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
Two years ago from today I was starting to get flowers in my gardens. Today with the snow pact and cold I cannot even see the gardens. Being cold is starting to become very tiring.
Another thing I am becoming tired of is the hypocrisy of our leaders. Today I saw a brochure featuring a pilgrimage our now Archbishop of Milwaukee build when he was the bishop of La Crosse archdiocese. The brochure talked about the church he built to honor Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, being a source of faith and hope for poor and marginalized. This is the same person who recently closed yet again another Church in North Central Milwaukee, the poorest and most segregated part of our city and took the million plus dollars gained and put it in an endowment fund for ‘future church’ over using it for needy and marginalized of the area.
Today I heard our President speak about how Russia must obey International Law and withdraw troops protecting Russians in part of the Ukraine. Our President disrespects international law every time he sends a to Yemen, Pakistan or Somali. In the same talk he mentioned how Russia must respect the democratic government of Ukraine. The democratically elected government of Ukraine is the one we help overthrow with a coup. This article in CounterCurrents.org points out how we have been Ousting A Democratically Elected Leader In Ukraine And Elsewhere..
Why are people so quiet in light of such hypocrisy? If people seek the truth on issue it is not hard to find. I believe many people just “do not want to know” what is going on and are glad to accept whatever our censored media says is happening, be it on the right or left.
The struggle of the Mayan people in Guatemala against the mines, the people suffering in Afghanistan and elsewhere in wars, the people of North Central Milwaukee barely surviving in this ‘land of plenty’ is something they do not personally feel matters to them. Many people would just like to hear about it, getting various ‘opinions’ as they call it and even maybe give a some money or volunteer time but certainly not get ‘involved’ or be in solidarity with poor, marginalized and war victims.
I believe our leaders, Archbishop or President, are smart people and know what they are doing. I think many others are also smart but do not know or do not what to know what is happening.
Cemetery in remote village
of Guatemala that suffered
Today on the way to our protest against militarism at Marquette I lost my Guatemalan bag with the banners we accumulated in the last eight years of our resistance to Marquette Teaching War and Killing. The details of how I did this are not important and do not take away the sorrow and guilt I felt when I went to the Marquette library without the banners or the flyers I had made. I felt especially bad when the person who made all the banners the last six years was present.
As I stood in the library in the library with a number of others with just two signs, no banners or flyers, I thought that this was an unfortunate but not a major tragedy. The people I visited in Guatemala had suffered major tragedies, sometimes a massacre in their village. Disappeared and dead persons in Guatemala were a major tragedy, not my lost of banners. I can always make new flyers for next week and we were always more successful handing out flyers when we did not have poster and banners. Students were less afraid to take our flyers.
We need to rethink our strategy of resisting military training (ROTC) at Marquette. Just protesting in the same old ways is clearly not the answer and can be ignored by the administrators of Marquette. We do not need banners or posters but people, people willing to sacrifice, just a little, to get our message across that Marquette teaches Killing.
How can we effectively do this? Maybe the lost of the banners will make us think harder of what is the real nonviolent sacrifice we can make, not much compared to the Mayan People of Guatemala.
Today my friend who is a University researcher sent me, at my request, a map of unemployment for my M.A.P.S. collection, Maps of Segregation, Poverty, Criminalization of African Americans and the Catholic Churches in North Central Milwaukee. Not to anyone’s surprise the areas in Milwaukee, North Central Milwaukee that is the most segregated, poorest and most criminalized also has the highest unemployment rate. This is the predominately African-American neighborhoods where 17 Catholic Churches have now been reduced to three. Institutional Racism runs rampant in North Central Milwaukee.
The Mayor and police chief focus on this area for policing. They do this not in the name of ‘racism’ or segregation but what they call “data driven policing.” This phrase is a code word for the “New Jim Crow, Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness.’’ Rather than attack the root cause of crime, poor education, unemployment, racism, poor schools, they attack the symptoms, the crime rates and the more crime in the neighborhood the more policing they do which means more arrests, more imprisonment and putting more people back in the same neighborhood now stigmatized and finding it more difficult to avoid crime and thus more policing and more arrest. The vicious circle goes on and on.
We can tract other indicators of cause of crime, like poor schools and we would find similar results. Nowadays, instead of plantations for slaves we have neighbors for blacks. Racism in Milwaukee is sadly alive and well, except now we seldom call it that or recognize it for what it is.
Manchester soccer players
replace a minuet of silence with
a minuet of applause before
We have a tradition at our church of people making announcements at the end of Sunday liturgy. I got up to announce our prayer and protest vigil against militarism at Marquette University this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday,at 4–5pm in the Raynor library lobby at 4–5pm. I decided to tie the announcement in with my recent trip to Guatemala with the SOA Watch delegation. I told the assembly how militarism was so overt in Guatemala, with security armed with assault weapons everywhere. I also spoke how one of the priests, Lorenzo Rosebaugh, that worshiped at times with us in the USA was honored in Guatemala as a martyr in the province where he was killed. I said how militarism was more subtle in USA but Marquette University, a Catholic Jesuit University, a few blocks away was the training center for the Department of Defense schools of Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. Then I announced our prayer and protest this Wednesday. To my surprise my announcement was met with applause.
I thought afterwards that if only we could turn the applause into action how effective our nonviolent actions at Marquette would be. We have had a dwindling attendance at our resistance events in recent times, making it easier for the administration of Marquette University to ignore us.
How to turn applause into nonviolent action? Consulting with my wife about why people seemed disinterested she mentioned that many people often do not connect our opposition to military training on campus, ROTC, to militarism and training how to kill human beings. War, violence and killing and the teaching of it seems remote to many Americans she says, no matter how passionate some of us believe in it. We need to convince people in words, actions and images that it is really people dying as a result of this teaching of war and that the child they may save by resistance could be their own. Only than we can turn applause into action.
Right before going on the delegation to Guatemala I received from a member of a peace group in Madison an email about how she looked on the efforts to stop killer drones as an effort to save children, like her granddaughter. In Guatemala I heard about the many massacres of the Mayan people that including the killing of children. I thought about my first trip to Guatemala in 2005, Buried in Guatemala, and how I saw suffering and death being celebrated. I also thought of my own son Peter who died from his mental illness in 2010 and my friend Lorenzo Rosebaugh who was killed in 2009 in Guatemala, both between my two journeys to this country.
There was some connection between these various events and experiences. One day in Guatemala it came to me, the connection was represented in the phrase: “The child you save may be your own.” The death of children by “killer drones” has really moved me and made the tragedy of war real. On all my trips to Central and South America as well as India it has been the children of the country I most relate to. With children, especially young children, I feel at ease to be myself. My friend Lorenzo was one of the most humble and child like persons I ever knew. Although my relationship with my son, Peter, had been strained and tested by our experiences with mental illness, at the age of 39, a few months before he died, he asked me if I knew who was his best friend in the world. I said I did not know and he said it was me.
My trips to countries in solidarity with poor and marginalized started with my trip to Guatemala and perhaps ended with this recent journey. In between the two journeys’ my friend Lorenzo and my son Peter have died and the use of “killer drones” has dramatically increased. I need to explore these connections summarized in the statement: “The child you save may be your own.”
More Not More - Saturday, March 01, 2014
March starts with more snow and more cold. We are a society of ‘more’ but more snow and cold get a little tiring. More money seems to be one thing most in the USA do not tire of. In fact, the more money most people have the more money they want. It seems to be the same way with more military spending. The more we spend on the military, more than the next ten largest countries in world together, the more we need to spend. Now when the Department of Defense is talking about reducing expenses they seek and want more military spending.
Now more has more than one meaning of greater number of something. It can also mean the repeat of something. When my now sixteen grandsons was one and half year old Pat and I with his parents took a long road trip. I spend some time him in the backseat with him telling him funny stores or playing silly games with him. At the time he had a small vocabulary of about five words. One of his words was ‘more.’ After a story or silly game he would say ‘more’. At first I thought he meant another store or silly game but I soon learned he wanted to repeat the thing over again. More meant more of the same.
The Society of Jesus, Jesuits, a religious order, have a saying “For the greater glory of God.” The Latin word for greater glory is ‘magis’ and the thought is often shortened to the word ‘magis’ or we would say ‘more.’ I used to think when I was young that it means doing more and more for the greater glory of God. But as I grew older I learned that St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, did not necessary mean more in terms of greater number of things but more in the sense of repeating the same thing and getting deeper and deeper into the same experience.
This explanation explains how ‘poor’ in some countries like Guatemala, can be more satisfied and at peace than ‘poor’ in the USA. The poor in these countries do not expect more in terms of great number of things but are pleased with a repeat of a good experience, like having adequate food to eat. While in the USA the poor are constantly bombarded with a culture that says to them the more, the greater number of things, you have the better person you are. Thus poor not expecting much more things can be more satisfied than the poor who are constantly told they need more things. When the Mayan people of Guatemala talked of their desires it is for freedom, to keep the major mining companies from ruining their land, not the acquisition of more things.
This principle of more vs. more not only applies to the poor but to all of us up. In the East they say that the “root of all suffering is desire.” I had a friend tell me the other day how hard he was striving to find a woman who would be a lifetime companion. He is trying so hard to find the right woman that he often makes himself miserable. I tried to tell him about another friend who was trying very hard to find the right woman but eventually gave up and felt freer and more satisfied with his life. However, it was at that moment of life he did find the right person.
To be in solidarity with poor, the blessed ones of God, is to be like the blind beggar or a person that is satisfied with being poor. There is a detachment that brings happiness when more does not make more things but a deeper appreciation of what we have. Give me more not more.
This morning I found myself as the only man attending a networking brunch sponsored by the Milwaukee Muslim Woman’s Coalition at the Islamic Center. The guest speaker was an African American woman from the National Alliance for Mental Illness,(NAMI) talking about “The Stigma of Mental Illness.” I was there because of my deep interest in the stigma of mental illness, something I have experienced and written about, just a week or so ago having a letter to the editor on the subject and having been part of the local newspaper’s forum on mental illness at Marquette University law school and many other related activities.
Sadly my interest in mental illnesses and the stigma it generates began when my son, Peter became ill in 1992 and has lasted through his death in 2010. Through him I got to understand the terrible weight of stigma and how stigma stains the soul.
The sponsor group, The Milwaukee Muslim Woman’s Coalition, also got my interest since I have been impressed by their activities and the important role they play in the community, particularly in the Muslim community. The American stigma of Muslim Women is easily erased when you meet these women.
The speaker from NAMI was excellent when talking about how mental illnesses are like any other illnesses, like cancer or diabetes and should be treated that way and not as a character flaw. However, NAMI, locally, has joined a growing number of social agencies and politicians calling for the tearing down of the present Behavior Health Complex and replacing it with community based program. I am no fan of the mental health complex in Milwaukee. I have seen its deterioration in the hands of politicians, Democratic and Republican, by lack of funding for mental health. However, tearing it down and using the money for community programs is not the answer.
As the speaker suggested mental illnesses should be treated as any other illnesses, injury or disease with a comprehensive mental health care system with hospital, rehabilitation and treatment centers as well as community program. No one is talking about where the money for hospital care, treatment centers will come from.
In the 80’s where there was a massive amount of people put away in major institutions there was a call to empty the homes for mental health and give them community care. Thousands and thousands were released from mental health institutions only to find there was no money for building medical care hospitals, rehab centers, home and community program. Do we need to learn the lesson all over again, closing institutions without money committed for a comprehensive system like other illnesses will just mean, as it did in the 80’s, more men and women with mental illnesses on the streets and in jails.
When we will ever learn that moving money from one underfunded type of care to another underfunded type of care and not dealing with the sources and treatment of mental illnesses will just cost us more.
Prophets & Martyrs of Quiche
In Guatemala with SOA Watch delegation we went to visit Bishop Ramazzini of Huehuetenabgo one of the worst hit errors during the massacres of Mayans by the military of the government. The Bishop was noted as a human rights advocate and on the way in to the meeting room we noticed a poster on the wall of “prophets and martyrs” of the region. Both Roy Bourgeois, the founder of SOA Watch and I knew one of the persons picture on the poster in the bottom right hand corner, Padre Lorenzo Rosebaugh OMI. I knew him since the days of the Milwaukee 14 action in 1968. Roy knew him for a long time and Lorenzo, Roy and another person committed the first act of civil disobedience at the School of America’s training base for Latin American military in Fort Benning, GA.
Right before returning to the USA from years of work in Guatemala Lorenzo had been shot when driving a car with other Oblate priests in the area where he had served and the place of much violence against the indigenous people and priest and nuns who worked with them. His religious order said he was killed in a car robbery but many people in the area and others that new Lorenzo, a simple and humble man, thought differently. During the question and answer period Roy asked the Bishop about the circumstances of Lorenzo’s death. He did not add much more to the information except to say they had found the gun that killed Lorenzo not the killers.
In my 2006 trip to Guatemala I had met Lorenzo in Guatemala City and taken a picture of him that was used by the media in reports of his death. The pictured captured the spirit of Lorenzo. The one in the corner of the poster captured a sadder Lorenzo. Both pictures are below.
Many who knew him in Latin America and the USA consider him a Saint, a holy man that was very humble. He stayed at our house the last couple of visits to the USA where he was ordered by superiors to write down his life story and have it published. The book, “Wisdom Through Failure” was not a bestselling but a powerful book to all that read it. As they say in the vigil of those who died in Latin America as a result of our military training of soldiers, “Lorenzo Rosebaugh, Presente!
State repression on streets
Racism and militarism go hand in hand. Where you find one, in Guatemala or the USA, you find the other. I was reminded of that fact today when one of companions in the SOA Watch delegation to Guatemala wrote an article for ‘counterpunch’ published online today called A Taxonomy of Racism from Alvarado to Zimmerman. He talks about a poster we saw in Casa de la Memorial, or House of Memory, a new museum in Guatemala City. On the poster there are 16 classifications of persons based on the race of the child, with light skin being the best and dark skin being on the bottom. I noticed on TV and advertising signs that attractive light skin woman with blond hair are featured.
Armed militia, be they national police or private security is everywhere, each equipped with an automatic rifle ready to shoot. Since the USA staged coup of a democratic Guatemala in 1954 the military has ruled. Guatemalan soldiers are sent to the School of Americas at Fort Benning, GA to learn how to kill and torture more effectively and return home to practice their skills.
In the USA racism and militarism are more subtle but just as deadly. The USA spends more on military spending than the other top ten nations in the world. No one comes close. In a recent budget for discretionary spending 57% of US spending was for the military. If you look at the M.A.P.S., Maps of Segregation, Poverty, Criminalization it is clear that African Americans are regulated to the poorest area of Milwaukee, the most criminalized with high unemployment, lack of transportation and poor schools. People in the USA do not like to call it ‘racism’, or even worst institutional racism but it is. If you talk sincerely and honestly to African American staff, faculty and students at Marquette University you will hear stories of racism. If you talk to white students at Marquette you will hear how racially diverse the campus is. Marquette is also the only university or college in the six county area to host three departments of military training, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force, teaching war, violence and killing.
The common premise of racism and militarism seems to be that the other person is less a human that we are. To easily kill the enemy or to discriminate against another we need to consider them less a human being than we are. At the bottom of the poster in the museum in Guatemala it says “Todos somos gente” – we are all people. In our Declaration of Independence it says “all men are created equal.” These statements are true but in practice leaders in Guatemala and the USA say we are all people, but some of us are exceptional and that some of us are more equal than others.
Racism and Militarization, hand and hand, are two big sins of our culture and that of Guatemala that breed inequality, death and destruction. “When will we ever learn?”
One thing I enjoyed in Guatemala was that there was no talk with people or politicians about voting for “the lesser of two evils.” The people and the parties were clear; there were the “powers that be”, the oppressors and the people that were poor and marginalized, the oppressed. The clarity between good and evil, greedy and needy was obvious.
In the USA we claim to have two political parties but in reality, the people in power control both parties. When I point out to people who vote that the person they elected performs evil deeds, like using “killer drones” or favoring the wealthy who gave them the money to win, they usually say they voted for “the lesser of two evils.” I never understood this because a ‘lesser evil’ is still evil.
But somehow in the USA we have developed this thought pattern that the “end justifies the means”. We can starve and kill innocent children as long as our goal is okay. For example, Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state under President Clinton once told a reporter, rather matter-of-factly on national television, that the 500,000 Iraqi children killed in enforcing William Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq was a price that was “worth paying” in order to foster U.S. interests there.
In the USA we talked about achieving ‘peace through use of military power’, a contradiction if there was ever any. Pope Francis says “Faith and Violence are Incompatible” and his homily this morning said “War is a scandal to be mourned every day.” (The full homily is below).
When we give in and choose the “lesser of two evils” evil demands more and more of us. Evil is evil and there is no “lesser of two evils.”
Lorenzo Rosebaugh OMI
I returned yesterday from a week in Guatemala with a SOA Watch delegation. This was my second visit to Guatemala. The first visit was with Global Awareness Through Experience (GATE) in 2006. That visit was during Holy Week and was a true cultural experience meeting with Mayan people in the country. I recorded that visit in a pictorial essay called Buried in Guatemala. That title came from our experience of Good Friday, our last day, and how the people of Guatemala found such great joy in the suffering and death of Jesus. Good Friday was the biggest holiday of the year. During this visit I got to meet with my old friend, Lorenzo Rosebaugh from the Milwaukee 14 days. He was working with poor, dying and ill in Guatemala City.
This trip was to show solidarity with the Mayan people who have suffered and been suppressed in their struggle for freedom from the greed of mining industry, military and politicians. They have suffered at the hands of military trained at the School of Americas at Fort Benning Ga. We met with people imprisoned and tortured in the struggle for rights of the people. This time I saw my friend Lorenzo’s picture on a poster outside of a meeting room with the Bishop of a province. He had been killed, martyred as they say, in 2009 in Guatemala.
On our last day a poem was read to us from Julia Esquival, a Guatemalan woman who had been in exile and someone we met at our first visit. The poem is called “They Have Threatened us with Resurrection” and it makes a good title for my reflections on this journey. The reflections and pictures will come soon but for now here is the full poem below.
Since my son became ill in the early 90’s I have been involved in understanding and advocating for persons with mental health illnesses. Like persons on all sides of the issue, I agree that the mental health system in Milwaukee County and elsewhere in the USA has failed us. I felt that same way about the welfare system of old. Yet like the welfare system some are taking advantage of the broken system by advocating a new system that will even, in my opinion, hurtful to persons in need. For mental health it is now the rush for the Governor to take over the system and run it with the help of an appointed volunteer board.
The Governor is the same person as County Executive of Milwaukee County oversaw the downfall of the system. The present County Executive supports this new bill which turns over control to the Governor’s board. Parents with bad experience in the present system, like we did, and agencies who want more funding, are supporting this ‘quick fix’ takeover.
The legislature is on a fast track to pass this bill. We do need a change in care for persons with mental illnesses but this takeover by the Governor would be a setback.
It has been two months, time required between publications, since my last letter to the editor was published, so I sent off this one. Published or not it will probably not make much of a difference since one again the ‘voice of voiceless’ will not be heard and “powers that be” will take advantage of this tragedy of how we care for this particular illness to their own advantage.
Here is the letter.
Letter to Editor Medical Care for Mental Health
For months I have been meaning to write to support a “basic medical care” for persons with mental health illnesses by use of hospitals, treatment facilities and community programs. Now I may be too late as bill is in the legislature turning Milwaukee County’s mental health system over to Governor Walker’s appointed board.
Other illness or diseases, like cancer, diabetes, or heart problems, are treated as medical issues with basic medical care from public and private care facilities. We would not consider turning over basic medical care for any other illnesses or diseases to a board appointed by the governor.
A person seriously injured in a car accident or one having a heart attack, conscious or unconscious will be taken to a hospital and receive treatment for the duration necessary. A person who has a serious mental health breakdown, conscious or unconscious, will be taken to jail or the mental health complex and most likely released without treatment in a few days.
How about creating a fully funded medical health care system for mental health illnesses or brain diseases by private and public hospitals, rehabilitation and treatment centers and community health programs to be utilized just like we do with other illnesses and diseases?
Pete Seeger, 1919–2014, sang
out for peace and justice
After passing out flyers to Marquette University students today about ‘What Pope Francis says’ and ‘What Marquette does’ about teaching war, violence and killing, two of us decided to attend the Mass at 12:05pm at Gesu, the church on campus. After mass as we were walking across Wisconsin Avenue to our car and a reporter and cameraman stopped us and asked if they could ask us a question. As my friend slipped away I stayed. The reporter asks me what I thought about the Archdiocese finally presenting a plan to settle claims resulting from sexual abuse scandal in the bankruptcy hearing. I did not know what the plan consist of so just talked about my concern that the Catholic Church be honest and practice full disclosure about its financing. I did mention how our Church was closed and we still do not have a full disclosure of what happened to the money, two and half years later. Fresh from my witness at Marquette I quoted St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, who said: “Love best express itself in deeds over words.”
On the five-o-clock and six-o- clock news I learned how little the Catholic Archdiocese were offering victims of sexual abuse with almost three times more money going to legal fees. The Archbishop talked about how we in the Catholic Archdiocese need to do ‘penance’ since we now will be 7 million dollars in debt to lawyers if the Judge in the bankruptcy accepts their plan. He talks about continuing our mission to act on the Gospels. My thought is that I am not paying for the ‘sins’ of our fathers but do my best to act on the Gospel by serving the poor and marginalized not the rich lawyers.
Our church that the Archdiocese closed was a merged Church, consisting of three Catholic Churches brought together in 1993. One of the Churches closed by the Archdiocese was doing very well and was on valuable land. However, the Archdiocese got into a legal fight with the church that purchased the property and wasted away on legal fees in a losing court case a majority of the money.
Money from the Department of Defense seems to be at the heart of why Marquette University teaching violence and killing on campus and concern about money seems to be why the Archdiocese spent so much money to keep their money from the victims of the sexual abuse scandal.
My Open Letter to the Archbishop for full disclosure of money realized from closing and sale of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church appears below. We know that almost all the money went into an endowment fund for “future Catholic Church”. A Church attached to money is not a Church of Peace and Justice. Making money or doing peace and justice, sadly is the question for the Catholic Church in Milwaukee.
Tender Look - Tuesday, February 11, 2014
“Love is an act of endless
forgiveness, a tender look which
becomes a habit.” (Peter Ustinov)
I daily receive two quotes with pictures. One of the quotes today, by Peter Ustinov, struck me as relevant to my thinking these days. “Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” Being forgiving and accepting forgiveness, as I have said before, is tough not only with enemies but with friends.
Love being a “tender look which becomes a habit” reminds me of almost the opposite saying, the Eastern saying, “desire is the source of all suffering.”
If we are looking for more, more stuff, more friends, more acceptance we will suffer when we do not find it. If we take a “tender look” at life we can see that what we have, no matter how much or less, is a gift and blessing that fills us with gratitude.
I was telling one friend about someone who was stigmatized and poor. My friend, poor and stigmatized himself, is always looking for more of life. After my comment he said that I was making him more appreciative and grateful for the life he had.
When I was in Guatemala some years ago I noticed that many poor people with not many things in life were full of joy and gratitude. They desired very little and had made a habit of a ‘tender look’ at life. They even found joy and gratitude in death and celebrated Good Friday as the major feast day of the year. (See Buried in Guatemala.)
Getting free of ‘desire’ is difficult but is made easier when we take a ‘tender look’ at life.
We went to dinner tonight at Bombay Sweets, a small Indian vegetarian restaurant and bakery with an old friend, someone we have known since the sixties. For many years he has run a small transcribing business and been active in issues like bus and bike transportation. It is good to update our lives with friends we too not often see.
With all the good issues we all been involved with reminded how diverse the concerns and issues are today. In the sixties we came together around two main issues, resistance to war in Vietnam and civil rights issues. The same people were involved in both and we worked together. Today there many issues, lots about the environment, war and peace, poverty and justice, abortion, taxes, drones, NSA and on and on. Each day I seem to get a number of emails, some requesting signing of petition or writing letters on many issues. Diversity of concerns can be good but often he can lead to divisiveness with so many issues that we get distracted and just go from one to another. As one old friend activist told me a few years ago that I had my issues, like ROTC at Marquette, and he had his issues like lifting the boycott of Cuba.
This attitude of each person getting his or her issue and many diverse groups of activates around so many concerns, seldom working together, to me, allows the “powers that be” to be on the offensive and we are the defensive. We support each other at times but there are so many issues that you can go from talk to talk each night for a month and get information on many issues but take no action. Each time we seemed to get focus on one issue, so many more are thrown at us that we go on the defensive once again.
Our old friend asked me tonight what do we do about this diversity which leads to distraction rather than unity and I did not know the answer. I had thought of getting a bunch of groups together, agreeing to focus on one issue of one group, something that is ‘winnable’ and then moving on. But soon I learned I could not accomplish that; we all had on ‘own concerns’ that we thought that they need all our attention or we jump around from issue to issue, talk to talk, not stopping to take action. I keep on thinking about that question and if anyone has an answer please share. Diversity can be distracting.
Flower Power Action
A friend called tonight and said he had just completed a social justice program at his Catholic Church. I said that was good and what ‘action’ did he plan to take now. He said the program was not about ‘action’ on justice issues but about information, particularly on immigration. I find that much of what the Catholic Church says about peace and social action is just words and information and seldom leads to action.
Be it teaching on war and military what the Church says about ‘killing’ is not practiced in what Marquette University does. The Catholic Church’s teaching on the ‘preferential option for the poor’ had nothing to do with how the Milwaukee Archdiocese dealt with million dollars plus it received from closing a Catholic Church in area of poverty, segregation and injustice.
In fact what happened to the million plus the Archdiocese received from closing Blessed Trinity Church over two and one half years ago. I know bits of pieces of what happened to the Milwaukee but the disposal of the money has been done in secretly and behind closed doors. I wrote a draft of an open letter today to the Archbishop asking what happened with monies realized from closing this Catholic Church in an area of great need.
As Marquette University ignores our request for Marquette to be faithful to the Gospel and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science on campus so the Archbishop and the Catholic Church will probably ignore our request for full disclosure of the million dollars plus.
All the talk in the world, even by Pope Francis, will not make a difference in the struggle for truth and nonviolence in justice and peace issues. Reasoning does not seem to work. Gandhi says satyagrahi, the nonviolent struggle for truth “strives to reach reason through the heart. The method of reaching the heart is to awaken public opinion.”
Action not information is the way of the heart. In today’s culture and church we have too much information and not enough action, awakening public opinion.
“The New Jim Crow”
Now that the Archdiocese has disbursed the 1 – 1.5 million it received from the closing and sale of Blessed Trinity Church in North Central Milwaukee it time for the Catholic Church to give a full and transparent accounting of the money received and how it was disbursed. The Catholic Church, sadly, is not known for openness and transparency. The continual revelations of the sexual abuse scandal in the Church is a good example. Secrecy seems to be the norm. The sins of our Fathers linger on as those responsible for the cover up continue to hide. The Catholic Church, in my life time, is known for preaching but not practicing what it says. In closing yet another Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee, the poorest, most segregated and criminalized area in Milwaukee the tradition of structural racism continues.
If the Archdiocese speaks the truth or avoids it or misrepresents it, the truth will come out. In this day and age of media and communication it is hard to hide reality.
The word ‘racism’ is one you do not hear much today but it is alive and well in the Catholic Church and in society. It is no accident that the area the Catholic Church abandoned consists of low income African Americas who have been stigmatized, isolated and ignored.
I have been reading the book “The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” The author, Michelle Alexander, details how modern day racism is not overt, like using the N word, but just as damaging by establishing a structure of racism which people can deny.
In 2007 I wrote an essay ”The Sweet Waters of Discrimination in Milwaukee”. Times change and I am thinking of updating the essay. However, now I would call it “The Sweet Waters of Racism in Milwaukee”]]. Some will not like the change of the word from segregation to racism but that is what it is and we must as well as call it by what it is.
Some young people think that racism ended when President Obama, the first African American, was elected President. In my opinion his election was used to divert attention away from the growing racism of society. The New Jim Crow is more secret than the original but just as harmful. Segregation today is better called what it is ‘racism’.
“All truths are easy to understand
once they are discovered; the
point is to discover them.”
Today was my oldest son birthday. Remembering his age made me think of my age and how after so many years I am still struggling to find justice and peace in everyday life. It is somewhat depressing to think how we are losing support in our efforts, since 1969, to end the military presence and teaching on campus. It is also discouraging to hear how the Catholic Archdiocese decided to close another church in North Central Milwaukee and, despite many pleas for the poor, to store the resulting money in a bank trust fund for ‘future’ use.
Tonight I heard a talk at Marquette by a moral theologian who I deeply respect. He was talking about racism in our society and I feared he would talk in general. But he did not. He used Milwaukee, and specifically North Central Milwaukee, as example of racism was structurally built in our city. He used diagrams and maps to make his point as I did with M.A.P.S., Maps of Segregation, Poverty, Criminalization of African Americans and the Catholic Churches in North Central Milwaukee.
After his talk I asked a question of what we can do in face of the history and continual racism of the Catholic Church in Milwaukee. He said that for him he was able to keep his faith as long as he was able to keep speaking out, expressing his conscience and speaking truth to power. As long as he could be a ‘truth seeker’ he was not going to get discouraged. This is just what I needed to hear since, as reported in yesterday’s posting, I have been feeling ‘out of place’ and discouraged the last few days.
Tonight a friend from our struggle to stop R.O.T.C., military training on the Marquette University, came over and we talked about our experience of our message being ignored Tuesday night at Marquette University and what do we do next. I do not know what we do next; we will need to sit down and brainstorm some new tactics to communicate our message. However, I do know that perseverance in seeking the ‘truth’ is necessary. “Do you own thing” or “you have your opinion and I have my opinion does not mean much if our struggle for truth. We might never know the whole truth but must struggle to find it and be willing to enter into creative conflict in our journey.
The United Nations report on the priest sexual abuse scandal was released and was strong in saying how the Catholic Church was wrong by keeping secrecy all those years about the abuse and ignoring or hiding the truth. Some defenders of the Church pointed out how the policies of sexual abuse in the Church have changed. But there is still refusal to acknowledge the total past and still a lack of transparency in the Church not only on this matter but many other matters of faith and morals. “Father knows best” is still the sacred foundation of the hierarchical Church, meaning by ‘Father’ in the USA, mainly white, celibate. male, ordained priest.
As with military training on a Catholic University campus, as with sexual abuse by priest, as with woman’s ordination, as with the closing of churches and distributing its assets, the bottom line is still secrecy and hierarchical authority, “Father knows best.’ Only the ‘truth will set us free.”
After the keynote speaker on ‘Art and Practice of Forgiveness’ for Mission week at Marquette, a few friends went on to the stage with a banner of our Breaking the Silence message: Marquette Teaches Killing followed by banner saying Forgive Us. As they held up the sign people were talking, filing out and ignoring the message. I left the hall and went to reception outside the hall and felt out of place as people hurried to get in line for autographed books from the speaker or in line for refreshments. I felt lost in a sea of busyness.
This is not the first time I had this ‘out of place’ feeling. After hearing the inspiration story of this woman from Rwanda, the banner reminding me of how young men and women are put in a position “to kill or be killed” at Marquette University I felt alone and a strange person in a strange territory.
The feeling continues on to today as I had a hard time getting myself out of bed. I am a fairly good self-motivator but had a hard time getting going today. My advocacy to end Teaching war and killing at Marquette or my advocacy for less racism and segregation in the Catholic Church in Milwaukee did not seem very meaningful today. I wandered thru the day with a sense of hopelessness. But I made it and after cooking a nice meal for wife and myself tonight I felt better.
Doing is tough when you feel meaningless and out of place but faith keeps you going on, knowing that you are acting according to your conscience and being out of place is just part of the package.
In 2008 a friend took us to park, Lettuce Lake, outside of Tampa, Fl. It was there in that park that my fascination with orchids began. I was excited when my local discount food store had some beautiful orchards on sale. I purchased one and have done so many times since. Orchids last in their beauty for a long time but eventually the flowers die away. However, they are easy to care for, requiring only direct light and watering once and awhile. They often come back and flower again. The orchid on the right is one that came back from the dead and now shines in my living room. I have another one on the way back and a few more that are in dormant stages.
With the speaker at Marquette today, Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, speaking about forgiveness my thoughts have been focused on forgiveness. Somehow this orchard in my living room speaks forgiveness to me. It is partially because of the orchid’s beauty, and the beauty of true forgiveness, while the image of the orchid lingers in my mind. But it is more than that. As I tried to explain to my faith sharing group this morning the various stages of orchids, dormant, flowering and full beauty, speak to me of forgiveness. The need to give or receive forgiveness lingers in our soul at times. With awareness it begins to flourish and with acceptance it shines in our lives with all its beauty.
A question came up in our discussions about forgiveness: Is forgiveness possible without two parties, the one giving the forgiveness and the one accepting it, both agreeing. My answer is yes. Unconditional forgiveness, with or without acceptance, seems to be the norm for persons like Immaculee, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Jesus. We can forgive or ask for forgiveness but cannot control the other parties acceptance, rejection or ignoring our asking for or giving of forgiveness.
There are a few people now, past friends, who say to others that I have offended them. I have asked personally over and over again for reconciliation and forgiveness of my offenses, real or as they perceive them. They just continue to ignore my request for forgiveness or my forgiving them for what they have said behind my back about my character. I keep trying to ask for forgiveness but accept that all I can do is forgive them. Non-reciprocated forgiveness is hard but I must do it to free myself from the burden of not forgiving.
The orchid is forgiving of how it is cared for and continues to blossom with its beauty. Forgiveness is orchid, past, present and to come.