(redirected from GrafFamily.FeaturedArticle)

The Graf Family mini-website has outgrown the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com greenhouse!

Projects that Bob Graf has started with other community members are still here on the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com, where growing conditions are so great for small, tender seedlings — see

Moving to our new wiki home, at NonviolentWorm.org:

Included below is the live home page of the NEW Diary of a Worm, on the New NonviolentWorm.org wiki website. Clicking any link below will bring you to our new site!

Nonviolent Cow : DiaryOfAWorm/Diary of a Worm browse

Welcome to the Journal of the Graf Family Growing Power Home Model


Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09



In January of 2006 I toured Will Allen’s Growing Power farm. Inspired by the Growing Power vision, my wife, son, a family friend and I constructed a home-based version of the Growing Power system in our sun-room.

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


Click below to read any post in full — see the Archives for older posts.


Nick Ridell Lost of Extraordinary Man - Thursday, September 18, 2014


Word came this morning that Nick Riddell had passed away last night. Nick was a fascinating characters someone whose life would make an excellent book and movie. But his life will not appear on the screen or in a book for he died, as he wanted it, a quiet death.

I first met Nick in the 60’s when he was a Carmelite priest and just finding his voice in the peace and justice movements. He was not only a supporter of the selective service files burning of Milwaukee 14 he was involved in a similar “Hit and Stay” action, the Chicago 15. Somewhere along the line he left the priesthood and when it came time to go to prison Nick went underground. After he was caught he went to the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute. Since we moved out of Milwaukee when he got out of prison we lost track of him but understood he became a popular bartender in a community pub called the Interlude. When we moved back to Milwaukee Nick had been a drug and alcohol counselor. We saw him at some reunion events and understand he had become quite an artist.

When he got ill he moved to some assisted housing unit and kept to himself except when there was get together of old friends. I remember seeing him at our house when we had a gathering of old friends. He looked old and ill but still had that wonderful smile and quick wit about him. Sadly the last few times we saw Nick was at funerals of mutual friends.

One of the people who kept in touch with Nick and told us about his death was a high school student, John, in the 60’s, the time of the Milwaukee 14 and Chicago 15 actions. He got to know Nick when Nick was a bartender at the community pub and kept in close contact with him till the end.

Nick was a man of many lives but singularly committed to others. Even when he was ill he did not want people to fuss over him. John and another friend who kept in contact with Nick till the end said he made no arrangements for his death or memorial service. I wrote back and said we needed one, not for Nick, but for ourselves. His death was expected but leaves us sad. We the living need to remember him as an inspiration to our lives. He was, in his mind, just an ordinary person but to many of us he was extraordinary and his death is our lost.


continue…

back to top


Begging is for Blessed! - Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Just before noon today I was on the sidewalk at Marquette University passing out flyers about our rally to end militarism on campus on Sept. 24th, the 46th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 burning selective service files. I wore an Army hat I had picked up at Goodwill plus my homemade T Shirt to close down ROTC on campus.

As usual many students just ignore you or say thank you as they walk by and do not take the flyer. A few take the flyer, out of curiosity or interest. They do not know what the Milwaukee 14 was and they are trained to show no interest in MU teaching war and killing. But most just refuse any flyer no matter what.

I was by myself when a large group of students were leaving one of the halls. A young adult African American male approached me and said he was homeless and could I help him out with money for food. I said sure I could but he would have to wait a few minutes since the students were descending on us and I needed to get out these flyers. He said he would help distribute the flyers and he did, although he did not know what they were about. I was going to go to Mass at Gesu next door at noon but said to the young man that I would take him out for lunch. He became honest with me and said he really wanted the money to help his girlfriend who was sick and staying at his ‘pad’. So I gave some money, he thanked me, was on his way, and I went in the Church.

You never know if beggars are being honest with you or not but my policy is, if I can, to help them out in some way without judgment. In this case I felt the person, the second time asking, was being honest. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits who started Marquette University, was a beggar when he first turned his life around and decided to follow the way of Jesus. In fact, many great persons, St. Francis and even Jesus did some time begging.

A scripture scholar wrote how a translation of “Blessed are the poor” basically meant in Jesus’ time blessed is the blind beggar. Families at Jesus’ time took care of their own but there were some persons, like widows and blind beggar that were very dependent on community and needed to beg to live. Physically, materially or spiritually we are all dependent on others. Begging is for the dependent, the blessed of God.


continue…

back to top


Tired but Blessed - Tuesday, September 16, 2014


It seems like in the fall and spring I go through a time of being very tired. I think it probably has something to do with the change of weather, although our fall this year has been about the same as the summer, 70’s with rain. The body seems to be saying I need this time to catch up with sleep. Staying up at night is usually not so much a problem, when I am so tired, but getting out of bed in the morning is difficult.

At faith sharing this morning we were talking how our lives can “make a difference.” Getting myself up and going these can make a difference. When I am tired my motivation is low. So being self motivating is important.

When I can see through my tiredness I see how blessed and exciting life is. Today I had contact by phone, in person and at dinner with friends, talking and walking on some important issues; I had a chance to work in the garden and dehydrate some cheery tomatoes. In fact I was shoveling composite around when a friend called about some ‘crap’ that is being thrown at us for trying to do good. I was I had some cow manure to throw around. I got some reading done and did some writing. My lovely life came home from work late tonight and we had a nice conversation. I got my brandy and soda drink now to calm me down for sleep. Being so tired is not so bad when one is blessed.


continue…

back to top


Easier to be Poor, Harder to be Good! - Monday, September 15, 2014


I have been writing of how the changes in our society, high unemployment of poor, making it more difficult to vote, raising taxes of the poor, taking away public transportation, cutting back on food stamps and health care, building thrift stores for rich rather than poor are making it harder and harder to be poor. It occurred to me that the phrase, ‘harder to be poor’ might be misunderstood. A better one might be that our individualistic society is making it easier to be poor.

Peter Maurin and other Catholic Workers have talked about how we cannot change another person but we can make “it easier to be good” by changes in the environment in which we all live. We Catholics believe that the government, on all levels, exists for the ‘common good’. We believe in the principle of subsidiarity that “holds that social problems should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level consistent with their solution”. Thus the government does not exist for individuals, like lowing taxes, but for the community, doing what is best for all and cannot be taken care of by individuals alone. The common good means making it easier for all to be good.

Lots of our social problems, like violence, poverty, poor education stem from the widening disparity between the poor and rich. When a smaller and smaller percentage of people have a greater and greater amount of wealth there will be problems as we see all around us.

In a garden if we put 98% of our resources into 2% of the garden and let the other 98% of garden go to waste and to weed, eventually there will be problems. As with nature, it is with society. By making it easier to be poor we are creating problems for all of society. If the purpose of government is for the ‘common good’ we must seek a government that is lessening not widening the gap between the small percent of rich and the rest of society. By making it easier to be poor we are creating an environment where it is harder to be good.


continue…

back to top


Love or Hate but No Indifference - Sunday, September 14, 2014


“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

The weather is get cooler, down in the 50’s but cheery tomatoes and green beans keep on going.

I got a couple emails today from people I do not know appreciating this web page or my efforts at nonviolence. Of course this week I did get an email from a local person I do not know saying to take him off my mailing list and another one from SVDP board member criticizing me. This love or hate responses reminds me of the reaction to Milwaukee 14 action or the civil rights marches of 68. I think it is good, to get love or hate reaction rather than being ignored, the new version of the opposite of love. As Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor said: “The opposite of love is not hate, its 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.”

We are taught to be indifferent or silent on controversial action. Last week when we had some trouble getting into the St. Vincent de Paul Board meeting, I stood in front of the open door till someone came out and said we all could come in. One of our members thought that we got ‘near violent’ by just standing in the open door. Many people today think nonviolent action is just protesting or picketing but would not think of civil disobedience.

This brings me back to the green beans and cherry tomatoes that keep on coming even when the weather cools. Their persistence will come to an end but only after all life is taken out of them. This reminds me of my posting the other night of Keep on Talkin.
Drawing out love or hate from friends or enemies is much nicer than indifference or being ignored. Ignoring the cheery tomatoes or green beans but not picking them would be hard to understand. So I say bring on the love or hate but please no indifference.


continue…

back to top


Walk Humbly With God - Saturday, September 13, 2014


“Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts,” (Psalm 96: 5–8)

The other day when I attended the St. Vincent de Paul Board meeting I tried very hard to listen. However, at the end of the meeting when I got up to speak I noticed that most Board members were not listening and those who heard my words did so with a hard heart, not really hearing what I was saying.

Being hard of heart and really not listening is a problem I too battle. If you really listen to some people you hear “racist” and insensitive remarks. I struggle with how to listen with an open heart. For years I have struggle with Psalm 96 on not hardening my heart.

Today at a memorial liturgy for a friend I listened to the first reading, a brief one she had probably chosen. It was from the Bible, Michal 6:8: “This is what the Lord God asks of you, only this: To act justly, to lover tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” This might sound simple but I believe it is the way to keep from hardening our hearts.

To act justly means not to be afraid to say and do what you believe in conscience is right. To love tenderly means to do what you believe is right without hate or vengeance. And to walk humbly with your God means to always remember how poor and dependent we are. Simple or difficult as this is, I believe it is the way to hear the voice of God and not harden our hearts.

If the almighty God became one of us, weak human beings, maybe we can empty ourselves to walk humbly with God.


continue…

back to top


Harder to Vote and Be Poor - Friday, September 12, 2014


86 year old peace and justice
leader talks to media how
struggle for human rights
for poor continues.

Today a Federal court ruled that the Wisconsin ID voting law, requiring a valid photo ID to vote is legal. The Governor says this law will make voting easier and cause less cheating at the polls. The facts are that for thousands it will make voting in Wisconsin harder and that there has never been a charge of voter misrepresentation made, let alone a conviction. But facts do not seem to matter much in politics these days.

One thing for sure it is becoming harder and harder to be poor in Wisconsin. Friends report to me about the recent lost of health services, like dental care in Wisconsin and the severe reduction in food stamps which are important to many persons and families. The environments the poor live in have become more dangerous, good education, good housing and employment opportunities are harder to attain. These facts are not only backed up by stories but from research, statistics and numbers.

I have experienced this fact, becoming harder to poor, directly. My friends call me up with stories, of new rules, bureaucracy and obstacles they must face to survive. Discrimination, especially based on race is at an all time high. I can see for myself when we make home visits that just the basics, a bed for a child or a stove or refrigerator to prepare food are very difficult to obtain. When our new governor ran for office the first time he promised to reduce taxes for everyone. He did for everyone but one group, the very poor for which he actually raised taxes.

If some politicians want to make it ‘harder to vote’ I really do not care too much. It may simply point out the uselessness of voting for change where there is no true democracy. However, making it harder and harder to be poor affects all of us. As the poor become the poor the burden on rest of us, except the 2% very rich, becomes greater. It cost us a lot less to provide a good education than imprisonment.

Personally for me it is hard to be quiet, when government and even private groups that mean well make it harder and harder to be poor without opportunity to move out of poverty. When will we ever learn that making it harder to vote and harder to be poor just leads to less meaningful voting and more poor.


continue…

back to top


No Dialog No SVDP Mission - Thursday, September 11, 2014


Civil Rights Struggle of 60′s
Returns

Last night at the Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) board meeting, the property committee chair for St. Vincent de Paul Board claimed his committee has been working on the new thrift store in Greenfield for 46 weeks. Most membersdid not even know about this effort until an offer to purchase a building in Greenfield was publicly announced in February.

Attempts since February to have a dialog about the location in the suburbs where the SVDP thrift store is not needed rather than in North Central Milwaukee, where it is needed, have failed since the Board has consistently refused to dialog. They have been open to listen to dissent but not to dialog. Some of us have listened to them when they speak but not have been able to dialog. There has been only one presentation to 33 of 55 Presidents of conference but not a real dialog, although some presidents later have called for it.

If we could have a dialog, the two reasons, given by staff and board for the new store could have been discussed. One reason was “sustainable store” and the other was for “revenue stream”.

At the SVDP board meeting last night one argument, a self sustainable store, was given at the door by a board member, the treasurer, as he was trying to keep out non-SVDP members, like a 86 year old civil rights leader who had been picketing with us. When we mentioned that SVDP was using “money belonging to the poor” for the new store he counteracted that the 3.4 million dollars borrowed for purchase and renovation of building as well as the operating cost and employee compensation would all be paid back over the years by the store itself. He said money was used from the trust fund of SVDP as collateral for the loans but store would make enough sales to be self sufficient or sustainable. This is along the lines of what the executive director of SVDP has said that we were “investing in Greenfield”,a suburb 85%, white and with a high household income.

The other argument we have heard came from a board member on the TV news last night about the protest at the meeting. He mentioned, as others have before, we needed to invest millions in the Greenfield to create a revenue stream for the Society to invest more money in serving the poor like in North Central Milwaukee, 85% African-American and with low household income. This second argument says not only will the new thrift store pay back the millions he takes to construct and operate but that it will create a profit.

A member at our local conference meeting today mentioned that a store in North Central Milwaukee could have met both reasons. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target have invested millions into store in North Central Milwaukee not only to be self sufficient to create a revenue stream or profit.

If there could be a dialog during the last 46 weeks I would have argued that either of the two reasons, store being self-sustainable or creating a “revenue stream” have little or nothing to do with the , the or the way of the Gospel. The mission of the Society is simply to do works of mercy, person to person, home visits with people in need. Thrift stores simply exist to aide this mission by offering low income persons an inexpensive place to shop that is supplied by donations and for persons who could not even afford items a place where they could redeem vouchers given to them at home visits. It is to be a friendly place where all kinds of persons can work, local person in need finding employment and volunteers can work together.

A store in Greenfield, self sufficient or creating a “revenue stream” does not fill the main mission of the Society or the mission of the Thrift Stores “to serve Christ’s needy.“


continue…

back to top


Keep On Talkin - Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Fair Housing Marches 1968
in Milwaukee

I saw on TV news tonight how the police chief was trying to dismiss the organized protest over the death of an unarmed Dontre Hamilton by a police officer by saying how one of the organizers of the protest was just doing it for his own personal glory and attention getting. A group of young men, with some African-American politicians were quick to respond to the Police Chief’s attempt to minimize the message of the group by marginalizing one of its members.

This effort to marginalize one person in a group as an effort to ignore the message is one I, sadly, know about. I am easy target for organizations like Marquette or Central office of St. Vincent de Paul because I am a loud and outspoken voice for issues of racism and resistance to war and violence.

Tomorrow we are going to picket the St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Central Office with our message that the poor cannot afford the millions of dollars. One of the organizers of the nonviolent action got a call from the President of SVDP. One of the first questions she was asked if she was knew me. What difference did that make except as attempt to diminish this persons concern on this vital issue affecting her community?

There is another person in this struggle who has also been marginalized although as a former member of the SVDP Board of Directors he knows a lot about the inside workings or the organization and central office. What do we two, who did not know each other until this struggle, have in common. We both have nothing to lose. The other person is retired by work and left the SVDP society when he could no longer take the harm they were doing to the poor. Others can lose funding for their work, lose glory, or lose power in their community. Even the media has something to lose by covering events that influential people do not want them to cover.

The same person who received the call from the President of SVDP, the other day in a meeting with a 86 year old veteran of the civil rights struggle, started to sign some lines from a civil rights song: “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” The verses that stuck in my mind are: “I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’;, keep on a-talkin’, Walkin’ into freedom land.”

In the struggle to resist teaching of war and killing at Marquette I used to joke that Marquette, years ago, put me in jail, suspended me, fired me, took a degree away, so all I had to lose was my MU library card. When I was banned from Marquette they took away my library card, which since has been restored.

In this struggle with SVDP they could stop me from making home visits to those in need and receiving the blessings I receive from this work of the Society of SVDP. I doubt if they will. No matter what, I plan to keep on walkin and keep on talkin.


continue…

back to top


Voting That Counts - Monday, September 08, 2014


Palestinian farmer looks over
his orchard of trees bulldozed
by Israeli military, yet
‘refuses to hate’.

A friend sent me an article today decrying The Death of Expertise. The author admits that ‘experts’ on a subject can be wrong that “what has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.”

This reminded me of my complaint that facts and history do not seem to matter much on issues and all right and wrong, truth or lies is a matter of opinion. It is part of the “Do you own thing” philosophy that seems to be dominate these days. It is not reality that matters but the individual perception of reality.

I am seeing all these ads for Governor that says the opposite thing on the same issue. The present Governor has created jobs or he has failed in creating jobs. I asked myself if I knew of anyone that might vote in the election for Governor that has not made up their mind already. I could not think of anyone. I asked myself the same question and she could not think of anyone. Yet millions and millions of dollars are being spent on advertising for each candidate.

I think all the ads are just to reinforce those who have already decided who to vote from. If that is true the person with the most money, the present Governor, will win the election as happens 95% of the time. This thought makes me more determined not to vote until we have open and democratic elections that will make a difference.

Even in protest actions, like that around the young adult sleeping on a public bench in a public park killed by a police officer. At each rally someone reminds us to vote. The mayor, DA or police chief who are stonewalling the investigation are not running for election and even if they were would it matter?

If voting does not matter what does? Today I read somewhere about a Palestinian family near Bethlehem that had their orchard of trees bulldozed by the Israeli militaryfor no good or legal reason. They have suffered other hardships by Israeli authorities but they ‘refuse to hate’. They take a nonviolent stand and keep on going without vengeance or hatred. Now they are really voting with their lives and their actions do matter. Now that is voting that counts.


continue…

back to top


Our Leaders are not Stupid - Sunday, September 07, 2014


Perception or Reality

Now the weather man says we are in for cold spell with temperatures in 40’s to 60’s. We did not hot weather this summer and now are we going to skip early fall or ‘Indian Summer.’

The weatherman might predict the weather but we live the weather and that is what is important, the present condition. The same goes for the economy and the state of the endless wars and increasing inequality we face in the USA. Talking heads may talk about it but we must live it.

With the issues of what is the Mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is a microcosm of what is wrong with society. In the Society in Milwaukee as in the USA a very small group of people make decisions for the rest of us. The executives of corporations, the politicians claim to know what is best for us although just the opposite is often true. Take the ‘war on terrorism.’ Actually it is created more and more terrorist and now we have a new enemy, ISIS, worst than all the rest before them. It is hard for me that our political, corporate and military readers are not smart and did not know what the end results of efforts of war and killing would lead. People excuse politicians, saying they could not help themselves. Politicians, like military contractors, business leaders know exactly what the results of their action.

They are not stupid or people easily duped. Every time the president orders a drone to shoot missiles on a village, home or caravan of cars he knows that innocent people will die and more terrorist will be born. Tonight on read an article on the Common Dreams web site called: How American made ISIS. Now ISIS, the terrorist group, by awful killings is trying to excite us into a war of USA vs. Muslim world, something that would be to their benefit.

In the garden or on my lawn I know that if I over fertilized the plants or grass it will die. If the USA retaliates against countries, like it did attacking whole countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than going after the criminals it knows what the results will be, death, destruction and endless wars. Our leaders are very smart person and know how to sell us perception as reality. Our leaders are not stupid.


continue…

back to top


Justice & Peace Back to the Future - Saturday, September 06, 2014


Jimmy Pierce of NAACP Youth
Council with Father Groppi

Today, in preparation for our protest at the St. Vincent de Paul Central office of “investment of money belonging to poor” in Greenfield rather than in North Central Milwaukee I was talking with two persons who were present in the civil rights struggle of 60’s for open housing. She was 40 years old at the time and now is 86 years. We were talking about person we knew in common, Dismiss Becker and James Groppi and events we shared. We were both on the school bus Father Groppi drove to Resurrection City in D.C. after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Now at the 46th anniversary year of passage of the Fair Housing law in Milwaukee she is still active and says of our times: “We quit too soon and never finished our work of obtaining civil rights.”

This month is also the 46th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 direct action of destroying selective files in opposition to the war in Vietnam and the Selective service system. On the anniversary day, September 24, 2014 we will be protesting on the Marquette University campus, the new draft system of education, like the military training for war and killing on the Marquette campus. (Part of the flyer is below)

In 1968 we were saying “No Justice, No Peace” and today we are still saying it. We are in the present going back to 1968 to move on in struggle for peace and justice in 2014.


continue…

back to top


Cherry Tomatoes Run - Friday, September 05, 2014


Late but sure, the grape and cherry tomatoes are having a very good year in my front yard garden. Small tomatoes are not good for making salsa or pasta sauce so we have been eating them, dehydrating them for future use or giving them away. Today I made a tomato run to two friends who live alone on a fixed income and with some physical disabilities. They both appreciated the cherry tomatoes and my stopping by.

Gardening has many fringe benefits and this is one: the blessings I received on my cherry tomatoes run.


continue…

back to top


Money for the Poor Going to Suburbs - Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Black is 85% African American
and Gray is 85% white. Dots
= families living below poverty
level. Greenfield is 53220
outlined in purple and North
Central Milwaukee is outlined
in red.

My veteran friend has had a tough life. Although he spent ten years in the military he was not entitled to any benefits except Medical help at the VA. After time on the streets he was finally able to get his life in place thanks to the Vet’s Place. However mental health problems prevented him from being able to keep a job.

I met him one day a few years ago when he came by the house looking for work. Except for times when he was restricted he would come by for a few hours a week, work in the garden and do some chores around the house and I would pay him a decent wage per hour worked.

For years, with the help of the VA, he had applied for Social Security Supplemental Income since the only source of income he had was from doing odd jobs. After rejections the money finally came through and he was able to get his own apartment on the South side. The VA and various veteran groups were of great help for him in the move. He called me up earlier in the week just looking for a few objects, like a bed frame and some pots and pans. He is living close to a few Catholic Churches on the South-side so I told him to call the central office of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) and ask for a home visit of the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Conferences.

He did call and the person who did intake on him told him St. Vincent de Paul had no conferences serving his area. He was confused since he lived near a few Catholic Churches. He called me back. I encountered this problem before, people in need living in poor neighborhoods being told by central office “we do not serve your area.” I had discovered earlier that the central office uses a very outdated computer system based on Church boundaries that no longer apply. I offered to purchase software based on GPS system that would tell the operator where the closest St. Vincent de Paul conference was. They rejected the offer and, instead, spend hours changing the boundaries when a conference expands its area or, in most cases, stops making home visits because of lack of funds or people to make the home visits.

Individuals like myself, wife and friend make home visits outside the area of our Church to neighborhoods like the North Central side, the poorest and most segregated area in Milwaukee. (Near South-side is the second most.) So when my friend called to say he was rejected for home visit I sadly was not surprised. The computer system said that the Church next door, like others churches on North and South side was no longer making home visits.

I called the Central office and asked for the person in charge of intake calls. I was given to someone who has worked there nineteen years and someone I knew. She gave me the line about how the Church right next door to his house had stopped making home visits and she was not sure if the Catholic Church conference a few blocks away was making home visits. She is the person who takes care of the outdated geographic system for assigning calls. I explained how our SVDP home visits team had just completed 16 home visits in an area far from our home and how the whole history of St. Vincent de Paul since the beginning at the University of Paris was for people to cross into areas of need to make home visits. She did not budge from her position. She did say that maybe he could just buy a frame and some pots and pans at the SVDP South-side thrift store. I guess that was true for her.

Over the years the central office of St. Vincent de Paul has grown into a major bureaucracy and has a nearly two million dollar budget for operating the central office, two meal programs and one thrift store on the South-side. A copy of the 2013–2014 approved projected budgets, put out by the central office, has 1.8 million dollars with over 99% going for compensation and operating expenses. All this has little to do with the Mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society which is to make person to person home visits with people in need. The individual conferences raise their own funds and must pay 50–100% of the price of vouchers they give out to people in need. Conferences spend over 99% of their budget on serving persons in need.

Last winter the central staff, a few members of the Society and outside consultants decided to pursue a thrift store in the suburb in Greenfield, an area full of WalMarts’ and thrift stores that does not need another one rather than pursue a store in North Central Milwaukee where it is really needed. The St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store Mission Statement clearly states: “Serving Christ’s needy are the primary goal of all St. Vincent De Paul Stores.” In the Society all our money “belongs to the poor” so some of us were outraged when we heard of plans to spend millions of dollars to purchase, renovate and operate a thrift store in Greenfield which has an average household income of $42,586.00 rather than for a low or no cost create a thrift store in North Central Milwaukee where the average household income in one of the zip codes is $20,787.00.

I was outraged at the arrogance of the central office and highly paid staff spending millions of dollars, which according to the SVDP manual of USA belongs to the poor, while rejecting this veteran who was only seeking a little help from the competent home visits system they had created and maintained over the years.

I decided to wait awhile before calling my friend back and went out to the garden to work. When I came in he called and he told me that he had walked over to one of the nearby Catholic Churches and told them of his need for a bed frame and some pots and pans. They understood his need and said they would have someone call him.

Members of St. Vincent de Paul conferences who make home visits know what it is all about and know deep in their hearts that the money we take in does belong to the poor. Yet some silently go along with the Central Office thinking after all those years “they know best.” Since a few of us exposed this capital sin the central office and the few inside persons have proceeded in secret and with lack of transparency and without input of members. Somehow they got 1.9 million dollars to purchase the suburban property, are now contracting out renovation and soon plan to hire 30–50 persons in the suburbs; the store is too far for central city people to travel there, especially without a car. (Also the new store is in a 85% plus white neighborhood while North Central Milwaukee is 85% African-American.

Millions of money for the poor is being invested in the suburbs while the poor, like my friend, get poorer and find it harder and harder to survive. I am outraged. Are you?


continue…

back to top


When I am Weak, I am Strong - Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Before people ignored me some would call be a ‘prophet’. I did not think I was at the time and still do not think so now that I am called other names and ignored. However, I do identify with the first reading in yesterday’s Scripture readings, Jeremiah 20: 7–9. Jeremiah complains that God ‘duped’ him. The message God gave makes him an object of laughter and mockery. He tries to ignore the message of God “but then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”

When my message about the racism of taking down basketball rims or building a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store or the militarism of Marquette goes out from me it is ignored and the messenger, me, gets ignored, rejected and marginalized. Some may think I like being rejected but I do not. In the old days when I was called on to give a talk to a classroom or write something for a publication I felt good about it and thought I had something to say.

I must admit part of the problem is the type of messenger I am. I do come across as arrogant or prideful but that is my weakness and has nothing to do with the message. The poor, weak, ill and some family and friends understand that but many do not.

A friend of mine, a woman priest, sent me a press release from Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests named: “Violence perpetrates suffering and is against the will of our Loving God.” It is a short brief release but made me wonder that we can do about it, what is the action. She wrote back saying: “Continued prayer and self-reflection on journey to becoming whole and fully human…doing daily work/ministries.” I agree.

We can be imperfect and weak but must proclaim the message of our conscience and by self reflection and daily ministries, that bring God’s blessings, keep on going. Our hope is “when I am week I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)


continue…

back to top


Democracy Comes with Suffering - Monday, September 01, 2014


An Indian Muslim carries
a placard of Myanmar opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi during
a protest march near the
Myanmar embassy in New Delhi
on April 9, 2013
 

A new month, the end of the summer that never was and the US military enters another country, Somalia, with ground troops on a mission. US military actions around the world hardly make news any longer. We rule by might with the largest defense force in the world, bigger than the rest of the top ten countries in military spending. We are also by far the largest seller of arms in the world, making our economy dependent on war and violence. So it is no wonder that we have such a high rate of homicide and shootings. The empire of the United States rules world with violence and suffers the results, violence in USA.

Right now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, is trying to bait us to enter the war in Syria. They know the right buttons to press, like the execution on video of US Citizen, to push us into war. They want a war of US and other Western nations against Muslims in the Middle East to strengthen their power. Perhaps we have learned our lessons from entering into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the devastation and destruction of these countries, leaving them much worse than we found them.

The USA lives by the sword and dies by the sword. It is no wonder that a Catholic Jesuit University who professes to live by the Gospel teaches war and killing without using conscience on its campus. A friend told me that students at Marquette are no longer interested in the issue of military training to kill on campus because they have no personal stake into war like they did when we have a selective service system and the draft. I do not think that is true.

Many in the 60’s and 70’s committed acts of civil disobedience and nonviolence against the draft and war who had no worry about being drafted into the military. Students in general have no great passion about any issue of peace and justice, even civil rights. University students just like their parents and other adults have a sense of helplessness. They can vote, write a letter, sign a petition but it really does not matter much.

I believe they are right. Without working together with people power and nonviolent direct action they cannot really change anything. The “powers to be” want us think voting matter and give tons of money to determine the elections. We are spied on, blasted with propaganda, kept divided and kept struggling for more power, wealtlh and glory.

When will we learn that the road to peace and justice is doing peace and justice? Democracy does not come with inequality, with military might or the barrel of a gun. True democracy comes only with suffering, sacrifice and being the peace and justice we want to see.


continue…

back to top


Cows and Self Restraint - Sunday, August 31, 2014


Carson and Cow to Show

Every Labor Day weekend is the Shawano County Faith and means we get to watch our grandchildren join other 4-H youth showing cows for a day. The first time through the coliseum the cow is judged and the second time through the youth is judged on how she or he handles the cow. It might not sound too exciting but it is watching your grandchildren and youth you know stand proud with their cows.

My son and his wife both work in an urban town by live in a rural area across from a family with a Dairy farm. Rural youth these days have the advantage of both worlds, urban and country. They belong to country 4-H clubs, attend excellent schools where full array of sports and extracurricular activities are available and have friends growing up like them. My son and his wife work hard to keep up the lifestyle the family enjoys but the opportunities and environment is beyond so many families in USA, especially in our poor and segregated urban areas, like North Central Milwaukee.

It has become harder and harder to be poor and harder and harder to be like my son’s family. Yet at same time there are a very small percentage of people who are become extraordinarily rich and the gap of inequality between them and my son’s family and a family in need in North Central Milwaukee widens.

I recently read a quote on Facebook page by the Pope saying: “Inequality is the root of social evils.” Someone criticized the quote saying this statement has been around for hundreds of years. Actually it has been around for thousands of years. I remember hearing about a 30 year old homeless Palestinian Jew walking around saying how the rich were blessed and how hard it was for the rich to get to Kingdom of Heaven. He, Jesus, eventually got executed by empire of the day but his message, like prophets before and after him, lives on. Yet many bow down at the altar of greedy capitalism where some profit at expense of others and rich get richer and poor get poorer.

I know some believe we live in a land free of racism, sexism, discrimination and many believe there is nothing we can do about it. Yet for some we must continue to fight for peace and liberty no matter the rejection or marginalization. How to do this in an economic greedy environment? Gandhi says the one condition for fighting for peace and liberty is to acquire self-restrain.” By changing ourselves with use of self-restraint we can change the environment.

Cows are a symbol of life, that when nurtured present nourishment for life, be it with milk, meat, manure for fertilization or medicine. We can learn from the cow and by using our powers of self-restraint condition ourselves for the struggle of life.


continue…

back to top


Endangered Species and Racism - Friday, August 29, 2014


Dontre Hamilton

Today I attended a rally calling for full disclosure for Dontre Hamilton who was killed four months ago by a police officer who woke him up sleeping on bench in the public park. The family has received no information from the police about Dontre’s death, not even the name of the police officer. So they have taken to the streets with rallies and marches seeking answers to the death of this young black man by police. There is a history of District Attorney’s not prosecuting police for a killing while he or she was on duty.

Somehow I felt over animated at the rally when talking about issues or during our small group. My stereotype of being “passionate but not respectful” was partially true. I found myself too caught up articulating my thoughts and maybe not listening well to others. I am not sure what causes this affect in me, maybe not taking my medicine properly, maybe too much coffee but it is something I need to continue to work on.

Not an excuse but part of it is that I am tired of hearing the same things over and over again, like today reminders to vote Nov. 4th. What has voting Nov. 4th to do with Dontre’s death or police protecting their own? Voting does not matter in our society where 95% of the time the candidate with the most money wins. Democratic or Republican it does not seem to matter when it comes to racism or militarism.

Another not an excuse but part of my uneasiness at such events is the reluctance of using word ‘racism’ at such rallies. No matter what race the police officer was it is a ‘racist’ act to wake up a sleeping black man on a park bench and when he gets frighten to shoot him 14 times. Do you think any police office of any race would do that to a white man?

When I heard Dontre brother talk I remember all the times my son Peter told us how he was harassed and beat by police officer. Except for his white skin he might have been killed as Dontre. It is not police officers that are the problem, my other son is a police officer in another city, but it is the ‘racism’ bred into the police and people of Milwaukee that make these terrible acts possible.

Young adult black men are an ‘endangered species’ and the evil behind their deaths is ‘racism.’


continue…

back to top


Remembering the Milwaukee 14 Today - Thursday, August 28, 2014


Dear Friends and Peacemakers,

Forty-six years ago I was a Marquette University student. The opportunity came for me to be part of the Milwaukee 14, destroying 10, 000 IA selective files. At the time he seemed natural and the right thing to do, opposing the selective service system and war in Vietnam.

Now, forty-six later we have “endless wars” all over the world and the Department of Defense, DOD, has traded the Selective Service System for an education program that starts in 5th grade with Starbase, in high school with JROTC and in select universities ROTC. For example, Marquette University hosts for the DoD officer military training for Departments of Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force for all colleges and universities in Southeast Wisconsin. Educational institutions like Marquette are the new selective service system supplying men and woman for our ‘endless wars.’

It is only natural and the right thing to do to resist Institutional Militarism. Military values taught at Marquette, like reflexive killing, killing without conscience are directly opposed to Gospel values like the dignity of life.

At the rally on Sept. 24th, the 46th anniversary, we will gather on 12th and Wisconsin in Milwaukee on the Marquette University campus. We will have speakers, music and nonviolent direct action for those that want to do something. Our message is simple: Marquette University, Be Faithful to the Gospel, and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science. In the 46 Years of Nonviolent Resistance to Military at Marquette we have gone from hundreds of Marquette students protesting ROTC on campus to nearly none. It is time for us who remember the Milwaukee 14, Catonsville 9 and the many similar to say to students one more time: Stop Militarism at Marquette. We need to break the silence this September 24th. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

See the flyer below and Ala Art pass it out everywhere.


continue…

back to top


No More Flowers? - Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Flowers from Garden on Kitchen
Table Tonight

A friend who lives in a Catholic retirement home invited us over to dinner and concert at the home today. The concert was put by on elderly residents of the home and featured a number of folk songs. One song “Where have all the Flowers gone, lyrics below, a song that I heard many times before, struck me as fresh and new.

Pete Seeger who wrote the first three verses of the song was someone I actually had met. The first time was in 1968 when I went with Father James Groppi of Milwaukee on a bus to Resurrection City in D.C as part of the Poor Peoples campaign that Martin Luther King Jr. had called before he was assassinated. It was a casual meeting as he was sitting around one of the tents constructed just practicing his music. I did not realize that a year later Peter Seeger would be in Milwaukee performing a benefit concert for the Milwaukee 14 which I was part of.

What struck me about this folk song tonight was the circular nature of the song. The song, Seeger adopted from a Russian folk song, starts with the question Where have all the flowers gone and ends with the flowers growing. In between there is the tragedy of war and the suffering and death it brings.

Flowers come and go naturally but in this song it is man-made war that interrupts nature, but at the end is subject to nature.

Now that we live in a time of “endless wars” and man-made tragedies by ignoring our environment how will nature ever restore the flowers? I think of the flowers on my kitchen table. When they die I just go out in the rain garden and pick some more. But in late fall into the winter I will not be able to pick new flowers in the garden till the spring. If winter, like wars of today, never ended, there would be no more flowers for the vase. We must stop war and teaching of war, like at Marquette University; otherwise there will no more flowers.


continue…

back to top


Comments

kranthi — 02 February 2009, 00:53

Dear Bob
Your experiences in India during Pilgrimage of Peace , your photographs, your experimenting with Indian food cooking very interesting. Your growing green salads using organic manure in this summer is highly appreciated by me.

(:commentboxchrono:)

back to top

   Login 

Page last modified on August 03, 2014

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Wiki Gnome  | Hosted by Steadfast Networks  | Icons courtesy of famfamfam

Last edited by TeganDowling. Based on work by Bob Graf, Tegan Dowling and bob.  Page last modified on October 29, 2007

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Emergency Digital. | Hosted by Steadfast Networks