Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 10 No. 3 | Fall 1988 (Twin Cities/Minneapolis-St. Paul) /// Issue 3 of 7 /// Master# 44 of 73

A lively collection o fgifts, clothing & jewelry THE BIBELOT L I (J O 2276 Como Ave., St. Paul 646-5651 I 1 I 1082 Grand at Lexington 222-0321 Casual Dining in European Style Ambiance Capers . 50th & Penn Ave. So. Pasta, Fresh Fish, Seafood, Italian Entrees & Award Winning Pizza Open Daily 11 AM Sun-Thurs til 10 PM Fri & Sat til 11 PM Sunday brunch 10-2 PM r 2 Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988

S T A F F Co-publishers Julie Ristau, Lenny Dee Editorial Board Lenny Dee, Diane Hellekson, David Morris, Julie Ristau, Karen Starr, Charlie Sugnet, Jay Walljasper Pacific Northwest Editor David Milholland Art Direction Kate Hunt, Lenny Dee Design Direction Gail Swanlund Cover Design Connie Gilbert Designers Connie Gilbert, Gail Swanlund, Eric Walljasper, Contributing Artists Tim Braun, Sharon Brown, Jonmarc Edwards, Stuart Mead, Ricardo Levins Morales, Jean Murakami, Rochelle Woldorsky, Dave Rathman Proofreader Ann Laughlin Account Representatives Dale Shifler, Kate Sullivan Typesetting JeZac Typesetting, Pat McCarty Contributing Photographers John Danicic, Diane Cumming Spiritual Advisor Camille Gage Queen of Space & Time Lynda J. Barry Thanks to thee ACTION, Betsy Brown, Ron Egstrom, Becky Glass, Jennifer Gage, Louise Guggisberg, Jim Hare, Olivia Lundeen, Nicole Niemi, Musicmaster, Judi Ray, Jenny Starr, Carol Salmon 4 The Music of Failure— Bill Holm What failure means in the life of an old woman, a small town and an entire nation. * | | l Common Good— IR o b e rt Bellah and William Sullivan Is there another vision for America beyond rampant consumerism? <|/ | Columbus, the Indians, I^T and Human Progress— Howard Zinn In four years we’ll be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of America. A look at what really happened. 20 How to Relate to Handicapped People— John Callahan A fitting sequel to Paralyzed for Life. 22 Clinton St. Gallery— Michael Manzavrakos, Jean Murakami, Rochelle Woldorsky Some of the finest Twin Cities artists strut their stuff. The Ramadan Wars— Frank B. Wilderson III Motown ’67—Hot times in the inner city. X Shift at the Mine— Lynna Williams A moving tale from the Iron Range. 36 ...or not to Smoke— Cynthia Morgan One woman’s humorous memoirs of a life up in smoke. ON THE COVER Leon Hushcha is a well-renown Twin Cities painter who shows privately twice a year. VOL 10 NO. 3 FALL 1988 The Twin Cities edition is published by the Clinton St. Quarterly, 3255 Hennepin Ave. S., Suite 255, Minneapolis, MN 55408 —(612) 823-2103. Unless otherwise noted, all contents copyright ©1988 Clinton St. Quarterly. We encourage your comments, articles and art. All material should be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. A MEANINGLESS ARGH! It’s here again — that wonderful season where mindless patter about all that Mr. Tweedledum or Mr. Tweedledee will do for our great land fills the air. No matter that Tweedledum was once the leading hit man for the nefarious CIA or that all Tweedledee can envision is what a wonderful country this must be, if he, the son of an immigrant, can run for President. (He rarely mentions that his father was also a graduate of Harvard Medical School.) Is the outcome of this election really of any import? Here are a few things to consider. Tweedlebush was the director of our secret police. In that role he was responsible for assassinations, drug trafficking, racketeering, international mayhem and the violent ouster of legitimate foreign governments. As the nation’s number one spy from 1976-1977, Tweedlebush suppressed crucial evidence regarding the assassination of Orlando Letelier, former Chilean Ambassador to the United States. Defying a congressional ban, Bush delivered 145,490 lbs. of weapons to Angola and passed out almost $2 million to rightwing rebel leaders. Under Bush the CIA spent over $10 million trying to overthrow Prime Minister Michael Manley of Jamaica, including three failed assassination attempts. Bush also continued the controversial practice of using American journalists as paid informants and conducted electronic surveillance against representatives of Micronesia, a U.S. colony that was at the time negotiating its future status. Tweedledukakis has done nowhere near the dastardly deeds that Tweedlebush has done in public service, yet be assured that once in office he will appoint a CIA director who will employ very similar methods as Bush. If we’re looking for an end to the war economy, a reinstitution of the progressive tax structure, and a redistribution of resources among the U.S. population, there’s little difference between the men. |A/here the difference lies FF between Dukakis and Bush is in our ability to access these scoundrels and halt the wheels of injustice from grinding ever onward. In 1968 Lynchem Baines Johnson was forced out of office because'the daughters and sons of the Democratic Party were out in the streets demanding an end to a brutal war. When the Republicans took office in 1969 it became impossible to apply the same leverage and the war escalated. It wasn’t till after the Kent State shootings in 1970 that change finally occurred. The presidents of Notre Dame and Ohio State called Nixon with the news that the sons and daughters of the Republican Party were out in the streets and that he better pull out of Cambodia. A Bush presidency would be even more remote from the needs and wishes of everyday Americans. Over the last eight years, for instance, Ronald Reagan has R I T U A L ? not had one meeting with the Black congressional caucus. Tweedlebush will certainly continue this policy. Tweedledukakis must at least pay lip service to this constituency as well as many other groups such as women, children, low-income and middle-class workers, farmers, environmentalists and gays. In practice what this means is a little more help will trickle down to the ghettos, schools, environment programs, small farms, health care, social services and the third world. Above all it will give us some access to power that we could use to possibly make the world a little safer and saner. To expect real vision from President Dukakis would be asking a bit much. For that we must look toward the energy that sparked the Jesse Jackson candidacy. Jackson said it best when in Atlanta he made his case for a relationship to power, “close enough to serve, far enough to challenge.” Already the Jackson forces have gotten the Democratic leadership to support stronger South African sanctions, same-day voter registration, D.C. statehood, and better child-care programs. Jackson tells the tale of Martin Luther King Jr. asking Lyndon Johnson to enact civil rights legislation and Johnson replying that he could never get it through Congress. Then came numerous marches and Johnson moved. As Jackson points out, those were the ingredients of change, “the White House on the one hand and street heat on the other.” LD Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988 3

The Music of Failure: Variations on an Idea By Bill Holm Illustrations by Stuart Mead Designed by Connie Gilbert Another idea from Walt Whitman that no one wants to hear. At fifteen, I could define failure fast: to die in Minneota, Minnesota. Substitute any small town in Pennsylvania, or Nebraska, or Bulgaria, and the definition held. To be an American meant to move, rise out of a mean life, make yourself new. Hadn’t my own grandfathers transcended Iceland, learned at least some English, and died with a quarter section free and clear? No, I would die a famous author, a distinguished and respected professor at an old university, surrounded by beautiful women, witty talk, fine whiskey, Mozart. There were times, at fifteen, when I would have settled for central heat and less Jello, but I kept my mental eye on the "big picture.’’ Later, teaching Walt Whitman in school, I noticed that my students did not respond with fervor to the lines, Wit/i music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums, I play not marches for accepted victors only. I play marches for conquer'd and slain persons. Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won. I beat and pound for the dead, I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them. Vivas to those who have fail'd! And to those war-vessels sunk in the sea! And to those themselves who sank in the sea! And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes! And to the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known! I left Minneota at the beginning of America’s only lost war. While I traveled, got educated, married, divorced, and worldly, the national process of losing went on: a president or two shot, an economy collapsed, a man whom every mother in America warned every child against accepting rides or candy from, was in the flesh overwhelmingly elected president, and then drummed into luxurious disgrace for doing the very things those mothers warned against. The water underneath America turned out to be poisoned. Cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago were invisible under air that necessitated warning notices in the newspaper. A rumor flourished that the Arabs bought the entire Crazy Mountains in Montana. Oil gurgled onto gulls’ backs north of San Francisco. The war finally ended in disgrace, the Secretary of State mired as deep in lies as Iago. America, the realized dream of the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, seemed to have sunk into playing out a Shakespearean tragedy, or perhaps a black comedy. Yet as history brought us failure, it brought us no wisdom. The country wanted as little as my students to hear those lines from Leaves of Grass. It was not “good to fall,” not good to be “sunk in the sea,” not good to be among the “numberless unknown heroes.” We elected, in fact, a famous actor to whom failure was incomprehensible as history itself, a man who responded to visible failure around him by ignoring it and cracking hollow jokes. In the meantime, I aged from twenty to forty, found myself for all practical purposes a failure, and settled almost contentedly back into the 4 Clinton St. Quarterly—Fall, 1988

Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988 5

same rural town which I tried so fiercely to escape. I could not help noticing that personal and professional failure were not my private bailiwick. I knew almost no one still on their first marriage. Friends, too, were short of money and doing work that at twenty they would have thought demeaning or tedious. Children were not such an unpremeditated joy as maiden aunts led us to expect, and for the precocious mid- ‘ die aged, health and physical beauty had begun to fail. It looked, as the old clichd had it, as if we were going to die after all, and the procedure would not be quite so character-building as the Reader’s Digest and the Lutheran minister implied. Heard from inside, the music of failure sounded not the loudest, gayest marches for cornets and drums, but a melancholy cello, strings slowly loosening, melody growing flaccid, receding toward silence. The country closed its ears against the tune; citizens denied that they had ever heard it. “Tomorrow,” they said, but this was only another way of saying “yesterday,” which did not exist quite as they imagined it. The first settlers of America imagined paradise, God’s city made visible on earth. Grand rhetoric for a pregnancy, it was, like all births, bloodier and messier than anyone imagined at the moment of conception. English Puritans who came to build a just and godly order began by trying to exterminate Indian tribes. They tried to revise the English class system of rich landowners and poor yeomen by sharing a common bounty, but this lasted only until somebody realized that true profit lay in landowning, here as in England. The same settlers who declared with Proudhon that “property is theft” She was one of millions in a culture that had been bamboozled for reasons no one quite understands into accepting a cheap destructive idea of success. wound up working as real estate agents. Old European habits of success died hard. Hypocrisy is not unusual in human history; it is the order of the day. What has always been unusual in the United States is the high-toned rhetoric that accompanied our behavior, our fine honing of the art of sweeping contradictions under the rug with our eternal blank optimism. But if we examined, without sentimentality, the failures and contradictions of our own history, it would damage beyond repair the power of that public rhetoric, would remove the arch-brick from the structure of the false self we have built for ourselves, in Minneota as elsewhere. I labored under the weight of that rhetoric as a boy, and when I am tired now, I labor under it still. It is the language of football, a successful high school life, earnest striving and deliberate ignoring, money, false cheerfulness, mumbling about weather. Its music is composed by the radio, commercials for helpful banks and deodorants breathing out at you between stanzas. In cities now, ghetto blasters play it at you in the street; you are serenaded by tiny orchestras hidden in elevators or in rafters above discount stores. It is the music of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It is not what Whitman had in mind by beating and pounding for the dead. True dead, unlike false dead, hear what we sing to them. The music of experience; the noise of failure. Years ago, I traveled to Waterton, Alberta, the north end of Glacier Park, and spent a whole sunny, windy August afternoon sitting on a slope high in the mountains listening to an Aspen tree. I wrote a small poem about that experience: Above me. wind does its best to blow leaves off the Aspen tree a month too soon. No use. wind, all you succeed in doing is making music, the noise of failure growing beautiful. I did not understand my own poem at the time. As a smalt boy, I sang loudly, clearly, and as elderly ladies told me, wonderfully. I knew better, but knowledge didn’t interfere with love(as it so often doesn’t), and music remained the true channel to the deepest part of my feeling life. Happiness (or at least emotion) could be described by notes with stems, and the noises of the inner life made audible by reading and sounding-those marks. Though never so skilled a musician as to have made a genuine living from it, I was skilled enough to know precisely the deficiencies of every performance I ever gave. In an odd way, this melancholy knowledge of my own musical imperfection goes on teaching me something about the wholesomeness of failure every day of my adult life. I have sometimes, like the United States, been too obtuse to remember it, but then I hear again the noise of aspen leaves. Pauline Bardal at the piano. I first heard a piano in the backroom of Peterson’s farmhouse, three miles east of my father’s place. An only child, too young and disinterested to do any real work, I was left indoors while my father was out giving Wilbur a hand with some chore, probably splitting a half-pint to make the job more pleasant. Wilbur was a bachelor, but lived with his aged father, Steve, and employed a sort of combination housekeeper and nurse, Pauline Bardal, to look after both of them. Pauline was born in 1895 to the first generation of Icelandic immigrants in western Minnesota. When I knew her in the late 40’s or early 50’s, she must have been nearing 60. Age is relative to children, so I did not think of her as being particularly old. She was simply Pauline, and would remain that way until she died 30 years later. She was almost six feet tall, without a bit of fat on her, and this made her bones visible, particularly in the hands, joints moving with large gestures as if each finger had reasoning power of its own. Her leanness was partly genetic, but partly also the result of continual work. In the cities she would have been called a domestic, though her duties at Peterson’s and elsewhere always involved nursing the infirm and dying. In the more informal class labeling of rural Minnesota, she was simply Pauline. After finishing her duties with bread, chickens, or tending to old Steve, Pauline retired to the den for a half hour of music. I was invited to listen and always delighted by the prospect. She sat herself on the bench, arranging her bones with great dignity and formality. Music was not a trifling matter even if your hands were fresh from flour bin or hen house. Pauline did not play light music; though she was conventionally religious in a Lutheran sort of way, I knew, even as a child, that music was her true spiritual exercise. She always played slowly, and I suppose, badly, but it made no difference. She transported both herself and me by the simple act of playing. Her favorite pieces were Handel’s “Largo” from Xerxes, and a piano arrangement of the finale of Bach’s Sf Matthew Passion: “In Deepest Grief.” She had never learned true fingering, and got most of her musical experience at an old pump organ that she played for chifrch services. She did not so much strike the keys as slide with painstaking slowness from one to the next, leaving sufficient time for the manual rearrangement of the bones in her hands. This gave all . her performances a certain halting dignity, even if sometimes questionable accuracy. It was always said around Minneota that her most moving performances were at funerals, where' enormously slow tempos seemed appropriate. She played the sad Bach as a post- lude while mourners filed past the open coffin for the last time. But Pauline at the keyboard was not a lugubrious spirit. Watching that joy on her bony face as her fingers slid over the yellowed keyboard of the old upright, it became clear to me even as a child that neither her nor my true life came from kneading bread or candling eggs or fluffing pillows in a sick bed, but happened in the presence of those noises, badly as they might be made by your own hands. They lived in the inner lines of that Bach, so difficult to manage cleanly with work-stiffened fingers. You felt Bach’s grandeur moving under you at whatever speed. The Handel “Largo,” though it has become something of a joke for sophisticated listeners through its endless bad piano transcriptions is, in fact, a glorious piece, one of the great gifts from Europe. Even on farms in rural Minnesota, you deserve the extraordinary joy of hearing it for the first time, as if composed in your presence, only for you. I heard it that way, under Pauline’s hands. The Minneapolis Symphony playing Beethoven’s Ninth in the living room could not have been so moving or wonderful as that “Largo” in Peterson’s back room. Pauline, in American terms, was a great failure: always poor, never married, living in a shabby small house when not installed in others’ backrooms, worked as a domestic servant, formally uneducated, English spoken with the odd inflections of those who learn it as a second language, gawky and not physically beautiful, a badly trained musician whose performances would have caused laughter in the cities. She owned nothing valuable, traveled little, and died alone, the last of her family. If there were love affairs, no one will now know anything about them, and everyone involved is surely dead. Probably she died a virgin, the second most terrible fate, after dying broke, that can befall an American. The history of a failed immigrant. Minneota is a community born out of failure about 1880. By that I mean that no one ever arrived in Minneota after being a success elsewhere. It is an immigrant town,.settled by European refuse, first those starved out of Ireland, then Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Holland, Belgium. Given the harshness of western Minnesota’s climate and landscape, people did not come to retire or loaf. They came to farm, and had they been successful at it in the old world, would not have uprooted their families, thrown away culture and language, and braved mosquitos and blizzards for mere pleasure. Minneota is, of course, a paradigm for the settling of the whole country. We are a nation of failures who have done all right and been lucky. Perhaps it is some ancient dark fear of repeating our own grandfathers’ lives that makes us reluctant to acknowledge failure in national or private life. Pauline’s father, Frithgeir, came in 1880 in the third wave of nationalities to Minneota: the Icelanders. He likely read one of the pamphlets circulated by the American government in all Scandinavian countries, describing free and fertile land available on the Great Plains for farmers of sturdy, sufficiently Caucasian stock. The United States was always particular about the race of its failures. The pamphlet probably mentioned glowingly the bountiful harvests, rich topsoil, good drainage and pasturage, cheap rail transport, and healthful bracing climate. Frithgeir Joakimsson, who took his new last name, Bardal, from his home valley in north Iceland, arrived in 1880, found most of the best land gone, and picked perhaps the hilliest, stoniest, barest though loveliest farm acreage in that part of western Minnesota. He was 37 years old, single, and, in all likelihood, knew not a word of English when he came. Pauline, when she was old, disposed of her family’s books to good homes, and gave me her father’s first English grammar and phrase book that she said he used on the boat. It was in Danish, English, and Icelandic, well-worn though intact. Pauline clearly treasured it. Leafing through it now, I imagine rough farmer’s hands some- 'thing like Pauline’s, holding the book on an open deck in mid-Atlantic, sea wind rustling the pages under his thumb—"Hvar er vegurinn vestur till Minneota?” Pauline once fried steaks in a farmers’ night club out in the country, an odd job for a teetotaler, and for this she was probably paid a pittance. My mother tended the bar, and the two of them often drove out together. I saw them at work once; in the middle of loud country music and boisterous drinking, they tended these rough farmers, not like hired help, but like indulgent great aunts looking benevolently after children having a good time. Pauline owned an old Ford which she drove with enthusiasm. Well into her eighties she took friends on vacation and shopping trips, and made lunch runs for the senior citizens. Speaking of people sometimes 10 or 20 years her junior, she said, “They’re getting old, you know, and it’s hard for them to get around.” Pauline’s gifts to me included not only music. She tended both my parents at their death beds, and when my mother, a week before she died, lost her second language, English, and spoke to me only in her first, Icelandic, which I did not understand, Pauline translated. The gifts of the unschooled are often those we did not know we would need—the right words, the right music. Eternal though she seemed to me, age caught her. The end began with the trembling hands of Parkinson’s disease, a cruel irony for a woman who took her delight in playing music, however badly. Soon she went into the nursing home, and died not long after, still peeved with the universe, I think, for taking music away from her at the end. I don’t even know who was there to tend her bedside at the last. Probably she had had enough of that, and wanted to be alone. Indeed, the solitariness of her whole life prepared her for it. This was 1981, 101 years after her father left Thingeyarsysla for a new life. She had lived in America 86 years. Pack rat houses, and what they tell. The opening of the Bardal house, of which Pauline was the last occupant out of a family of six, was not greeted with amazement and that is, in itself, amazing. Traditionally in Minneota, as in villages all across the world, pack rats, generally unmarried, die in houses stuffed to the ceiling with moldy newspapers, rusted coffee cans full of money, and an over-population of bored cats. The first astonishing fact about the house was the sheer amount inside it. It was neither dirty, nor disorderly. The piles had been dusted, and the narrow crevices between them vacuumed and scrubbed, but within some mounds, nothing had moved for 40 years. Papers were stacked neatly in order, probably put there the week they arrived, from 1937 onward. The Bardal family had been schooled historically and genetically by a thousand years of Icelandic poverty of the meanest, most abject variety. They moved to a poor farm in the 6 Clinton St. Quarterly—Fall, 1988

Site was one of millions in a culture that had been bamboozled for reasons no one quite understands into accepting a cheap destructive idea of success. poorest county of Minnesota, and when the Depression reduced penury to catastrophe, moved into a pdor, small house in Minneota. While their storage space shrank, their goods expanded, and the double beds became single beds after the floor space filled up to the bedsprings. They were a family on whom nothing was lost, not even the useless doo-dads that arrived from answering every “free special offer” ad for over a half century. They accumulated no cans full of bank notes, no hidden treasure, nothing of any genuine monetary value; the Bardals were, in that regard, truly poor. But not poor in mind or spirit! They owned books in three or four languages: Plato, Homer, Bjornsson in Norwegian, Snorri Sturlasson in Icelandic, Whitman, Darwin, Dickens, Ingersoll, Elbert Hubbard, piles of scores by Handel, Bach, Mozart, George Beverly Shea and Bjorgvin Gudmundsson, old cylinders of Caruso, Galla-Curci, Schumann-Heink, John McCormack, cheap books reproducing paintings and sculpture from great European museums, organ, piano, violin, trumpet, manuals for gardening, cooking and home remedies, the best magazines of political commentary and art criticism next to Capper’s Farmer, the Minneota Mascot, and the Plain Truth, dictionaries and grammars in three or four languages, books of scientific marvels, Richard Burton’s travel adventures, old text books for speech and mathematics, Bibles and hymn books in every Scandinavian language, Faust, The Reader’s Digest, and “Sweet Hour of Prayer." That tiny house was a space ship stocked to leave the planet after collecting the best we have done for each other for the last 4,000 years of human consciousness. And none of it worth ten cents in the real world of free enterprise! The executors might as well have torched the house, thus saving the labor of sorting it, giving mementos to friends and peddling the rest at a garage sale on a sweltering summer afternoon. What one realized with genuine astonishment was that the Bardals piled this extraordinary junk not only inside their cramped house; that house was a metaphor for their interior life which they stocked with the greatest beauty and intelligence they understood. They read the books, played the instruments, carried the contents of that house in their heads. T/ie author's indignation. I try, again and again, through literature, music, history and experience, to get at the point of failure— but I fail. Perhaps that /s my point. Clear logical structures, much as I love them myself, are not so germane as the “touch of regret that comes from the heart” in understanding what I am trying to penetrate. This idea began with an image, a comparison, really. Disgusted with my whole country after the 1984 election, with its bludgeoning rhetoric of business success, military victory, and contempt for the failures and oddballs of America who have tried to ask difficult questions, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in a room with my own leaders, perhaps inviting the current administration over to my house for drinks. Aside from their withering scorn that someone so obviously able and white would choose to live in a shabby house in an obscure backwater like Minneota (this would provoke only angry sputtering fulmination from me), I realized that they would bore the bejesus out of not only me, but everyone I valued and a great many of those I didn’t. I would rather have spent an evening with Pauline Bardal, playing music and listening to her Icelandic stories. This poor, presumably ignorant and obscure woman would even have taken the fun out of the drinks, since she disapproved of them, yet she was more fit to organize society than the most exalted leaders on the planet. She was not empty as a human, and therefore, however ordinary, gave off love, and could not be boring in quite the same way. Since she had a genuine feeling for beauty, though little skill at making it, “good will” and some richness of soul would enter a room with her and grace it. And yet she was one of mil .ons in a culture that had been bamboozled for reasons no one quite understands into accepting a cheap destructive idea of success and publicly worshiping it in the most demeaning and mindless way. That success idea surfaced like a hydra after every American disaster that ought to have taught us something about ourselves, history and love—the Viet Nam War, the Depression, the imperialist fiascos with Spain and the Philippines at the turn of the century, the Civil War. The poor and the drunk: two more kinds of failure. Two failures we teach children to fear are poverty and alcoholism. We state them positively: work hard and stay sober. Yet Christianity, to which we give public lip service, praises glad poverty; many alcoholics date the birth of their true humanity from the realization of booze’s awful power in their lives. James Agee, in the course of spending a summer writing about Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988 7

some poor ignorant Alabama tenant farmers in the thirties, discovered that their small, failed lives could not quite be described by normal American power values. He calls his book about them Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and comes to this con-, elusion about the poor and failed: they are human in precisely the same manner as ourselves, and therefore bottomless. It takes him hundreds of pages of thundering prose to grab the scruff of the reader’s neck, and shake him to the same conclusion. Money earned, suit brand, car model, school degree, powerful army, big bombs, bootstrap rhetoric, make no difference. Everything the success culture takes for granted turns to fog that burns off when you put light on it. At the bottom of everything is skin; under that, blood and bone. This simple fact shocked Agee and gave him a case of the ecstasy. Like poverty, alcoholism is a failure hard to deny, for denial leads to suicide. The ideas that Alcoholics Anonymous proposes to help alcoholics recover have in them the “true regret from the heart” and staying sober requires “good will and more good will.” An alcoholic must confess to his fellows: all greetings begin, “My name is Joe, and I’m a drunk.” Substitute your own name in that sentence and the music of failure sounds in earshot. Drunks black out, remember nothing; A.A. requires memory, the acknowledgment of actions’ effects on self and others, then apology and atonement. You must make right what you have put wrong with your drinking; pay just debts. Imagine America coming up from one of its blackouts to apologize to Cambodia, Nicaragua, the Sioux, interned Japanese, or the blacklisted. Imagine yourself.... The serenity prayer, spoken at every A.A. meeting, is the true Everything the success culture takes for granted turns to fog that bums off when you put light on it. At the bottom of everything is skin; under that, blood and bone. national anthem of the country of failure: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. No bombs bursting in air in that one. Failure in national life: a little history of Iceland. What, then, shall we say in praise of the Bardals, all dead in a hundred years in America, and failed miserably by almost every definition our culture offers us? The Bardals came out of an immigrant culture that had succeeded at failure. They were Icelanders, and conscious of it, and though none of Frithgeir’s children ever saw their ancestral home, the called themselves “western Icelanders,” and could observe by looking at any television set that they were not quite American in the manner conceived in commercials and soap operas. The Icelandic immigration at the end of the nineteenth century took place, as did so many such movements, largely because of grinding poverty. The Icelanders, historically, showed talent for surviving nearstarvation, but, by 1875, an escape opened to them that was like none other in history. Free land was not an offer taken lightly. At 36 I went off to live in Iceland for a year or two, and had a look at the farms the ancestors of Minneota Icelanders left, including my own grandfather’s and the Bardals’. In 1875, the houses must have been dank turf- covered hovels, smelling of chamber pots and boiled fish, ceilings so low that generally tall Icelanders must have developed hunches stooping under their own roofline. In 1875, there were no roads, only horse tracks; no sophisticated-machines, only scythes and hand rakes; almost no light, heat, sanitation or plumbing. Aside from a handful of Christmas raisins or prunes, and daily rutabagas and potatoes, their whole diet consisted of boiled dried cod, boiled salt mutton, rotted shark, and a pudding made out of sour milk. They had never seen an orange, an apple, or corn, much less an avocado. They had little topsoil, a miniscule growing season sufficient for almost no food crops, interminable winters and grey, cold, drizzly summers, frosts in'June, snow in August, and icy sea fogs in between. They raised hardy old Viking sheep, a cow or two for milk, and hay that was really only native grass; to feed the animals. They moved around on small sturdy horses who coped with endless frost heaves, bogholes, cliffs, and gravelly, cold, glacial rivers that separated one remote farm from the next. Icelandic farmers lived, for all practical purposes, in the twelfth century until well into the twentieth. It is almost impossible for us to conceive the meanness and isolation of their lives. They occupied the outer edge of an island on the outer edge of Europe in poverty worthy of the most dismal backwater of the Third World in Africa or Asia. Iceland also had a history of losing, both geological and political. Settled by ninth century Vikings who organized the world’s first genuine Parliament, they were the only king- less Europeans, but lost that prize through their own interminable squabbling. And yet they did indeed make a great, though curiously austere, civilization. With no usable building stone, no musical instruments, no minable metals, and a paucity of food and shelter, they built the most substantial European literature of the middle ages by using the only equipment left to them on this barren rockpile: language, not Latin, but their own beloved vernacular Icelandic. What is the heroic subject of the greatest of that literature? Failure. The Sturlunga Saga chronicles with bloody detail the venial civil quarrels , that led to the breakdown of political structures and ensuing loss of independence. Laxdaela Saga records a willful ‘woman’s successive failed marriages and loves that make Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary seem by comparison cheerful. The gods themselves, in Viking mythology, were doomed to perish, and Valhalla is a temple of failure. In Njal’s Saga (a worthy companion to Homer) almost all the main characters are swept up in a violent tide that culminates in the deliberate burning to death of Njal’s whole family, including aged wife and grandchildren, inside his house. It is surely a cautionary story, designed to be told to an audience themselves afflicted with a quarrelsome nature and a taste for recrimination and revenge. The Icelanders, by facing the drastic failures of their history and nature, created a literature that held the national ego together through 600 years of colonial domination, black plague, leprosy, volcanic eruption, and famine that by 1750 reduced this already half-starved population to half the size it had been at its settlement time. The most wretched Icelandic household had those books and read them; they were the ballast every Icelander carried through the long centuries of failure. A saga reader visiting Iceland now, expecting blood-thirstiness or violence from the population, is in for disappointment. He finds instead a mild, harmonious, democratic welfare state, just and literate, almost without murder, theft, or any violent crime. Doors are left unlocked and lost billfolds returned to strangers. Poverty in any sense an Ameri-. can might understand is unknown. It struck me while I lived there, and must equally strike many American tourists, that Iceland is what America says it is and is, in fact, not. Our literature, too, is full of failure—-the sunk Pequod and the dead crew in Moby Dick, Hawthorne’s vision of failed love in an icy community, Huck Finn on the raft choosing evil, and Whitman’s great poems in praise of death —but we do not carry these books around inside our public life as Icelanders carry theirs. What distinguishes Icelandic from American failure is the sense of responsibility. It was neither Norwegian, Dane, black .plague, nor polar ice who wrecked Iceland’s independence, fertility and prosperity; their literature makes absolutely clear that it was Icelanders themselves who did these things. We made terrible mistakes and we alone, they say to one another in books. Viewing their history generously, you might even be inclined to share blame for troubles with Norway, Denmark, or at least bad luck, but Icelanders will have none of it. It is a matter of national pride to have behaved so stupidly in the past and survived as a nation to learn something from it. Alteration is possible if you stop in time; this is one of the clear lessons both of A.A. and of history. In addition, there is a certain pleasure that comes from swallowing your own failure. A great deal of Icelandic humor grows out of these indigestible lumps of history. Nothing that is itself can conceivably be termed a failure by the transcendental definition. But things must acknowledge and live up to their selfness. This is fairly effortless for a horse or a cow, more difficult for a human being, and judging by the evidence of history, almost impossible for a community or a country. When it happens occasionally, as I argue that it did in the case of the Icelanders, it creates a rare wonder, a community that has eaten its own failures so completely that it has no need to be other than itself. Iceland has no army, because an army cannot defend anything genuinely worth defending. In my more melancholy utopian moments, I think America would be better defended without one, too. The Bardals came out of that failure tradition, and it schooled them well for their hundred years in America. Friends of mine meeting Pauline for the first time would remark on her aristocratic bearing. There was no bowing and scraping in her; she met bank presidents and failed farmers It struck me while I lived there, and must equally strike many American tourists, that Iceland is what America says it is and is, in fact, not. with the same straightforward kindness. And why, given the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the rhetoric of American history, should she not? Her soul was not tied to a bank account or elegant clothes, and whatever difficulties life dealt her, she remained Pauline and that was sufficient. No one can steal the self while you are sleeping if it is sufficiently large in your body. A country with a sufficient ego casts off paranoia about plots to steal its factories and merchandise, and behaves with grace and mildness toward its neighbors. But an alcoholic protects that weak self by filling it with whiskey. A stock speculator in the twenties filled it with Dusenbergs, ermines, Waterford chandeliers, and Newport villas. When these toys disappeared abruptly, the now defenseless self stepped to the window and, taking advantage of the fact that it lived inside a heavy body, dropped out. Some alcoholics drive off cliffs if you take whiskey away. An empty country, then, protects itself at all costs against the idea of its own failure, lest some part of its weak psyche understand that it must commit a sort of suicide whenever it is tempted to feel the “true regret.” A hundred years ago, this was serious, but not final. A country more or less blown off the map, even a large one, would still be populated by deer, muskrats, fox, weeds and grass. Since 1945, self-building has become a matter of life and death for the whole planet. We have now reached the point in human history where some cure is absolutely necessary, some embracing of wholesome failure. Bill Holm is one of Minnesota’s most renowned authors. He presently lives in Minneota. This essay is abridged from an original essay of the same name, which can be found in Prairie Days published by Saybrook Company. Stuart Mead is a Twin Cities painter. Connie Gilbert has managed her graphic design business since 1982, and has worked with clients such as American Public Radio, Dataserv, and the Community Design Center. 8 Clinton St. Quarterly—Fall, 1988

's Happening? A ‘Jirst Universalist Church I l li 5000 Girard Avenue South VJ CZ Minneapolis, MN 55419 Tcrrv Sweetser, Susan Milnor Go ministers AIDS: Service of Memory and Hope First Wednesdays at First Universalist You arc in vited to be present. We will listen to vour concerns and needs. A Unitarian t’nivcrsalisr Congregation Twenty Years Toward Peace THE HONEYWELL PROJECT OCTOBER 20-23,19BS TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY Thursday, October 20 A READING BY GRACE PALEY 7:30 p.m. $7 Grace Paley is an award-winning short-story writer, poet, and lifelong peace activist. Great Hall, Coffman Union 300 Washington Avenue SE University of Minnesota Cosponsored by The Loft, A Place for Writing and Uterature November 13 DveemixT 11; February 12 March 12 April 2 April 30 May 21 FIRSTUNIVERSALIST CHURCH 5000 Girard Avenue South Minneapolis Dale Shifter, Musical Director Friday, October 21 ACTION AT HONEYWELL HEADQUARTERS 6:30 a.m. We will gather at 6:30 a.m. for a ceremony and encircle Honeywell. The presence of both supporters and those willing to do civil disobedience is needed. 28th Street and Fourth Avenue Minneapolis presents WCTOTV Sundays at 4:00 p.m. C.P.E. Bach and Friends A Recital with Commentary Daniel Lloyd. Forte piano ATwentieth Century Holiday Festival with First Universalist Choirs and Brass Featuring World Premieres! Cradle Song Warren Park Carols of Splendour James Adler Sunny Didier. Soprano YoungArtists Concert Sponsored in Cooperation with The Chopin Society, Featuring Highly Talented Young Artists from the Region, i Bopp Nouveau An Original and Contemporary Jazz Quintet Featuring Ed Berger and Corel Thomas Early English. Celtic and Renaissance Music Gaylord Stauffer, Celtic Harp Performance of Winning Composers Works Finalists of the 1989 First Universalist Composer's Competition. Works of Flute. Piano, Trumpet and Voice GLORIA Francis Poulenc and John Rutter First Universalist Choir Nancy Wuertenberger Drexler. Soprano Dale Shifter Conductor Seven Concerts - $35. 00 $6. 00and 14. 00(Students andSenior Citizens) Each Concert Call 825-1701 for concert information or send a self addressed envelope to Hauenstein Series First Universalist Church Sponsorships: Corporateand tndividml at >W . 1250and »1w. 3000 Girard Avenue South Series founded in 1977by David Juncker in honor of Nelson and Louw Hauenwein Minneapolis. MN55419 IN THE KING OF PRUSSIA 7:30 p.m. $6 A film of a Plowshares trial with Martin Sheen, Daniel Berrigan, Molly Rush, Carl Kabat, Philip Berrigan, and others: produced/directed by Emile de Antonio, who will make a personal appearance. Special appearance by poet Robert Bly Saturday, October 22 Mayo Auditorium, East Bank, University of Minnesota (I/2 block south of intersection of Washington Ave. and Church St.: 1 block east of Coffman Union - next to Owre Hall) REFLECTION AND RENEWAL: PANELS/DISCUSSION* 8:30 to 4:30 $6 for day Carol Bty, Martha Boesing, Grace Paley 8:30 Registration Mississippi Room, Coffman Union 9:00 PERSONAL DECISIONS ABOUT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE 300 Washington Avenue SE Sam Adams. Char Madigan. Moira Moga. Moderator Howard Vogel University of Minnesota 10:30 LAW AND THE MOVEMENT Linda Gallant. Doug Hall. Jerry Peterson Ken Titsen. Moderator Mark Werntck 12:00 Lunch (not provided) 1:00 BALANCING THE PERSONAL AND POLITICAL IN PEACE ACTIVISM Dave Dellinger, Barbara Mishler. Rachel Tilsen. Moderator Mary Lou Oft 3:00 THE USES OF INSPIRATION AND THE IMAGINATION 'Child care available upon request HONEYWELL PROJECT ANNIVERSARY AWARDS 7:00 p.m. $7 An evening honoring peace and justice activists, with Susan Vass, Grace Paley, Gregory Bitz, Emile de Antonio, Dave Dellinger, Judy Larson and Bill Hinkley, Carol Connolly, the Untitled Number 2 kids rock band, and Larry Long. Willey Hall, West Bank University of Minnesota MB Package tickets are $18 (admission to all events). Donations are gratefully accepted: Tickets purchased for $25 or more help support the Honeywell Project and pay for low income and scholarship tickets. To order tickets and for further information, contact the Honeywell Project, Meridei LeSueur Center for Peace and Justice, 1929 South Street, Minneapolis, MN 55454 612/339-3524. the 1988-89 Loft Mentor Serie* presente DEREK WALCOTT West Indian poet and Obie-winning playwright with ELIZABETH JOHNSON READING: Friday, October 14, 8 p.m. Bridgman Hall, Hamline University WORKSHOP: Saturday, October 15, 11 a.m. Fireplace Room, Willey Hall, U of M THEY’RE BACK! Mitt More irreverent, more outrage ous, and louder than ever, the Tony Award-winning SAN FRANCISCO MIME TROUPE brings its latest satiric smash hit, "Ripped Van Winkle" to St. Paul's Central High Theater (at Lexington and Marshall) on NOVEMBER 11 & 12, 8 pan. Call 870-1712 for ticket info. NORMAN MAILER Celebrated novelist and pulitzer prize winner will present an evening of entertaining lecture. Tickets: $16.50 & $18.50 Students: $10.00 For Ticket Information Call TGT Box Office: 612-377-2224 I----------- U FILM S°CETT------------1 Bell Aud. 17th 4 Univ. SE 627-4430 A I Pincem The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh a film by Paul Cox narrated by John Hurt & "The most profound exploration of an artist's soul ever to be put on film." -Andrew Sarris,, Village Voice Nitely 7:30 & 9:30 5:30 Sat.Sun. aho Sunday afternoons starting Sept. 25 scnnDinflvmn pninTERs SERIES A rare series examining the lives and work of six tum- of-the-ccntury artists. Shown in conjuction with Bell Museum’s Bruno Liljefors exhibit Callfo r more information Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988 (I

For a generation American politics has been bogged down by a debilitating argument as to whether welfare liberalism or free market capitalism is the best solution to our problems. The 1988 presidential campaign presents an opportunity for the discussion to be opened up in dramatic new ways by questioning many of the assumptions that both Democrats and Republicans have taken for granted for a long time. Both parties have seen the task of government as furthering the aggregate interests of individuals while providing a degree of security for our nation in a dangerous and complex world. Reliance on welfare liberalism and free market capitalism as our only visions for guiding public deliberation has narrowed the ability of our political parties to confront changed realities. Both of these visions rest almost exclusively on a combination of cost-benefit analysis and interest-group mediation, techniques that allow manipulation of existing structures but do not permit discussion of the nature of those structures or the ends of society as a whole. The discussion of “the common good,” a discussion that would allow us to consider critically the present structure of our society and the directions we have previously taken for granted, would open up new possibilities, possibilities that might allow us to escape the debilitating impasses into which we have fallen both at home and abroad. Our recent difficulties have arisen because of problems that come at us from many sources and from all directions. Chief among them are two related problems involving our economy and our position as a world power. While our economy has continued to grow, that growth has been very uneven, involving high levels of consumption by the affluent while our country’s infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate. Furthermore, this growth has been sustained by unprecedented borrowing from abroad, turning the United States, in a breathtakingly short time, into the world’s largest debtor nation. Even more serious than our loss of interna- jional economic competitiveness is the fact that our economic growth has caused grave problems, not only for the "truly deprived,” but for the affluent as well, whose lives seem to lack personal meaning and social cohesion. At the same time, we can no longer consider ourselves the dominant military power, despite our largest peacetime military buildup. Massive unsettling economic and military changes seem certain to mark the next administration’s tenure of office. Things have not been going too well for the Soviet Union either. Yet the last couple of years have brought a surprising breath of fresh air from Russia. We have heard about glasnost, openness, and perestroika, restructuring. And we have seen a rather attractive man, Mikhail Gorbachev, eloquently arguing for and attempting to embody those terms. Could it be, despite our legitimate skepticism about these changes, that the new leaders of the USSR are sincere, that they believe that the conditions of an increasingly technologically sophisticated and interlinked world economy require that international relations, in Gorbachev’s words, “can and must be kept within a framework of peaceful competition which necessarily envisages cooperation”? Could the present moment mark a really new situation — one that poses difficulties for the United States because it requires major readjustments in thought and behavior, but also a moment of historic opportunity? The opportunity we speak of is the chance to lead this nation in a much more hopeful direction as we approach the year 2000. '0 Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988

Fill in the Blanks, Color by Letter Y = Yellow R = Red B = Black W = White G = Green Drawing.from the Painting Flag/Necessity by JonMarc Edwards In the face of our own seemingly intractable problems, but with these new opportunities in mind, it is appropriate to ask- whether we too could use a change of direction, an opening up and a restructuring. Of course, our problems are different from the Soviet Union’s, and their agenda is not ours. Nevertheless, the theme of “the common good,” if attractively represented in the words and actions of the Democratic candidate, could be the breath of fresh air that we need, the “glasnost” that would allow us to consider our problems in a new way. Pope John Paul II was correct when he said in his recent encyclical, On Social Concern, that liberal capitalism is in as much need of fundamental reform as is Marxist collectivism, a remark that caused howls of pain among neoconservative intellectuals, but one that the Democratic candidate ought to take to heart. There are two ways out of the double-barreled weakness in our economy and in our position as a world power. We can embark on a frenzied effort to “regain the competitive edge” economically and to increase our military invulnerability, or we can work for a new system of world order that would relieve the pressure both on us and on others. The former strategy is self-defeating, while the latter strategy involves the search for the common good at home and abroad. Before sketching the substance of a vision of the common good, we would like to emphasize the importance of the vision itself, and the need for the Democratic candidate to challenge the rhetoric both of the Reagan administration and of some of its previous Democratic opponents. Ronald Reagan has consistently projected a fantasy image of an America immensely rich and powerful because of unrestrained free enterprise, an America in which small-town virtues can flourish “without government interference.” Americans have grown distrustful and cynical because this fantasy obviously has not produced what it has promised. But the Democrats have responded either by talking solemnly about “an era of limits” in which taxes must be raised, to which Americans have generally preferred the fantasy, or by embracing the Reagan promises and the agenda that the Republicans popularized and contending only that Democrats have better ideas or techniques to realize them. Some strategists believe that the Democratic candidate should say as little as possible in the fall campaign about how he intends to govern while hoping to exploit any error or indiscretion committed by his opponent. Such a strategy would be a grave error for the Democrats regardless of It is incorrect to assume that a candidate and a party can win only in the way consumer products succeed—by becoming increasingly bland so as not to offend anyone. the electoral outcome. It is incorrect to assume that a candidate and a party can win only in the way consumer products succeed—by becoming increasingly bland so as not to offend anyone. If he fails to articulate a vision of national life, the Democratic candidate will risk imitating recent administrations, which all too often have engaged in a pattern of merely reacting, adapting in ah increasingly random manner to a bewildering environment. Avision is necessary, in the first instance, because a candidate needs to project a vision of governance to be able to govern effectively. A coherent vision, a public philosophy, provides citizens with the means for understanding and sympathizing with the aims of the president and his party. Vision shapes public opinion. In this sense, vision is power to govern. More important, the role of the president, and consequently the greatness of a president, is measured by his ability persuasively to advocate a strong sense of the public good. Only in this way can a basis be laid for significant structural reforms as opposed to technocratic finetuning. In a democracy the president must be more than the manager of the national administration and more than the shaper of public opinion. The president must also act as the teacher, in the best sense of that term, by reminding his (or her, in the future) fellow citizens of their common commitments and standards. The president can do this by recalling common history: the record of our achievements, but also of our failures and defeats. The president teaches best when s/he encourages citizens to join actively with their fellows in considering the course of public life for themselves, when s/he generates vigorous debate. Thus, the Democratic candidate can be a catalyst for significant and enduring change in the nation’s political climate. The debate between the free market and the welfare state has exhausted its utility. New times demand a broadened focus. The notion of the common good can provide a new vision through which public deliberations can take focus and radical reform can take place. Consider the present international situation from the perspective of the common good. The Reagan administration has made significant inroads in nuclear arms reduction agreements with the Soviets, an achievement so historic that it may well be remembered as this administration’s most significant accomplishment. Testing the sincerity of the Soviet Union at every point, we can press ahead to further reductions, including reductions in conventional armaments. Of course, we should use the Strategic Defense Initiative as a bargaining chip—it probably will never work anyway. What we don’t need is to drop another trillion dollars in the black hole of a highly dubious weapons system. A4 Brms reduction is a vivid example of a policy motivated by the common good. It benefits not only the Russians and us. As Pope John Paul II recently pointed out, the enormous amount of money the Russians and Americans spend on armaments has a big impact on the suffering peoples of the third world. Although the pope’s concerns are moral and humanitarian, his point actually makes a great deal of economic sense, as many have argued recently. Capital transfers from the industrialized nations to the third world are on the agenda and are not just a matter of charity. Significant growth in the third world will provide the best possible market for our own reviving economy and will help to head off a depression caused by over-production and overcompetition in the advanced nations. All of these proposals will require prolonged and complex negotiations leading to a whole network of agreements. Any effort to strengthen the economies of third world nations must guard against neocolonial interference, on the one hand, and corruption and distortion in the receiving countries, on the other. The United States cannot dictate these agreements: those days are over. But we Clinton St. Quarterly— Fall, 1988 11