Journal of daily reflections on the progress of my home-based agriculture experiments, mixed with observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends.
Workers replace an old lead pipe
with a new safer copper pipe at a
home in Flint, Michigan, March 4, 2016.
Saturday morning I attended the Community Brainstorming Conference with Ms. Lucille Berrien, 88 year old civil rights leader in Milwaukee. The Community Brainstorming featured the city clerk for City Council and Mr. Ashanti Hamilton, the President of the City Council of Milwaukee. In the question and answer period I asked Mr. Hamilton what the City Council was doing about this serious health problem of lead in the water of 70,000 homes with lead lateral pipes in city of Milwaukee. He did not really answer the questions but made reference to a report saying lead levels of children in Milwaukee was lower in recent years. I came home and wrote this letter.
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
You made the statement this morning at the Community Brainstorming Conference (CBC) session that lead poisoning in Milwaukee children has decreased in recent years. Could you please send me a copy of this study? The Wisconsin Watch Report of Jan. 2016 states:
The percentage of lead-poisoned children among those tested in Wisconsin — 4.5 percent — is similar to the 4.9 percent of children diagnosed in 2015 in the Flint region, where state and federal officials have declared a state of emergency over the spike in lead in drinking water and children’s blood.
‘’In Milwaukee, the percentage is even higher: 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
(See also Lead pipes, antiquated law threaten Wisconsin’s drinking water quality a Feb. 2016 report of Wisconsin Watch.org)’‘
You probably received these reports but ignored them. Please send me the report you referenced at CBC.
Also you made it sound like lead poisoning was discovered last January, when in fact the City of Milwaukee put a ban on replacing water mains in areas where the new main pipes would disrupt the lead lateral pipes. Many of us might have learned of danger of lead at that time but city officials have known about the dangers of lead pipes in children and infants since at least 2001, when Madison undertook a successful comprehensive plan to eradicate lead laterals in that city.
The dangers of lead poisoning in children has been well documented. Here is one report that is footnoted in a report that I wrote a while back about the intense danger to Milwaukee children from lead poisoning. Another recent report by a professor from Harvard, on the link between lead water pipes and homicide rates in cities, strengthens the case to rid our city, over 70,000 homes, mostly in North Central and South Central Milwaukee, from lead pipes.
Mayor Barrett and the Common Council have known about this lead poisoning for a long time and have not developed a strategic and comprehensive plan to deal with it. More talk and study while spending millions on a downtown streetcar and new sports arena is not the answer. I can give you specific examples where the Common Council has discussed the issue of lead laterals but failed to come up with a strategic plan to rid Milwaukee of Lead Lateral pipes.
The City of Milwaukee’s Water Department, Milwaukee Water Works, is very profitable. Since it is a non-profit it does not need to pay taxes but in lieu of taxes gives the City of Milwaukee a significant amount of money each year. The City of Waukesha is getting approval from the Great Lakes Compact to get water and return water from Great Lakes. They will be purchasing millions of dollars of water from Oak Creek since Milwaukee said no to City of Waukesha, even with the approval of 8 states and 2 Canadian provinces to the request. Our city water bills were raised to pay for new main water pipelines that are now on hold. With millions earned or being spent on downtown streetcars and sports arena it is not a matter of money while we have lead poisoning for our children. It is a matter of moral priority.
I live in one of 70, 000 homes with lead laterals. I had my water tested and found out it had a low level of lead for adults. But when I checked on safe levels of lead for children I found this: “EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.” (EPA reporton Lead in Drinking water)
I came this morning looking for understanding of this great moral and health issue in Milwaukee. Both my parents grew up in Milwaukee, as well as I, in older homes with lead pipes. Maybe I can blame lead in my brain for my disruptive behavior this morning; but I know better. The same old talk and study, running water or filters will not solve this problem. I came looking for a commitment from the Common Council President to develop a comprehensive plan to rid this plague from our children. I still have hope but a little less in the Common Council.
See the full list of articles in the Diary of a Worm.
First they ignore you
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
“Everyone in the world knows that Jesus and His teachings were nonviolent except Christians.” M. Gandhi
A Biography of Dorthy Day by Jim Forest
Letter from Dorthy Day prime directive of Gospel
In general, in the first flush of Lent, the struggle is undertaken bravely. What if during the long weeks the fervor lessens and the work of accumulating graces was continued with many lapses, but by effort of will. That time when will has to be brought into play is perhaps the most important of all, despite failures and the total lack of a sense of accomplishment, of growth. Fervor comes again with Holy Week, joy comes on the day of resurrection, with all nature singing exultantly God’s praises.
To keep united to God through the suffering Humanity of His son—that is the aim of Lent. — Dorothy Day from her column “Day After Day”, The Catholic Worker, April 1935
People Need to be Distrubed.
“When it is said that we disturb people too much by the words pacifism and anarchism, I can only think that people need to be disturbed, that their consciences need to be aroused, that they do indeed need to look into their work, and study new techniques of love and poverty and suffering for each other. Of course the remedies are drastic, but then too the evil is a terrible one and we are all involved, we are all guilty, and most certainly we are all going to suffer. The fact that we have “the faith,” that we go to the sacraments, is not enough. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ with napalm, nerve gas, our hydrogen bomb, our ‘new look’.” (“Are The Leaders Insane?” By Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, April 1954, 1, 6.}
“Paper work, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens — these things, too, are the works of peace, and often seem like a very little way.”
— Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage, December 1965
There is no explanation of most of what goes on in our own hearts
“The heart of man can be full of so much pain, even when things are exteriorly all right”. It becomes all the more difficult because today we are used to thinking that there are explanations for everything. But there is no explanation of most of what goes on in our own hearts, and we cannot account for it all. No use resorting to the kind of mental tranquillizers that even religious explanations sometimes offer. Faith must be deeper than that, rooted in the unknown and in the abyss of darkness that is the ground of our being. No use teasing the darkness to try to make answers grow out of it. But if we learn how to have a deep inner patience, things solve themselves, or God solves them if you prefer: but do not expect to see how. Just learn to wait, and do what you can and help other people. Often it is in helping someone else we find the best way to bear our own trouble.” — Thomas Merton from his Christmas letter, 1966
Where we are all going?
…. “I am sick up to the teeth and beyond the teeth, up to the eyes and beyond the eyes, with all forms of projects and expectations and statements and programs and explanations of anything, especially explanations about where we are all going, because where we are all going is where we went a long time ago, over the falls. We are in a new river and we don’t know it.”
(extract from a letter from Thomas Merton to Daniel Berrigan)
Violence embedded in culture itself
“The real focus of American violence is not in esoteric groups but in the very culture itself, its mass media, its extreme individualism and competitiveness, its inflated myths of virility and toughness, and its overwhelming preoccupation with the power of nuclear, chemical, bacteriological, and psychological overkill. If we live in what is essentially a culture of overkill, how can we be surprised at finding violence in it? Can we get to the root of the trouble? In my opinion, the best way to do it would have been the classic way of religious humanism and non-violence exemplified by Gandhi. That way seems now to have been closed. I do not find the future reassuring,” — Thomas Merton edited with an introduction by Gordon C. Zahn (Boston, MA: McCall’s Publishing Company, 1971), p. 230
If you want to study modern history
If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.-- Thomas Merton New Seeds of Contemplation, ch 17
worshiping the false self in place of God
“After all, what is your personal identity? It is what you really are, your real self. None of us is what he thinks he is, or what other people think he is, still less what his passport says he is… And it is fortunate for most of us that we are mistaken. We do not generally know what is good for us. That is because, in St. Bernard’s language, our true personality has been concealed under the ‘disguise’ of a false self, the ego, whom we tend to worship in place of God.” —Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe
Harcourt & Brace, 1949, p. 349
silence between words
“For language to have meaning, there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him. For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence,”
—Thomas Merton, “Philosophy of Silence,” in Disputed Questions
(NY: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1960), p. 181
America, you must be born again
“A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will “thingify” them—make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you must be born again!’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
Poor in the Military
“Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence
Priority of Conscience
“And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is agrave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.” Fr. Roy Bourgeois in his letter to Maryknoll why he could not recant his belief and public statements that support the ordination of women.
“Over the pope … there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.” Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI,in his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s document, Gaudium et Spes.
Nonviolence or Militarism
Breaking the Silence
Dorthy Day’s Worst Nightmare
By Eyal Press
In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards.
Shortly after Harriet Krzykowski began working at the Dade Correctional Institution, in Florida, an inmate whispered to her, “You know they starve us, right?” It was the fall of 2010, and Krzykowski, a psychiatric technician, had been hired by Dade, which is forty miles south of Miami, to help prisoners with clinical behavioral problems follow their treatment plans. The inmate was housed in Dade’s mental-health ward, the Transitional Care Unit, a cluster of buildings connected by breezeways and equipped with one-way mirrors and surveillance cameras. “I thought, Oh, this guy must be paranoid or schizophrenic,” she said recently. Moreover, she’d been warned during her training that prisoners routinely made false accusations against guards. Then she heard an inmate in another wing of the T.C.U. complain that meal trays often arrived at his cell without food. After noticing that several prisoners were alarmingly thin, she decided to discuss the matter with Dr. Cristina Perez, who oversaw the inpatient unit.
Krzykowski, an unassuming woman with pale skin and blue eyes, was thirty at the time. The field of correctional psychology can attract idealists who tend to see all prisoners as society’s victims and who distrust anyone wearing a security badge—corrections officers call such people “hug-a-thugs.” But Krzykowski, who had not worked at a prison before, believed that corrections officers performed a difficult job that merited respect. And she assumed that the prison management did not tolerate any form of abusive behavior.
Perez was a slender, attractive woman in her forties, with an aloof manner. When Krzykowski told her that she’d heard “guys aren’t getting fed,” Perez did not seem especially concerned. “You can’t trust what inmates say,” she responded. Krzykowski noted that complaints were coming from disparate wings of the T.C.U. This was not unusual, Perez said, since inmates often devised innovative methods to “kite” messages across the facility.
Krzykowski mentioned that she had overheard security guards heckling prisoners. One officer had told an inmate, “Go ahead and kill yourself—no one will miss you.” Again, Perez seemed unfazed. “It’s just words,” she said. Then, as Krzykowski recalls it, Perez leaned forward and gave her some advice: “You have to remember that we have to have a good working relationship with security.”
Not long after this conversation, Krzykowski was working a Sunday shift, and a guard told her that, because of a staff shortage, T.C.U. inmates would not be allowed in the prison’s recreation yard. The yard, a cement quadrangle with weeds sprouting through the cracks, had few amenities, but for many people in the T.C.U. it
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” - Albert Einstein
“Since war itself is the most extreme form of terrorism, a war on terrorism is profoundly self-contradictory.” -Howard Zinn
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily, to them will We give a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on them their reward according to the best of their actions.” Quran 16:97
“In the Catholic Worker we must try to have the voluntary poverty of St. Francis, the charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the intellectual approach of St. Dominic, the easy conversations about things that matter of St. Philip Neri, the manual labor of St. Benedict.” - Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement
Jokes and Editorial Cartoons
Restoring the Senses, Gardening and Orthodox Easter