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
A young adult woman, friend who we knew since she came to USA as teen from Sierra Leone, was over today. She has family in Sierra Leone, who lived through the awful civil war and are now living through the Chinese invasion of her country. Sierra Leone is rich in resources but poor, like other African countries. The Chinese with bribes to government officials and doing a few things like roads and internet that serve their own interest is taking the natural resources, fish, rice crops and minerals out of the country.
In the USA China buys our debt and has a most one way trade deal with us, exporting almost everything. China has been able to use the best, or worst, of communism (state control) and capitalism (free market) to be an economic power in the world. While China has the second largest military in the world it is nowhere close to number 1, the USA. However, unlike the USA, the largest weapon dealer in world and with military intervention worldwide, China has used its economic power, communism capitalism, to be an economic power in the world. While we may be able to make war whoever we want, China can control any economy it wishes.
Years ago I used to refuse to buy any product “Made in USA”, thus not shopping at Wal-Mart. I still hold to this standard, especially with food, but find it hard to be pure in my desire. My Apple I Phone might have been designed in the USA but was made in China.
I used to say that young people should study Chinese; they certainly teach and speak good English. I was concerned that our country would be taken over by China. But now I think China is not much danger to the USA. Why would they want to hurt their investment,which gives them, at least government party members, so much return and wealth? China is now the USA’s Big Brother.
Yesterday Sister Rose called me with the information for three homicide prayer vigils today. I am the back-up person to send out email notices of vigils. First, she asked me if I was planning to attend and I said yes. She had called a number of the regulars and for various reasons they could not make it. Since I was going to be there she gave me the list of three males that had been shot and killed in North Central Milwaukee last week. She had the names of the three men but told me not to use them since the police had not yet released the names to media yet.
This morning it was a pastor in the area, Sister and me at the first two vigils and then sister and me at the last one. One line about each of the three men appeared in the paper this morning so was able to release the names on her sheet this morning. Last Saturday morning, Jason J. Earl, 30, was shot and killed in the 1200 block of W. Cheery. Last Thursday, Joseph R. Jenkins, 26, was shot and killed in 400 block of East Burleigh. Last Friday, Frederick C. Martin. 24, was shot and killed in the 900 block of Center street.
At each location there were balloons, empty liquor bottles, candles and other remembers of the three young men. Sister was unable to reach the families of the three victims which, when present, add some personal memories of the victim. However, at the second vigil there were some young men, brother and cousins and a woman around the site. They had their car door open with very loud rap music playing. They were not expecting us and when they saw what we up to, praying, they went off to the side to continue their conversation. It was like the three of us were in another world than the young men and woman remembering their brother and cousin.
When I came home I saw on the Coalition for Justice web page some twitter messages under the tag “Remember Her Name” or Remember His Name.” There were one links in the local newspapers where these persons lived and died. When seeing the names, ages and where each of three young men who were shot and killed last Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Milwaukee I thought these were black lives that mattered but who very few remembered or even knew. Who were these three special lives that were lost to senseless violence? Perhaps if we knew these young African American males personally and by name things would be different newspaper today, is all we know. Black Lives Matter and these three young men really matters. Remember the names of our three brothers, Fredrick, Jason and Joseph. RIP we would respond in another way than just another annoyers killing of young black men. For the names, revealed in the
Earlier I wrote a letter to the Pope about his upcoming visit to USA, a letter that I never sent. My friends from the Friends of Franz Jagerstatter community in Syracuse, New York are just not sending this letter to Pope about his visit but are asking for signatures and are publishing it the National Catholic Reporter, the largest Catholic Journal in the United States. Friends consider it and sign it, if you want, at their web site.
Dear Pope Francis,
We are Catholics and fellow Christians and other people of peace and justice living in the United States where you will be visiting this September. We respectfully ask that you listen to our request and publicly respond to it with resoluteness equal to the gravity of the matter here raised.
In your recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, you proclaim that “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.” Visiting the United States, the most prolific polluter and, not coincidentally, the greatest war maker on the globe, is a challenge and an opportunity that we pray you do not fail to take advantage of.
You have rightly denounced the terrorism of ISIS and similar organizations, and you have appropriately named the murder of more than one million Armenians by the Turkish state in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century.” There were no Catholic chaplains in the Turkish military in 1915 and the banners of ISIS are not displayed today in Catholic churches. The U.S. military, on the other hand, is predominantly Christian with one-third of the force Catholic, so that it might be hoped that your denunciation of terrorism and genocide might have a more positive effect here and now. We beg you to speak out just as clearly and publicly denounce the terrorism and genocide that your host country, the United States, is even now inflicting on the Muslim and Christian Arab people of the Middle East and the people of Afghanistan. Decades of aggression including sanctions, bombings, invasions, arming of insurgents, have left millions dead, many more millions displaced and homeless. Assassinations by remotely controlled drones destabilize civil societies and kill thousands of innocents. Thousands have been imprisoned and tortured. Many lands are being made desolate and poisoned, and ancient communities are being devastated.
In September you will be visiting a nation that is committing a trillion dollars to the development and production of a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, threatening unprecedented destruction of creation, while many of its own people lack the means needed to live lives of simple dignity. The global inequality that you decry, wherein the poorest suffer the brunt of diminishing resources and the ravages of chaos in the climate, is not judged by those who control the government and the economy in the United States as a problem to be solved, but an advantage to be defended at all costs. With more than 800 U.S. military bases already around the globe, the lands of indigenous people are still being plundered against their protests to construct even more bases.
We do appreciate the pleas for peace and justice that you and your predecessors have made over these horrible years. These good words are only rarely taught by the Catholic bishops, pastors and educational institutions in the United States. They have been systematically undermined by U.S. Catholic institutions to the point where the vast majority of the Catholic faithful, Catholic soldiers especially, are completely unaware that they have ever been spoken.
At the end of World War II, Albert Camus lamented that, even as an unbeliever, he was one of millions who waited for but never heard any word from Rome against the carnage he witnessed. The condemnation from Rome was voiced, he later discovered, but voiced in a style “not at all clear”.
We hope that you will not repeat the error of your predecessors. “What the world expects of Christians,” Camus insisted, “is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest person.”
Pope Francis, we understand that you come to the United States as a diplomat and as a pastor, but in these perilous times we need you here as a prophet most of all. Please do not speak to President Obama, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops, and the American people, without making a clear denunciation of the complicity of our nation’s government, its people, its institutions and its churches in crimes against humanity and God’s creation.
As the homicide rate in Milwaukee soars there is daily new statement, initiatives by Mayor, police chief, community leaders and clergy. Most agree that the long term solution is eliminating poverty, racial segregation, poor education, lack of mental health hospital facility, family breakdown and high unemployment but rather than deal with this structural changes to our society everyone is looking for a quick fix, more policemen, more patrols in troubled areas, neighborhood organization taking control, blaming parents, short term programs etc.
I was lamenting at prayer vigil the lack of concern for long term solutions to the program when someone I dearly respect answered she had heard of the Mayor and community leaders and had hope in that effort. I tried to say, gently, that looking to Mayor or any officials is not the answer.
One of the reasons I am attracted to the poor’s struggle against “money belonging to poor” of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) being used to fund a store serving the suburbanites is because that is concrete way of changing the system of care of the local Society. As I wrote in the proposal and the parable Thy Kingdome Come on Earth as it is in Heaven providing needy families with beds, a stove and refrigerator would not only be an act of mercy but a way to make systematic change. Families could sleep comfortable at night; parents would have a way to store food and to cook it, all things missing the many families living below the poverty line in Milwaukee. The Church I addressed the original proposal took the million dollars plus they made after the closure and sale of another Catholic church, my church, in the Archdiocese and gave it to bankers to put it away in trust fund for ‘future use.’
The mayor, Archbishop, president of Milwaukee, Police chief and Sheriff of Milwaukee, President of local St. Vincent de Paul Society, all Catholics, can talk all they want and prosecute all they want, but until they hear the “cry of the poor”. All people like me can do is to join our voices to the “cry of the poor”, doing works of mercy and of resistance until enough people ‘wake up’ and hear the cry of the poor and work together to make a difference now and long term.
“The rich cannot accumulate wealth without the co-operation of the poor in society.” (M.K. Gandhi, “The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi” p. 271).
This was the daily quote from Gandhi I received from India today. I have seen this quote before but find it timely since recently I have seen how a little bit of the power of the poor when they organize. See No Room in SVDP Store for the Poor. The Poor People’s Picket last Saturady was a small group from North and South Central Milwaukee; imagine what it would be like with 100 on the picket line and milling with the public Grand Opening. As it was, they had more policemen present than poor when the move was made to make us move off the property or be arrested.
The problem is that one friend, poor herself pointed on, is making the poor believe they have such power. As was said in yesterday’s posting War is the Creation of Individuals not Nations. To make money off of war the rich need the poor and middle class to fight the wars and make the weapons. It seems like in this age of “endless wars” the pace of rich getting richer, one percent, has rapidly increase.
However, it is not only wars that make money for rich. Keep the poor in Milwaukee penned in on the North Central side (African American) and South Central Milwaukee (Hispanic) is making some persons rich. Around here in the early 90’s our rapid transportation system of trolleys and trains was torn down and replace with a major movement for road construction that remains today. It is not by chance that the road contractors are the biggest lobbyist and donators to the politicians at State level. Although the State builds more and bigger roads for people to come in the city for cultural arts, sports, gambling or dinning, our city infrastructure is falling apart.
The very rich also have convinced many in the middle class that they too can be rich like them and America is still the land of opportunity where everyone can be whatever they want to be. Of course you must look down on the poor and marginalized to get to this opportunity. You got be part of the “Exceptional” persons, those who know better what is right for poor and marginalized. You can donate money to a charity; even work a meal program without mingling with poor. Count how many ‘friends we have that are truly poor or marginalized.
Times when the poor and middle class realize how much power they have used to be met with opposition or resistance by the rich. This denial of rights or conflict help the poor understands their real power. Nowadays the rich and powerful, “powers that be”, do not deny the protest of poor or middle class; they just ignore any movement of people and, if need be, marginalize or co-opt the leaders.
If poor and middle class joined together and use the ‘power of the poor’ the line of Mary’s, Mother of God, in her song of praise, the Magnificat, will come true: “God has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.” (Luke 1:52)
My friend, Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, from the Center for Creative Nonviolence, is sending out emails with reflections on war and peace for a forty day period. Tonight using a number of quotes he makes his point clearly.
“War is the creation of individuals, not of nations.”
-Sir Patrick Hasting,1948
Wars: Rich people decide to initiate them and profit from them. Poor and middle class people kill and die in them. That’s fact, not opinion! “Rich men’s wars, poor men’s blood,” is a cliché as old as war itself.
Why is this truth never presented as even a partial description and explanation of war by Christian leaders to those in their spiritual care in order to afforded the Christian community, especially its Christian young people, a more informed consciousness with which to make the best Christian moral decision before God they possibly can, on whether to participate in the eternally hellish world of war? Is it because that what is said above is not true? Or, too true to risk mentioning?
Why is it that bishops, priests, ministers and pastors continue to propagate among ordinary Christians in their spiritual care “that attractive rainbow, which rises in showers of blood—that serpent’s eye, which charms to destroy,” namely, the myth of military glory? Is it because the myth is true and Jesus’ teachings on violence and enmity are false? Or is it that the myth is compatible with the teachings of Jesus? Or is the myth the antithesis of Jesus’ teachings but necessary in order to have the poor and middle class primed to fight the wars of the rich and to have the rich generously approve of the Church’s work in support of their interests?
“I am reminded of something I read years ago in the depths of the Second World War. A reporter interviewed a hotel manager on the French Riviera.The manager observed that the rich as a class are indestructible. In spite of what had happened since 1939, he said, business at his Riviera hotel was about as good as it had ever been.”
-Rev. John L. McKenzie
True or False?
The history of war is the history of wealthy individuals willing to sacrifice thousands upon thousands of other people’s lives for personal gains.
“All this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of lives and hopes, has been brought about because a set of mostly stupid gentlemen, living luxurious lives, have chosen that it should occur.”
-Betrand Russell, 20th century English philosopher
Again and again, where war is concern we witness a dereliction of spiritual duty, a prostitution of ministry and ecclesiastical office, along with a squashing of known and verified historical truth and Gospel truth by bishops, priests, ministers, and pastors, in order to curry favor and not offend the operatives of those satanic blood brother idols, Mars and Mammon.
Lilies of field in Palestine and Isreal
are poppies which bloom for
one day which “carpet the plains
and hills of Palestine.”
Summer is finally here. The weather has been in the 80’s all week and last week for the first time, in almost two years, we had a day over 90. Dinner tonight consisted of a salad with lettuce from the garden and baked kale from the garden. We have got our first tomatoes today and have basil, beans and chives ready to be processed, cooked, frozen or dehydrated. 8–10 flowers are in full bloom with more to come. All is well when your garden prospers.
Gardening is also therapy. Working with dirt from the earth is healing, physically and mentally. All the worries of world, high homicide rate in Milwaukee, greed taking money from the poor, ‘endless wars’ are all pushed to the back of mind as the body takes over working the garden.
I wish human beings could be as simple as the flowers and vegetables in the garden. They are focused on getting sun and water to grow. We humans can become so complicated that we need medicine to sleep and coffee to wake up. We attached to our things, like our digital devices and have a hard time letting go of things that we have no power over. We easily get used by the ‘powers to be’ fighting every little thing or living life in a deep sleep.
A seed gets buried in the ground, dies, and rises again as a plant. With sun and rain the plant grows. Weeds also grow and unless we keep them under control they can choke out the plants.
Too simple you say, our life being like the life of a garden. But it is worth it. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:28–29).
See enlarged chart below
With all the talk of St. Vincent de Paul undeserving North Central Milwaukee, 85% plus African American, with all the homicides and violence in North Central Milwaukee, with the high employment and incarceration rates in same area (North to Siliver Spring, 60th to Milwaukee River), comes a startling statistics from a local Foundation’s study. 38.1% of African Americans in Milwaukee live below the poverty level, the highest rate in the nation. Is anyone, St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) in Milwaukee, the police, county executive or mayor making the connection between poverty and violence, high unemployment, incarceration, poor housing and education in North Central Milwaukee. As I said in the posting No Room in the SVDP store for the poor the four million dollars that SVDP Society invested in the suburbs with hope of some trickle down to needy in the future, could have purchased 277,000 beds, stoves or refrigerators for the needy in North Central and South Central (poor Hispanic population). As we tried to say in the parable Thy Kingdome Come On Earth As It is Heaven a good bed to sleep on, good food stored in a refrigerator and cooked on a stove can do more good for young men and woman in poverty areas than a fancy store serving the suburbs.
Racial segregation and poverty in Milwaukee is not only hurting Milwaukee but will eventually come back to hurt the County and State. White people in the suburbs may think they are doing good for low income people, the 38% of African Americans living below the poverty line in Milwaukee, by donating money and items to the SVDP store to be sold in the suburbs but the opposite is a result.
If they would just keep the principles of the SVDP society, people in affluent areas making home visits to poor in central city they would be doing a lot more good. Personal contact with poverty moves people to change laws and systematic inequality while donations perpetuate the myth that donations without personal contact will make a change.
This racial injustice, racism, is making Milwaukee one of the most violent cities per population with highest rate of incarceration and poverty in the USA. It must stop with you and I speaking and acting out. Stop racism in Milwaukee now.
Ms. Lucille, 87, being escorted
by police off the SVDP store grounds.
On Saturday, July 18th, a group of concerned people met at the Center Street public library parking lot in North Central Milwaukee to car pool to the new St. Vincent de Paul thrift store located in the suburb of Greenfield, 12 miles away. More importantly, the St. Vincent de Paul store is located in a different economic, social and racial world. Greenfield is an 85% white city with an average household income of $42,586.00, while the North Central Milwaukee neighborhood around the Center Street library is 85% African-American with an average household income of $20,787.00 (53206).
The mission of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP), the largest Catholic lay organization in the world, is to “serve people in need in a personal way”. People in need around the Center Street library, like many persons in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee (the second poorest city in the USA) are not being served by St. Vincent de Paul due to a decision of the SVDP central office and central council of Milwaukee. However, any persons in need from the suburban areas like Greenfield can find service through their local SVDP conferences.
At the parking lot of the Greenfield SVDP store we were met by other people, from South Central Milwaukee, another area largely under-served by the Society. We were there to picket the store which was celebrating its belated Grand Opening. Our message was simple: Stop using $4 million dollars, “belonging to the poor” according to the Rule of the Society, for a store serving people in the suburbs. From 9:30am −10am, we, people of all ages from 12-years old to 87 years old, of multiple races, Black, Hispanic and White, picketed on the sidewalk along Hwy 100 in front of the parking lot of new store.
At 10am we stopped, put away the signs and joined the mostly white crowd that had gathered under a big tent in the parking lot. The Archbishop of Milwaukee was the first speaker and he spoke with enthusiasm about Blessed Frederic Ozaman, one of the founders of the Society. He mentioned some details about Blessed Frederic’s life, including the name of the homilist at his funeral Mass in 1853. However, he never mentioned how Frederic and his group of well-to-do Catholic university students attending Paris University during the time of French Revolution, were challenged by other students to practice what they preached. Not knowing what to do they went to Sister Rosalie, a Daughter of Charity religious, who regularly visited the poor ‘across the tracks’ in the slums of Paris. These young men went from the middle class areas of the time (like Greenfield) to the poorest areas of Paris to befriend and serve the poor in personal ways as best they could. This was the beginning of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and its mission of “person to person service” to people in need. SVDP spread like wild fire throughout the world and arrived in Milwaukee in 1849. Retail stores came much later in the history of the Society, as a way for members to store items for conferences to give to the needy or for those that can afford them to purchase items at a low.
After the Archbishop spoke and while he was sprinkling holy water blessings on the people and the new store, the Archbishop’s newly appointed Victor for Urban issues spoke. He spoke and prayed with the crowd acting, honestly or not, as if he was not aware of what some have called “the abominanation the Greenfield store represents”. After a few more speeches on behalf of the Campaign to raise money for this four million dollar investment, a video was shown. It was a very ‘pious’ video showing how one poor woman from the North side of Milwaukee was visited by two Vincentians, received a voucher and a chance to pick up her needed items at the new store. The reality is that the new store is an hour and a half bus ride from the North side and transportation is a major issue. The most egregious thing however, was at the end of the video when a sign on the screen said that 90% of donated money goes to the poor. Using the Milwaukee SVDP approved budget for 2014–2015 year, only 4.5% of the budget goes for direct services to people in need. There is no information to back the 90% figure. Are they using the 40 employees of the new store in Greenfield? Or the fees they pay in lieu of taxes to the city of Greenfield, as part of the 90%?
After the donation envelopes were passed out. After the media and the Archbishop left, a force of about seventeen police officers appeared. One of our members who left after picketing had noticed a number of squad cars parked nearby with three of four Greenfield police officers in each car accompanied with riot gear. I was approaching the store with Ms. Lucille Berrien, an 87-year old peace and justice activist, who was using her walker. Police approached us and asked us if we were on the ‘approved list to be there’. I played dumb, although a board member had warned me when I was entering the parking lot that I was not welcome and would be arrested if I stayed. A staff member of SVDP came by and told the police officer we were not welcomed and thus trespassing. Ms. Berrien and I started to argue with the police officer about kicking us off the property. I could not believe he would arrest us and pushed him to the point where he said: “Okay you are arrested; put your hands behind your back.” At that point I looked over to Ms. Berrien who was distressed and asked her if staying there was worth an arrest. She said no, and I said okay we would leave. The officer followed us all the way to my car parked in the back of the big parking lot. He kept asking us to go faster although Ms. Lucille was visibly frail and having problems with her walker.
On the way out I noticed other members of our group being harassed by police and being forced off the property. When I got to my car and got Ms. Lucille settled I noticed there was a lineup of additional police in front of the store. On the way out of the parking lot another member of our group met us. She was going into the store talking with the former district attorney when three police surrounded them and pointed to her and said she had to leave the store. Once outside the police said she had to leave the property. Since we were not protesting at this point, I believe they just did not want us to be talking with Vincentians about our “opinions of the truth” and the moral issues involved in spending “money belonging to poor” to serve the suburbs. In retrospect, the police action seemed well planned. We were allowed to picket on the sidewalk before the event and since we were not disruptive during presentations, they waited until the media and the Archbishop were gone to make us leave for trespassing.
On the way home Ms. Lucille asked me to drop by a drug store to get some aspirin. I was unaware that she has a heart condition which was aggravated by this stressful situation.
In the end, we knew that the SVDP staff and central council had lost their way by taking four million dollars of money belonging to the poor and investing it in a store serving suburbanites on the contention that there would be some ‘trickle down’ money in future years. In our opinion, this “trickle down” theory discriminates against poor urban people. From a poor person’s perspective, four million dollars could have been enough for 27,000 beds, stoves or refrigerators needed by people in urban Milwaukee. The store is not self-sufficient and there is little hope that it will be in the near years to come. On July 18th we also discovered that there is no room for the poor, black, white or brown, in the store or even on the property of the Greenfield SVDP.
My most recent mug shot
I am alive and well. Some, like me will be glad to hear this news, and some may not. We were driving back from a visit to our son and his family tonight when I got a call from one of my good friends that just heard I was dead and my funeral was tomorrow. I assured him I was alive and well. When I got home I called the person that told him that I died. She is the phone coordinator of a Faith In Recovery dinner group that meets once a month for dinner. She got a call from another member of the group saying I had died and the funeral was tomorrow. She had thought the notice was short and so called my friend who called me. Fortunately, he was the only one that she called so the story might not have been spread so far.
Nevertheless I check the Sunday obituaries in the newspaper tonight to make sure I was not in there. There was another member of supper group, who I did not know too well, who had died last Tuesday and whose funeral is tomorrow. I had heard about his death from another member of group last week.
Now some of you, probably very few, have noticed I have not made any entries into the Diary of the Worm on this site. Well that was not because I was dead but just preparing for our 18th nonviolent action at the new St. Vincent de Paul store in Greenfield and after Saturday recovering from the racism we faced, direct as well as indirect. I plan to write about the experience and my tentative title of article is “No Room for the Poor at SVDP thrift store.” But you must wait for a day or two for this story which even features a picture of a police officer escorting Ms. Lucille Berrien, 87 years old, justice and peace activist off the property of the store that supposedly serves the poor.
In the last few days I have heard from a family member and friend, who I have lost contact with a long time ago. One the benefits of email and Facebook is to offer me a chance to reestablish contact with friends and family. There are always good memories when renewing contacts. Keeping in touch with family and friends, past or present, is important.
One thing I have observed, however, is that my friends that I am in regular contact with since I retired almost 10 years ago are not the same ones I had before I retired. In general, they are more racially diverse and poorer. More than before some have disabilities. This is probably due to the fact that since I no longer work for a living, I have had more time to do “works of mercy”, corporal, like helping to take people to doctor appointments or spiritual, like lovingly admonishing those who I see doing wrong. Doing various “works of mercy”, however, had made for more work than less work since retirement.
Today I met with a young woman of Cuban\Mexican descent who is working on the nonviolent action, poor people’s picket, on Saturday. She suggested we meet at the Fuel Café, not knowing the significance of the coffee shop for me. My deceased son Peter used to live nearby in River West and made the Fuel Café, one of his regular hang outs. When he was healthy of mind he was well like there and, I believe, even worked there for awhile. When he was sick of mind he was not wanted there and, I believe, at one time was even banned from being there. This place, like friends and family members of the past brought back many memories, some of them, however, not very blessed. When I told this young woman about my son and this coffee house she told me about a family member who also suffered from a mental health illness. Later she said it was my son that probably influenced her to have us meet at this location.
Being in the Fuel café brought back some happy memories of my son. Although since his death I feel a cloud of death around me, I feel he has brought me, his “best friend”, some peace and joy even in times of being rejected or ignored. Death and life fully experienced can give us sadness and joy to keep going on.
Friends and family like Peter and ones of the past or present are necessary for life. Enjoy friendships.
This editorial cartoon in yesterday’s newspaper says a lot about the state of American discourse. The understanding of creative conflict with dialog seems to have ended. For years I have tried to enter into a dialog with Marquette University about their hosting the teaching of war and killing and also with the local St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Society about the treatment of the poor. At first both groups listened to us about our concerns but would not enter into a dialog with us. Instead, Marquette expresses why they are hosting military training and SVDP expresses how the return on their investment of four million dollars of funds for a store serving the suburbs will aid the poor. Neither group had the decency to respond to our message and finally marginalized us and completely ignored our message.
At first I was like one of the cartoon characters, taking rejection of our message personally. But, now, I realize that I am dealing with intelligent people who have no moral rationale for their position so instead of entering in a creative dialog just ignore you, thus ignoring the message. Showing indifference or ignoring someone, as Elie Wiesel reminds us, is the opposite of love. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” When someone ignores you in order to ignore the message, they become your enemy and in this case it is hard to “love your enemies.”
Rather than react these days I just try to respond in a kind and gentle manner, making the message stronger and I try to be the message I want people to hear.
This might mean being inconvenienced by friends who call for rides or other needs, not getting too frustrated about wasting time trying to fix my hacked computer or it might mean a gentler tone to the message, still strong and intellectual but appealing to heart.
Treat people with love and respect as you would like them to treat you seems to be the lost state of American discourse.
ST. Vincent De Paul, STOP Taking
Millions from the Poor to
Build Suburban Store”
When a friend and I were leafleting the neighborhood around the Center Street Library today for the “Poor People’s Picket” we met a lady who remembered the St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) store on Fond du Lac Ave. that was closed twelve years ago. She remembers getting vouchers there, purchasing items she needed and even being a volunteer worker for three months. When the store was closed there was a promise that another store would soon be relocated on the North Side. Now, 12 years later there is no SVDP thrift store in North Central Milwaukee and the local St.Vincent de Paul Society is investing around four million dollars to build a Thrift store in the suburb of Greenfield where it is not needed.
Since her low income neighborhood is not served any longer by St. Vincent de Paul with a store or home visits (the major mission of the Society), she would like to join the Poor People’s Picket at the new store in Greenfield. Also we need the support of the wider community, to communicate our message: invest money “belonging to poor” with people in need.
The poor in Milwaukee live in the second poorest city in the USA and in the most racially segregated. This means a majority of the poor live in North Central and South Central Milwaukee, two neighborhoods that are under served by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in home visits and also by many other public and private organizations.
Please join the “Poor People’s Picket” Saturday, July 18th from 9:30–10am on the sidewalk in front of the new St. Vincent de Paul store at 4476 S. 108 Street, Greenfield, WI. We will meet at 9:15. Better yet, if you have a vehicle and can drive, meet us at the Center Street Library at 8:30am and give a ride to people in need to the picket.
Working together we can exercise our option for the poor and picket for economic equality.
We have heard of the tragic effects of Killer Drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. These drones kill countless women, children and men besides the suspected targeted enemies. This article breaks the myth of the operators of Drones being a few persons and explains how the large number of perpetrators it takes for one “killer drone” also are the victims. This Featured Article is revealing of how deeply senseless killing has invaded our culture from the President to the military and I would say even to our streets. Senseless Killing Starts on the Top and has victims throughout society.
This morning I was explaining to someone about our struggle against the four million dollar store the Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society has in the suburbs. He said that there are two sides to the issue. I agree but that does not make both sides right. One side says “Spending Four Million dollars “belonging to poor” for a thrift store serving suburbanites is wrong and the other side says the store is right because it will “have a positive financial impact on the organization and increase the number of families we are able to serve.” (From St. Vincent de Paul Letter of June 2015 explaining why they are raising $500, 000 more for the new store.)
Even if that justification from the central office and council of SVDP were true, which I do not believe it is, it would not justify using four million dollars of money belonging to the poor for the store. “Ends do not justify the means”, at least that is what I was taught in my moral education by Jesuits and others.
If all this sound oversimplified and righteous perhaps it is. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, says in the Spiritual Exercise something like if the moral authority of the Church says something we perceive as white is black we should believe it. I cannot carry it that far but agree with the general principle that if something is morally right, according to our conscience it cannot be morally wrong or somewhere in between the two sides.
When we were out leafleting for our upcoming “poor people’s picket” at the new store, a pastor we met called us “righteous persons.” I was a little taken back by her comment since although righteousness is acclaimed in the Bible I always took it as something like being ‘arrogant’, not a desirable trait. But she meant in the best of ways, as a blessing.
In this morning’s first scripture reading (Amos 7:12–15) a priest of Bethal told Amos to stop prophesying in Bethal for it is “the king’s sanctuary and royal temple.” Amos answers that he is not a prophet but a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. However, God took him from following the flock and said to him: “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” This ends today’s reading but looking up the book of Amos I see this conversation was preceded and followed by long messages from God, via Amos, to the people of Israel. Like Amos, I am not prophet and I have not even heard the word of God as clearly as he did.
This morning when I woke up and was dressing for our three parishes outdoor Mass and picnic I was choosing between two tee shirts. One with a quote from Gandhi saying “Be the message you wish to see in the world” and the other had an icon drawing of Jesus in bread line with the title of “The Catholic Worker.” I chose the Catholic Worker tee shirt. This was prophetic since when I was passing out flyers about our action, I was disrupting some people’s conscience. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker is attributed as saying: “My understanding of the teaching of the Church is that we must follow our conscience, even an erroneous conscience.” She also understood that people might be disturbed by our words based on our conscience.
Our pastor who gave the homily today was brief in his statement that we must be the message we believe in, echoes of Gandhi’s quote. Sometimes being the message we believe in means disturbing people like Amos did in his time. It does not mean we are ‘prophets’ but that we are simply being the message we believe in with our conscience. We may be wrong or have a ‘misinformed conscience’ but do not have much of a choice but to be ‘righteous’ in what we believe.
In the beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” I hope Jesus is right.
A friend, Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy,of the Center for Christian Nonviolence does an annual Forty Day Fast For The Truth of Gospel Nonviolence with a daily helping by email. The 12th helping today, helps explain what I am trying to say about moral truth of the Gospel.
Fast Food (2015): Twelfth Helping
The Church is commissioned to teach the morality of the Gospel, which is the moral revolution of Christian love. The New Testament reduces all morality to the commandment of love. This implies no commission to teach philosophical morality, although moral doctrine must be formed by the use of reason. Reason, however, must operate within the morality of Gospel love, not outside it. The place of reason in the Christian life is to ascertain how to implement the love that Jesus reveals, not how to render it nugatory. If authority solves a moral problem by philosophical reasoning rather than by the application of Gospel love, its position has no more strength than its philosophical reasoning. It will be as strong or as weak as that of the ecclesiastical commission that met to settle the question of whether the sun moves around the earth. -Rev. John L. McKenzie, Catholic Theologian, Biblical Scholar
Do I dare send this letter to our Catholic Holy Father, Pope Francis?
Dear Holy Father,
Recently you have condemned arms dealers , even calling them ‘hypocrites’ if they call themselves ‘Christians’. You also had harsh words for capitalists calling ‘unbridled capitalism’ a sin of greed. I agree with you.
However, do you realize that on your visit to the United States your first two visits are with the major arms dealers in the world and leaders of one of the most capitalist country in the world? Yes, 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, a total of $598.5 billion is for military spending. Of the top ten countries in military spending the United State’s military budget is the largest in the world, and about equal to the other nine countries combined. The USA’s share of the volume of international arms exports was 31 percent in 2010–14, largest of all nations. The executive branch led by the President approves all arms sales to other countries. Also the USA is one of the world’s greatest Capitalistic countries is the world. First, the President you will meet with calls himself a Christian but has led the escalation of “killer drone” warfare, has built three new nuclear bomb factories, promotes “endless wars” and has deported more persons than all past presidents of USA combined.
Second, you will visit with the Republican dominated congress that is pushing for more military spending. The leader of the House is a Catholic Christian. The congress has authorized about six million dollars per day for military spending to Israel for its war on the Palestinians. The Congress and President have called for more and more “fair trade” deals which, for many, are a code word for “unbridled capitalism.”
I had invited you to visit Milwaukee, the most racially segregated city in the USA, the second poorest city in the USA and located in Wisconsin, which has the highest incarceration rate of African American males in the USA. The USA has the largest percentage of its citizens in prison compared to all other countries in the world.
I need to admit that I had ulterior motives for inviting you here. Milwaukee is the home of the only Jesuit Catholic University in the USA to host three Department of Defense military training programs that teach war and reflexive killing, killing without conscience. Milwaukee is also home to a St. Vincent De Paul Society whose central office and council are spending around 4 million dollars of “money belonging to poor” to purchase, renovate and operate a thrift store serving suburbanites while the poor people of North Central Milwaukee desperately need such a store.
You did not respond to any of my letters to you or my emails to your associates. I understand. I am just a Jesuit educated reject. But I do not think I am a hypocrite and hope you have the courage to call those militarist, unbridled capitalist leaders of the USA, so-called Christians, hypocrites.
I pray for you and other great religious leaders in the World.
Catholic, Jesuit educated for 13 years, Catholic Worker
Last night the Republicans in the State Assembly and Senate passed the Budget for the next two years and sent it on to the Governor. For the last few months all kinds of things have been added to the budget by special interest groups. Most of the controversial items like cutting education funding, getting rid of the prevailing wage (city and county governments cannot set a prevailing wage), cuts in health care and other services, taking power from County Board for approving land sales,and lowering taxes for the rich were known but there was nothing the voters of the State of Wisconsin or their representatives, if they were Democratic, could do about it.
There were some things put in at the last moment, like eliminating the open records laws in Wisconsin, but because of public outrage were eliminated. There were some things like expansion of the payday loan industry that no one took credit for adding and weren’t even noticed until after the budget was passed.
To demonstrate how undemocratic the budget process is, the Governor in Wisconsin has a line item veto which means he can change words and numbers to completely change what is in the budget. Since it takes a two-thirds majority it would take some Democrats, who have no power in the Assembly or Senate to agree on. Thus it will not happen.
We are becoming in Wisconsin a central control government controlled by a Republican Governor and Assembly and Senate members.
The State is controlling just about everything spending tons of money on Highways but not allowing any form of mass transit. If the Democrats controlled all three branches they would probably be doing the same thing, making decisions in which the people of Wisconsin have no say.
To top it off, our Republican Governor, overseeing what we can do or not do, the quality of education and health, the lack of gun control, is announcing, after signing the budget, on Monday, that he is running for President. He is already a frontrunner among the 15 or so Republican candidates. He is hoping to bring to Washington central control government like he has in Wisconsin.
However, as I see it the “powers that be” already have selected the next president for us, Ms. Clinton, and all these Republican candidates running against each other and one Socialist Senator running against her just makes it easier for them to select her. At least that is the way it looks right now, 15 months before the election. My friends and family will have to make a choice again of lesser of two evils. Whoever gets the most money, 95% of the time wins the election.
When my friends get on my case since I no longer vote I just say I will vote again when real democracy returns. The way things are going with the financial/education/military/industrial complex it does not look like anytime soon. Maybe we will forget what real democracy looks like. I hope not.
Children of Haiti receiving one
meal a day provide by What If?
When I visited Haiti with a delagation, about one and half years after the earthquake of Jan. 2010, I was shocked to find how little was done with all the money given to the country (1.6 million by international donors and 2 billion in recovery aide). It looked like the earthquake had just hit. At time of our visit NGO’s had abandoned the camps set up after the earthquake and there was no sign of housing or road construction. One of our companions on this visit, a civil rights lawyer, wrote after our visit an article called Haiti Seven Places Where Earthquake Money Did and Did Not Go. It was shocking how little of the money went to Haitian government or Haitian companies. The US government and major NGO’s like Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children had received the major share of the money. When I came back from Haiti I stopped giving money to major Non Government Organizations (NGO’s).
However, I noticed a number of small, private organizations that were doing the job, helping feed people, building new houses. One was the What If Foundation that provides food and educational opportunities to underserved children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti — in partnership with the local Ti Plas Kazo community. We visited the location where they feed 1200 children each day and, for one meal, became one of the adult volunteers who prepare and serve the meals served after school. Some children brought containers to put some of the large helping of Haitian rice given to them to take home to parents. Reading the for the foundation I saw a real true pie chart where the major share of money donated is going directly to serve the poor.
Compare this pie chart below with the one done based on the Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society who mission is also for one to one service of needy by volunteers. (Both are below). As I was outraged with the big NGO’s not helping those in need in Haiti I am upset at the local Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society spending millions of dollars on a thrift store in the suburbs while neglecting people in need in the poorest areas of the city. Looking at the two pie charts all I can say is join us at the Poor People’s Picket on July 18, 2015 on the side walk in front of new store, 4476 S. 108 Street, Greenfield, WI from 9:30am −10pm.
There is not much we do for people in Haiti, except prayers and donations, to organizations that doing works of mercy in Haiti. However, right here at home, by working together, we can make a difference.
Spending too much time on a mobile
device can damage a marriage, research
from the All-China’s Women’s Federation
Tonight I was talking to my 87 year old friend about the overuse of digital devices and programs for communications, cell phones, computers, emails, Facebook, Twitter and more. She has a long history of involvement in the civil rights movement but has not used any digital devices. (She does have a TV at home) Although there is a dark side to these devices, especially over-attachment and use, we both had to admit there is a positive side.
When I got home I found an example on my computer email. A person from Los Angeles saw a reposting of my posting on Diary of Worm on “Dorothy Day’s Worst Nightmare. He saw the connection of military teaching of “reflexive or reflex killing” to traumatic stress disorders in soldiers and veterans, and the currently discussed police shootings of civilians. He is correct in making the connection and I will write him back tomorrow with more.
The ability of digital devices to connect almost everyone nearly instantaneously is one of the values of these devices. However, too much information (TMI) can lead to a lack of compassion and emotion when there is just too much to take in so we need to shut down a little.
For years I could not understand why, after a period of time in a shopping mall, I would suffer a headache. I realized finally that the many visual and sound stimuli were coming at me so fast in the Mall that I had to insensitive myself or suffer from an overdose.
At times I overuse my smart phone and computer and stop reflecting, just seeking more information, not digesting it. Digital devices can easily be addictive. These devices often take the place of reading or reflection which is not good. Slowing down “to smell the roses” for me means less computer and smart phone use and more reading and reflection.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, (Jesuits), talked about detachment from things, using them for the greater glory of God but not being dependent on them. I wonder what he would say about modern day digital devices. My guess is he would say they are wonderful and helpful things but overuse can lead to attachment. I think he would say we need to be detached from digital devices.