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
There is a time to write and a time to not write. The next four days I will try to do both. I may stop writing this posting on Diary of Worm but write some thoughts on racism in Milwaukee, Dorothy Day and military training, mental health first responders and few other ideas. What I would really like to explore are new tactics and strategies on going on the offensive with creative nonviolence. There is a lot to draw from, Gandhi, King, Dorothy Day, to name a few but what we really need, I think, are new tactics to fit our day and age. The YouTube video we are making about military training at Marquette and Notre Dame may be a step in the right direction; but we need to speak in a clear and loud voice the Way of Gospel of nonviolence and fear not the reprisals and rejections we face.
If you need, I doubt it, more postings on the Diary of Worm this week check out the archives. There is more than you need or want to know but there are few gems of observations here and there. There is a time to write and not to write.
Last week in these observations I asked I really do not have many answers except to Love your friends and well as your enemies, just consistently and persistently ‘do the right thing’ and keep on speaking truth to power no matter what the consequences or how weak a messenger one may be.
Maybe there are no answers. The first shall be last, the stone rejected by builders will be corner stone, meek shall inherit the earth, the poor are blessed, the weak shall be strong and the strong weak, the mighty will fall down and the weak will rise, the poor are blessed and rich condemned, the more you give the more you get are all paradoxes of life that have no easy answers.
My deceased son Peter and my garden have taught me a lot about paradoxes. To my son life was a paradox: what was important mean little and something little was powerful. In the garden it is often the smallest seed that produces the most fruitful plant.
But being consistent and persistent at living the Gospel as, one’s conscience tells one to do, can be very tiring. When I am doing a good job at it I can hardly get up in the morning. When I falter, false energy keeps me awake. The only real test if I am doing the right thing I can find is not how good I feel about something but how calm and natural I feel about it. If agitating others agitates me inside than I must question it. But if I am moved by the spirit when I talk and act there is calm inside.
I starting to realize what we call nonviolence, protesting, accepting all opinions, petitions, writing emails and even some actions of civil disobedience is just more noise keeping the message confusing? Unless people have ears to hear and eyes to see we are just spinning our wheels in this kind of nonviolence in word and actions.
What I call “creative nonviolence”, the message of the Gospel, does not appeal as much to reason as to the heart. It starts with our own hearts and just radiates out and finds a community on fire with living Gospel message.
We need new tactics and strategies to go with the creative nonviolence of the Gospel, ways of proclaiming in word and deed, the Gospel nonviolent love. Some of us are brainstorming on tactics and strategies. All I know so far we need to creative, willing to endure suffering and insults and support each other. Some say we need to build a new way of life inside the crumpling shell of the present way of life. Until we can do this creatively we need to throw wrenches into the well oiled machine of present to slow it down. We cannot stop decline of empire but only slow it down so we are ready when the empire falls. A friend of mine wears a button that says it all: “The Meek are getting ready.”
“The greatest challenge of the
day is: how to bring about a
revolution of the heart, a
revolution which has to start
with each one of us?”
Early this morning I took a friend to Sam’s Club to purchase some fish. I normally do not shop at Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, I say it is against my religion, but since I was there I looked into purchasing a bag of fish. Not to my surprise the back of the frozen fish bags said “A Product of China”. I try to stay away from “Made in China” products, especially food since the practice of cutting corners to make money in China makes me wonder what I am really eating. What are the fish fed?
In my email today I got a note today from Wal-Mart workers who are trying to change the treatment of workers at Wal-Mart from within. They talk about victories and about issues they were working on. However, one assertion really struck me ”the Waltons”, family of founder Sam Wall, “now has as much wealth as 43% of Americans combined.” Although we frequently hear these figures about how a small percentage of Americans have the majority of wealth in this nation it still strikes me as a tragedy.
This is especially true today when my wife and I made some home visits to people in need in North Central Milwaukee. The typical call is with mom with a number of children in the household who needs basics like stove, refrigerator and beds. We do what we can but greedy landlords and the epidemic of bed bugs with racism are keeping people down and leaving the poor without much chance of getting out of it. Many households have many generations under one household, mother, children, cousins, grandparent under one household. One friend of mine has four generations in her household and struggles to provide food and heat.
The poverty of minority groups, like African Americans or Hispanics is growing at a tremendous rate why the State and Rich take more and more away from them. Yet I find in these homes of the poor a good spirit and hope. There is a spirit of gratitude for the beds or appliances you can provide and hope their children will one day escape the poverty and suffering they face.
People criticize people doing the works of mercy as just applying band aids not creating “systematic change.” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker also faced this charge. Her response and mine is that Jesus in the Gospels commands us to do the works of mercy saying that what we do the least of people we do to Jesus. As I tried to say in the parable Thy Kingdom Come on Earth as It is Heaven the simple act of providing a bed for a child so he or she no longer needs to sleep on the floor could have a tremendous and revolutionary impact.
If we all live the corporate and spiritual works of mercy there would be revolution in this country. As Dorothy Day used to say we would not have homelessness if everyone took in one homeless person. There would be no great inequality of wealth if everyone practiced the Christian teaching of sharing their abundance with others in need. We can elect all the people we want, pass all the laws we want, yet revolutionary change will only happen when there is a revolution of the heart and people and groups of people live the Gospel in daily life. But we cannot really change other persons but only ourselves. So the real revolution is the revolution of the heart.
I am the Way,the Truth
and the Life (Jesus)
So much is going on drawing my attention that it has become more difficult to select what I can do best and be most effective. The simple criteria of works of mercy over works of resistance has become confusing since I have so many request for works of mercy and more and more thoughts of doing works of resistance.
The principle I learned long ago, when I was working in religious education in the Church, is the harder you work and the more good you do the more work there will to be done. I thought in retirement I would slow down, read and pray more but just the opposite is true, the more “ministry of the word” I do the more there is to do. “Ministry of the Word” is not new but my understanding is new.
The more I hear the word of God the more I must do and the more I do the more I need to be. I cannot hear the ‘cry of the poor’ or about the suffering and violence in the world without wanting to do something about it. Someone approached me last night about a new cause and event to rally people around it. I said I probably could not make it and the person said it was only attending a talk and rally. My response was that if I attended the event and believe in the cause I would want to do something about it. I was not one to hear about an issue and then move on to the next one.
Someone at the St. Vincent de Paul meeting the other night about the new thrift store they are building in an affluent area where it is not needed rather than an area, like North Central Milwaukee, where it is needed, said I should get aboard on the new store and stop wasting energy resisting it or just leave the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I told him that was not my choice. My choice was to be silent about a great injustice in a Society I deeply appreciate or to speak out my conscience. Actually, I said, in my case there was no choice. If I love working with poor and rejected I had to continue speaking out and agitating against injustice. He did not understand and kept following me around the rest of the night.
I guess God does choose the poor, rejected, weak and marginalized to be his messengers of the Gospel, the Way. I need to take God’s blessings and run with them or I will be in trouble. What, if not the option for the poor, is the option?
Last night coming home from a meeting where racism was evident I asked the three African-American women in the car with me how such good people do see the racism they were expressing in words and action. One woman responded about a man I deeply respect: “He does not want to face up to the racism in his heart.”
I did not understand what she meant until when I was driving home the last of the three women. She is an 86 year old African-America woman who asked if I could stop by a gas station so she could purchase some ‘pig skins’ snacks. I stopped at the station and said I would run in and get the snacks for her. Before leaving the car I saw a couple of young adult African American males standing around the door of the store. Instinctively I took some money from my wallet, left the wallet in the car with my friend, locked the door and went into the gas station store. I looked in the snack section of the store but could not find ‘pig skins”. I asked the person working behind the bullet proof glass where I can found them and one of the young men at the door pointed out a rack by the counter. He showed me the different kinds that were present and we joked about my not knowing what these snack were. On the way out the other young adult opened the door and we shared a few words of greetings. Once back in the car I put my wallet back in my pocket, gave the snack to my friend and drove to her house. I realized that it was the ‘racism in my heart’ that led to the fear of young black adults at the station.
Today I went to a prayer vigil for a young adult who was killed in North Central Milwaukee. I got there late and the mostly white regulars of the homicide vigil were just leaving. There was a large family turnout for the vigil and they did not leave. In fact more and more came. We stood around talked, prayed and just were present to each other. Family members were a mixture of African American and Hispanic persons. I talked with a few and learned more about a few, the family and the neighborhood. At one point we were told to gather around for prayer and a few members of the family prayed aloud. There was one young child running around and having a good time with family members. I was told this was the son of the young man killed and that he looked exactly like this deceased father. After 30 or 40 minutes family members started to leave and so did I. Feeling comfortable with this family was another chance to overcome the racism in my heart.
“Those who has ears to hear let them hear” Mark 4: 9
Tonight again I realize what a poor messenger of the good news of the Gospel I was. I attended a St.Vincent De Paul Society meeting about the new investment of millions of dollars for a thrift store in the suburbs where it is not needed rather than a much smaller investment in a thrift store in North Central Milwaukee where it is really needed for the work of our Society. I got angry before the meeting when good Vincentians refused to look at the fact sheet I prepared from the mission statements of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) and from their own budget. They just did not want to hear the truth as I saw it, based on their own numbers and Rule of the Society. If their refusal to see or hear the “cry of the poor’ was not enough they presented at the meetings before any questions statements that were not in the mission of SVDP or SVDP thrift stores and half truths on information.
The African-Americans, three females and two men seem to understand what I was saying or trying to say. Most, white suburban persons, did not want to hear what I had to say and told me to sit down and “shut up”.
When my friend, 86 year old African American women of the civil rights asked about the advance of “racism” as represented by group’s decision to go to suburbs rather than poor with the thrift store there was no response. Another African American women in our group explained the refusal of a friend to admit the truth as he did not want to face up to racism I understood.
No one, including myself, wants to admit to racism. However, unless we face the reality of racism growing in our society we can now face it and overcome. The racism of the “New Jim Crow” might be less overt than racism of past but it is still racism. As one of the many persons, an Episcopal Bishop, arrested in and around St. Louis in protest of the killing of unarmed young African American males said: “My faith compels me to be here, I want to show solidarity and call attention to the structural racism of St. Louis.”
St. Louis ranks well down the rankings of the most racially segregated cities in the USA. Milwaukee is number one. Loving our friends and enemies requires us not to ignore them as they often do to us. However, at a certain point in time it is useless to try to dialog with persons hard of hearts and all we can do is to show our faith and expose the truth in acts of civil disobedience. If one of us is right the other is wrong. If someone does not have “ears to hear” or “eyes to see” Jesus of the Gospel tells us to move on. The truth will set us free. In the meanwhile we need to listen to advice of Mahatma Gandhi who said: “Agitation against every form of injustice is the breath of political life.” Mahatma , Volume 5, p. 225
The military has said we cannot beat our new enemy, ISIS, with air power alone. This becomes evident as ISIS marches onto Baghdad, Iraq despite all the bombing, missiles, killer drones we use. Taking this logic a bit further and learning lessons learned in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan we cannot take sides in a civil conflict and ultimately win any real victory. Often people in the country resist our interference and take the opposing side.
There was a cartoon in the editorial section of today newspaper on how George Orwell the author of the book “1984” was wrong about the date. (See cartoon below). He predicted constant surveillance; state sanctioned torture, newspeak, and novel writing machine, gibberish music created by a computer and endless war, all things that are true today, 2014. He just got the year wrong.
The book “1984” like the Book of Revelations in the New Testament uses images of the future to describe some of the oppression of the present. The early Christian were persecuted by the Roman Empire and talked about the revelation of God in images and revelations. The early Christians were persecuted and thought themselves of living in “end times.”
Talking with a friend today about all the violence, climate change, wars, oppression, and illnesses going on the world she thought we were living in “end times.” Perhaps we are, but a truer way of looking at the world today is, I believe, seeing in the present the seeds of the future. “The end is near” might be a good way of describing our present.
My friend Prasad Gollanapalli visited today. Prasad is Director Sarvodaya Social Order, a society based on truth and nonviolence that was formed in 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He was brought to the USA this time by the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial of North Texas (MGMNT) for the grand unveiling ceremony of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza in Irving Texas.
We had got to know Prasad in Dec. 2007 to January 2008 when a group of us took the first Pilgrimage of Peace, a walk in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi]] in India. It was after this pilgrimage to India that this web page changed names from Nonviolent Worm to Nonviolent Cow. The Cow, as seen by followers of Gandhi was a source of manure for castings and growing; a source of milk and cheese, source of medicine and many other things but not of meat. Mother Cow was like Mother Earth, a symbol of culture growth and well being.
Prasad is an important but simple and peaceful person. With other people from our pilgrimage out of town today we went to visit Father Jerry Zawada, another important but simple and peaceful person. Jerry lives in a Franciscan Retirement Home in Burlington Wisconsin but remains active in peace and justice movement.
I have mentioned how blessed I am to visit the poor and needy in home visits with St. Vincent de Paul Society and with friendships with people in need and ill. These two men are also blessed ones in God’s sight since by their word and actions they live the Way of Jesus in their daily life.
I hesitated to drive to Jerry’s for such a short visit this afternoon but with eyes open and the changing colors of the trees on a bright sunny day it was worth the ride.
Middle Eastern persons, my mother taught me, are known by their hospitality. Hospitality was a sign of wealth in nomad days of old in the desert.
Hospitality, be it for a Gandhi leader form India, a Polish Franciscan priest or on a home visit is the universal way to follow the Way, Truth and Light
Nick Riddell 1930 - 2014
Yesterday I told you my experience with a friend with severe fibromyalgia who discover her increased pain was from an inflammation. This morning I talked with a friend who last week after finally having to take his wife to a memory care unit at health complex was going in for a routine colonoscopy. Today when I called him back he told me that something went well during this routine procedure and he was rushed to the hospital to have his spleen removed. A friend I took to a clinic a week ago for a routine Endoscopy told me today he has cancer.
If all this medical talk is getting you down let me tell you about a memorial service I went to tonight. It was fun. It was for a friend who died in hospice peacefully after living some time in an assisted living facility. He was old, 84, and had lived a full life and had been active in civil rights and peace issues. One elderly woman, 86, a veteran of the civil rights movement came to the microphone to share some thoughts about our friend. She ended by saying something about the hope that the youth present bring to all of us. I and others looked around and could find only one young adult present, the daughter of the friend who organized the memorial service.
We the people born from 1922–1945 are called Traditional or Silent generation. We and the early Baby boomers generation are getting old, ill and dying off. There is not much we can do about it except take care of our health, live fully and pray for a peaceful death. Someone mentioned they could not find any family or relatives of our friend but he certainly had many friends, be they now old, as evidenced by the good attendance of the memorial service tonight and the light mood of the event.
If I live longer I imagine I will have see many more friends suffer and die. My friend who was just diagnosed with cancer and I joke around with each other and make each other laugh. So today when he told me about cancer I joked around and told him about laughter therapy made famous by Norman Cousins and with good scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
Living in the shadow of death is just normal for most of us elderly persons. But add some humor and laughter into our lives and maybe we stay a little bit healthier and live longer. We can laugh till we die.
Last night my friend Ann, who suffers from severe fibromyalgia, chronic and widespread pain, called me to ask if I could take her to an Urgent Care center today. Ann has been a friend for quite awhile and I know of the suffering and pain she has endured so I said yes. When I got to her apartment the doctor had suggested that she go to the Emergency Room. When we got to the emergency room she waited in her road van while I wait inside to check out the wait. She cannot sit for long periods of time and so in her van she lays down in the backseat. The emergency room of this hospital located in North Central Milwaukee, the poorest and most racially segregated area of Milwaukee, was full of African Americans of all ages waiting for care. The intake person said the wait for care was hours and hours since there were twenty five persons ahead of her. I went back to the van and she said to go to Urgent Care Center that is located in white suburb of Milwaukee, near her main Doctor’s office. We went there and there was no wait to be seen but it took hours and hours for blood test and x rays. Other patients came and went but my friend, a African-American person on fixed income waited and waited. At the end the Doctor said her chest was inflamed and that was the cause of extra pain she was suffering. However, because of the only pain killer that has been effective on her she could not take anti-inflammatory medicine. He gave her another type o medicine and after a stopover at a pharmacy for the medicine I got her home six hours after we had begun the journey.
My friend, because of her disability, lives on a fixed income and needs lots of health care. But she has insurance, Medicare and a supplementary policy, while probably most of the persons in the waiting room have no medicine and use the emergency room as doctor’s visit. Doing this, as my parents did, is very expensive and is something the new Affordable Health Care Insurance was going to fix. Clearly it has not but heighten the most expensive but not effective ‘for- profit health care system’ in the world.
For-Profit Health Care, For-Profit Education system, Non-profit agencies maximizing the ‘revenue stream,’ seems to be the norm for our capitalistic USA society. Everything seems to becoming privatized to make money and more money for fewer and fewer. Even the military and defense department is privatized and a few corporations and individuals make more and more money on war and killing. Individuals seek more and more tax cuts and shun pay for welfare of poor and marginalized, even for basic rights of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” and certainly for food stamps or housing for needy.
On TV news tonight they showed a public hearing of our local energy company that seeks a two tier energy rate charge, higher for low users of energy and lower for high users of energy. Only in the USA today could we get away with this blatant greed as one attendee of the hearing told the news person: “The rich get richer and the poor get poor.”
Racism, Discrimination, Greed and Poverty are becoming dominant in the USA. Where will it ever stop? It will only stop or slow down when we break the silence and say in word and action: No to Profit over People.
I remember reading a few years ago from Mother Therese’s spiritual adviser that after enjoying a great deal of inspiration and enthusiasm in starting her religious order she suffered most of her life from the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, a depression and emptiness.
We all like enjoying moments of joy and inspiration but sometimes we just do what we believe is right without the feeling we are doing anything worthwhile. This natural sense of doing the right thing, in joy and sorrow, is, I believe, in all of us, if we are in touch with our being.
Something like this is in nature. Plants can be blasted by bad weather and injury and often survive with the right conditions and environment to grow again.
But these days it is difficult to be in touch with our being. Like climate change in nature, the conditions are not very conducive. There is so much noise, information and communication that being in touch with our nature is difficult. Being in silence is the best way to be in touch with our being but true deep silence is hard to find these days.
Mother Theresa must have really been in touch with her being to keep on going while living in the dark night of the soul. Doing helps us get going, like when I have something to do in the morning I can get up earlier and in time.
But those mornings when I have nothing in particular to do it is very difficult to get going.
If we look at people who we really admire, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton or Mother Therese we find one common ingredient: they were persons of prayer in touch with who they were. Biographers says Martin Luther King Jr., when he had nothing going on, had a hard time getting out of bed but when he did he was sharp and ready to go. Yet King admitted that the busier he got the more time he needed in prayer.
Prayer might not be the answer to all life throws at us but it is certainly a way to get in touch with our being. The way to prayer is silence and the way to silence is prayer. Our being is found in silence.
Father Charlie McCarthy
Over the weekend a friend and I drove to Liberty, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City, to attend a retreat with Father Charles McCarthy of the Center for Christian Nonviolence. We had heard Father McCarthy before at a small conference at Notre Dame and knew he was a person, who my friend said “Speaks the Truth.” In fact that was what his talks were all about, the Truth of Nonviolent Love of the Gospels. He claims with Pope John Paul II and Aristotle: “One may define the human being as one who seeks the truth.” We can all respect each what others say of the truth, there is a principle obligation to seek the Truth and to make it the norm. This teaching means the Gospel and the teachings of the Gospel like “Love Your Enemy” cannot be rationalize away. Rational ethics are based on survival and can be rationalized to include killing but, according to Father McCarthy, Gospel ethics are based on ‘unconditional love’ and are the norm of the Way of Jesus that we are called to.
In this type of thinking, the Catholic Church, as many others, has greatly failed to live the Gospel, the way of Jesus. They have become tied to the State and rationalize and justify breaking the Way of Jesus in the Gospel.
I have thought and written a lot about the Mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and how our local organization has failed this mission. In quoting the mission statement I skipped over the first three words of the statement “Inspired by Gospel values”. The Gospel Values, like Works of Mercy, solidarity with poor and marginalized, loving your neighbor like yourself are what we in the Society are called to be by “offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder”, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul. The individual conference budgets of St. Vincent de Paul, projected next year to be around $800, 000 are nearly 100% dedicated to provided needs, food, clothing, furniture, beds and appliances to the poor and marginalized. Yet the central office budget of nearly $3, 000,000 is 99.6% dedicated to compensation and operating expenses. The less than .4% dedicated to poor and marginalized are called ‘relief’ services.
Is not bringing relief to poor and marginalized what the Society is all about. Perhaps we need these numbers reversed with the nearly 3 million dollars going for ‘relief’ and $800, 000 going for compensation and operating expenses.
I thought of this because when there is a difference of understanding of the ‘truth’ as there is in this case, the way to solve the difference is ‘dialog’. Yet the central office staff of St. Vincent de Paul have chosen not to enter into dialog but just say what they are doing is the mission of the Society, giving out more misinformation, operate in secrecy, without transiency and ignoring the truth of the Gospel and the Mission of the Society as some of us understand it.
Gandhi called his autobiography: “Experiments with Truth” and in word and action struggled for truth and to treat each person, even the ‘enemy’ with unconditional love. Martin Luther King Jr. was not afraid to speak the truth although it cost him his life. Dorothy Day said the truth of our conscience may disturb some persons but maybe these people need disturbing of their conscience. Thomas Merton says the word of the Gospel is understood only when it is obeyed. It is known to those who strive to practice it. In the Gospel of John Jesus says “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…” (John 8:31)
Jesus also said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.” The Truth of the Gospel is Nonviolent Love.
The R Word - Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Did Racism play a role in
death of Dontre Hamilton?
With all the talk about segregation, incarceration of African-American black males, poverty areas in minority neighbors and racial profiling of African Americans no one wants to use the word Racism. There is talk about segregation, inequality, poverty and even discrimination but the word Racism is avoided. Yet what is happening in Milwaukee if it is not Racism.
The dictionary has two meanings for racism: 1) prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races; 2) the belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior. For the first meaning a quote from Malcolm X is used: “”I am a Muslim and … my religion makes me against all forms of racism.” (Speech, Prospects for Freedom) The second meaning reminds me of how our soldiers are taught how to look at the enemy as inferior humans, be they Korans, Vietnamese or Arabs. We know what is best for people of other countries.
Yet, unless we admit that we live in a racist society how can we ever change it. Awareness is a necessary step for change. So we talk and talk about segregation, even racial segregation but fear to use the R words.
Taking down the basketball rim so African Americans cannot play basketball full court basketball is what I would call racism yet using the R word outrages neighbors. The high rate of African American incarceration we can call discrimination but using the R word to describe it does not happen.
Back in the 60’s we were not afraid to use the word ‘racism.’ We called the racial prejudice of Marquette admitting just a small number of African Americans students “Institutional Racism.”
Whites, Blacks, Hispanic need to come together, to restore fresh air into this discussion and awareness of Racism so we fear not the evil of R word.
Home visit by Vincentian
I spend most of my writing time today composing a letter in response to a letter put out by the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. the Society’s mission is to serve person to person those in need and her letter does not deal with this. I will spare you my line by line response to her ‘facts’ using their own staff numbers and Rule and Manuel of St. Vincent de Paul in the USA. The full letter will come soon on this web site with all the many footnotes. But for now I offer you a rough draft of the last part of the letter.
Racism and St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) in Milwaukee
North Central Milwaukee where a SVDP thrift store is needed for the conferences who receive thousands of requests each year has a household income of $20,787.00 and is 85% plus African American. In Greenfield and surrounding area where conferences receive around 10 requests per year the average household income is $42,586.00 and it is 85% plus white.
There is many more facts and figures but basically the residents of North Central and South Central (over 85% Hispanic) area have become poorer and poorer over the years and while SVDP Society is spending more and more money, not on the needs of the poor but on building a central office controlled bureaucracy that now consumers about $4 million a year, money which the poor cannot afford. SVDP conferences in North Central and South Central Milwaukee because of the increased burden, outdated phone request system, lack of funds or lack of members have gone out of business or cannot serve all those in need. Meanwhile money for needy conferences or twining goes to Central Office and less money goes toward serving the mission of Society, unpaid members making person to person home visits to those in need.
I do this research and cry out for the poor not because I like to but because I am a proud member of the Society of SVDP and need to. I am a native Milwaukee who moved back home a Vincentian in 1995. The top two executives, you and Michelle, have a total compensation of over $170,000 as reported to IRS tax form from 2012–2013. You and the other 2 million dollars of staff are good intentioned people and what you do may be legal. But the poor and those of us who serve the poor are also good people. Let us create a new society of SVDP in Milwaukee that makes its primary mission person to person home visits. You can do the numbers yourself with your own information and Rules and Manuals of SVDP but let me say, personally and from my heart let us be free to be the Society we are meant to be.
Today and this week I received an extraordinary number of request from friends, needing rides, needing to borrow money, just wanting to talk with someone who would listen and asking for advice. At times I was tempted to think how about me? I need more time to read, write, be quiet and pray. But then I thought back on my Jesuit education in the Ignatian Spirituality which I learned about in my 13 years of Jesuit education and still study and try to practice. One of the core elements of Ignatian Spirituality is being “Men and Women for Others.” In address to educators in 1973 Father Arrupe S.J. than the Leader of Society of Jesus, Jesuits, described it this way. “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ - for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. “
Living in a society of individualism run rampart n (Give me my tax break and hell with common good), living in the me generation when “do your own thing” abides and truth and facts are treated with “you are entitled to your opinion” being “Men and Women for Others.” However, if I look at my busy week as being a man for others my busy week is blessing.
Whenever I am asked for rides I remember that years ago after giving someone a ride they asked me how they could pay me back. I said they already have by allowing me to be of service to them and just to leave the blessings at the door as they got out of my car. I called my car the Blessing Cab since it allows me to receive so many blessings.
Special blessings are received from poor, “least of neighbors.” An Indian priest, who was from the lowest caste in India became a Jesuit priest and went back to work with the outcast caste of India told me once that he found peace and grace in the people he was working with. He prayed to God to give him the grace and blessings he discovered with the poor and marginalized. He said that God answered him by saying: “I gave all my grace and blessings to the poor, go to the poor to receive them.” Looking at life this way I am full of gratitude.
One of my social justice projects is to reform the local St. Vincent de Paul Society. Blessed Frederic Ozanam(1813–1853), co-founder of the Society put it this way: “We must do what is most agreeable to God. Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us go to the poor. ” The local Society rather than offer person to person contact with people in need has developed into a four million dollar social agency that derives money and donations given to the poor and, according to Rules of Society, belong to the poor.
So, yes, let us strive to be Men and Women for Others. It might be hard at times, involving inconvenience, poverty, suffering and insults. But the Reward of being Men and Women is an everlasting blessings and one full of joy and gratitude.
This morning I heard Michelle Alexander, the author of the book The New Jim Crow speak at a local community college. As in her book she was articulate about the mass incarceration of African American young adults which Wisconsin, Milwaukee and in particular North Central Milwaukee is at the epic center. There was a panel discussion after her talk but no questions or comments from the audience were allowed.
I noticed the local panelist talked about poverty, racial segregation, poor education, high unemployment; high incarceration rates of African- American males in Wisconsin and in Milwaukee but failed to break it down to particular section of Milwaukee, what we call North Central Milwaukee. (See M.A.P.S.). Also I was listening to hear the word ‘racism” used, an illness Milwaukee suffers from but heard it used once.
Michelle Alexander’s talk was articulate and the panel comments were enlightening except for one individual who was funny and articulate blowing his own horn but I knew how he mistreated my two African American friends who had created the community gardens on the North side. One of the panelists was especially poignant,a researcher from UWM who with her husband had blown up the dirty little secret about incarceration of African Americans in Wisconsin, Milwaukee and in particular in North Central Milwaukee. Pat and I knew the two of them a long time ago and were at their wedding. She spoke to the ‘white’ people in the crowd pleading with them to join the movement to end the massive incarceration of African Americans which Michelle Alexander called
Afterwards one of my friends in the struggle with the St. Vincent de Paul asked to me my friend from years ago. I introduced her and in her enthusiasm for the struggle which she calls “racism” asked if she could meet with her. My friend of old said she feels more comfortable behind her computer doing research did not say yes or no but said she would let her know. On the way out of the hall my research friend made the comments of how she was getting all the glory for the research but her husband did not mind or want. She also wondered how long this interest in incarceration of African Americans would last before everyone move on to the new ‘cause of the day.’ I understand her concern because we are both old enough to understand how in this day and age people jump from issue to issue, never digging them into one and taking a strong stand that means action, confrontation and conflict until there is a significant change.
I feel her concern but like her must keep on doing what we do best, researching, and speaking, taking nonviolent actions until there is a significant change. The words of the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” “I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’;, keep on a-talkin’, Walkin’ into freedom land.” Research, talks, panel discussion are great, inspiring and necessary. But without action, especially nonviolent actions, nothing will change.
I like good quotes and have a number of them from Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and various other persons on the front page of www.nonviolentcow.org . A good quote is words taken out of context that on their own make good common sense. Some persons, like Thomas Merton, have good quotes in writing; some like Martin Luther King Jr. are good at quotes from speeches and Dorothy Day at both.
I was looking again today for a quote I heard from Martin Luther King Jr. on a day of reflection some years back in which he talks about the more active he gets the more he needs to pray. I could not find the quote but found some more good ones, below, from King that I can add to the quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. web page. These are the ones that fit well with where I am at with my life these days.
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Someone I deeply respect told me today that they seek a life without conflict. They believe cooperation and collaboration should replace conflict. This seems to be a reigning belief of our society: Avoid conflict at all cost.
I must admit that no one, including me, likes conflict. But looking over history often it has been conflict that has brought change for the better. For example, without conflict of the civil rights movements where would minorities be today? Would woman and African Americans have the right to vote? Without conflict can we have a ‘free press’.
When I was a community organizer back in the 70’s we were taught that creative conflict was the way to bring change. Now community organizations shun conflict and confrontation.
Conflict I think is natural, the way of nature and of human beings. How we deal with conflict is the key I believe. Dealing with conflict by violence or ignoring persons does not work. Dialog and openness of mind turns conflict in something positive.
In Christianity the cross is a symbol of conflict. Yet by accepting conflict and holding on to truth and self integrity Jesus was able to create the nonviolent cross and through the conflict of the cross bring redemption.
Conflicts can be good.
Dorothy Day and her Grandchildren
Today is the 46th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 action. I could write about the release of the DVD “Hit and Stay” the story of the many nonviolent actions of Catholic Left in 60’s and 70’s. I could write about that or about our action burning Military recruiting files at Marquette. However, I rather share with you an article that another member of the Milwaukee 14, Jim Forest, sent me today. Dorothy Day and the Little Way have been a major influence in my life.
“DOROTHY DAY and the LITTLE WAY”
by Robert Ellsberg
(The Liguorian, September 2014)
On June 15, 1955, at the sound of a siren, signaling an imminent nuclear attack, the entire population of New York City obediently sought shelter in basements and subway stations, or, in the case of school children, under their desks. According to the authorities, this first in a series of annual “civil defense” drills was a “complete success.” Well, almost. It was marred by a middle-aged, white-haired woman and twenty-six others who refused to play along with this war game. Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and her companions, instead sat in City Hall Park, where they were arrested and later sentenced to jail. The judge who imposed bail likened the protesters to “murderers” who had contributed to the “utter destruction of these three million theoretically killed in our city.”
Of course, “three million,” the theoretical casualties of a nuclear strike in New York City, would hardly have measured the potential devastation. Actual plans for nuclear war involved casualties in the hundreds of millions. Unknown at that time were the effects of “nuclear winter,” the catastrophic side effect of a nuclear exchange that might have destroyed all life in the northern hemisphere. As Dorothy Day saw it, the illusion that nuclear war was “surviveable” and therefore “winnable,” made such a war more likely., To participate in such exercise for doomsday, she believed, was an act of blasphemy. And so she went to jail.
On that clear spring day in 1955 it was more than twenty years since Dorothy Day had founded the Catholic Worker—at first a newspaper, and then a movement consisting of “houses of hospitality” in New York City and slum neighborhoods across the country. In such communities the “works of mercy” (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless) were combined with a commitment to social justice and the envisioning of a society “in which it is easier to be good.”
There were many who admired her work among the poor. There were even many subscribers, in the heart of the Depression, who sympathized when The Catholic Worker questioned an economic system that produced so much poverty and desperation. Few, in those early years, joined Day in the conviction that the way of Jesus was incompatible with any kind of killing. And on the day of that first civil defense drill in New York City, the number of Catholics who agreed that this was a crime against God and humanity could evidently fit inside a single police wagon. But for Day, it all went together. The Catholic Worker was an effort to live out the radical implications of the teaching of Christ: that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do directly to him.
For almost fifty years, until her death in 1980, Dorothy lived by these convictions. As a result she received a fair amount of criticism. Some called her un-American. She was charged with being weak, irrelevant, and foolish. (In reply, she stated, “We confess to being foolish, and wish that we were more so.”) Some accused her of being a secret Communist. Before her conversion in 1927, she had in fact participated in left-wing movements and befriended Communists and other agitators. In the 1950s, J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, placed her name on a list of dangerous radicals to be detained in the event of a national emergency.
And yet the tide has turned. In 2000 Cardinal John O’Connor submitted her cause for canonization to Rome, where, upon its acceptance, she was named a Servant of God. In 2012 the U.S. Catholic bishops joined Cardinal Timothy Dolan in endorsing this cause, a long process that may conclude one day in her becoming St. Dorothy. If so, she will certainly be a saint with an unusual backstory, including her arrest on behalf of women’s suffrage, a bohemian youth, and an abortion, following an unhappy love affair. All this occurred before her conversion to Catholicism. Yet even the circumstances of her conversion are unique in the annals of the saints. This
USA bombs terrorist base
The US led air assaults by bombers, drones and cruise missiles was unleashed on terrorist targets in Syria the last few days. Military leaders say these this bombing campaign will continue for a long time. The Syrian government, one we are trying to overthrow, does not mind since these are the same terrorist group they have been fighting for years.
Can the USA and allies forge peace in the Middle East by bombing? If history is worth anything the answer is no. Bombs lead to more bombs as war leads to more war. Syria, as Iraq and Afghanistan is already a causality of war with hundreds of thousands of persons killed or having to flee. A poll by USA newspaper shows that the majority of Americans support the bombing of Syria as necessary for self defense. However, as we have found out the past the more people we kill the more people that want to kill Americans. In fact, ISIS and other terrorist groups are recruiting followers in the USA, England and other nations where some of the people see the killing as unjustified and war on Muslims.
There are so many lessons of common sense, like killing and violence leading to more killing and violence that many American seem not to get, or if they do, do not want to acknowledge it.
Can we bomb our way to peace? Nature, History and Common Sense say no but we continue to try.