We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.
Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf
About a week ago I heard on the radio that a young man was found shot to death in a car on the North side of Milwaukee. I felt sad for the young man and his family. No name was given to the young man and there were no suspects in the homicide. I remembered there was another man found shot in a car recently on the North side. Later I found out both their names. Not much was reported about these two young man. Due to the lack of media attention, the lack of suspects and the location of the two homicides I thought they were both young black men. They were.
The other night in the TV news I heard about an older white man who was found shot in the car, also on the North side. His name was identified on the report and the Mayor, Police Chief were on the scene to talk about this tragic death of a city worker. The next day there were five suspects in custody, although none of them had been charged. A newspaper article had family and friends testimony of what a wonderful person he was.
Three deaths of human beings shot in a car on the North Side. One, the older white man, got proper remembrance and was presented as a true tragedy. The other two, young black men, were mentioned in passing. All three were a tragedy and maybe if we gave as much attention to the two black lives we could slow down the killing of young black men.
Before we can understand the power of nonviolence we must first understand what nonviolence is not. It is not a movement to be passive or silent in face of injustice. It is not a movement against a person, be it a friend, enemy or politician.
Nonviolence is a movement, by word and action, for something just and peaceful. For example, the civil rights movement of 50’s and 60 was not against anyone but for the ability for all races to sit anywhere on the bus, at a lunch carter or to use a public bathroom. Nonviolence is based on values and beliefs, be they Gospel values or human rights, for shelter, clean water, food or health care.
Nonviolence fights wrong and evil not with violence or more injustice but by absorbing the violence and evil and returning it with love and goodness. A nonviolent person knows no fear or hate in the struggle for justice or truth. A nonviolent person struggles with nonviolent word and actions for what is just and right, their “opinion of truth” formed by conscience.
A nonviolent person does not judge other persons words but judges actions of person. “Judge not the sinner but the sin.” For example, our former President talked about achieving a world free of nuclear weapons but in realty built new nuclear weapon plants and new and more usable and deadly nuclear weapons. Our present president talks about nuclear superiority but has not done, to my knowledge, anything new about it. Yet many blame or fear him for the nuclear build up. Pope Francis talks to US Congress about arms dealers having “blood on their hands”. The President and Congress listened and praised him. Yet the USA keeps on being the biggest arms dealers in the world. People killed in Yemen or Palestine with American weapons are killed by us, Americans. We need to take responsibly for these actions and struggle nonviolently to commit this sin no more. We teach in our Catholic Universities the equality and dignity of all life, yet teach war and killing, killing without conscience.
Our reluctance to adopt a nonviolent way of life and action seems to be our fear of sacrifice, being marginalized and suffering loss. An author, Judith Brown, defines Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle as “striving nonviolently to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth.” Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter from the Birmingham jail, talks about how “disciple nonviolence totally confused the rulers of the South”. “They did not know what to do. When they finally reached for clubs, dogs and guns, they found the world was watching, and then the power of nonviolent protest became manifest.” St. Ignatius of Loyola when praying for the grace of God in his “Spiritual Exercises” prays for the “desire to be with you (Jesus) in accepting all wrongs and all rejections and all poverty, both actual and spiritual.”
This essential element of nonviolence, sacrifice, accepting suffering, inconvenience, insults or injury while still struggling for justice, equality and peace is at the heart of nonviolence power.
Power, for our government and the military/industrial/education complex, means having the ability to inflict punishment and violence on people it considers a threat to the American Way. Power for people of nonviolence means taking responsibility for the violence the USA directly or indirectly imposed on people of Somalia, Palestine, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and other countries around the world. People of nonviolence need to fight racism here in the United States be it overtly or structurally, as it is in Milwaukee, with the lack of urgency to remove lead water lines that are poisoning our children, predominately in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods. Christian nonviolence chooses the Way of Jesus, even when it means choosing poverty, suffer and a cross over the American Way of power, money and honor.
Nonviolent persons first must be aware of their own sinfulness, participation, by word, deed or silence in evil like segregation or “killer drones.” Then they can condemn the sins and evils around us. Then by word or action, suffering and loss if necessary, they can strive without violence against this evil, not looking to blame anyone, but to root out the evil. Only then we work together to exercise the power of nonviolence, to change the world, to make society “an easier place to be good.”
Fear is at the heart of violence and war. The sign about the cross of Jesus declared his crime, treason. It read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Although he was innocent of this crime, he suffered the punishment of death on the cross. The cross is a symbol of nonviolence. If we practice the power of nonviolence in a world that values war, violence, profits, pleasure, greed it is inevitable that we will suffer being insulted, marginalized, ignored or even jailed.
New Asylums are Jails and Prisons
(Based on articleAre Health Systems Failing a Moral Test? (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017)
No Room in Milwaukee Hospitals for the Ill!
In Milwaukee County the County government plans to privatize the treatment at the Mental Health Complex,
Which now is the only place poor and marginalized persons in a major mental crisis can go outside of jail
Over the years, mainly due to a lack of funding by the County for persons with major mental illnesses,
Conditions there have deteriorated and numbers served have declined to where jail is home to more ill persons.
There are three major health care systems in Milwaukee County, Aurora, Froedert and Ascension,
Not one of them these three major health care system wants to treat these poor and marginalized ill.
All three non-profits are profitable, with profit margins of 7.5% to 16.4%.
There is money to be made according to the Director of Milwaukee County Department and Human Services,
But there is money to be made by these non-profits in treatment of persons with commercial insurance.
Aurora, the clear choice, plans to invest 40 million in the Athletic Performance Research Center at Marquette University,
Tied into its nearby Aurora Sinai hospital that used to house a major treatments center for ill with brain illnesses, but no more.
But has no interest in running hospital for persons with major mental illnesses.
Although there is not enough money for the three major Health systems in Milwaukee County,
Two out of State for profit companies are interested in providing the services to Milwaukee County,
One of them is being investigated by the Federal Government for fraud at 20 of its behavior health hospitals,
The other one provides mainly medical and behavioral health care in prisons or sick to prisons and jails.
One wonders how out of state for profit companies can find profit for treatment of those ill with a major mental illness,
While local non-profit health care systems cannot find enough money to care for these poor and marginalized ill persons in community.
There is a sign in Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centers of these three large hospital that says:
“If you have a medical emergency you have a right to receive treatment at this place”.
But added in smaller print is “within the capabilities of this hospital’s staff and facilities”.
By ridding themselves of psychiatric and mental health treatment and staff
They can now refuse the poor and marginalized in mental health crisis
The three local health systems say: “there is no room in the inn or hospital for persons with major mental illness,
We only take those ill when we can make more money. Got to Jail”
Last Friday I attended a Common Council Water Quality Task force and asked this question, which I thought was the goal of Task Force and community groups. This letter to Mayor, which was ignored by him and city officials, sums up their response.
Last weekend I met a young father who had done what he could do to protect his young son from lead poisoning. He had a lead free of paint house, had a water filter for lead in kitchen and used bottled water; yet when his son was tested the child was found to have over 5 micgrograms per deciliter, dangerous amount of lead in his blood. As you know up to 20% of children, 6 and under, tested in predominately African American zips had dangerous amount of lead in blood.
I was present last summer when Alderman Hamilton formed the water quality tax force of Common Council to come up with a comprehensive pan, over time, to replace all lead water pipes. I was disappointed in the City of Milwaukee when there was no funds City 2017 budget to replace lead water pipes in residential, except for some day care centers and broken or leaking lead water service pipes.
So at the public hearing portion of the Water Quality Committee meeting today I asked the simple and direct question: When is the City of Milwaukee going to develop a plan and fund it to replace lead water service lines? The chairmen said there was no dialog with committee but nevertheless he would answer my question. After some back and forth he said that you, Mayor, would present a 2018 budget to the City Council next September that would have some money in it and Common Council would review it. When he saw the expression on my face he said that perhaps I did not understand the process and to wait till next September. The expression on my face was not due to not knowing the process but to the fact this was that this was the same answer that in 2016, Alderman Hamilton, you and others had given us, about the 2017 City Budget. Some had even given specific suggestions to you and Council Members of how the City could finance over about a 20 year period the replacement of all lead lateral water pipes. Yet there was no money in 2017 budget to begin this process for the nearly 70,000 residential homes, mostly in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods. All the time, I read in the newspaper about city property taxpayer money going for economic development in the predominately white neighborhood of downtown Milwaukee. No one tells developers seeking profits to wait till the next budget year.
So now I ask you Mayor and the Council Members:
When will the City of Milwaukee develop a comprehensive plan and fund it to replace all lead lateral water pipes in residential homes? I have attached a “racial division” spreadsheet showing the connection between lead water pipes in racially divided neighborhoods and the relationship to high lead blood levels, Homicide, poverty and unemployment rate, city TIF investments and educational achievement.
Ignore or marginalize me the messenger, the problem will not go away until City Officials stop talking, blaming, crying poor and spending money on PR and turn around (repent) the direction of this city and do something it.
I have done other research, have maps and contacts to share. Just let me know if you are interested or care.
Please send any comments on this post to
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Last Sunday in the Crossroads section of the local newspaper there was an opinion article called “Most Segregated Metro Area,It is Just Not That Simple”. In my opinion this editorial represented of a fundermental problem in Milwaukee, refusing to admit racism and segregation and justifying it. Here is my Letter to the Editor that was not printed.
Mr. Gurda’s essay in Sunday’s Crossroads, “Most segregated” Yes, but….” Illustrates the real problem we have with segregation in Milwaukee, failure to acknowledge the problem. He compares Milwaukee’s African American to immigrant communities, German and Polish that once were the majority on North and South side. Many African American ancestors were brought to USA as slaves and did not enjoy the rights of German and Polish Americans immigrants. He calls for more jobs in the African American community, which all can agree. However he fails to mention while the city of Milwaukee invest $3.85 million dollars for economic development (TIF) in two predominately white Zips 53202 and 53203 it only invests $1.5 million dollars for economic development in two, 53206 and 53210, predominately, African American zips. If city was aware of a toxic poison affecting children in predominately white neighborhoods do you think the city would hesitate to solve it? But there is such a problem in the African American neighborhoods with lead water pipes yet the city has no money in 2017 budget and no plans to replace residential lead water pipes. There is a reason why Milwaukee is the worst city to be a black person and to raise a black child. It is! Failure to admit segregation and institutional racism is the problem in Milwaukee.
Left or Right? Does it matter?
The Right won the Presidential Election in 2000
And we had endless wars, bombed countries, violence and terrorism, spying of citizens and disparity between poor and rich.
The Left won the election in 2008.
And we had more endless wars, bombed more countries, more violence and terrorism, more spying on citizens and more disparity between poor and rich.
The Right won the presidential election in 2016
And fear is growing of more war, more bombed countries, more violence and terrorism, more spying and more disparity between rich and poor.
When will learn that it does not matter, left or right, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative?
It is the “rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system”,
That continues to grow until we say No!
(Quote is from Dorothy Day, “Catholic Worker”, September, 1956)
Gulf Residents Arrested
Telling Obama: More Drilling
Equals More Floods
I too was surprise that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. I understand how upset some of you are. However, I do understand the reaction some are indulging in, the name calling, the fear and hatred, the blaming of the President Elect for present problems, the extraordinary effort and money being put in to overcome the election results and all the energy to protest the President Elect now and in January, the President.
Where were you and all this energy the last eight years when we have seen the number of countries being bombed by the United States increase from four to seven; when the present administration was building three new nuclear bomb plants and a new small but deadly nuclear weapon; when public lands and water rights were being given out to fossil fuel companies; when the gap between the rich and poor widen; when poverty in African-American community got worst; when the president administration was approving record sales of arms, including cluster bombs and sophisticated planes to terrorist states like Saudi Arabia; when the assassination list drawn up at the White House once a week became the norm? This list can go on but your silence was overwhelming and heard by many of the oppressed here and around the world.
This is not true for many of you but for some, particularly those now screaming out of fear of Trump it is sadly true. Even on the local level Democrats ignoring the poor, failing to provide clean water to our children, investing property tax in white areas and ignoring minority neighborhoods has been met by silence. Yes, you have met, discussed, talked about some of this issue but where is the action or protest that you are now showing in fear of what might be with President Trump?
I do not mean to scold or shame any of you. However, I do not get all the anger and hate some of you have shown since the election. My understanding of nonviolence is that it is built on love, not hate, even love of enemies.
Some years ago, at the beginning of the Obama presidency I was at the School of Americas Watch (SOAWatch) event at Fort Benning in Georgia. One of the workshops was conducted by Colombian Union workers who had been deeply suppressed by the US backed government of the time. Someone attending the Workshop ask the workers if they had more hope of better treatment now that President Obama was in office. An organizer said he saw no major difference major between Republicans or Democrats administration in the USA in terms of what they did to oppressed people. He said the Republicans are more overt and loud about all the harm they are doing and the Democrats more indirect and quiet. But the results were the same. In the USA the old Jim Crow of overt racism and the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration are equally evil and destructive.
So I say to all friends struggling against injustice and for peace the last eight years in silence or by action, let us work together. Recently by a bipartisan majority, “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” was passed by the Senate and House working together. President elect Trump has talked about taking resources for war and diverting them to infrastructure and about dropping out of the new Pacific trade agreement that was a fast tracked and done in secret. Yes we must protest war and injustice and stay awake and alert. However, let us not personalize it as was done by some on the right to the left. Our values, our consistent life ethic for some, must continue. Hate and fear cannot overcome hate and fear. Only by faith, even when we despair, only by hope, even in dark times, and only by love, even of our enemies we can, in word and action, overcome.
Fear not Trump friends, together, left and right, Republican and Democrat, conservative or liberal, we can overcome. We are the ones we are looking for.
In Justice and Peace,
Flowers come and go in our rain garden but a variety of flowers have been blooming since mid-March through mid-November this year. Now, hopefully flowers from the garden that we have dried out will last is till next March when the fresh flowers appear again.
Drying fall flowers is no great task but it gives the feel of flowers throughout the cold and snowing winters of Wisconsin. These dried flowers offer some hope that spring and flowers will return.
Perhaps better than taking D Vitamins these flowers offer a ray of sunlight and hope on dark winter days. These flowers smash the myth that you cannot have flowers in vases of the house in the winter.
These dried flowers are a reminder that there is always something to be grateful for, which I need in dry winter days. Perhaps, like these flowers, we can keep the spark of beauty in us when the days are short and nights are long.
In our hearts we need to keep some dried flowers of beauty when all seems lost. We can, as healthy flowers, retain our beauty, when life becomes ugly.
We need flowers forever, be they alive or dried, to keep us going.
Green, Blue, Red, Black and White
The Green Party does not like the way the Presidential Election went,
(If Clinton had won I doubt if they would be so upset)
So are spending millions and millions of dollars to recount the votes,
Which will most likely make no difference.
The Green Party is all for environment, making it sustainable and healthy,
(That is the principle at least)
But is spending no money to campaign for safe water for our children,
Especially, Black and Brown children who suffer most from toxic lead in water.
The Green Party has the green money to make a big thing about a little thing
But does not have the green money to make a big thing about a big thing.
Maybe the Green party should change its name to the Green and Blue party
Since they support Democrats and hate the turning of States Red.
Or better yet, Greens can rise up with a Rainbow party,
Where Whites, Blacks, Browns, Blues, Reds, Blue and Greens
Can Work Together to Make America great for everyone!
Wake up America!
Two parties had candidates for election as president of the USA.
One party ran a campaign of fear of the other candidate
And promised more of the same of the last eight years,
Which has been
widening gap between rich and poor,
Record number of deportations,
Major arms deals, even to nations that stand for opposite values of USA,
More wars and bombing, now seven countries,
More “killer drones”
Greater incarceration of black men,
Support of fracking and leasing public lands to companies for fossil fuel extraction,
Support of regime change like in Honduras,
Three new nuclear weapon plants and a new and more dangerous nuclear weapon,
Elimination of safety net, like food stamps
This candidate, supported by liberals, progressives, many Democrats, Wall Street, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, left and the Military/Industrial/ educational Complex had the most money and Lost
The other candidate, not a professional politician had no record to run on but promised change and to “to drain the swamp” of US government.
For his rhetoric he has been called a “racist, sexist, Islamophobia and all kinds of other names,
Names his language and promises well deserved
Also he has spoken of taking some of the trillions we are spending our wars and putting it back into our country for needy infrastructure projects,
He does not support “regime change”,
But Supports term limits, Electoral College reform, health care for those with major mental health illnesses,
Reigning in banks and Wall Street and other stuff the left normally likes.
But all this is just talk also since he has not govern yet.
This candidate is supported by conservatives, many Republicans, working class and right, had less money and Won
The candidate who won has awaked the peace and social justice organization and movements.
Immediately after the election they started protesting the president elect and plan more and bigger actions after he takes office
The large uproar on the left does not seem to be on what he has done or holding him accountable but on his past rhetoric and what he might do.
We were a divided nation going into the election and now are becoming more divided.
The “powers that be”, who gave us these two unacceptable choices must be glad.
Now that we can fight each other instead of holding the president and government accountable.
They can continue with more wars, rich being richer, poor getting poor, more death, destruction and violence.
If united the people would stand tall and strong no matter who the president is,
But divided, calling each other names and occasional committing acts of violence
Continues the Status Quo of government controlled by 1% of the people.
When will we ever learn that only by working together with love, not hate, with kindness not meanness, by dialog not ignoring we will overcome
I just do not get it. Wake up American the opportunity for peace and justice exist with us.
We are the ones we are looking for.
A Facebook Friend, a retired African American Judge, led me to the web site of BAR, Black Agenda Report, black left newsletter. There I discovered this poem by a poet in residence at BAR, Raymond Nat Turner:
Terror Tuesday is what the White House calls the basement meetings at which the First Black President profiles and targets individuals and groups of people for summary assassination anywhere from Somalia to Standing Rock. Before Donald Trump even assumes the Oval Office, it’s already the new normal.
by BAR poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner
The Commander has a menu:
Yemeni youth at an outdoor café
Grandmother, grandsons gardening okra
Hospital in Pakistan
Menu for us, too:
BP Seafood in Sauce of Crude
Gasoline Spill Soup
Bomb Train Tatar
Baked Buffoon’s overdone—
Stinks—like food poison on a plate;
PTS: Permission To Shudder,
Clinging to crimson combat boots
Of Golda-plated Iron Lady
Haliburton, Boeing, General Dynamic,
Monsanto, Exxon Chefs cut corners,
substitute cuts, pass off overpriced,
Empty calorie dishes as democracy
We have a menu too:
To our left, two doors down
Resistance Buffet—new dishes constantly—
Ain’t cheap—but all you can eat—filling,
stick to your ribs, seconds are cool—
Even thirds, fourths…of:
Lunch Counter Sit-in
Arab Spring Rolls
Standing Rock Soup
Occupy/ Wisconsin Coffee
On the way to the grandstand at Hortonville High School
I saw this tree, a shining fall red color under the lights
Friday night high school football has its attraction
Especially when you grandson is on the field
But this tree got my attention
So at halftime on the way back from the concession stand
I stopped and watched this tree for a while.
The tree just stood there in all its fall beauty
And soon I moved on to the Friday night football game.
There are two sides in this election.
One side says to vote for my candidate
Because the other one is worst.
The other side says vote for my candidate
Because the other side is worst.
In my garden the butterfly has its favorite flower,
The bee has its favorite flower.
Both enjoy the nectar of their favorite flowers
But do not demonize the others choice.
But then again the butterfly and bee have no conscience,
There is no right or wrong.
And that makes all the difference.
When both candidates talk or do evil
We, in conscience, cannot pick either one.
But we can learn from the butterfly and bee
And just enjoy the nectar of life
Boys and men chant slogans during
a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes
in Sanaa, Yemen
The other day at a local SOAWatch vigil I heard someone say that in countries suppressed by the USA, like Guatemala, the people of the country do not blame the people of the USA for their troubles but the USA government and big corporate interest. This may still be true for some countries in Latin America but it seems less and less true, especially in the war torn countries in the Middle East.
A good example is in the bombing last Saturday by Saudi Arabia of a funeral service in Yemen, killing 140 people and injuring more than 500. In 2011, Hillary Clinton and her closest aides in the State Department celebrated a $29.4 billion sale of over 80 F-15 fighter jets, manufactured by U.S.-based Boeing Corporation, to Saudi Arabia. The arms sales were very profitable to the Clinton Foundation. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 – contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
The country of Yemen,once friendly, to the USA, had been devastated by US drone and bombing attacks. Now Saudi Arabia, US surrogate, using US military equipment, like F-15 fighter jets and cluster bombs, is wrecking death to Yemeni peoples. As of August, 2016 the UN conservative estimates over 10,000 people of Yemen have been killed in civil war and millions displaced.
The people of Yemen, as people in our countries being devastated, know that is it is not just government leaders like Obama and Clinton but it is the American people who support these leaders that are responsible. When I was in Haiti in 2010, I was surprised that the Haitian people called President Clinton the ‘devil’. Those of us who elected Bill Clinton and President Obama must take some of the blame for these deaths. Those who vote for Hilary Clinton will need to take some of the blame for the bloodshed in Yemen and other countries. The blood is on our hands.
When I was a seminarian in the 60′s studying at St Louis University I was blessed to live in a house in a low income African-American neighborhood close to the infamous Pruitt Igoe housing project. I traveled nearly daily between the white university and the black neighborhood. One day I was going to an artsy film in a white suburb with my white friends. As we approached the movie theater a strange feeling overcame me. It was a surreal feeling. At the time I did know what it was but now I understand. It was a feeling of white privilege. The contrast between where I lived and where I was got to me.
Much later our family lived in Madison, Wisconsin a fairly white middle class city, we became members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at our Church. As members,our mission was to visit homes of people in need, treat them with dignity and try to help them, if we could, with a voucher for basics like food or clothing. Most of the people we visited were black. I remember working into apartments that had nothing but a T.V. Set. However, I felt comfortable with the people we visited and instantly made friends with the little children. It was like I was walking into another world where everyone was equal. After I left the home I would join the white world.
After I retired some 10 years or more ago I made some friends with people in the African-American community, sometimes driving friends to a doctor’s appointment, working in a community garden or meeting around a community issue. It was then I noticed what I now call white privilege. Many did not have computers at home, most did not have cars and the neighborhoods and in a segregated community that often did not have street signs on the corners’. I started to notice that at certain events, a la cart food day at the Milwaukee Zoo, at sports and music events at my grandchildren’s rural town and a play or musical events the overwhelming majority of people in attendance were white. There is a scattering of Blacks or Hispanics at these events but nowhere in proportion to their numbers. Economics as well as race were in play. Milwaukee is not only the most segregated city by race in the USA but it is the second poorest.
This year I attended a series of workshops sponsored by the African-American Holocaust center in Milwaukee and I found a tag for this feeling of living in two worlds: white privilege. Being aware of ‘white privilege’ has influenced my view of life and brought attention to the racism in myself and our city.
White Privilege in Milwaukee is a major reason, I believe, why Milwaukee is the Worst City for Black Americans. The latest crisis, toxic lead in the drinking water in 70,000 homes in mostly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods is the latest one ignored or downplayed by city officials. For example in the 95% Black zip code f 53206 19.9 of children, 6 years old or younger have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. The city has committed no money to date to replace the lead lateral water pipes that leach lead into the water yet is spending over $130 million of taxpayers money in just two developments serving the 95% white residents of downtown Milwaukee, a downtown streetcar and sports arena and entertainment district.
If a white privilege area of Milwaukee or suburb had 19.9% of its children 6 and under with dangerous toxic lead levels there is no doubt there would be urgency toward resolving the problem.
White privilege can be a blessing for whites but a curse for blacks. Be careful what you know. You cannot return to ‘normal’ once you are afflicted by White Privilege Awareness (WPA).
Today at Mass the Gospel reading was the parable about the rich man suffering in hell while the poor beggar is at peace in the bosom of Father Abraham. The priest asks each one of us to tell another person when the moment we first became aware of the fate of people facing poverty and rejection. As I was stories with another person, I suddenly became aware that the awareness of poor and marginalized, if we truly are followers of the Way of Jesus, stays with us always and the more aware we become the more rejection we suffer.
The other day I was reflecting on how I first became aware of “white privilege”. Today I realized that discrepancy of opportunities available to me and to others are still with me but have grown deeper as I have got to know people living in pain, rejection and poverty.
To be at peace with this awareness of rejection, poverty and suffering is difficult. We can put it aside, numb ourselves to these feelings or accept them as part of living a Christian life and find peace in being in solidarity with marginalized, poor and those in pain.
Making peace with rejection, poverty and suffering is not an easy task. But we must believe that picking up this cross will mean life everlasting. Living with Rejection can pay off.
While waiting for a friend to be released from jail for a nonviolent action today, I write this reflection. More on the nonviolent action after he is released.
In September, 1968, the USA, to our knowledge, was bombing one country, Vietnam. Through the selective service system young men were being drafted into the military and being sent to Vietnam to “kill or be killed.” 20% of officers in the military were being trained in military training programs at many local colleges and universities.
In September, 2016, the USA is bombing nine countries and is contributing weapons and training to countries and rebel groups all over the world. The Selective service does not draft young men any longer. The military has adopted education as its recruiting tool. Young men and women of age 18–25, when part of their brain, the part that assets risk and consequences, is not fully developed, are being recruited by offers of jobs and education. Due to advanced technology of killing, less men and women are needed in military. Now 80% of military officers are being trained at fewer universities around the country.
All colleges and universities, except pacifist ones, are required by law to offer military recruiting training to any interested student in order to receive Federal grants of any type. However, only universities that are selected by the Department of Defense and volunteer to do so, have military training programs (ROTC, NROTC and AFROT) on campus. Military recruits from all other colleges and universities in the region are transported to these few universities that ‘host” these Departments of Defense (DoD) on campus. Schools that host the military are well compensated by the Department of Defense and credits earn in the Departments of Army, Navy/Marines or Air Force are transferred to home school of the recruit. For example, Marquette University host military training for 17 or so Colleges and Universities in Southeast Wisconsin. Now 80% plus of officers in military are trained in military programs at few local colleges and universities.
With the military training now focus on fewer schools the training has become more intense on training “to kill or be killed”. For example, after World War II it was discovered that only 25% of American Soldiers actually fire weapons at the enemy to kill. Though the study of brain science and using simulated technology game training (like killing video games pioneered by US military) the “shoot to kill” ratio is now over 95%. The consequence of this type of training, called in some military circles, as ‘reflexive killing’ has been devastating on young men and women recruited in Military. As CPT Pete Kilner, instructor at the U.S. Military Academy said to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics in Washington, DC in January 2000: “Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so. … Battles are won by killing the enemy, so military leaders should strive to produce the most efficient killers. The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely—and understandably—suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.” The suicide rate of veterans, about 22 per day, is tragic consequence of this type of “reflexive killing.”
In September, 1968, I participated in the “Milwaukee 14” nonviolent action, destroying 1A selective service draft records to stop “kill or be killed”. Today as Jesuit trained Catholic and Christian I again feel compelled to stop the new selective service system, military training (ROTC) at Marquette. No matter how much money, honor or glory Marquette receives from the US government to teach war and killing as Christians we must say No to Marquette hosting the Department of Defense on campus. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, a soldier who laid down his weapons to be a companion of Jesus, calls to us to reject riches, honor or glory and to be in solidarity with the poor and to practice the nonviolent love of Gospel, to love even our enemies. If Marquette will not stop teaching war and killing by no longer hosting the Department of Defense on campus we must do it with our nonviolent love and action.
New Nuclear Weapon
These days as we remember the USA nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki my thoughts go to how in the last seven years of the Presidency of Barack Obama the nuclear bomb scare has increased. President Obama, despite calling repeatedly for “a world without nuclear weapons,” has reduced the size of the nation’s atomic stockpile far less than did any of his three immediate predecessors, including both Presidents Bush. President Obama in his terms has overseen the building of three new nuclear bomb plants in the USA and the development of a new nuclear weapon, B61–12 warhead, consider the most dangerous weapon in the USA arsenal. Now the Obama administration is planning to spend more than $1 trillion over the next three decades to significantly upgrade its nuclear weapons capability.
The President in visiting Hiroshima not only refused to apologize on behalf of the USA for the nuclear destruction but show dishonor for the loss of so many lives by fortifying the nuclear weapon arsenal in the USA.
My heart aches for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but is most sad for the people of the USA who pay lip service to nuclear disarmament but support a president and congressional figures who make this world a more dangerous place with nuclear weapons. When will we ever learn?
Bob was coming into the house from working in the garden with his five year old granddaughter, Carolee.
In the kitchen Carolee said: “I am thirsty. Grandpa can I have a glass for water. “
Grandpa Bob “Certainly Carolee, I will get you a glass and fill it up with bottle water in our refrigerator.”
Carolee: No Grandpa, I just asked for a glass. Grandma put a stool by the Kitchen sink so I could help her do the dishes. I can get my own drink of water.”
Grandpa Bob says “Please do not drink the water” from the faucet. I have some cold water in the refrigerator.
Carolee: “What is wrong with the water in the sink?”
Grandpa Bob: “It might have some bad stuff in it.”
Carolee: “What bad stuff?
Grandpa: Bob “It is called lead.”
Carolee: “What is lead?”
Grandpa Bob: “Lead is a bad thing that can hurt young children like you.”
Carolee: “Do we have lead in our water at home?”
Grandpa: “No because you live a newer house that is not old like this one.”
Carolee: “All our water comes from the Lake with Lead?”
Grandpa: “Water coming from the Lake does not have lead. The lead comes in the in old homes like this as it passes through lead water pipes.
Carolee: “Does the Mayor know about this? My daddy says the Mayor is a good man and cares about children.”
Grandpa Bob: “Yes, the Mayor knows about the lead water pipes.”
Carolee: “What is he doing about this bad stuff in water?”
Grandpa: “The Mayor talks about it but I do not think he has a plan yet.”
Carolee: “Grandpa, What should Mayor and City do to get rid of lead water pipes?”
Grandpa: “The City needs to replace all lead water pipes in all the houses that has them. Now can I ask you not to drink the water in the sink but the water in the refrigerator?”
Today’s headline in the newspaper reads “Racial disparity in infant mortality rates widen.” The article goes on to point out that African American babies died at a rate that was 3.2 times that of White babies in 2015. The medical director and chief medical officer at the Milwaukee says preterm birth is responsible for about 60% of infant deaths. , said Geoffrey Swain, medical director and chief medical officer at the Milwaukee Health Department and a professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He goes on to say: “Stress experienced over the course of a mother’s life — chronic stress caused by such things as poverty, violence, racism, food insecurity, housing insecurity, undiagnosed health problems, pollution and unemployment — is a key cause of prematurity.”
It hit me that the main cause of high infant mortality of black babies is the same cause of many of Milwaukee’s problem with homicides, violence, poverty, high incarceration of black males, education and housing. While Milwaukee seeks quick fixes, like Pack N Plays for babies to sleep in to avoid death in co-sleeping with adult, the city avoids dealing with long term solutions, changing the environment the young mothers live in, creating a less stressful environment where things like food and housing insecurity, are not of great concern.
Recently, there have been a rash of youth carjacking cars. The City’s response is to increase policing and for Criminal Justice system to be tougher on these youth. Again the environment these youth live in, one of hopelessness, poverty, poor education, food and housing insecurity, lack of recreational activities, high unemployment is not considered.
Study after Study have demonstrated the way to lessen people incarcerated, homicide and crime rate as well as infant mortality rate is by dealing with the underlying causes, poverty, education, employment, lack of affordable housing, Yet we seek short term solutions, food pantries, more police, homeless shelters while avoiding the long term answers creating housing equality, restoring cuts in education, replacing lead lateral water pipes.
If all the money used for short term solutions, jailing persons with mental illnesses, providing Pack N Plays, extra policing, prisons was used to create an healthy and safer environment for all people the city would be a healthier, less stressful for children to be born and live it.
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker says our job is to build a “society where it is easier for people to be good. Yes, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The infant mortality gap between black and white can be changed by creating an environment for black woman like that of white woman