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
Is the 4th of July a holiday, holy day or day of shame? All three were communicated by media, email, Facebook, and TV to me today. TV mostly praised the day as a holy day honoring those who killed or died for our country in wars. A few shared with me by email or Facebook an article called “I’m glad to be an American. But I won’t really celebrate the Fourth of July” which points how pacifist groups, like Quakers and Mennonites would not participate in the Revolutionary war and how the author’s allegiance to America is a very distant second to the claims of a different sort of Kingdom altogether, the Kingdom which Jesus came to establish. “For the Kingdom which Jesus came to establish is fundamentally not of this world. It is marked by peace among people of all nationalities, and a freedom guaranteed not by declaration and war but by the work of Christ.” Another person sent me an article about the Fourth of July by the late historian Howard Zinn, someone I listened to. The article, posted July 4, 2010 is Put Away The Flags. He argues from history how we have been “brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.” He points to history to show how this is very great deception. One of the most interesting pieces sent to me was a speech given by Frederick Douglass, on July 5, 1852 called What to the slave is the Fourth of July?.
Despite all the variety of opinions about the meaning of the Fourth of July it was just an ordinary day for Pat and me. The weather was sunny and nice and we went with a friend fishing on a pier on Lake Michigan. We saw some fish, small and big in the water but caught nothing, which was okay. We were there to enjoy the day. After a wonderful dinner, featuring Pat’s homemade meat loaf and homemade banana cake we enjoyed a night of watching on TV the Brewers baseball team win again while reading and using our laptop computers. It was a simple, good day and night of not doing much but being present. On one of my phone calls I received today a friend pointed out that “doing nothing” is okay.
I have learned this lesson before but needed the reminder.
So on this Fourth of July when waging war and ‘American Exceptionalism’ is honored, some would say worshiped, doing nothing special is a good way to celebrate the Fourth.
You know you are becoming paranoid when you write an email to the Mayor and the next day a city car, you assume to be the housing inspector, is parked in front of your house.
You know you are become paranoid when one of you regular email addresses stops working and you think it is because you put it on a flyer for a nonviolent action.
You know you are becoming paranoid when two people in the back seat of you car are talking and laughing about someone they know and think it is you.
You know you are becoming paranoid when you think other persons are talking about you behind your back when they are just ignoring you.
In my experience paranoia comes from thinking we are a more important person in the world order than we are. We forget the speck we are on the planet and our world revolves around us. I think it is a lack of self confidence and not valuing ourselves for the person we are rather than the person we think others perceive us. Often a violent event or death triggers paranoia.
Tonight, July 3, 2015 is the night of one of the biggest fireworks display in the United States on the lakefront. The Milwaukee area is home to one of the largest firework families and they do a big show here on July 3rd every year. To get a good viewing post you literally need to camp out for a day or so in Veterans Park at the lakefront. It is paradoxical that it is called Veterans Park because for many veterans the July 4th fireworks are a nightmare, reminding them of war experiences of the hell of war. Wars of USA like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are full of explosions, smell of gun fire, death, injury and damage that has become modern day warfare.
I can think only of one president, John Kennedy, since Dwight Eisenhower that experienced war. Eisenhower left office warning of us the ‘military/industrial complex’ that he saw as taking over the country. When President Kennedy, his successor realized the mistake of the Vietnam War and tried to pull back he was assassinated.
Many soldiers returning from war are often paranoid, unable to live everyday life at home. The wounds of the mind inflicted by war drive many of them to commit suicide. There is attention to the effects soldiers suffer, Post traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) but not much to do about its causes. Soldiers consistently ready “to kill or be killed” are running on adrenaline and cannot just turn off the horrors of war, the killing they did or saw, when they return home.
Paranoia is one of the many symptoms of a wounded mind, often set off by horrible experiences of violence, war and death. War is Paranoia.
Praying for Homicide Victim 95
Today we have a MICAH Holy Ground prayer vigil at the site where a 35 man was shot and killed. He was shot Monday night at 10pm in front of residence in North Central Milwaukee. Today the police released his name, Ules C. Burks Jr. but have no suspect or motive for the killing. We said a few prayers, sang a song and ended with the Our Father. There was no family present so we did not know much about the person. A woman in a car came by, stopped the car and looked at the site. As she was going back to the car Sister Rose, our prayer leader, asked if she knew the person and she replied he was her brother and drove off.
According to Sister Rose’s count Ules was the 95th homicide victim in Milwaukee this year which is only one-half gone. Our number is higher than police’s official count since we count vehicular homicides which the police do not count. But even the official police count of homicides is twice as much as there was last year at this time.
Yesterday I sent the Mayor, County Executive, Police Chief and Governor an edited version of the posting Why More Crime In Milwaukee. I could have said a lot more, but more is not always better and I will be satisfied if any one of them ever reads the letter. Letter writing to politicians I believe is a waste of time, but still do it because of love and respect for them, even though I may disagree with them. I know from personal experience of what it is to be ignored and treated indifferently.
After one of the homicide prayer vigils a Public Radio news-person asked me what I thought about the Police Chief whose term was up for renewal tonight before the Fire and Police Commission. I tried to be respectful but honest when saying how his “data driven policing” was not working in Milwaukee.
Tonight on TV news I saw his contract was extended for four years, although there was some objections from residents of crime ridden neighborhoods. Afterwards the police addressed the objections by saying that he had placed the most police residents in neighbors hit hard by crime. This is true and is part of his “data driven system” of policing. However, sometimes, more police presence, more police stops of black males, more frisking and arrest of young black males can be a negative factor in police community relations and lead to more arrest, more incarcerations and more police stopping more people.
North Central Milwaukee is the most segregated (African American) neighborhood of the most segregated city in the USA, the poorest neighborhood in the second poorest city in the USA, the neighborhood with the highest rate of incarceration of African American males in the State with the highest rate in the USA and a neighborhood suffering from high unemployment and underfunded public schools. This not to say that persons who commit crimes should be held accountable. Also, the police cannot be held responsible for all these factors in the environment that make it hard to be good. But also stopping more people, padding down more people and arresting more people are very small crimes is not always helpful.
The police chief, like most of the officials in the city, are good people and interesting enough, mostly Catholics like myself. But as I said in my letter some have an attitude of superiority and knowing what is best. “Data driven policing” in Milwaukee is not working but who is going to tell that to the Police Chief and will he listen?
Children killed in Afghanistan by USA
The other day, while watching nightly news, my granddaughter 11, asked me: “Grandpa why does ISIS hate us so much.” I hastily answered that there has been a lot of wars and killing in the Middle East and many people blame the USA for much of the killing and thus want to kill us. I was going to add more but she seemed to be satisfied so I did not. I wish I would have answered with first saying that is a very good question that most people do not ask, but it is important and then go on with an explanation.
I remember that after 9/11 Pope John Paul II asked a similar question about those who attacked us, without at all justifying this tragedy. I remember going to a discussion group at MATC where the question was asked about the persons we blamed for this horrendous event. It was an invigorating conversation trying to understand the deep hate some in the Middle East had for the USA. However, quickly the conversation in the country changed to how to get ‘revenge’, called ‘justice’ now, and we found ourselves in two wars that continue today, 14 years later, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of these two wars more wars were bred in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
The present Pope, Pope Francis, recently said Arms manufacturers and investors can’t call themselves Christian. Yet on his first visit to the USA he is meeting with the President of USA and Congress, the leaders of the country that is the biggest dealer of arms. The planes and bombs Saudi Arabia is using now to kill people in Yemen are “made in the USA” as well as those used by military of Israel to destroy Palestinians. Will the Pope condemn the actions of the President and Members of congress who call themselves ‘Christian’ and some even ‘Catholic’.
I invited the Pope, while he was in the USA, to come to Milwaukee to condemn Marquette University, a Catholic Jesuit university, (he is a Jesuit), for teaching war and killing and to condemn the local Catholic lay organization, St. Vincent de Paul Society of Milwaukee, that is using money for the poor to serve suburbanites. But I never heard from him. Even our Holy Father feels the need to be diplomatic, condemn the actions, but not call out the offenders.
Maybe if we could have seriously asked ourselves the question of Why such a hated for Americans in the 9/11 tragedy we could have avoided some of the violence, wars and enormous deaths and sufferings generated from that action.
The billions invested in creating more terrorist could have created more people who love the USA. We cannot change the past but we can stop repeating the past mistakes by asking why. Why does ISIS hate us so much?
Today Pat and I took our granddaughter to the Big Gig, Summerfest, the largest music festival in the world, on the Milwaukee lakefront. There are 11 stages of live music from 12 noon to 12 am. Admission was free from 12–3 today and there was plenty of food, drink and merchandise available. Lots of loud music, lot of people, lots of stimuli is not my thing but I just tried to deal with it in the moment, shutting down some of my feelings but not enough to make me unaware.
Walking thru life being aware yet not being overwhelmed by the onslaught of information being thrown at us, is something I struggle with. At times I have been too insensitive and numb to the world around me and at times I have been overwhelmed with feelings and emotions, like anger, that get out of control.
I like to think I have got wiser with age on how to balance awareness with unfeeling but many people have put me in a box of talking too much, drowning out sensitivity and/ or being angry at all the time. It is hard to get out of the box or stigma no matter what I do.
The modern information age does throw a lot at us and to take a contemplative view, without being a monk like Thomas Merton, is hard to do. Also I believe that ‘powers that be’, some unspeakable, throw so much disorder at us that it is hard for us to be aware and stay balanced. Individualism, ‘you do your thing and I do my thing’, does not help for once we became aware and want to do something we find it hard to work together.
I try to stay focused but often wander. My main political focus these days is to expose in any nonviolent way possible the fact that the local St. Vincent De Paul Society, under the control of a few, is spending about 4 million dollars of poor people’s money on a thrift store in the suburbs that will probably never aide the poor they are dedicated to serve on a one by one basis. Our charge, despite all the data and backup to it we have, seems so out of character of good people running the local Society that middle class and rich people just brush it off as a personal opinion.
The poor seem to bet it right away as they have seen the services of the Society drop just as the need is becoming greater. But the poor are hard to organize, being defeated too many times. Some of us aware of this information, injustice are like voices crying out in the wilderness. Will people hear us and act?
I do not know the answer to the last question but do know that once a person really becomes aware of an injustice the person must act or numb themselves. As I know there are plenty ways of numbing ourselves, from digital devices to sports to eating.
Being aware without being overwhelmed, being focused without following distractions is the question.
I, earthworm, have not spoken out recently on this Diary of Worm and wish I did not feel the need to do so need. You read on this site about how worms literally renew earth, how Darwin devoted the last years of his life to report the glory of worms, about the hard work we do eating and pooping making the black gold of fertilizers out of compost and waste.
However, for all our accomplishments over centuries of a time before the dinosaur may be ruin by a discovery in USA of Amynthas agrestis, or some call ‘jumping’ or ‘crazy’ in the Midwest. This particular worm, brought here from Asia, is troublesome because it is large and invasive and in forest chews up the leaf litter and thus makes it difficult for saplings to grow. Humans should know a little about wealth and greed.
All of us worms eat and poop our weight each day. Wiggly around is something we do normally when humans handle us. But this particular species of worms eats above ground on forest leaves, thus imposing danger to forest. This is not good and I do not want to justify it. But all species, even you humans, have ones that do bad things to ecology of our earth. Humans are now radically changing the climate for all creatures, making it less habitable. Right now nations are gathering to do more talk about ‘climate change’ and what to do about it. So far, with all the talk, not much is being done about it.
If you highly intelligent creatures cannot do much to reverse the harmful effects of ‘climate change’ how do you expect we worms, with the smallest brain of all creatures, if you can call it that, to do anything about these new species of ‘jumping worms.’ Like any othr invasive species like, the jumping carp coming up the Mississippi to Great Lakes, you humans will need to figure out how to stop this particular worm from doing harm. You created the problem now you need to fix it.
The rest of earthworms will continue to work silently and without much recognition to renew the earth and fertilize gardens. Calling us names like ‘crazy’ or stigmatizing all worms because of the habit this one species will not help. We worms will continue to serve you and just ask, in return, for a little respect.
My two grandsons played drums in the Pulaski High Band for the national anthem of today’s Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. My wife, granddaughter and I looked on in the lower grandstand. It was just this one song but it was impressive since this band has played at a Milwaukee Buck’s basketball game and Green Bay Packer football game within the last year. They are good and even play at the Outback bowl last New Year’s day in Florida that featured the Wisconsin football team winning the game. The Brewers also won today so if you are a big time professional or college team, just invite the Pulaski band to play and be a winner.
Small moments like the playing of national anthem today can be important. The national anthem brings alive for me the long wars we have fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think of all the American men and women who have died and been injuring in these wars and all the innocent lives that have been lost. Both countries are worst off now than when we invaded them and after we leave, whenever that may be, will most likely go back to a more oppressive government than the one we overthrew. One lesson we learned in Vietnam that USA pretends to forget is that when you invade the country and you are fighting on one side in a civil war you cannot win. No amount of force will ever suppress the people you are fighting when they are from the country you have invaded.
Much money is made by war by arms and natural resources like oil, but the invading force will always loose, if not right away, in time.
When I think of the young men and women who lost their lives in these two wars, one I knew personally, I can see that all the honoring of soldiers who “gave their lives for our freedom” can never cover up the truth, war is hell and everyone is a looser. Three times during the baseball game a veteran of the wars was honored. People stood and clapped as probably well they should. My heart hurt for those killed and injured and I do not have the courage to say the truth, the wars are in vain.
Dear Mayor, County Executive, Governor, Chief of Police and others,
Mayor, awhile back I remember you asking what are the answer to the rising violence in Milwaukee. Sadly I do not have the answers but since my years at Marquette University High School I have been fascinated with study of criminology and know where to look.
First, what not to do. Calling people who commit crimes names like thugs or sick does not help. Ignoring the facts of racism and poverty in Milwaukee does not help. As I am sure you know Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the USA and the second poorest according to U.S. Census information. The two areas of Milwaukee, North Central (85% plus African American) and South Central (85% Hispanic) are poorest and most violent areas in City of Milwaukee.
Second, learn from history of what works and does not work. When Richard Nixon first went into Presidential Office he asked his advisers of what was the easiest way to reduce crime. They suggested treatment rather than punishment for drug addicts and alcoholics. He did it and it worked but after second election was forgotten in heat of Watergate.
When Governor Thompson, the great builder of prisons in Wisconsin, created a task force to study how to lessen prisons and prisoners they responded:Prisoners and Prisons “are bound to grow as long as the root cause of crime—poverty, lack of education and lack of family support—go unaddressed.” Often we know the answers but just do not want to face them as they are too inconvenient.
Third, treat all illnesses equally. If a person with a weak heart has a heart attack 911 is called and the person is automatically taken to the hospital. If a person with a brain illness, mental illness, has a breakdown 911 might be called but the person is taken to jail or mental health complex, not a medical facility like a hospital. Under a former County Executive, in an effort to save money,the mental health complex lost federal certification and funds because the county would not maintain it as a medical facility; we have being paying ever since for this mistake. People with mental illnesses are less likely to commit crimes than ‘normal’ population but they are more likely to be victims of crime than the rest of population. The stigma of brain illnesses hangs heavy over our society, especially with poor and minorities.
Fourth, and last for now, listen to poor, marginalized and rejected. Please do not take the attitude of arrogance that you know what is best for poor and marginalized. Agencies, private or public that take that attitude are making the situation worst. For example, Marquette University security officers became authorized policeman and Marquette got a million dollars to ‘improve’ the neighborhood north and west of it by hiring its own District Attorney to prosecute persons. Armed police officers in the neighborhood looking to arrest and prosecute people of color are a disaster waiting to happen. It is like there is a wall around North Avenue to Silver Spring between 60th and the river and one on near Southside where poor. Marginalized persons are being forced to live in neighborhoods with abandoned homes, lack of home ownership, poor public education system, high unemployment and a high rate of incarceration of young adult African American males. I grew up in Milwaukee and lived most of my 72 years here and do not remember Milwaukee ever being this segregated and poor and fearful. Perhaps we cannot change persons but we can create an “environment which it is easier to be good.”
If you have read this far, thank you; if you ignore this letter all I can say I respect you and will never ignore you.
May the graces and blessings that God sheds on the poor and marginalized be with you,
Father Carl Diederichs
This is a ‘good news’ story with a sad but true ending.
There was a man who came late in life to the priesthood in Milwaukee. A few years after he was ordained he was sent to pastor one of the two African American Catholic Churches left after a former Archbishop had closed down eight predominately African-American Catholic Churches and created two.
The history of the African-American Catholic Church is one of Archbishops and white Catholic Church members keeping blacks “separate but equal”. From the days of St. Benedict the Moor Church and school being created so blacks did not have to attend the nearby white Catholic school and church and sit in the balcony during liturgy has been one of neglect. (See The Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee ).
This elderly priest was sent to one of the two Catholic Churches left in the Central city. There were 17 Catholic Churches in North Central Milwaukee in 60’s and now there are only three, one being predominately white. Many black Catholics during the closing of Catholic Churches in predominately African American neighbors, not seeing their concerns being dealt with left the Catholic Church and became members of other Christian churches that were open and had urban ministry.
This priest cherished the opportunity to minister in this Catholic Church. African Americans and whites could see his enthusiasm for ministry in this urban environment and the Church grew and grew. The Gospel choir of this Church became world renowned for its music. Each year more and more persons joined this Church that was reaching out to the neighborhood and beyond (evangelizing, some would call it).
The present Archbishop since he came to Milwaukee, kept check on this priest who was a true urban minister. After ten years the Archbishop suddenly pulled him out of this Church. He wanted to stay in ministry in urban areas serving African Americans but the Archbishop say no, he could not stay in the area, not as a pastor even as priestly urban minister. Rather than get assigned to an all white parish in northern part of Archdiocese he decided to retire and seek some other ministry as a priest. Although he was elderly, coming late to the priesthood, he felt he had much more to offer.
The people of the parish were very sad to see him go. The local African American newspaper had a special insert honoring him. On the cover next to his picture it said “Outgoing All Saint Catholic Church shepherd leaves a legacy built on the church’s commitment to build and foster a multiracial, multicultural community of faith, hope and love.”
There was a special Mass and celebration in the parish honoring this priest and on the following Sunday he celebrated with a full house of people of all races his last liturgy where the music was soul felt, the homily brief but meaningful and the Eucharist table was shared by all, young and old, females and males, white and black. It was a true picture of what ‘catholic’, universal, church, should look like.
At the end of mass this priest read a letter from a Bishop, not the one in Milwaukee, but a bishop in Louisiana who welcomed him to his diocese to be the pastor for two African American Church in the bayou’s of his state. He had wanted to live and work in Milwaukee area but the opportunities for housing and ministry were just not present.
After the liturgy, as we were driving home, my wife, Pat, noticed an insert in the church bulletin. It was a letter from the present Archbishop about a call at recent synod (gathering) of Catholics in the Archdiocese for the local Catholic Church to renew its focus on issues of social justice, “especially on issues like poverty, immigration, violence and crime.” To deal with this concern he was appointing a priest of three white Churches as Vicar General with a special emphasis on Urban Ministry.
He ends the letter by saying “When we demonstrate our concern for issues impacting wide segments of our society in areas of social justice, especially on issues like education, poverty, immigration, crime, violence and other social issues, we demonstrate our willingness to follow the command of Jesus to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” This is true but the Archbishop could have done a lot more toward these concerns for these urban issues by just allowing Father Carl to do his urban ministry at All Saints.
I just pray and hope this move does not create more former African American Catholics. This is the story of the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese in dealing with African Americans, knowing what is best for ‘them’ without listening to African Americans, even the Catholics. This is the true but sad story of an Urban Minister lost to the Catholic Church in Milwaukee.
Trickle Down Theory of
new SVDP store
When I published the pictures and facts of Tale of Two Cities they were ignored by staff and leaders of St. Vincent de Paul. However, a few friends responded said that these pictures I took of the two stores and the facts I published using official material, manuals, Rules and records of Society of St. Vincent de Paul were “my opinion”. Actually they were not. So if pictures and facts are my opinion I might as well give my opinions.
Many of these opinions could be fact, true or false, if the Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul central office staff and key leaders were not so secretive and non-transparent.
From observation of records the Milwaukee St. Vincent De Paul has not had a truly independent audit of financial records in years. It seems like the same company does audit year after year.
From reliable sources the new St. Vincent de Paul Store in the suburb of Greenfield is not only not serving the poor with financial resources but the revenue from store is unable to keep up with compensation for store staff, around 40 persons, and the operating cost of the store, including paying suburb of Greenfield payments in lieu of taxes. The store does not seem to be sustainable yet alone pay back the 3.2 million dollars loaned to purchase and renovate the building. So new Greenfield store is not only not serving persons in need but is draining donations of items and monies directed to poor, persons in need.
The policy, of last fall, of making conferences pay full retail price of vouchers for clothing, bedding and household items is continuing. For example, a conference writing a $50 voucher for a family in need for clothing and household items must pay the Milwaukee Central Office store $50 for items that were donated free to St. Vincent de Paul. As the ‘facts’ above point out only a little over 4% of Milwaukee Council approved and projected budget is for direct services to people in need.
The statement to donors by SVDP that they can be “ensured that 91.5% of every dollar raised went directly to support people in need” is based in no reality and cannot be backed up with reliable numbers. Even if compensation to employees of the Milwaukee store and two meal programs are counted in this statement there is no way this statement is remotely true. As for serving the main mission of the Society, members making persons to persons home visits to persons in need, a few, if any, of the 75 or employees of Central office participate in this mission.
The finances and 3.5 budget of St. Vincent de Paul are tightly controlled by one staff member, financial executive. Executive director, Council President and select members get financial information from this one person. The financial records are kept secretive.
Most persons in need when they call St. Vincent de Paul office receive the message “we do not serve your area”. Many of these persons are from the North Central and South Central areas of Milwaukee, the two most racially segregated and poorest areas of the city, where Catholic Churches have been closed or do no longer work with St. Vincent de Paul Society. Thus most members of St. Vincent de Paul Society, due to this outdated system of assigning home visits, in a year make few, if any home visits, the main mission of Society. Record of people in need rejected may be kept at Central Office but are not made know to members or public.
With more and more money going to subsidize a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store serving the middle class suburbanites, fewer and fewer people in need in the 2nd poorest city in the USA are being served.
These opinions are mine but since the staff and key leaders of Milwaukee Society
will not give a contradicting opinion I tend to believe they are true.
The other day I had a request from an organization ask to link my web age, Teach War No More to their guide on “Funding Your Education with ROTC.” I did not respond right away thinking it was a mistake since my web page seeks to end ROTC military training on Catholic campuses.
But the person was persistent and sent me a reminder today. Obviously the person had not read the material on my page and so I pointed out to him how my web page is dedicated to eliminating ROTC on Catholic Universities. In my Catholic, Jesuit educated value system teaching war and killing, killing without conscience. I may be a hypocrite but not that much of one.
That Marquette University is the host school for the Department of Defense for military training for Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force for all colleges and universities in Southeast Wisconsin deeply disturbs me. I do not know what to do with my disturbed conscience except to research, write, protest and act on my conscience to disturb the conscience of others.
Perhaps the person thought I was one of the persons who say that is “your opinion and I have my opinion” when it comes to matters of life and death. Since the Vietnam War in the 60’s I have believed that putting a person in a position to “kill or be killed” be it though the draft or offering education opportunities.
I can understand how the very high cost of education drives persons to sites like this way to fund education by joining the military but that does not make it right for a college or university to teach war and killing. Marquette’s strategy of “marginalize and ignore” seems to be working but only till the next time we take a nonviolent action to expose the hypocrisy of the university.
I wrote an article called Dorothy Day’s Worst Nightmare about ROTC on Catholic Campuses. Maybe someone will publish it. The archives of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement are in the Marquette University archives. I know Dorothy Day would not be a part of this hypocrisy.
Calling Marquette University a “hypocrite” for teaching war and reflexive killing at a University that claims to practice Gospel values and to respect and cherish life might not do any good. However, calling something for what it is is not a bad practice. There are many good hypocrites, including myself who pays war taxes. So, with all due apologies to Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, I will say: Marquette University is a Hypocrite.
Being poor is hard. Today my friend’s adult daughter had to go to emergency room for a severe case of congestion and coughing. After a five and half wait in the waiting room she was finally looked at, given an IV and some medication and sent home. She had no way to get home so we drove her. Because of her illness she had not eaten all day so we stopped so she could get some food.
Another low income friend was going from the Far East side, late at night, to his home on West side. When he got to a transfer point the bus was late. More people came, waiting for the bus that never came. An adult drunk on a bike came by and gave my friend a very hard time. When he went over to a McDonald’s on the corner to make a call home for his wife to pick him up the McDonald’s worker said the official policy is not to let people used their phone. Finally he did call home and got a ride and all went well.
Hunger is now a big problem for poor people. The cut in food stamps in Wisconsin has hit hard on poor, elede3rly and disabled. Food pantries are being drained and people have to hustle to get food for family or themselves. A local pastor, in the poorest part of town told me the church food pantry cannot keep up with the demand for food.
A minister told us tonight at a gathering how poor people are so ignored and marginalized that many give up hope that they can change the environment.
Today I talked with my 87 year old friend who with her children, grandchildren and great children has known some tough times. She grew up on the South where r parents worked hard to support the family. Now she sees in er grandchildren up north struggling to survive as she has done in parts of her life. She claims that times are tougher now for poor than any other time in her life.
Being segregated to a certain part of the city, facing high unemployment, poor transportation, profiling and incarceration of black males creates an environment where it is harder to be good and tougher to be poor. It is darn right inconvenient to be poor.
Water and Sun, Rain and Heat are needed for good crop of tomatoes in the garden. Today, the rain stopped long enough for the sun to come out for a little while but there is not much heat. I can produce water with a hose but cannot produce heat for the tomato plants. There are just some things we cannot do. We used to say we are dependent on Mother Nature but more and more we are realizing climate changes are man-made.
Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si “On Care For Our Common Home” seems to have been warmly received by most Americans, except Catholic Bishops and Catholic politicians. Maybe it is quotes like this one that bothers them: “The idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology … is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit.” The Pope makes it very clear that what we do, often in name of profits, severely hurts our common home, earth and is wrong. The Pope’s letter, address to all on earth, makes it perfectly clear that “climate change” is happening and we are an under a moral obligation to act on it.
The intensity of earthquakes, tornadoes, droughts, floods and hurricanes in recent years does not seem to have wakened some people in power. Perhaps Pope Francis’ strong statement will wake some up to this human created disaster on earth. Perhaps not. What does it take to wake people up and say ‘enough’; we must care for our common home?
What do you see in the cloud?
Today, Father’s Day, my granddaughter spent the day with us. She wanted to go to a beech on Lake Michigan so we took her to Bradford beech. My wife and granddaughter went to change into swim suits while I just sat there on the beach watching the clouds go by in the blue sky. Like a kid I tried to see into the cloud something on earth.
Imagination plays a large role in our seeing. A number of people could look at the same cloud and see a number of things. I am aware from observing children how much imagination we adults we have lost. Part of it is our education process and part of it is our believing and seeing what we want to see.
In the advertising world they say it is not reality that sells but the perception of reality. Advertisers play to our fears, like having a bad breathe or to our hopes, like buying a new car is sexy.
Sitting on the beach, with the waves crashing in, feeling the breeze on my face, absorbing the sun, seeing my granddaughter run into the frigid waters and immediately run out and allowing my imagination to be free while looking at clouds was relaxing and a great Father’s day gift.
Poor get smallest piece of pie
For years, inside the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) as a member, and now, suspended, outside of the Society, I have tried be a voice with the poor, persons in need. We are saying that the Milwaukee Council and Central staff of SVDP have lost its way and are not serving people in need as they can be. We have tried to dialog, use fact, letters and pictures to demonstrate how the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul has been thwarted in Milwaukee, the second poorest city and the most racially segregated city in the USA. People in need understand our message while those in control “Marginalize and Ignore” the messenger so they can ignore the message.
Our latest attempt is building a pie chart (side and below) to show how the 3.5 million dollar budget of the Milwaukee SVDP council and central office is being spent. This pie chart was based on the numbers in the projected and approved 2014–2015 budget of the Board of SVDP at a meeting last fall, which, before I was suspended, was present and witnessed. The local board, central office and council are very secretive and non-transparent but the percentages are based on numbers and terms used in the multi-page budget.
However, the President and Executive Director continue to say that we can be “Ensured that 91.5% of every dollar raised went directly to support people in need. SVDP is a Catholic lay volunteer organization yet has a staff of salaried employees, around 40 working in a thrift store in Greenfield (largely white), a middle class income suburb which does not serve Mission of St. Vincent de Paul or the Mission of SVDP Thrift store. Yet in the low income neighborhoods of North Central (largely African American) and the South Central (largely Hispanics) people calling the central office of SVDP looking for aide in clothing, beds, household items, appliance or future are met with the response “We do not serve your area.” It is doubtful if any of the 75 or so paid staff make household person to person visits which are the heart of the mission of SVDP.
When people in a non-profit agency raise money in name of poor but do not spend that money to aid the poor directly we have a moral problem. The only way to change it, in this case, is for the people who are in need rise up and demand a bigger piece of the pie. There will be an attempt to do this at a meeting next Tuesday, 6:30 – 7:30 at the Center Street Public library. For more information contact ReformSVDP@nonviolentcow.org
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will
be done on earth as it is in Heaven”
Usually in this posting I try to start into an observation on daily life and from looking deeply into it try to find a bigger view of life. This time it is the opposite. I take a larger view that came to me this morning and, if you look, might see something in everyday life.
When the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Earth Become One,
When humans can create like God,
The Big bang exploding universe will end with a whimper,
And all will be well, all will be well.
When the days will end and the nights will end,
When humans can see the face of God,
War and violence will end in silence.
And all will be well, all will be well.
At this end of time there will be no more crying and pain.
All will be healed in the love of God,
Peace will reign everywhere and order will be restored,
And all will be well, all will be well.
By the love of God we are here.
At the end days we will no longer be the same,
We will be free to be who we are.
All will be well, all will be well.
At the end days, like a flower, we will be in full bloom,
But at this time there will no dying.
Life eternal will flow like a river.
All will be well, all will be well.
In today’s encyclical letter LAUDATO SI’, “On Care for our Common Home, I was pleased to see Pope Francis link concerns for climate change with poverty, inequality and the ‘common good.’ Pope Francis says: “The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty.” (p. 128).
I know Catholics, as I am a Catholic, that are ready to take action on climate change but stay silent on the growing poverty in our city, especially amidst black and brown persons. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement quotes Peter Maurin, other co-founder, as saying we need to create the “kind of society where it is easier for man to be good.” The environments we have created in Milwaukee for poor, in North Central Milwaukee and South Central Milwaukee are neighborhoods with extreme poverty, racially segregation, high unemployment and poor schools. This is not the kind of environment where it is easier to be good. Also these are neighborhoods most affected by the climate change the Pope was talking about, where there is a neglect of the ‘common good’ and poor suffer from the greedy or do-gooders.
The Pope is right to connect Climate Change with Inequality: “Only when world leaders heed the Pope’s moral leadership on these two defining issues, inequality and climate change, will our societies become safer, more prosperous and more equal.” —Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International
In newspapers across the country there is column called “PolitiFact”. A statement, usually by an government official or politician is researched and rated on the ‘Truth Meter’ as false or true or, often is the case, somewhere in between like ‘half true.’
A while back I took a statement by the police chief that indicated the majority of victims of violent crime were criminals themselves and wrote the editor of “PoliticFact Wisconsin challenging this statement. Their conclusion was that it was ‘half true.’ It got me thinking how something could be ‘half true.’ I believe that the truth cannot be the non-truth or that something which is false be true.
Over a period of time I have discovered philosophical statements to back my belief that something cannot be true and false at the same time. Aristotle, the Greek philosophy from 384 - 322 B.C., made this statement about Truth in his writings on Metaphysics “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”. In history many, including Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul made similar statements. See statements below.
I am not trying to make a philosophical statement about truth but believe using the statement “Half True” is contributing to the relativism of our times. I done some research and reported ‘facts’ only to people and only to have them say that is “my interpretation and they have their own. I admit that this is my “opinion of truth” but if there are no facts or ‘truth’ we eliminate dialog and struggle to find the truth. If everyone is entitled to their own understanding of facts and truth how do we advance in science. in cultural or morality?
This world of “half true” is particularly parlaying in moral statements. If there is no right or wrong and all is relative why not just do our own thing and forget about the other. There is no “common good.”
Also “half truths” are the basis for stigmatizing and labeling. If I have a mental illness that could be true but I should not be called “mentally ill” which implies I am my mental illness. People with cancer would not be called ‘cancerous’. When politicians falsely represent something or someone but use a bit of truth the statement is false not ‘half true.’ All labels and stigmas have some truth to them but they are still false or wrong.
When someone says victims of violent crimes are criminals themselves the statement is false, even though some victims are criminals. I find myself using labels like ‘white suburbanites’ to describe people. This is also a label or stigma, a half truth.
We struggle for Truth. Gandhi called his autobiography an “experiment with truth.” Seeking truth is a lifetime struggle but to deny that truth is true and we live in a world of ‘half truths’ is, in my opinion of the truth, contributing to the polarized society we find ourselves in. There is a lot of grey in the world but when it comes to truth it cannot be false or ‘half true’.
“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.” Gandhi
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Martin Luther King Jr.
“Truth cannot contradict truth.” Pope John Paul II
Blessed are they who hunger
and thirst for righteousness,for they
will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
Today a friend and I canvassed an area in North Central Milwaukee where we will have our meeting next week to reform the Milwaukee Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP). The people we talked to seemed to instinctively know that many organizations that collect money in name of poor, as well as city, do not use the money for people in need. For them a million dollar investment in a store in suburbs makes no sense in helping the poor in their neighborhood with the basics, of food, shelter, clothing, beds and appliances. We did not need any “facts” to prove this, they just knew it. The white suburbanites that run the Milwaukee council of SVDP can be given all the “facts” in the world of how unjust what they are doing is, but it does not matter. They still believe that someday money invested in white middle class suburb will ‘trickle down’ to poor and nothing we can say or do will matter. They reject our message and marginalize us just like they do for the poor. A few times my friend, who is poor and African American herself got in such passionate conversations with people who just ‘got it’ that I had to go get her so we could move on.
Gandhi says we need to appeal to persons through heart talking. However, when a person cannot hear or see the message it does not matter how you will appeal to that person, by stories, facts or parables. They just do not want to hear the message and thus do not. The only way to appeal to persons “hard of heart”, I believe, is by some dramatic action. If we could organize a large group of the poor to cry out to members of St. Vincent de Paul about what they are doing, perhaps a few would hear or see what is happening. However, doing that is hard since the poor and people like me are skeptical if we can do anything.
My friend, however, was not skeptical. She had faith that something could happen if we kept on trying. Her faith kept me going, since I do not like going to door to door.
One woman we met, a religious minister, say we were ‘righteous people’. She did not mean that in a negative way but in the way of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Righteousness is an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been “judged” or “reckoned” as leading a life that is pleasing to God. The poor cannot easily be deceived. The poor know righteousness.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.’‘
This line about a rose comes from a poem by Gertrude Stein called “Sacred Emily” in 1922. However, over the decades it has come to have different meanings, the most common one being “things are what they are”.
Philosophically it refers to “essence” of something. It means something is what it is, or as country singers often sing “I am what I am”. In the bible when Moses questions the identity God in the burning parish the response is “I Am that I Am,” Yahweh.
Accepting things as they are, good or bad, just or unjust, beautiful or ugly in our perception does not mean we like something. To accept what it is and the first step in changing things.
If people, as they often do, say there is no racism in our society they can certainly not change racism. Accepting our powerlessness over something is the first step in 12 step programs. Accepting ourselves and others, as they are, is difficult to do. Often we can only see and hear our ‘perception of reality’ and we do not see or hear the reality.
In the Gospel Jesus often says “let those who have ears, hear and those who have eyes, see.” In a garden like ours in front of house I see beauty. But sometimes I just see a weed or two and miss out on the beauty of the garden.
Everything is always changing but if we can see deeply into something we can see its essence which does not change. Yes, a “rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” but can we see, hear and smell the roses?