyches, perhaps it’s no wonder Donald Trump looked like a sure bet to a lot of voters. I removed 4 percent of the store’s history books at two bucks a pop and read half of one of one book, “Fierce Patriot,” on my overnight flights back to Duluth.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."