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
In the 60′s Milwaukee was
called Selma of Nort
In the Opinion page of our local newspaper our congresswoman wrote an article called: Wisconsin Still the Selma of the North. She was talking about the proposed Wisconsin Voter ID law that is still in court that would restrict voting.
However, the civil rights struggle was about a lot more than voting rights. If we compare Selma with Milwaukee these days on poverty, education, racial segregation and imprisoning African American males Milwaukee is over Selma.
Milwaukee is the second poorest city in the USA rankly slightly below Detroit. Selma is a smaller city but has less percentage of people below poverty level than Milwaukee.
In Public School ratings, compared to other schools in the area Milwaukee as a 36% rating while Selma has a 66% rating.
In the most racially segregated cities in the USA, Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin is number 1 in the last two censuses. Gadsen, Alabama is number 10 while the Selma/Dallas County area is not even in the top 25.
In terms of incarceration of African American males Wisconsin ranks number one in the USA and the majority of these men are from Milwaukee. I could not find Selma’s or Alabama’s ratings but they cannot be better than the number one percentage of Wisconsin and Milwaukee.
The comparison could go on. See M.A.P.S. for areas of poverty, racial segregation and unemployment in Milwaukee. But Selma is no way near being the Milwaukee of the South.
“My soul magnifies the Lord”
“Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.” Malcolm X
My heart cries out for the poor and people of color who are ignored by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee. See Cry of the poor to St. Vincent de Paul Milwaukee
My heart cries out to Jesuits and administrators of Marquette University who Teach War and Killing, Killing without conscience at this Catholic University.
My heart cries out for the people of Wells Street who are getting their street radically changed by an alderman and city without their understanding or consent.
My heart cries out for all the victims of violence be they terrorist, US government or local persons.
How do we deal with a crying heart? We talked about this somewhat this morning in our faith sharing and the answer I could hear is in the Magnificat of Mary, the Mother of God, in the Gospel.
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.’‘
Yes, Malcolm X “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression”.
Cold and Down!
When you are feeling battered and beat up, rejected and ignored,
Look on the other side of life and see all the good out there and in people, as well as inside of self.
An attitude of gratitude will rise up from within and overcome the feelings bringing you down.
From the earth of oneself a seed planted will grow and rise to tower over the beat up and down.
Curses will be turn over to blessings that will blossom like the cherry trees in the spring.
Elie Wiesel is a writer, professor
at Boston University, political
activist,Nobel Laureate and
“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.” — Elie Wiesel
It has been so cold recently. How cold you ask? So cold that today when the temperature reached 28 degrees and the sun was out we had a heat wave.
If cold, snow and rain cannot stop the postman from making his appointed rounds, why are we so scare of a few obstacles that often we go silent in the face of injustice and immorality. Usually the obstacle means just standing up for what you believe and is right against authorities elected or selected.
If people on our block were fearless about standing up to the local alderman our street would not become narrower. If members of St. Vincent de Paul locally did not fear contracting authorities in the Society and thought for themselves I believe they would invest millions in the needs of the poor rather than in a thrift store for the suburbs. If students, faculty and alumni were not afraid to look at the real truth of what the Department of Defense is teaching at Marquette University, I believe, they would demand that Marquette, as a Christian school stop teaching war and killing without conscience.
Yes these are my views or ‘opinions of the truth’ but when they are not contracted and just met in silence they grow stronger in my conscience. As the saying goes “The opposite of love is not hate but indifference”. In these situations indifference is ignoring.
When you dialog and debate a person or statement recognize the person or statement exist. When you ignore it you perform an act hate, not disagreement. “Truth” can only be attained when people love and respect each other. When one party just says ‘that is your opinion and I have my opinion’ or I will not talk with you because I cannot change your mind, they are disrespecting a person and showing hatred toward the person. Insult the messenger and ignore the message seems to be cry of the day.
In the 81 pages of allegations against me, the reason for my suspension from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul leaders in the Society locally and nationally encourage each other to ignore the concerns I and others are bringing up about the direction of the Society in Milwaukee and by not dialoging or responding they can say I will not change my mind. What arrogance to hate someone by ignoring the person’s message and then say the person will not change his or mind.
Ignoring people and an issue long enough sadly enough does work but only because when someone or a message is ignored people think it not true or something they do not want to hear or care about. Ignoring or marginalizing message and ignoring a message is the new form of hate in our society if you react to being ignore it gives creditability to those doing the hating by ignoring. If you keep on speaking the truth as you see it and there is no response, eventually many people just turn off the message.
Ignoring is a hard obstacle to overcome.
“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” Mahatma Gandhi
An African-American, disabled, low-income woman friend asked me if I would drive her to a mall to pick up a phone from wireless company. She had worked it out over the phone with the company so all she had to do is go to the store for the new one and get a label for a box to return the old phone. She has an aide for over 5 hours a day but the one this Saturday did not drive.
So I picked up her and her aide and using her van/truck, since she needs to lie down in the back seat, drove them to the wireless store in the mall. The wireless store made us wait for a long time even though my friend explained that she cannot sit for long period of times in the wheel chair due to her severe nerve problems and pain.
Finally someone call her name and all was going well till his computer told him that she could not get the new phone until after they received the old one in the mail. After talking with a supervisor and someone at main company, and quite a bit of time, this obstacle was cleared.
Now an hour and half had passed and the issue became downloading from the ‘cloud’ her over 600 contacts to the new phone. I knew this was important since several times driving her to medical appointments I noticed she was calling the doctors’ office to say we would be late or contact a caregiver about some changes. The mobile phone was in many ways her contact with outside world. After another long period of time the customer service people came back to say they were experiencing some network problems and would not be able to complete the download at this time. She would need to come back. This was a major problem for my friend and she is a strong person and insisted there be another way.
With all the medicines she takes she cannot go long periods of time without food. So I ran over to the food court in the mall to get her a mini-sub to keep her strength up. She finally got on the phone again with the main company and after a long time of waits, conversations with her and customer service on the phone, with staff at the store and staff at store with the main company some resolution was achieved.
She is one person that does not need me to advocate for her so I just resorted to a corner of the store to wait. I was in a wireless store but noticed that it had no public Wi-Fi network for me to use. The food court area had Wi-Fi but the wireless store did not. Her aide was by her side and when they finally came by to get me over 3 hours had passed since we got to store. I had left my house around 12:30 and came home around 6pm.
What kept us, she, her aide and I going was, in part, a sense of humor. Some young man tried to pick up the aide, there were many jokes about my driving and talking about food when we all so hungry. We joked about the long wait in the store. After I made a wrong turn on the way back she joked about me costing her a lot of gas for her van/truck. I shout back for her to take it off my pay, which just involved God’s blessings she shared with me for helping her. I told her please not to take away too many blessings since I needed all I could get.
I had plans for the afternoon but was lucky to make it home by 6pm for a wonderful dinner Pat had prepared. Tonight we watched a movie about Stephen Hawking called “The Theory of Everything” The movie puts any frustrations and hardships we have in life in perspective of the life of Stephan Hawking and his former wife Jane, who wrote the book on which the film was based.
Tonight a friend who had written a series of essays that we published on www.nonviolentcow.org called the Father at War wrote the book was going to be published as an E Book. That makes me feel good that his web site had contributed to the publication.
What I did not do today perhaps I will do tomorrow or perhaps not. Pat and I are scheduled to visit another disabled friend after Church and who knows where that will take us. But despite the long waits and frustrations people in need experience I, a middle class old white guy, can say “All Is Well” thanks to a sense of humor and the blessings God gives to my friends to share with me.
My wife, Pat, officially retired today from her work as a children’s librarian. She feels she might be lost for awhile but my memory of retirement was I soon forgot all the hassles of work. If you live in the present fully than the past disappears quickly and there is not much time for future. I heard on public radio today an interview with a person who had a high stress job. All his life he had only a few nights where it was hard to sleep. The interview person asked him how he did it. He said he first try to live fully in the present and realized he could not change the past and future was not of concern. Second he said that when he bed he said the rosary, a repetitive Catholic Prayer that uses beads. Often at night he has fallen asleep before the rosary was finished.
I used to check out my I phone or maybe read a newspaper or magazine in bed. Recently I stopped doing this and when I go to bed I try to clear my mind by using a repetitive prayer like the “Jesus Prayer”, and with the effect of the medicine I take, fall to sleep soon. But the difference for me is that I wake up less at night, especially on days when my mind is clear.
Learning to live fully in the presence takes a discipline of mind, often involving some form of meditation. Clearing one’s mind a few times a day does not take much time but makes more time since when you live fully in the present more gets done.
I was driving with a young man today who I do know too well. He mentioned he had a lot on his mind as rational for not talking so much as we were going someplace. On the way back, after an experience with someone that is fully present to life, he started to tell me more about his life, his dreams and hopes. He called the person we experienced, a saint. Being present in the moment is what saints are all about.
Today in the news I heard that our governor who is running for president said “his experience undermining labor unions in Wisconsin has prepared him to take on the threat of the Islamic State in the Middle East.” How sad!
Today I was talking to a neighbor who wants to save our street from becoming narrower but feels we residents will lose to the Alderman.
A friend helping with my public appeal to International St. Vincent de Paul Society for suspension questioned if we should just give up our struggle for justice for poor since it seems to be going nowhere.
My friend that I drove to an ER at a different hospital is still not doing good and his wife, daughter, son and friends are concerned.
Tomorrow morning I will be County court for hearing on my arrest in supporting justice for Dontre Hamilton. Then I will go to Ms. Lucille’s former house, for hopefully the last time, to salvage some furniture from the fire. In the afternoon I will go to my friend’s house that is helping me with international appeal.
If this all sounds depressing the upside is that my dear wife’s, Pat’s, final day at work before retirement is tomorrow. Hopefully we will celebrate with a few surprises after work. Today I drove a good friend, Franciscan priest to the airport so he can fly west to protest nuclear weapons and drones. I told him that if lands up in jail or prison again to try to get to some warm spot so Pat and I can visit him. Here it is cold and cold.
All and all I can say “All is Well”. Winning or Losing is not everything but how you “do the right thing” according to your conscience is everything and is what bring peace and joy. I am cursed and blessed with what I feel I must do for human rights for all and to end violence. What else can I do?
In the 2010–2011 academic year there was a number of alleged sexual attacks on women by student athletics, believed to be basketball players, at Marquette University. Although two of the women reported the attacks to Marquette security the attacks were never reported to local police, State and Federal government as required by law. Marquette handled the allegations internally and it was not till after 2010–2011 basketball season the rape allegations became public. ( See Chicago Tribune article One woman’s stand against college athletes. Since that year there have been two different athletic directors, 2 different presidents, new provost, new executive vice president, a new coach and all new basketball players.
When the District Attorney received the case it was too late he said to indict any athletes and he said Marquette said it was sorry for breaking State and Federal laws so he did not charge Marquette with a crime. (Only if the rest of us can be so lucky: “Yes, office I went through the red light but I am sorry.”)
But most telling is that Marquette basketball has taken a down turn. A once renowned basketball sports program has been struggling and this year and is having a losing season.
Marquette University, although admitting it broke the law, has never fully admitted the whole situation and how it handled it. If one believes in curses one can say the Marquette basketball program is under a curse.
Suffering myself what I believe are curses I know that curses can be blessings, but only when we recognize them and admit our role, something Marquette has not done. So, in my opinion, the curse of Marquette basketball lives on and will either fade away or go away with honest recognition. For Marquette basketball fans let us hope that is soon.
Google Earth view of street
nearby, narrower and wide
It happened again. On the February 22nd posting I talked about how a solution to a problem or a comprise everyone can be happy with is sometimes so close we do not see it.
I was driving to the drugstore to pick up a prescription for my wife, Pat, today when I noticed the street I was driving on, one block away, had one narrow lane on each side for car traffic and a wide, clearly marked by paint, parking lane on each side. For the cost of white paint we can narrow our street, Wells street, when it is repaved and still keep a wide street with parking lanes on each side. The paint would cost less that moving the sewer line, extending our driveways and area before the curb and would satisfy those that say a narrower street is safer while keep our street wide.
Now only if politicians and city workers used ‘common sense’. I will again take flyers to homes up and down our street tomorrow, despite our cold, but have a little home that it will change the predetermined mind of alderman and city workers who say we want the street narrow so it can be safer and want to make it like a another street in the area where despite the narrow street the speeds are high and you have to fear opening your car doors.
Some once said if I was concerned by ‘outcomes’ of these battles I fight. Of course I am concerned by outcomes but if I feel something is right I am willing to struggle for it, although I may be marginalized. Keeping silent would be wrong in my mind for the ‘common good.’ If we try and lose, so be it. If we do not try and lose, we are losers. Losers do not try.
Even Cookie Monster is showing
some self-restraint on
“The one condition for fighting for peace and liberty is to acquire self-restraint.” M.K. Gandhi
This is a quote that came across my computer today. Self-restraint is a good thing to work toward during Lent, season of getting ready for Holy Week, death and resurrection of Jesus. Self-Restraint is one of my weaknesses. Sometimes I get so passionate about something I cannot hold myself back. Sometimes it is good not to hold back and sometimes self-restraint is needed for right time and place to act.
Lent is a time of fasting and prayer which might hold the secret to self-restraint. Fasting requires abstinence from food and drink at times which should give us more control over our body and desires. Prayer brings us to silence and peace where it is easier to find self-restraint. As Jesus says in the Gospel, “Some demons can only be exorcised by fasting and prayer.”
I was thinking today how the “powers that be”, government and big businesses, are consolidating more power into fewer governments and businesses. You hear almost daily about mergers of industrial giants. While the 1% consolidates, we the 99% become more scattered and diverse. When peace and justice causes comes up everyone is scattering to get an organization involved. Just look at all the non-profits for every cause and issue. They multiply rather than consolidate. Coalitions often are just names for another group to be formed on same issue. Just think how powerful we could be if we consolidated and work together, one cause at a time. If most of the groups fighting hunger came together, for example, we might have money and power to do something significant about it. But we do not work together on issues, something which the ‘powers to be’ like. The ‘powers to be’ throw at us more and more justice issues, more wars, more inhumane treatment, more revoking of rights, like the present effort to quickly pass Right to Work Law in Republican legislature. We become more diversified and scattered, “you have your issue and I have mine”, while more power and money is centralized in less and less people.
Along with ignoring people and causes this is the new wave of big industry, military and governments. In the 60’s it was simple. We had two major issues we all worked together on: Civil rights and Anti-War. Now we are divided and often fight and compete with each other rather than “powers to be.”
How do we get the self-restraint to work together for peace and liberty?
Narrow car lanes on a wide
street with bike and parking lanes
Sometimes we look so hard and defend our position so strongly that we overlook a position that can satisfy both sides. I think this happened in our debate over keep the new repaved Wells Street wide or having it narrow. Here are parts of this letter that I spent time today writing that has a compromise for a wide and narrow Wells St.
Dear Mr. Murphy and neighbors on Eric’s last list that live in the neighborhood,
Please find below and attached my vote opposed to the proposed narrowing of W. Wells st. as proposed by Mr. Murphy and DPW. A narrower road alternative is at end.
Yes, I said assessment for a 38 ft. street, not property tax assessment, but charges for extending the driveway and lawn leading up to new curb and possibly sidewalk replacement and sewer work. At your meeting you and DPW said we would be charged $5 a square foot for driveway extension, street would be 6 ft. shorter on each side and $1.50 per square foot for front lawn to new curb. Sidewalk changes will come with our street assessment and I am not sure how moving the sewer will be paid for. For us this means $374 plus any sidewalk and sewage assessment.
You say this survey is “nearing the end of the design process.” This is true but it is due to you and city officials. Last fall a high ranking city official saw the final plans of DPW and your design plans for Wells St. and told us that the plans called for narrowing the street from 50 ft. to 38 ft. However, you did not call a meeting till Feb. 5th.
At the beginning of this meeting you told us this plan, decided before last fall was the ‘consensus of residents’ of Wells street. You later withdrew that comment but DPW was not prepared to answer our questions.
One questioner asked for evidence that a narrower street would slow down traffic. DPW and you could not give any. Narrower streets can be accomplished in many ways outside of your proposal. Bike lanes, Parking lanes narrow the street in much safer way. You and DPW can find on the web all kinds of ways for “traffic calming” as I did. Actually in four years of meetings about speeding on Wells Street there have been many suggestions for “traffic calming” that can work.
I am glad you mentioned Lloyd Street as an example of a 38 feet road leading to 41 expressway. Your Google pictures are very deceiving since they do not show park cars and car congestion. On the way home from an event Friday night my wife and I drove down Lloyd from 55th street to 47th street, Hwy 41 entrance going South. (41 ends one block north of Lloyd street at Lisbon.) As we were driving down the street my wife told me about her experience attending a morning drive time discussion group at a friend’s house who lives on 49th and Lloyd. She told me that she had to wait awhile before existing her car on the drivers side. Also her friend’s son’s car has been sideswiped twice on Lloyd. There were very few cars parked on Lloyd on Friday night as contrast to Wells Street. Part of the reason of less cars on Lloyd is that, although there are some driveways there are alleys entering and existing Lloyd, something we do not have on Wells St.
I went over to Lloyd early Saturday afternoon. The first thing that struck me was how fast the cars were going. I used a speed gun to track the speed and most cars were going over 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. So much for going slower, and this was not even drive time. I parked my car across the street from a small truck that was parked around 54th and Lloyd. From the attachment 3 picture of a car going 47 mph you can see there was not much room between my vehicle and the speeding car. The resident of Lloyd came out of his house to get in the small truck. He asked what I was doing. I told him and he told me how at drive time cars are going by his house 45 to 50 mph. This house is one block away from the stop signs on 55th st. I challenge anyone that believes a 38 foot street will slow down traffic and is safer to go over to Lloyd between 55th and 47th entrance to 41 South. Just take a good look but be careful when opening your car door, especially at drive time.
Today I parked my car near my house on 51st and Wells across the street from a parked car on the other side. I measure 6 ft toward the middle of road from each car, width of a each parked car. I put chalk and tape lines on the spots. This is how much room we will have next winter between parked cars if Wells becomes 12 foot narrower. Check out the picture below or the actual chalk marks. The chalk and tape marks may disappear soon since many people now go into the space that will not be there next winter. Congestion of Brewers game days, use of garbage trucks and other wide vehicles like buses, getting in and out of driveway are things most of you can understand how hard it will be with a 38ft. street.
On the positive side we can all be happy with single lane street, with plenty of parking room and also a bike lane. This suggestion was probably suggested at one of meetings and exist right here in Milwaukee. Check out Google earth picture attached 1 below which is a view on 2200 block of Humbolt Ave looking south. You will see a parking only lane, bike lane and single car lane on each side of middle line. With this plan there would be no assessments of homeowners; we will have the narrow street some desire to slow down cars and have a bike lane for the many bikes that use Wells St., probably since it is wide; also we can park our cars on the street safely or enter and exist our driveways. We would have a new paved street at a lower cost and work could be done much quicker than over the May-Stepember of proposed narrowing. We can have our cake and eat it too, a narrower and wide safer street.
Please present this less expensive alternative to narrow the street and increase safety on Wells while getting our present street repaved. At least please give us a choice. This email will not be read by some or even go to most of residents on Wells. But I hope you and everyone on Wells spreads this compromise to residents on Wells st.
Waiting in line for healthcare
When I was in the Jesuit seminary, I remember waiting in a long line to see one of the priests. When I finally got in his room he asked me what I did while I was waiting. Fortunately, I just had read the book Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger and was repeating over and over again with my breathing the Jesus Prayer. (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”)
The priest was impressed and as this was not the typical answer he expected. His teaching point that day was that waiting can be a blessing if we learn how to wait. Henri Nouwen, the spiritual writer often wrote about the The Spirituality of Waiting. He wrote “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
Waiting is something we do a lot, especially the poor. I remember waiting with people in need in long lines for food, clothing, and medical attention or to pay bills. Nowadays a lot of waiting comes when we are put on ‘hold’ on the phone. We can spend long times on hold only to get nowhere at the end and need to start over again.
Today I was going to meet some men at Ms. Lucille house that burnt down to move some furniture over to her storage unit. We were to meet at 10:30 am and I waited and waited in front of the house. Finally Deacon Bill and two friends showed up but we still had to wait for Ms. Lucille grandson or great grandson who was bringing the ‘truck’ and the drill to take out the screws in the boarded house and a dolly. When he finally got there he just had a van like the rest of us were driving and had the drill but not the right drill bit to take out the screws in the door. So we decided to wait till another date when we could get a truck and the right tools. Fortunately a friend at the local Catholic Worker has use of a truck and, if it all works out, we will move the furniture to the storage unit next week.
I used my time waiting listening to public radio and making and receiving phone calls with my cell phone. After we left I ran some errands and came home filling fulfilled not frustrated as I expected. I suspect this good feeling was due to two things. 1) I knew how to wait. 2) We were helping out an 86 year old woman who had raised children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and over one hundred foster children. She also was active in civil and human rights causes. Since God blesses and gives grace to poor and generous in sprit she is a woman full of grace and so we shared in her blessings and grace.
I am not always a patient person and do not wait well at times. But today I was, so waiting brought me fulfillment not frustration.
If Notre Dame Drops Theology,
will it need to remove God from
this statement on Basilica door?
Tonight Pat and I went to a musical event my goddaughter Sophia was participating at Milwaukee Lutheran High School. The presentation was full of music, some talking and dancing. It was a presentation of the fight between God and the Devil, good vs. evil. The singing was fine, words were good, although a bit preachy, and it was a moving presentation of this classic struggle with a modern understanding.
Some were moved by the music, some by words and movements but I was impressed mostly by the large number of high school youth, from a variety of religious traditions, singing about their Christian faith. The stage was full of youth, African American, Whites and a few other races singing their hearts out about trust in God and overcoming, with God blessings, evil.
The event was long but at the end while some on stage in audience cried I felt relieved it was over. For, again, what impressed me the most was the large number of youth not afraid to sing and talk about faith? Now if some of these youth translate this passion for their faith into everyday life the world will be in much better shape.
Youth today, in my opinion, seem to lose the sense of doing the right thing, imagination and moral passion as they become more educated. These kids had it.
Today I heard that Notre Dame, one of the great Catholic Universities in the USA is considering dropping its Theology department. How could this be? Theology is the study of God! Yet Notre Dame is one of the two Catholic Universities in the USA to host on campus all three Departments of the Defense, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. As the brief video says: Marquette and Notre Dame Teache War and Killing so maybe a theology department gets in the moral way of the university.
The youth tonight in this private high school are going in the direction of making God and Faith more central to education and life. In an age when ignoring faith values in education are growing Milwaukee Lutheran students stand proud.
Sleeping on a public bench
while poor and black can get
one shot and killed in Milwaukee
Some new research based on a five year update of census data has Milwaukee as the second poorest city in the USA, behind Detroit at number one. We were number four just a few years ago. We are moving up in the wrong direction.
All the emails and letters I have sent to leaders and staff of the St. Vincent de Paul Society about how money ‘donated’ to poor’ was not being used for members serving those in need has only brought me personal character attacks, suspension from the Society, marginalization. The message has been ignored.
Why do I continue? I do miss making home visit to persons in needs as Vincentians but, sadly, there are many other works of mercy I can do.
A statement I read from the book of Proverbs keeps coming to mind. “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.” (Proverbs 31: 8–9) Major faiths, including my own, have a teaching where we are obliged to speak out for the voiceless. My Christian faith says that at Baptism we are marked with this duty. So how I can be silent in the face of injustice and how can the SVDP staff and leaders continue to attack me only so they can avoid the message?
Tonight at the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission again failed to set a date for the hearing for the reinstatement of the policeman who shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times in Red Arrow Park last April. The officer was fired for not following procedure in the incident but was acquitted by the District Attorney of all charges. The Fire and Police Commission keep postponing the date for his reinstatement hearing and tonight the commission were not allowed to continue business till a date is sent. They choose to adjourn the meeting.
In the news tonight the police chief said how wrong we were in disturbing the meeting but nothing about the long delay in the hearing for reinstatement. Attack the messenger and ignore the message.
All this leads to a basic question that I cannot get a handle on. What can we do when we are a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and speak out only to find the message ignored and us the messengers marginalized. Do you keep speaking out as I feel I must do? Or do you join the silent that do not like it but do not speak out.
Both poverty in Milwaukee and being a voice to voiceless are moving up in the wrong direction.
The military person who trained Chris Kyle, the American Sniper, said something to the effect that the person who shot Kris and his companion did so because he had a mental illness not because of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental illness and his statement shows you how far people will go to avoid acknowledging mental illness is an illness, just like cancer, except it is in the brain, the most complicated organ in the human body.
We treat people with a heart attack, sever cancer or in a car accident with Doctors, hospitals and treatment. How However, persons who suffer a crisis of a mental health illness or brain disease are offer sent to jail, shelters or non-hospital complexes. Like the shooter in the American Sniper trial they are detained but then let go without proper treatment. An ill person with a deadly disease that proposed harm to the person or others would be treated in a hospital and not released to his health improved. Persons with mental illnesses rarely go to a hospital and are released as soon as possible.
Insanity pleas are very hard to prove in a court of law and in Texas, probably impossible. Once my deceased son Peter, who suffered from a mental illness, he saw as PTSD, was lost in the Texan prison system for a petty offense. With God’s blessing he had a public defender that understood he was sick and was able to get him on plane back home. How many other men and women in prisons in Texas and across the USA are not so fortunate and stay in jail and become sicker. How many veterans suffering from mental illness like PTSD end up killing themselves to escape the suffering? How long will it take for us to look at mental illnesses as an illnesses and treat it as an illness not as a stigma?
A movie I saw recently and liked, Selma, has not done so well in the box office. Two movies I have not seen, American Sniper and 50 Shades of Grey are big hits and breaking records in the box office. I do not know if I will see these two soon but will pass on to you two commentators I respect view of these two movies:
Chris Hedges of TruthDig.com writes about 50 Shades of Gray ‘Pornography Is What the End of the World Looks Like’. At the Voices for Creative Nonviolence web site I read this review of American Sniper, Learning from American Sniper.
Will I see these two movies in the theater, I doubt it. Will I see them when they are on DVD or TV, maybe? For now I had my full of violence, be it sexual or sniping.
We Are Family - Monday, February 16, 2015
Today I had lunch with two African American women friends, one about 14 years older than I and the other about 16 or 17 years younger than I. Since neither one is old or young enough to be my ‘mother’ or ‘daughter’ I consider them both to be my ‘sisters.’ Actually I have a family blood brother who is 18 years younger than I.
As we were eating lunch and talking I was struck how much we think alike on issue like military spending, civil rights and such. I do not find that much agreement with white guys nearer my age. There is some instinctual bond that allows us to understand each other and our experiences, although we come from very diverse backgrounds. Amidst other things we discussed a couple subject close to my heart, the spending of the local St. Vincent de Paul Society on things that are not at the heart of the mission of serving the poor and the militarization of Marquette University. On almost all subjects they brought up I found myself in near total agreement.
So race, gender and age did not matter very much in our way of looking at life and our experiences. My older and younger ‘sisters’ share so many of the same values and attitudes that I do. One of my sisters is Catholic like I and one Episcopal but religion did not figure much into our agreements and views of life. However, I think that what I would call ‘spirituality’ did figure in.
All three of us firmly believe that we are all brothers and sisters in God and in compassion and care for poor and marginalized. We are self confident although we are aware of our weaknesses.
Looking at my friends today compared to friends of the past I found there is a lot more diversity, rich and poor, white and black, male and female, old and young. Yet there is a bounding that keeps us close.
Some years ago I wrote a posting on this site called Salad Bowl Friends. I am not sure how I would describe my circle of friends today. I need to find a new metaphor, but there is something happening in my life and others that makes us more like ‘sisters and brothers’ than friends. We are family.
Some years ago at a city zoning hearing for a health clinic for persons with mental illnesses, the president of the organization that was trying to obtain the permit, said that he felt that persons with a mental illness were stigmatized, stereotyped and treated like ‘lepers.’
Today’s readings in Church reminded me of his statement. The reading from the Old Testament was about persons with leprosy being declared ‘unclean’ and isolated from the community. The reading from the Gospel of the New Testament was about a leper knelling down and begging Jesus to make him clean. Jesus treated the person with his healing touch saying “Be made clean.” In a day with no doctors and hospitals modern medicine healers were the best hope for the ill. Jesus warned the man to be quiet about the healing but the man could not help himself and publicized to everyone how he has been healed. In fact he spread the word “abroad so that was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.” Jesus had to find deserted places and yet people kept coming to him from everywhere to be healed. (Mark 1: 40–45)
Being marginalized, rejected, stigmatized and ignored unfortunately is still prevalent in our society for persons with mental illnesses, for young adult African American black males and for people who bear a message not many want to hear.
The only way to keep stigma, like the leaper faced in the Gospel, from keeping you down is to go Jesus, God or higher power, kneel down and ask for healing strength to keep on going and not let the leprosy or stigma bring you down.
On this Valentine’s day I read how ”Common Dreams about the authorization for war the President desires. It reported, “the proposed authorization for use of military force (AUMF) gives approval for open-ended and geographically limitless military operations. “Its vague wording leaves the door open to use of ground troops, which the administration has previously vowed to avoid, and does nothing to repeal the sweeping 2001 AUMF, which is still being used to justify ongoing military actions in various regions around the world.”
On this Valentine’s Day we went to see the movie Selma about the days when struggling for civil rights meant risking your life. In one scene in the movie Martin Luther King Jr., at a funeral for a young man killed in the struggle, says we must be willing to give our life in the struggle for human dignity and rights.
There has been little protest in peace community over Obama’s request for authorization for use of military force. (AUMF) When Bush asked for an AUMF in 2001 there was widespread resistance and protest.
When an unarmed African American male is shot 14 times by a white policeman in a county park last April there is little public outrage in Milwaukee. When we become aware of it happening across the USA there is some resistance but the white policeman is not charged.
Waging another endless war or the killing of an innocent black male does not seem to stir people these days as in the past. Have we become immune to violence and death? Where have all the resisters gone?
St. Ben’s originally started in 1908
as a mission to the African-American
Catholic community in Milwaukee.
the storefront chapel became a church,
boarding school, and hospital.
I spent most of the day today driving two persons. In the morning through the afternoon I drove my 86 year old friend Ms. Lucille to her bank and to rent space place. Her house had burned down over a month ago and with four trips we have gathered some of the salvageable items, especially her collection of statues and knickknacks. They are scattered at my house and another friend’s house and there is some furniture from the place her grandson will be picking up. Also since she has been moved way out to edge of city she applied for a debit card to make it easier for her to withdraw money from her account. The women at the bank know her and treated her with great dignity and respect. Ms. Lucille is an African-American woman who is a veteran of the civil rights struggle. She had been arrested, fired, insulted for work for civil rights but she keeps on going. Her husband was killed in the Koran War leaving her with two children and now many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren. Also along the way she took in 104 foster children over her many years. She is a remarkable woman full of good stories, humor and blessings. I feel so privileged to be her driver at times.
In between driving people I had a good talk with a friend who shares with me the frustration of the mental health system or lack of it, in Milwaukee. Attempts at reform have made matters worse. No one wants people in crisis with brain disorders so they become victims and prisoners or die.
My afternoon driving privilege was to pick up my friend Father Jerry from the airport and drive him home to the Franciscan friary in Burlington. Jerry is only 77, five years older than me but much wiser and holier. He has been down in Florida visiting his sister and family and enjoying the sun and warm weather. Jerry has been active in the peace and justice movements having been shunned by Church officials, imprisoned for his service to poor. He also keeps on going and plans, with a little help from friends since he is very poor, to go to a major protest out West later this month. The rest of the time he spends in a very quiet and prayerful priory with elderly Franciscans. Jerry is also full of stories, stories, and like Ms. Lucille’s, has good sense of humor.
The funeral I went to yesterday morning was for an 89 year friend from Church, Westly. Westly was also full of pointed good humor. The deacon at the mass told us a story about the 100th anniversary of St. Benedict the Moore Church, mission for African Americans so they can be ‘separate but equal’ in the Catholic Church, Church members have been invited by members of the Wisconsin Club to a gathering celebration at this very white and privileged club. As they were being taken on a tour from lavish room to lavish room of the club Westly said to the Deacon, “I do not remember shining shoes here.” Once when I was talking about his going to the special Catholic school for blacks while a few blocks ways white Catholics students were going to all white Catholic School he corrected me. He said that his school, St. Ben’s, was not all black. I asked him what he meant. He said they had one white guy at St. Ben’s school. I never had the privilege of driving Westly but have for many other wonderful persons. I call my vehicle the Blessing Cab since most of its occupants are holy people that leave my car with blessings money cannot buy.
Now Ms. Lucille and Jerry do not have computers and probably will not see this posting and Westly is dead. So please do not tell them about it. I would not want these humble elderly people to get big heads, like this old white guy has. Driving Ms. Lucille is a blessing.