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
I went to a local Lenten talk today at St. Francis Church and heard a Franciscan Capuchin priest, from the House of Peace, talk about the “Spirit of St. Francis”. St. Francis had a deep appreciation of the actual poverty of Jesus, born where animals were fed, homeless at age 30, died stripped naked on the cross and if it was not for one of his followers, Nicodemus, his body would be thrown on the garbage pile along with others killed by Romans.
When you look at Jesus this way, rejected and marginalized it is easy to understand how the sculpture of homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench is so controversial. A statue of a ‘homeless Jesus’ sleeping on a park bench was rejected by cathedrals New York and Canada before finally finding a home in an Episcopalian church in an upscale neighborhood of Davidson, N.C. This statue startled this community. Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away. Some neighbors feel it is an insulting depiction of the Son of God, and what appears to be a hobo curled up on a bench demeans the neighborhood.
This last remark reminds me of a suggestion a friend had the other night when he called me up to say the City of Greenfield, an upscale neighborhood near Milwaukee, had reversed its decision and would now allow a real estate develop to erect a 3.2 million dollar St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store in this upscale neighborhood, a store that should have been constructed for a fraction of the cost in the neighborhood served by St. Vincent de Paul, with the poor and outcast. He suggested that at the grand opening of the new store we bus people from North Central Milwaukee out to the new store to shop. City of Greenfield wants the money this new development will bring but do not want the people it is meant to serve.
I certainly believe that if Jesus would appear today he would certainly be a homeless person, maybe one of the people that hang out at the day shelter each day helping other homeless persons.
Any real reading of the Gospels show Jesus was a ‘rejected’ person with no place to rest his home. The people who killed this obscured man in Palestine are long forgotten but the name of Jesus, the homeless person, lives on.
It’s “Bob’s Your Uncle” Time
Many years ago, when I was new to the Catholic Worker movement and its House of Hospitably in Milwaukee I was concerned about the day to day existence of the house and its works of mercy to the poor. Michael Cullen, co-founder with his wife Nettie, told me not to worry, that God will provide what we needed in the house. We just had to do what we could do and God would do the rest. It worked.
Last Sunday our pastor passed on some words of wisdom he had received from an elderly priest when he was young. The priest had told him just to do the right thing and all would be well. Again God will provide.
This morning one of the members of our faith sharing group asked me about the phrase “Bob’s Your Uncle”. I told him it was a British slang word meaning “No problem”, “the solution is simple”, “there you have it”, “you have what you want, “all will be well”; I have heard some say the slang phrase has a meaning similar to English slang of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I used it as my email handle, bobsyouruncle, and many persons, besides nephews and nieces, call me “Uncle Bob”. I like to think I have the attitude of ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’.
I needed all the “Bob’s your uncle” spirit I could muster tonight. I was writing an open letter to the Executive Director of the St. Vincent De Paul Society (SVDP) tonight to try to begin a dialog about the mission of the Society and the mission of our SVDP stores. I got a phone call from a person who was present at the City of Greenfield City Council meeting tonight saying the Council had reversed itself since a vote after the public hearing last week and was now granting a special use permit allowing the Executive Director and Real Estate developer to go ahead for the 3. 2 million dollar investment in a store in this suburb. (You can read about this store and dissension it caused in last Sunday’s newspaper at In quest for dollars, St. Vincent de Paul Society faces identity crisis.
I do not know what kind of secret behind the scenes was made to get the City Council to reverse its decision without any more public input but the news was devastating to hear. In my opinion it will be a real setback to the SVDP in Milwaukee, especially to the poor on the North side.
I will finish my letter about mission of the Society but it took all the “Bob’s your uncle” spirit I could muster to keep home alive that the society in Milwaukee can survive to serve those in need. Maybe we need to say “God’s Your Uncle”.
My hometown, Milwaukee
Today it snowed, tying some kind of record for winter days with snow and tonight the temperature is going down to 22 degrees. I saw a Cardinal bird today in the backyard but he or she is probably going back south or in hiding. The Cardinal baseball team is in town so maybe the bird came with them for the road trip.
Tonight a good friend who suffers from I call a brain illness or some call a mental illness told me, unexpectedly, that he needs to move out Milwaukee to one of two other smaller towns in Wisconsin. I asked him why and he said that ‘they’ were after him. He could not define who ‘they’ were. I told him about the great support network he has here in Milwaukee that he cannot find quickly in these two other towns, but that did not matter much to him.
Our conversation reminded me of many conversations I had with my son, Peter, who thought that if he just moved to another city all his troubles with his mind would be over. Actually he did go to San Francisco and Settle one journey and to New Orleans and Texas at another time. Both journeys ended with disasters since by changing locations he could not get free from his illness.
After the second journey he stayed in Milwaukee but kept talking about, up till the night before he died, about going to another city to live, most notably Chicago. However, I believe that deep in himself he knew that he could not escape the suffering he felt by moving. After his death our pastor said that Peter finally got to Chicago, where there was no more suffering.
This common illusion of persons with mental illnesses is deep in all of us. If only we could go somewhere else all would be good. A friend of mine got herself into some trouble in a northern city and had been talking with me today about how if she and her son could be back to California all would be well, despite the fact she and her son would need to live in a homeless shelter. Talking with her today, reality set in, and she will try to get herself out of the mess in her life where she is now.
Half jokey, I told my wife tonight that if we ever felt we had to get out of Milwaukee that I would like to go to Hawaii. From what I remember from my visits there when my brother and his family lived there, was that the weather was always nice, bright and sunny, the scenery was beautiful and people there had a laid back lifestyle.
I will probably live and die right here in Milwaukee, my home town. Not looking for change of locations my home town looks better and better to me each day.
During Lent I have been fasting at times from all food except bread and liquids. That has been good with only one major setback. When I do eat something, like going out for a Fish Fry last Friday, my stomach rebels and I feel sick for a few days. Who said that a person cannot live “by bread and drinks” alone? I think what is happening is when the body is free of sodium, fat, chemicals found in most food it enjoys the break. However, going back to eating fried foods or ones high in sodium wrecks havoc. I guess you cannot have you cake or food and eat it too.
We finally finished today grinning, sifting and storing the spices, basil, mints and hot peppers, we grew last summer, dried and stored away in the freezer. We, Pat and I, even made a spice jar for salads, consisting of sea salt, basil, mint, garlic powder, peppers and a little cilantro. Pat put some on the salad tonight and it was good. Herbs spice up all the food and do not make one sick.
Eating less in Lent has caused me to lose a few pounds but nothing significant. Maybe now that I can get outside and work in the garden, growing some healthy food, the exercise will help with losing weight.
The food we grow, herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant and beans as well as some of the healthy foods we buy do not make us gain weight or get sick. It is just all the other stuff we consume.
Be careful what you wish for. I wanted to get the word out about how our Milwaukee County St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) is being run as a social agency not, as its mission states, for person to person contact with those in need. I got a reporter from the local newspaper interested and gave her all kinds of information about the Mission of the Society and the Mission of the SVDP stores. I also put her in contact with a very knowledgeable person on why a 3.2 million store in the suburbs was not a good investment and why we should invest a much lesser amount in the where we need a store in North Central Milwaukee.
The reporter decided not to use any of the information I had sent her or to even quote the two persons who testified at the Greenfield City Council against placement of new store in Greenfield. You can read the story yourself at In quest for dollars, St. Vincent de Paul Society faces identity crisis. At least the editor who writes the headlines got it right by saying how we face an identity crisis.
I hope the phrase any publicity is better than no publicity is true. Some of us will respond to the article but we need to be careful not to be defensive but to state clearly the mission of the Society is not to make money, run meal program or even to provide material items for the poor. The mission is of SVDP is below and the mission of the SVDP stores: “Serving Christ’s needy is the primary goal of all St. Vincent DePaul Stores. (See full Mission Statement of St. Vincent De Paul Stores below.)
I hope I do not regret encouraging this reporter to write this article but those of us who see, feel and live the mission sometime become like the poor and marginalized we serve, ignored and without much voice. So be careful what you wish for but continue to wish.
Norm, Everybody knows his
name at Cheers
Today two people, whose names I did not know, recognized me today and called me by name. One was at a prayer vigil for homicide victims when a local PBS radio person, who sometimes records our prayer, approached our small group before the prayer vigil and asked him if someone would comment on the bill the Governor just signed that would increased the number of sound boxes in the city that record gun shots and aide in locating where they were shot. I said I did not think much of the idea and with all the money we are spending on detecting crime and punishing people we could be doing something about the causes of crime, poor housing, high unemployment, racism, drug and alcohol prevention etc. After I spoke my piece he looked at me and said “You are Bob Graf”. I just said yes and we went on with the prayer service.
Tonight Pat and I took a friend from Chicago to a Brewers game. About the sixth inning as I was roaming the inner walkways looking for some popcorn to purchase when a group of young people passed me by. One of them said, “Bob give me five”, I did and said ‘hey’ not knowing who he was.
Milwaukee has always been one of these cities where everybody seems to know everybody or, at least, someone who knows both persons. I have always attributed this feeling as well as people talking to strangers in stores, ballgames or even, tonight, in the men’s restroom to the fact that Milwaukee had a high house ownership and people that grew up in Milwaukee, like myself, stay in Milwaukee or eventually come back to live. However, the fabric of home ownership is starting to break down especially in the North Central Milwaukee where there are hundreds of abandoned homes waiting to be torn down or sold, inexpensively, to a big landlords.
For whatever the reasons I enjoy this feeling of a small town in a major city and want to preserve it. It is nice to live in a place where, almost, everybody knows your name.
Ammon Hennacy, Catholic Worker and Christian Anarchist is one of my favorite characters in the Catholic Worker movement in the 20th century. Today someone sent me an article from the Salt Lake City Catholic newspaper called The ‘One Man Revolution’. The ‘One Man Revolution’ is a phrase that many of us have used to describe the spirit of the Catholic Worker and it is also the name of a book Ammon wrote right before he died in 1970. The book consists of seventeen chapters with each one devoted to an American radical. These included Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, John Woolman, Dorothy Day, Eugene Debs, Malcolm X, Mother Jones, Clarence Darrow and Albert Parsons.
Here are some quotes from his earlier book, The Book of Ammon, that describe a little of his way of thinking. “[T]he only revolution worthwhile was the one-man revolution within the heart. Each one could make this by himself and not need to wait on a majority.”
“We really can’t change the world. We really can’t change other people! The best we can do is to start a few thinking here and there. The best way to do this, if we are sincere, is to change ourselves!”
“Too many of us dissipate our energy by being ‘for all good causes,’ attending meetings and passing resolutions, organizing and presenting petitions — all this effort to change others, when if we really got down to it we could use this energy to change ourselves… We become tired radicals because we use our weakest weapon: the ballot box, where we are always outnumbered, and refuse to use our strongest weapon: spiritual power.”
Now days the words “Socialist” or Anarchist have taken on a different meanings but the truth that Ammon spoke still rings true. We can only change ourselves and if we took some of the energy we spend ‘for all good causes’ and used it on ourselves we could use our strongest weapons, our spiritual power.
I am guilty of using lots of energy trying to change the world and not changing myself. However, in my elderly years I have started to attend less meeting, sign less petitions, voting and tried to tap into myself and spiritual power.
Some people will not let me out of the ‘bag’ they put me in as an ‘activists’ but that is okay and should not be used as an excuse for not changing myself. All revolution starts with the one man (or woman) revolution.
Here is an open letter that I will try to send to Presidents of 54 Councils of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee County. I say try because the names of conference presidents, like many things in the Roman Catholic Church, are kept secretive. Most members did not even know about this City Council public hearing.
Lessons Learned from City of Greenfield Public Hearing on Special Use Permit for SVDP Store
There was a public hearing Wednesday, April 2, at the City of Greenfield City Hall on granting a special-use permit for a St. Vincent De Paul store at the former Wal-Mart building in the City of Greenfield. For reasons of financial liability, the vote was 3–2 against issuing the special-use permit. There were Vincentians on both sides of the issue of this special-use permit. For me, the hearing had several lessons to be learned:
1)In my opinion, we need to radically restructure the Society of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee to align it with our mission. If we are to “end poverty through systematic change” we need to start with ourselves. Lesson #1. More to come on this subject; if interested, let us know.
2)The real estate developer represented SVDP and argued the case for a special-use permit. He claimed the purpose of the store was to raise money to be given to conferences for funding work in the city with home visits. How would the suburban store ever be profitable with a 2.5 million dollar initial investment, plus payments to City of Greenfield in lieu of property tax and the heavy operating cost of the suburban store? However, if the proposed store in Greenfield could be profitable, its existence would be a violation of the principles, rules and spirituality of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul. Unlike other thrift stores, that exist for the profit of owners or to raise money for some non-profit’s mission, SVDP thrift stores are only meant to exist to serve the needs of the poor to buy inexpensive clothing, household items and furniture; and, to be of service to conferences for home visits. If a SVDP center makes a profit, which some claim our present store does, the money should be used for the greater mission of the SVDP, person to person service to those in need. SVDP stores do not exist to raise money for the poor as the Real Estate Developer suggested to the City of Greenfield. (See Mission Statement of SVDP and Society of St. Vincent De Paul Store Manuel, Mission Statement, p. 5). That is Lesson 2.
3)Another reason for the store was to have a place to drop off clothing. Residents of the suburbs and even some Vincentians fail to realize that we have trucks for pick up of clothing and household items. Other thrift stores, especially for-profit stores, constantly call to solicit items for pick up, using their names, such as Easter Seals, Disabled Veterans, etc. The for-profit stores give a small percentage of earnings to the charity. The non-profit, like Goodwill, use it for their mission of work training. By soliciting donations for direct personal service to the poor in our store and by our home visits, we can do the same, perhaps even better, with the large network of Catholic Churches. Donations of items could be tremendously increased. Lesson 3.
4)I realize that people drop off clothing and other items at the thrift stores that they shop at. Whenever I go to the Goodwill store on 108th street, I bring some used clothing or other small items. I am met by a couple of workers who take the donations from my car into the store. I do not like to shop in normal stores so I shop at Goodwill. The store is smaller than our south-side store but always has a variety of clothing that is marked for size and can be tried on easily. People drive by Lincoln and Forest Home or another centrally located store on the North side, and if they feel comfortable shopping there, would also drop off clothing and other items. In fact, there are many major thrift stores near Greenfield; but, there is only one major store, Value Village, a for-profit national chain, on the North Side. Poor people are very generous with the little they have and would support a store doing the mission of SVDP. Lesson #4.
There are probably other lessons to be learned from the City of Greenfield public hearing. Let us perceive and learn from these lessons; and, restructure our SVDP Society in Milwaukee to more effectively serve those in need. Lessons can be learned or lost.
Chickens come home to roost
We have all heard phrases like “the chickens come home to roost” or “what goes around comes around”; yet when it comes to learning from the lesson that what we sow is what we reap we are slow to learn.
When you have “letter to the editor” published in our local newspaper you are supposed to wait for two months before submitting another one. Yesterday I felt so strongly about an issue of public concern, the second shooting at Ft. Hood that I wrote a letter to the editor asking for an exception. To keep the letter around 200 words I did not say that the type of teaching reflexive killing, killing without conscience was happening at our own local Catholic Jesuit University, Marquette University.
I know it is a message people do not want to hear and the letter probably will not get printed but I felt compelled to express it. Here it is:
In investigating the tragedy at Food Hood and the rate of suicides with soldiers and veterans, reportedly 22 per day since 2008, the media or government is not looking into how military training has changed.
After World War II the military discovered that only one of four soldiers fired their weapons at the enemy. So the military developed a way of training which drills soldiers how to fire their weapons without making the conscious decision to do so. In 2000 CPT Pete Kilner, an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy, presented a paper to command stating the danger of this type of training. “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….The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively… 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. (“Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War”) Today over 95% of soldiers fire their weapons at the enemy.
The military knows the grave dangers of teaching reflexive killing, yet continues to do so.
“What goes around comes around!”
A mother holds picture
of son with a mental illness
fatally shot by police
My friends have an adult son who suffers from a mental illness. Sadly, my wife and I know the trials of parents in this situation. My friends have made numerous attempts to get their son help with his illness. However, due to the mental health system and the nature of the illness they have been unable to do so. Our deceased son was taken to jail or the mental health center a number of times by police officers. Once I asked my friend, the mother, why she did not commit her son or call the police when he was out of control. She answered by saying she was afraid that if the police came they would kill her son. I thought that was an unusual response since the mother was very familiar with the mental health system and knew of the training the police used to go through how to deal with persons with mental illnesses.
The training is called Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). It is a training program developed in a number of U.S. states to help police officers react appropriately to situations involving mental illness or developmental disability. When I first heard about it the police chief in Milwaukee was a major supporter and wanted every police officer to have this training. Shortly afterwards we got a new police chief and I started to hear about more and more reports of shootings by police of persons with mental illnesses. When I checked into the program I discovered that the new police chief is not a supporter of the program but rather has invested police resources into what is called “data driven policing.” (Personally I call this a code name for the New Jim Crow). The local paper reports that we only have about 20% of police with CIT training and when calls come in about persons with mental health breakdowns they are often not called to the scene.
Yesterday on the TV news I heard about how a mother called the police on her adult son when he was having a mental health breakdown so he could be taken to the mental health facility. She went outside with her grandchild and when four police arrived they called her son out of the house and, according to her, after uttering a few words fired many bullets at him. Fortunately he did not die and is in the hospital. The police claimed that her son had a rifle in his hand when he came out of the house and that is why they shot him. She was a witness to the event and claims he did not have a rifle when he came out of the house and she does not understand why they fire multiple shots at him. The newspaper this morning only reported the police version the store that the police were justified in shooting him. Since police shootings of individuals in Milwaukee are always justified by the police and DA we probably will never know what really happened.
However, now I understand why my friend will not call the police on her son although he has no gun. She does not want police to kill him as often happens when police not trained how to deal with persons with mental illnesses respond. Calling the police for help with your ill son and than watching him being shot by the police is a mother’s worst nightmare.
During the liturgical time of Lent, the six weeks before Easter, I have been receiving from Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a Melkite Catholic priest and director of the Center for Christian nonviolence regular reflections, that he calls “Lenten Examination of Conscience.” Reflection #7 caught my eyes yesterday because it criticizes church members, Father McCarthy calls 99% Christian, who find ‘loopholes’ in God’s word revealed in Jesus. This one starts with words and ends with a link to a 10 minute video reflection on “Gospel Nonviolence, Church and War.” You may not agree with it but it is interesting:
The Church and War
Christians, whether they be bishops or bumpkins, who speak 99% against war, capital punishment, abortion, violence and/or enmity are not proclaiming the truth that Jesus taught. They are treating Jesus’ teaching as if it were philosophy. It is not! It is the revealed will of God, or it is nothing. The spiritual blind spot, that underlies proclaiming this “99% Gospel,” this “Gospel with Loopholes,” is that such Christians have not grasped the totality of the difference it makes if God has really spoken His definitive Word to humanity in Jesus. For a Christian to say that God has to be corrected by him or her by their making the logical opposite of what Jesus taught as truth the new truth of the Gospel is just silly—but catastrophically destructive.
Ten Minuit reflection of Christian Nonviolence, ‘The Church and War.’
We actually got outside for a few hours today to pick up garbage and sticks in the garden and to reck leaves. It is just a start, a late one at that, but it is start to getting the garden ready for planting. The day was full of gardening but the night was full of sports. The Wisconsin mens’ basketball made the final four of the NCAA basketball tournament but lost the game tonight by one point. At the same time the Milwaukee Brewers went on to beat the Boston Red Sox in 11 innings by one run. The lost by Wisconsin was a bigger than the Brewers win but at least it was some consolation for this sometime sports fan.
The work in the garden left me refreshed; the two sports events left me unfulfilled. According to the discernment of spirits developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola I should learn what leaves me positive and what leaves me empty. But in our society of sports fanatics and artificial food the lesson is not so clear. Acting on what we know is best takes strength and courage that I do not always have.
Gandhi says: “Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from an indomitable will.” But I am not so sure about that. I know strength is more than physical strength but do not believe will power, no matter, how strong, is enough. I believe it takes some outside power. Working with the earth, it seems, makes one stronger than sitting in front of a TV watching sports.
Working with soil brings me in touch with something outside of myself while passively watching sports is like sleeping while awake; however, rest is good and sports are entertaining, take little effort and is something outside of ourselves and control.
Maybe a combination of active gardening and passive viewing of sports is best, or maybe not.
Palestinians protesting Land
Week in April 2005.
Of all the No, Give Me a Break happenings of last Wednesday, I forgot to mention one that was personal. On January 23, 2014 three of us were arrested for ‘trespassing’ by protesting in the Alumni Union at Marquette University. We had understood from the Vice President and Legal Counsel of Marquette that we were all to protest against military training, ROTC, on MU campus. We had done this a few times before after we were told it was okay and were not arrested or even told to leave by MU security. Believing we had permission to protest on campus we said we would live if we did not have permission. As we were trying to confirm our permission to protest on campus and were trying to contact administration officials, we were cited for trespassing.
My two friends’ court case and mine were separated. In the meanwhile I received a letter from the legal counsel of Marquette University who, after talking with the Vice President of Marquette, wrote me saying “that you were erroneously informed by DPS (Department of Public Security) officers that you were not allowed to protest on campus” and that the University does not intend to pursue this case and does not oppose the dismissal of that charge.
At my plea hearing I tried to tell the Municipal judge about the error in our arrest for trespassing but she would not listen to me and ordered me to pre-trial hearing. At the pre-trial I tried to present the letter to the assistant city attorney but she looked over my court record and saw that I had been convicted of trespassing after going on Marquette property having been issued a banning order, order of No Trespass last year. The order had been lifted by Marquette but she saw in the 1st paragraph that I was in an area of the union that was restricted for leafleting, something we did not know, and never considered the lifting of the banning order. She refused to listen to me and Judge called me and sent a trial date. When I tried to clarify the matter and show her the letter of the error that had been made in our arrest she would not listen. So now I have a trial date for case where I was “erroneously” arrested for protesting.
Now I know how it feels when a young man, a poor person appears in court and city attorney or Judge will not listen to you plea your case and you are pushed from one court hearing to another. My friends had another judge and assistant attorney and when they presented my letter the assistant city attorney said it only applied to my case and not theirs and although they were arrested in error also they too must stand trial. I plan to ask that they drop the charges or give me a change of venue. The other judge in municipal court was the one I had last year in my trespassing for breaking the banning order case and I know he will hear us out.
Watch out what you wish for. I have often said I wanted to be in solidarity with poor and marginalized. Now that I am being treated as the poor and marginalized I cannot complain and if I have to go to jail to make my point about the lack of justice in our court system I will. If I do not get a break I will go down fighting (nonviolently).
The gun Nidal Hasan used
to kill at Fort Hood
When tragedy strikes at a military base like Food Hood yesterday, or when suicides rapidly increase with soldiers and veterans, reportedly about 22 a day since 2008, people ask the question why. Why are these wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, producing more soldiers and veterans with serious mental health issues? There are no easy answers but one place most are afraid to look is at the training that soldiers are receiving for these wars.
Actually, in the film Soldiers of Conscience the military makes clear how its training of soldiers has significantly changed after World War II, when they made a study and found out that only one of four soldiers fired his weapon at the enemy. From 25% we have now gone to 95% in these recent wars. What changed? The military says how by incorporation of video games, “reflexive fire drills” and other methods of killing without thought or conscience is the reason why the shooting at other human persons has gone up.
In January of 2000 the Ethic professor West Point presented a paper to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics in which he argued the “Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War” Before the Iraq and Afghanistan war the military was aware of the dangers of teaching reflexive killing. In part he said:
“Training which drills soldiers on how to kill without explaining to them why it is morally permissible for them to do so is harmful to them, yet that is the current norm. Modern combat training conditions soldiers to act reflexively to stimuli—such as fire commands, enemy contact, or the sudden appearance of a “target”—and this maximizes soldiers’ lethality, but it does so by bypassing their moral autonomy. 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. In and of itself, such training is appropriate and morally permissible. 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. ” (“Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War”)
Naturally the military could not justify “reflexive killing”, killing without conscience but
Money or votes in politics?
Breaking News: Tonight the City Council of Greenfield, WI voted 3–2 to deny a special use permit to create a St. Vincent De Paul Thrift store in this suburb. The spokesperson for the SVDP store turned out to be a real estate developer who would profit handsomely from the 1.8 million dollar purchase and maybe from the $600,000 renovations needed. There were only five of us from the City of Milwaukee opposing the permit but some members had collected 154 petitions, mostly from Milwaukee residents in opposition to the store. Everyone present for the SVDP store in the suburb was a suburban person. We, the poor and city residents were outnumbered by suburbanites but won the day.
I still will pursue my efforts for people to understand the Mission of the St. Vincent De Paul Society so this tragedy will not happen again. The fact that this kind of proposal could have gotten so far is unbelievable but in this age, sadly, it is believable. We have gotten so far off target in our moral values that this and other worst things could happen.
Some years ago it was hard to believe that someone could buy an election. But now, after over 95% of politicians with the most money winning elections, it is not so unbelievable. In 2101, in the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, the court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. If that was not enough, today the Supreme Court in another 5–4 vote eliminated limits on how much money people can donate in total in one election season. Money matters much more than voting. Give me a break!
Yesterday, I heard that Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin had issued a proposed Federal budget, not because he had to, but one that “he says will come into balance by 2024, in large part through steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, just as millions begin to see its benefits.” Today, I heard that a Catholic University, Marquette University, was holding a special award ceremony and luncheon for Paul Ryan in Washington D.C. where tickets and sponsorship where going for up to $25,000. The group that sent me this information, Faithful America was asking us to sign a petition to Tell Marquette University: Don’t keep any money from Paul Ryan fundraiser - give it to the poor. (You too can sign this petition)
Today, another soldier at Ft. Hood went out a shooting spree killing and injuring persons before killing himself. The media and president are asking all kind of questions of why this is happening. But no one will talk about how military training, like at Marquette University, teaches young men and women to kill reflexively, to kill without conscience and the effects that this way of killing has on the brain.
A Society to serve the needy buying a 1.8 million building in the suburbs; the Supreme Court eliminating limits on much people can donate in one election season; Paul Ryan, a Congressmen who seeks to take from the poor and give to the rich receiving an award from a Catholic University;and, the sad tragedy of soldier trained to kill without conscience turning his gun on other soldiers and himself, is too much to handle in one day. We scream: “Give Us a Break” but there is no break. We in our hearts that it us that must “Break the Silence”… and end-this-madness.
There has been a recent effort by staff and some members of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul to place a thrift store in the suburbs rather than in North Central Milwaukee where it is needed and, many of us believe, would serve the mission of the Society of St. Vincent De Poor, to serve in a personal way people in need.
I wrote a letter to the 54 presidents of the conference of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee County but the central office and President of the Executive council would not give me addresses of Presidents or give out the copies of the letter I left for each person at the central office.
I tried appealing to common sense, morals and reasons of central office and leaders with a document stating Ten Reasons for Creating a New Store for Society of St. Vincent De Paul on the North Side of Milwaukee rather than in the suburbs in Greenfield. Those I sent it to, who support the store in suburb, just ignored my reasons and refuse to enter into a creative dialog.
I agree that there should be no conflicts in doing our mission to serve those in need in the Society. But when something is being done that goes against our mission we cannot be silent and must cry out against a move that hurts those we serve. I felt hopeful, when during announcements after Church last Sunday, a long time member of the Society, a Vicentian, asked for signatures on a petition to the City Council of the suburb of Greenfield to deny the permit needed for a thrift store. The voices for the poor are not organized and the ‘powers that be’ will not enter in dialog and creative conflict with us but we must cry out. Otherwise our faith and mission of our Society is just a poor “April 1st Joke”
In the Society of St. Vincent De Paul we make person to person home visits to persons in need. By needy we mean persons who are in need of basics, like food, clothing, stove, beds or refrigerator. Physical needs are important especially in this ‘land of plenty’ we call the USA where the divide between rich and poor continues to grow.
Some of the persons in need we meet on home visits are blessed, for despite in need of physical things, they have a sense of hope and joy in life. This is especially true for young children who have not been educated by society to know they are needy. The simplest thing like a book, a toy or a smile can bring them happiness.
Some of us are needy, not in physical ways, but for emotional, spiritual reasons or for want of meaning in our life. Some of us are so attached to things or people that the lack of them can make us needy and sad.
Jesus in the Gospel says: “Blessed are the poor”. The poor in Jesus’ time were not the peasants or people without things. They were people, like the blind beggar, who had no family or friends to rely on and was completely dependent of begging for survival. Or they were people with diseases with no cure in sight and without family or friends to care for them. Jesus makes a point of curing the blind beggars, the sick and handicapped.
The poor are blessed when they are dependent. If we are in financial need or not we can share in the blessings of the poor when we are detached and dependent on God and doing God’s will.
So when I am lonely, feeling down or the weight of the ‘dark shadow’ I try to remember the more dependent I am the more blessed I am.
An priest friend from India once told me that when he was working with the lowest cast of people, the poorest of the poor in India, he felt they had some special graces and blessings from God. He asked God for such graces and blessings like the poor possessed. He said that one day God gave him his answer: “I have given all my blessings and grace to the poor, go there to find them.
Girl we me at Home Visit of the
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
I actually got outside today and had a chance to rake leaves and other compost from parts of the garden. The worm hill still has a frozen top which is good since we have more cold days ahead according to the weatherman. After church today I was happy to hear an announcement by an elderly Vicentian from another Church about a petition he is passing around to keep the new St. Vincent Store out of Greenfield and in Milwaukee where we need it. I was getting to feel alone in this struggle but seeing the eagerness of people to sign the petition I felt new hope that we can keep true to the mission of the Society to serve those in need by personal contact. I took the person’s name, phone and email but lost the paper I put it on. Oh well, tomorrow I will start a set of new Web pages continuing the story about the Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee with the reasons why a new ST. Vincent De Paul Store should be in North Central Milwaukee not the suburbs of Greenfield. If certain leaders of SVDP and central office staff will not listen to us maybe the city of Greenfield will deny the permit needed for a store in the suburbs, if it is God’s will.
The frustration of losing the slip of paper with his name and number on it makes me realize how, when one gets old, one looses and misplaces many things. For awhile I thought that, like my father, I had Alzheimer. I even took a memory test at a local hospital, and although the test was very hard, harder than the ones my father took, the Doctor called to say that I had no signs of early onset of Alzheimer. Thank God!
Working with the earth reminded me of another way of dealing with persons who are secretly planning a new store in the suburbs rather than one in North Central Milwaukee. Actually I can use a quote from Fredric Ozanam, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of how to treat such persons. He said: “Let us learn, first of all, to defend our belief without hating our adversaries, to appreciate those who do not think as we do, to recognize that there are Christians in every camp, and that God can be served now as always! Let us complain less of our times and more of ourselves. Let us not be discouraged, let us be better.” Spring is not coming as fast as I would like it to come, but the earth eventually will spring up new life and despite those who disagree with our way being true to the mission of the Society “God can be served now as always.”
If you noticed that all three paragraphs above end with statement about God, so be it. God’s will be done on earth.
Anticipating the daffidols
perennial early flowers of spring
In anticipation of 50 degree weather tomorrow and spring finally coming, I hired a veteran friend to help me clean out some of the garden stuff in the basement, organize the garden storage in the garage and get things ready in the sun room. The weatherman says that after a few days of 50 degree weather we will be back into the 30’s again. But what does the weatherman know. In a few days it will be April 1st and everyone knows that April rains bring spring flowers. Tomorrow I will check below the leaves and compost to see if there are any flowers trying to poke their way up.
Sometimes wanting something and thinking about something,like Spring, can make it happen. It also helps to act like it is happening, so tomorrow I will plant some seeds in planters in the sun room so they can get ready to be planted outside soon. This year, thanks to the long winter and the worm box for inside given to me, I have a good supply of castings to get the seeds started. Also such a long winter of cold and snow will make the sun and warmth of spring feel so much better.
Anticipation can be disappointing if something does not come or happen when we expect it. But anticipation can be exciting when we strive for something that we know will happen but do not expect anything. Then when it happens it is full of joy and blessings. We celebrate the time before Christmas as one of anticipation of birth of Jesus. But the bigger day in the Church is Easter Sunday, this year April 20th, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In the time before Easter, Lent, we do penance and remember the suffering of Jesus. We do not anticipate Easter. Maybe if we did more anticipating Easter it would be a much bigger feast than Christmas.
Maybe this is what the Guatemalan poet meant when she said of the people of Guatemala were Threatened with Resurrection. If we anticipate spring or the Resurrection that will come eventually we can take what the cold and dark winter or Lent may throw us. Anticipation, like Hope, springs eternal.
President and Pope sharing
A friend of mine and of many, a holy man, made headlines in the National Catholic Report (NCR), a national Catholic paper. The headlines read Longtime peace activist removed from ministry after celebrating Mass with woman priest. The Vatican sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance at a nearby Franciscan Priory for celebrating a mass with a women priest a few years ago at the annual SOA Watch gathering at Fort Benning, GA.
In the same NCR online was a picture of our U.S. President sharing a laugh with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Our President who sits down each week and approves a “kill list’ of human targets for drone strikes each week and who has presided over a country for over 6 years that is now more divided between rich and poor(Top 1% with more wealth than 95%). Yet a holy man who has been comfortable in prison for peace activities, living with the most marginalized sector of US, and who has served the poorest of the poor in this country is reprimanded by Vatican, and thus indirectly by the Pope.
There is something radically wrong with this picture of Catholic Church!