As we get closer to Thanksgiving there is a lot concern about feeding the hungry. Today food pantries, meal programs, programs like Share and food stamps help a growing number of people get enough food to survive. Also there is a push, headlined by First Lady Obama, for children to eat healthy.
However, in my home visits to low income families with the St. Vincent De Paul Society I discovered one major obstacle to eating healthy food. As the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer there are more and more low income families without a refrigerator and stove. Landlords, in an effort to keep their income from dropping too much, are more frequently not providing refrigerators and stoves in their rental units.
Low income persons can find sources of food but often do not have ways to refrigerate or cook the food. Therefore they often use their food stamps for what some call “gas station food”, ready to eat or “fast food”, both expensive and not healthy choices.
Catholic Churches, like ours, Blessed Trinity Church, with a St. Vincent De Paul Conference are among the few, if not the only ones, that can provide help with refrigerators or stoves. And all we can afford is a $100 voucher to a used appliance store for a stove or refrigerator. Used refrigerators and stoves can cost about $150 to $200, leaving the low income person to make up the difference.
So while I applaud all the concerns to collect food and money to feed those in need, I ask what about the refrigerator to preserve the food and the stove to cook the food? What non-profit is asking “where is the fridge?
Trick or Treat - Saturday, October 30, 2010
Tomorrow is Halloween but tonight the neighborhood children came out in their costumes to get their treats. I purchased more candy than ever before, but my wife ran out before the last child came. I guess Halloween gets bigger each year.
Tonight I was asked to make a brief presentation at a conference of the Utopian Society about my experiences in the 60’s and 70’s. I was on a panel with persons with experiences in civil rights and education reform at that time. Preparing for this talk I had to recall memories of the time and realized how exciting and natural life was at this time. Like a child at Halloween we did not know what the next open door would bring but we were ready to get excited and find joy.
You can find via the internet memories of these times in Milwaukee. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has put together a digital collection of the civil rights projects called The March On Milwaukee: Civil Rights History Project. On my web site you can find some memories of the Milwaukee 14 action of 1968, destroying 1A Selective Service.
But this look back at the 60’s for the Utopian Society and for us present was not for nostalgia or to share stories of the past. It was to learn from the past how to create a better society in the present day. To the scholars of the Utopia society it is called ‘concrete Utopia’, learning from the past efforts to create a better society today. The sixties and seventies are a good time for this kind of study since some of us really believe we were working “to build a new society within the shell of the old”.
This looking to the past to create a better tomorrow is the reason I called my site about the Milwaukee 14 action of 1968 the Milwaukee 14 Today.
Children at Halloween come to our doors saying: “Trick or Treat”. Those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to find the same old tricks and make the same old mistakes. Those who learn from the past will find the future a real treat.
In life there is a place for the serious and for not so serious. Here is a bit of both.
On October 15th my friend and I wrote a letter to our local Archbishop responding to an article he wrote in the local Catholic newspaper calling abortion the ‘premier social issue.’ The next day an article in the local newspaper said how the Archbishop was willing to mediate with victims of sexual abuse by priests but was hesitant to open all the records. I wrote this letter about what I consider the ‘premier social issues’ and the need for the Church to be direct and transparent in its dealing with public. Read our letter on the Premier Social Issue.
Now for the not-so-serious. My friend that sends out jokes daily sent me this link to a Halloween Bowling Game. Not only is the game not so serious, it is nonsense fun. The only object of this silly Halloween Bowling game is enjoyment. Check it out! Can you bowl over 100?
In life and nature there is the serious, moral issue of teaching war at a Catholic university, and the not-so-serous — a silly Halloween Bowling internet game.
Love Our Enemy - Thursday, October 28, 2010
Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr., persons that I admire, were constantly searching for the truth. They did not claim to have the truth but were always struggling to discover the truth. When they believed something was important they acted on their ‘opinion of truth.’
I mentioned this because tonight I and other members of Breaking the Silence listened to a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist talk at Marquette University about the real meaning of objectivity. According to her it does not mean being neutral, presenting both sides without passion or values. A true journalist seeks the truth of a story while admitting she is describing her own opinion of the truth.
I kept thinking of an institution like Marquette University that professes certain moral and ethical values in its mission statement. If Marquette only says it believes in these values and truths but does not practice them in the operation of the university it is not fulfilling its mission. Young men and women, I have learned over the years, learn more from actions than words.
After the meeting I had a chance to talk with the Provost of Marquette University and another administrator. As Provost he is responsible for academic affairs and institutional planning. Also as Provost he provides intellectual vision and leadership for the 10 academic deans.
Marquette hosts three departments of military sciences for the region. When I expressed concerns about the academic, moral and ethical values and standards taught on campus in these military schools he said that was my ‘opinion.’ I agree with him but asked what would happen if other moral and ethical values contrary to the Catholic Church were taught in the curricula of other departments in the university. He said that would not happen since he and his office oversee all the curricula of the university. I asked him if that referred to the three departments of military sciences at the university and he admitted that this was not true. These three departments of the the university are not subject to the oversight of the provost. I guess they trust the military departments at the university to do the right thing. They responded to my quoting from the Army Manual which says that army values take priority over religious values and to the Army teaching on reflexive killing, killing without conscience by calling them my ‘opinions’.
My friend Joe joined the discussion and said how we have been “ruined by our Jesuit education” which taught us to practice what we believe. We all laughed at that remark but it displays the extent of the militarization of the education system. When a Provost of a major Jesuit Catholic University does not share in the ‘opinion of the truth’ which we learned from the Gospel and our Catholic faith, when all truth is relative, even killing without conscience, one has to wonder what Marquette or any Christian university that hosts schools of the army stand for.
The military is very good at teaching young men and woman who is the enemy and how to kill them. Christian universities are not very good at teaching young men and women who is the enemy and how to love them.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What about a picture with words? Check out this large Catholic Worker art: Works of Mercy/Works of War by Rita Corbin and color banner by Brian Watson. For large version click continue below.
Today the strong wind blew down the fence that I was going to replace next spring. The bad news, the fence fell down, is the good news, the fence fell down. My passion for social justice has got me in trouble but it has given meaning to my life. People that called me a ‘prophet’ now call me ‘self righteous’. I have been complimented and insulted by the same person on the same issue. I make mistakes and seek to correct them. I am a sinner and am blessed.
If I seem defensive in the above I do not mean to. What I am learning again and again in life is that we all must do what our reflective conscience says to do, no matter if it pleases people or not, no matter if it is popular or not.
I learned it again today when some old friends moved back to town and before I could talk with them about what was happening and encourage them to pick up on an activity we had done on an issue they were concerned about, they were talked to by others about me and had decided to resume their prior course of activity on the issue.
To use a garden analogy I feel like a plant that has been trampled on and needs to dig deeper into its roots to keep going. After surviving being trampled on the plant grows stronger.
After suffering the loss of my son it has been harder to live. I must choose life more consciously each day. That is the good news and the bad news.
Fair Trade T Shirt
A little bit of gardening, some reading, writing and emailing, cooking dinner and lots of craft time making T Shirts was my day. Actually I just made five red “fair trade” T shirts. But this was new challenge for me and took time. I was much more comfortable and efficient raking leaves from the gutter and putting them in the compost pile.
Part of my emailing today was to defend my statement that I will not vote in this election, a choice I wrote about in these postings, Cast Votes Each Day and Why Not Vote. My defense today was simply that I am tired of ‘playing defense’. With all the money, in just three races three candidates have spent over 247 million dollars in negative ads. Issues and facts are ignored and we react and play defense.
Ignoring facts is allowing a rich few, the ‘powers that be’ to become richer while the rest of us become poorer. One of the facts I heard tonight on the Charlie Rose ”show was that “10% of people in American make 50% of the income and half of that is made by 1%.”
An article in Common Dreams sent to me today presents facts how the Rich are getting richer and everyone else poorer. Bill Quigley, the author of the article states the facts how “rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class. They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share.”
This fact that the rich are becoming richer and everyone else getting poorer can be ignored, can put us on the defense or we can go on the offense and take direct action to speak in word and action. Words are easier than action but only by taking nonviolent action can we change this trend of the rich getting richer. So making T Shirts with a message is an action in the right direction.
Casting a vote on a home visit
My wife and I made three home visits for our St. Vincent De Paul conference today. In all three cases they were single mothers who were desperately poor, without some of the basics, like a refrigerator, stove and beds. Two had lost their jobs during these tough times and one had just moved into apartment with nothing in it, not even a chair to sit on. We did what little we could do for these families and they were very grateful. All three were church going woman who expressed faith that God would get them though these tough times.
I mentioned this because of the response I got to an email I wrote to friends about who would win the elections, the candidate with most political money, and how the vote for ‘change’ that I participated in two years ago did not mean much. There is now more poverty in Milwaukee, more war by USA in the world, less health care for families and more debt for us. I tried to say it does not matter if a Republican or Democrats win, the poor become poorer and the rich, who choose the candidates by their money, get richer. The only response I got was how important voting was and to give the present politicians more time.
Whenever I hear a Republican or Democrat say “I will cut your taxes” I hear “I will make life tougher for the poor.” Not that we need more government spending, but we do need more spending for the ‘common good’ rather than for war and making the rich richer.
The millions and millions going to election campaigns is enough to provide the basics of shelter, food and clothing to all Americans.
The older I get the more I come around the position of the Catholic Worker and Dorothy Day. Dorothy never voted but endorsed what has been called a “Christian Anarchism”. She said in a 1977 article: To us at the Catholic Worker, anarchism means ‘Love God, and do as you will.’ For such, there is no law. If anyone asks for your cloak, give him your coat too.” I understand this is a radical view that perhaps we cannot always live up to.
When we return to a government by the people and for the people that serves the ‘common good’ and not special interests I will probably vote in elections again. But until that time I will vote with my home visits to those in need. Who needs an election day when we can cast votes each day with our love for the family of God, especially those most in need.
Blessed Mother Therese
Today two driving events, where I drive someone in need and without transportation to a health care appointment or to visit an ill person, were canceled. However, I picked up three more. This is not a ministry that I chose but it is a blessed one. When people feel guilty about being dependent on my driving them I usually thank them for the privilege of being able to drive them and tell them that I am blessed by being with them.
Some of my blessings were cashed in today. For the first time since the shadow of death enveloped me, after my son’s death, the sun did not shine. I had been praying for the sun to shine each day since the sun helps keep my spirits up. However, today it was dark and gloomy but I did not feel the shadow of death very much. My blessings from my driving must have been cashed in.
Some of the things I was able to do at the time I gained from the canceled driving experience today was to clean out the garage, pick and clean some of the last vegetables from the garden and get ready for the football game.
Today was the day of the big football between Wisconsin, my team, and Iowa, my brother’s, who lives in Iowa City, team. It was a close, exciting game, which Wisconsin won by one point, 31–30. I wonder if that victory cost me any blessings. Blessings come from being with those in need, but cashing in blessings is controlled by a ‘higher power’.
A good part of this sunny day my wife and I spent with art, craft and music. We picked and framed 10 works of our deceased son’s art for NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) art show. In the process we discovered more art of my son. He was a prolific and creative artist. On his web page, Peter’s Art Peter said he wanted to share his art. It is sad he could not do this for himself but it is important for us to do so.
The craft project was making T shirts for an upcoming nonviolent action. A friend told us about a technique to design on a computer and print artwork on transfer paper. We then iron it on a T shirt. The first one worked today and hopefully there will be many more before our nonviolent action.
The music was at a celebration and fund raiser for a friend that has been active in the peace movement for many years. The musicians were familiar ones, like Harvey Taylor and audience was full of persons from the peace scene in Milwaukee.
Sadly we remembered during the concert that we have forgotten to turn off the iron after putting on the transfers on the T shirt. We left early and discovered we had left the iron on. However, technology saved us since the fan was on but not hot. The heat element had automatically turned off. We missed some good music but where glad to be home and safe.
I got a little compost making done today but it was mostly about art, craft and music.
Tonight for a middle eastern dinner I had a few guests who, like I, were active in the 60’s social justice and peace movement in Milwaukee and will be part of a presentation to the Utopia Society convention in Milwaukee this year. For one plenary session some of us involved in the social justice and peace movement in the 60’s will tell our stories, our dreams and struggles for a better society. The word Utopia comes from the Greek words meaning a good place. Utopia is about our struggle to create a better society or, as Peter Maurin, co founder of the Catholic Worker, used to say, we need to create a society where it is easier to be good.
In this sense telling some of the stories of the sixties can be a good way of understanding how we can, as we Christians pray, make the kingdom of heaven on earth. As we were talking over dinner it became clear that one of the difference between the sixties and now is that, while there were many diverse causes amidst us, we had much more togetherness. In the major struggles of civil rights and the anti-war movement there was common focus we all shared.
One of the persons at dinner tonight was married to one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in Milwaukee in the 60’s, Jim Groppi. She has produced a play called “March on Milwaukee” and help convene a digital history of the civil rights movement called March on Milwaukee: Civil Rights History Project. In the play and on the web site you can see and almost feel the tremendous struggle that was involved in getting an open housing bill passed in Milwaukee.
I participated in the in the Open Housing Marches, in the ‘Respond’ to desegregate Marquette University and in the Milwaukee 14 action against the selective service system. These three actions took place in the years 1967 and 1968. Will we see a time of change like this again? I do not know about the future but believe that for now we are too scattered, not focused or together.
This summer we, Breaking the Silence had our ‘Freedom Marches’ at major festivals in Milwaukee. Our marches were not as well attended as Open Housing Marches in the 60’s, and were largely ignored by ‘powers that be’ and the media. But as Martin Luther King Jr. said, we have no choice but to march against injustice and war. So the March on Milwaukee continues.
Fall Fun Fear - Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Fall Fun Fear is the best. Fall brings Halloween. The scary of Halloween, the ghost, creatures and witches, are full of fun. The jolly scarecrows in my rain garden and sitting on the rail of the neighbor’s porch do not do much scaring but add to fall colors and fun.
All this fall fear fun comes at a good time. Fear seems to reign in our society. We fear terrorism, immigrants, what people will think of us, walking the streets at night, people who are different than us, accidents and. of course, the enemies. When people are afraid, the government can more easily control persons.
Now I understand why Jesus, in his universal messages, says over and over again “Be Not Afraid.” Fear is powerful but as FDR said “All we have to fear is fear itself.”
I find one of the advantages of feeling death each day is that when one feels like dying many things to fear disappears.
Fall precedes winter, dying precedes death and death precedes spring and new life. So let us enjoy fall fun fear.
Prayer Vigil for a Homicide Victim
I guess I was not the only one who noticed the ‘violence’ in football over the weekend. The National Football League (NFL) announced today there will be suspension for illegal tackles, like using your helmet to tackle. I guess it took a weekend of injuries from violent collisions to wake up the NFL. I heard one high school coach on Public Radio say that in grade school and high school youth are taught the safe and correct way to tackle. However, when kids grow up and play football in college and the pros these lessons seem to be forgotten.
This morning we had a prayer vigil for a young man killed on the North side of Milwaukee. The family was there and the mother spoke and prayed eloquently about her son. She said that when family members got mad and upset with him he would never fight back. He would just take in the words of anger and not get angry himself. The taking in of violence in any form, accepting it and responding, but not giving it back, is an essential element of nonviolence in my mind. This nonviolent young man was killed by violence as the number of homicides grows.
Tonight we, Breaking the Silence met to discuss how to stop teaching war and violence at Marquette University, a local Catholic Jesuit University. How Marquette can host a school of the army, teaching violence and values contrary to Christianity, points out how pervasive violence is in our society.
Violence is so pervasive that we can stop noticing it. It takes a violent weekend of injuries to wake up the NFL. The causes of violence in our central cities, poor education, lack of jobs, broken families are well documented. But a serious war on poverty is too expensive when we have so many other wars to fight around the world. We try to break the silence at Marquette but so far are mostly ignored.
Yet what choice to we have but to continue to meet violence not with violence but with creative nonviolence.
Pulling up in my driveway today in my car, I noticed the fall beauty of the front yard gardens. I meant to take a picture but forgot.
I am so grateful the sun remains strong each day, overcoming the shadow of death that covers me.
With these thoughts in mind I went to see my spiritual director today. He reminded me of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins a 19th century Jesuit poet. I had studied Hopkins when I was a young student but did not remember this poem, which puts together the falling fall and the dark death shadow I am experiencing. Hopkins has a way of using alliteration that takes some thought by the reader, but pays off with interest. Here is the poem that I was reminded about. If you are grieving over leaves leaving or the death of a loved one, the poem rings true.
Spring and Fall
to a young child
MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Today was a beautiful sunny fall day and my brother and I were fortunate to be able to attend the Green Bay Packer football game. Sadly the Packers lost in overtime.
I have been to Green Packer football games before, about once a year, using my son and daughter in law’s tickets, but for the first time today the violence of the game struck me. Perhaps it was because the Green Bay team has had so many injuries this year or maybe it was hearing about a college football player being paralyzed yesterday. I enjoyed watching the game but must admit it is a violent game.
This reaction to the game today reminds how I felt when I was a kid and on an occasional Thursday night my father took me to watch stock car races at State Fair Park. I enjoyed the races and felt it was more exciting when there was a crash. Of course I did not want to see anyone injured so I found myself looking for a crash with a touch of guilt.
As an adult I do not have the passion my dad had for racing but do enjoy football. All the hits, tackles and crashes of players on one another add to my enjoyment.
Walking out of the game today after the close loss in overtime, I heard some fans expressing their anger and frustration by using violent words. Violent play can lead to violent words. I will keep watching football but, like watching stock car races, there now will be a touch of guilt.
On October 8th I wrote on this Diary of the Worm about learning a lesson from the garden to respond, not to react, to life. In October a number of friends have responded, not reacted, to these postings. Since a person that checks these postings occasionally probably does not check back for responses, I would like to highlight some of the responses this month.
On my October 1st post about Trespassing Our Conscience, my friend Omar responded about how we must become aware of trespassing on our consciences and respond in our everyday lives.
On October 3rd Brian, my friend, responded to the posting on the Option for the Poor that when we practice compassion we lessen our own poverty.
On October 6th Bob responded on how homicides in Milwaukee used to be treated as a ‘huge deal’ but now are ‘ho-hum’.
Finally on October 10th my friend in Texas, Dave, gave some fascinating bits of history about coffee houses and the early patriots’ preference for coffee over tea.
We all deeply appreciate when friends respond. Thank you Omar, Brian, Dave and Bob. Responses by all are always welcome.
My prayers for sunny fall to continue until the shadow of death is lifted from me continues. This morning I was not so sure, as it was cloudy and chilly. However, around noon the sun came out and all was well.
My wife, Pat, and I took a bike ride on the Oak Leaf Bike Trail that runs near out house through Doyne County Park. With the leaves turning and falling the ride was not only healthy for exercise and beautiful to the eyes, but uplifting to the spirit.
The bike trail, Oak Leaf, winds around the city. In the spring I call it the Grape Leaf trail due to all the grape leaf vines that line it. However, in the fall it definitely is the Oak Leaf Trail.
When I came home I went out to the street in front of the house to rake up leaves for use on the compost pile in the back. The leaves with coffee grounds, I picked up this morning behind a coffee shop, will make for some good compost during the winter for spring.
Bike riding, like gardening outside, will take a rest in the cold of the winter. But for now darkness of winter will need to wait. We still can ride into the fall.
Keep Driving - Thursday, October 14, 2010
Driving some friends in need today I realized that all the persons I drive are younger than me. The problem is they either are too ill to drive or do not have a car, and public transportation is terrible in Milwaukee. One friend I drove to a doctor’s appointment the other day takes a few courses at a local university. For a one hour class she needs to spend four hours on a bus or waiting for the bus. The bus line she depends on to go to school has been reduced to only two buses. The doctor’s appointment was at a place where she would need to take a bus and walk about 40–50 blocks to get to it.
One friend, younger than me, whom I drove home from a prayer vigil for another homicide victim, told me about the high cost of the cab services that are supposed to be targeted for the elderly and ill. The cost is more than poor persons can afford, and the service is not very efficient. This friend has 18 diagnosed illnesses yet still is active in groups like Mothers Against Gun Violence and the DMZ Community Garden. The blessings of God keep her going, serving the needs of others.
I mentioned that these persons and others I help by driving are younger than me, for today I heard from someone I was soliciting to get involved in a political human rights issue I am working on. This person, who is still active at work responded: “Thanks for your invitation to join you but I am busy on many projects and causes and in my 80th year of life I am slow to expand.”
I am only 67 and trying to be “slow to expand”. Yet the needs of my younger friends are growing. Hopefully I can keep driving and stay young and active until I am 80.
Driving a friend back from a doctor’s appointment today we started talking about Social Darwinism which, as it turns out, does not have much to do with Charles Darwin. Rather Social Darwinism is a pejorative term used for various late nineteenth century ideologies which, while often contradictory, exploited ideas of survival of the fittest. Some would say the most prominent form of such a view today stressing competition between individuals is free market capitalism.
I was glad to find out that Social Darwinism does not have much to do with Charles Darwin since he is one of the early persons to research the wonder of worms, remarkable creatures that are not the fittest but have survived since the time of the Dinosaurs. For me the worm is a good symbol of the adaptability of nature.
This understanding comes at the same time when another person sends me a quote about anarchism, which is another term often used in a pejorative way. This quote about anarchism comes from a Catholic Worker friend and is by another well known Catholic Worker Ammon Hennacy. Actually his understanding of Anarchism is appealing to me and strikes me more like the way nature works. Charles Darwin and Ammon Hennacy seem like soul mates. Here is the quote from Ammon. Check it out and maybe you will agree that Nature is an Anarchist.
From 9 this morning till 4 this afternoon I was on the go, taking a friend to two Doctors’ appointments, attending two prayer vigils for homicide victims, going to a doctor’s appointment of my own, picking up an ironing board for my friend Ella, and taking it to a MPS school where she will start teaching how to make patch quilts tomorrow.
I like to connect and integrate my life, so when I got home I started to think about the events of the day and what they had in common. First I thought it was women, since women were involved in each event. My ill friend, my doctor, Ella and Sister Rose who coordinates the prayer vigils are all women.
Than it struck me that even more significantly what each event had in common was the technology of my cell phone. I use my cell phone to schedule all my events, even putting on it the addresses of the prayer vigils and reminder rings before all event. My friend Ella called me on the cell phone about picking up the ironing board originally and happened to call me when I was in the store looking at one to purchase for her.
So was it women or my cell phone that tied together these diverse events. Naturally I would rather it be the women, but must live with it fact that it may be the technology of the cell phone. Or maybe it was both, women and a cell phone.
Sunny Sunday turned into Sunny Monday. Sunny fall days continue and the leaves continue to fall.
Working in the garden, walking around or driving, all is better on sunny fall days. All the darkness of my son’s death this summer continues to haunt me. I feel constantly like I am dying. So the brightness of the sun on my soul is so important. I pray that this sunny fall weather stays until this dark shadow leaves.
When I was younger a friend told me that to live life fully I had to face death daily. I was not sure what he meant and took it more metaphorically. Now that I feel death daily I understand how it takes living fully to keep going with death all around. Sunny days live on.
Thank God for creating coffee, real coffee not decaffeinated. My coffee of choice is Juan Ana Coffee from San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala. I was introduced to this coffee some years ago when traveling with Global Awareness Through Experience (GATE). We visited San Lucas Tolimán, a small village where a co-operative produces this coffee.
San Lucas Tolimán is in a part of the world where conditions are perfect for raising the very best of coffees. It is high in the mountains in the very foothills of the volcanoes Tolimán and Atitlan. San Lucas Tolimán is on the shores of the magnificent Lake Atitlan. The soil is volcanic ash rich in organic matter. The days are warm but nights cool. It is perfect altitude, climate, and soil conditions for excellent coffee production.
After dinner one night I was enjoying a cup of this coffee and said out loud to the local pastor, Father Greg, that I wished I could purchase Juan Ana Coffee in the USA. He said I could and told me that the Mission Office in New Ulm, MN, where he was from, was taking orders and shipping the coffee out. I asked how much it cost and said it was the same price that I could purchase it there, $7 for a 17 oz sealed bag within a canvas bag. All the money goes directly to persons who grow and packaged the coffee. There is additional charge for UPS delivery but even with this additional cost, this high quality coffee is still less that quality fair trade coffee in the States.
This memory trip back to my journey in Guatemala (see Buried in Guatemala) comes on a day when coffee keeps me going. For some reason my body has been extremely tired these days and to keep my mind working I turned to a few more cups of coffee than I would normally drink in a day.
Some countries, like India and England, rely on tea to relax and offer some energy. In the USA many of us are coffee drinkers the way God created it. We rely on it, for better or worse, to give us a lift during the day. Thank God for Juan Ana Coffee and the people of San Lucas Tolimán.
Today, another sunny fall day, I took my camera and went on a walk looking for the beauty of fall trees. I did not have to go far to find some. Our next door neighbor has planted a small tree in his front yard that turned fire red this fall.
In life, as in this fall walk, we do not have to go far to find beauty. We just need eyes to see and ears to hear. Sadly the same could be same for the ugly. Blessings and peace surround us, as do curses and violence.
The beauty of fall was around me today in nature, and by email I was reminded of the ugliness of nuclear destruction. The article in the National Catholic Reporter was about the pre-trial of some Catholic Workers who are trying to stop the construction of a new nuclear bomb plant in Kansas City, the nation’s first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years. After the court sessions two of the defendants went over to the city council to disrupt the meeting and demand they stop the plant. The picture of these two shows them full of fire yelling “start telling the truth” regarding the funding of the new nuclear plant. As police escorted the two out of the council chambers one of them told reporters they were acting in the tradition of Old Testament prophets and “just doing what the holy men did.”
The two were on fire decrying the ugliness of this new nuclear plant, as the tree was on fire with the beauty of fall.
Response of the Garden
I am always talking about learning from nature and the garden. Here is another lesson taught me by the garden. Now it is time for me to do it.
The main lesson I need to learn and practice is that the garden always responds to conditions, never reacts. If there is enough sun and rain, plants respond by growing. If not, they wither and die not react. Reaction implies a give back of something without taking it in first. Response implies that you take in something first and then give back, if necessary. For example, if someone insults a person, a reaction would be to give back an insult and get angry. However, a response would be to absorb the insult and then give back something, if necessary and useful. The same could be said for violence. A reaction is to give violence back but a response might be to seek healing or nonviolent action.
This lesson of the garden of responding not reacting is one I have learned many times but still have not mastered. It is especially difficult to do for me with emails. Emails are frozen words so the tendency is to react, shoot one back without careful thought and reflection, rather than to respond.
Living life by taking in what is given you in life rather than always reacting is much more exciting. You never know what challenges may come your way, and considering each one before a response and not reacting makes the garden of life full of joy.
Manna from Trees
The weather has been wonderful this week, the tomatoes are still growing and changing to red and the colorful leaves paint the ground and trees with the rays of many colors.
Leaves from the trees, besides adding color to a fall day, are like manna for a gardener. Leaves compost easily over the winter and make for a rich black soil in the spring. Some small cities and towns collect the leaves, compost them and give citizen of the area back some organic soil in the spring.
Some big cities, like Milwaukee, have paid someone to sweep up the leaves and take them out to the country for composting. Then these leaves, composted to rich soil, are sold to companies that make fertilizers and sell it back to us.
Making compost is easy; just pile one layer of nitrogen (coffee grounds, vegetable waste and such) on another layer of carbon (wood chips or leaves). This morning I heard on the radio my old friend, James Godsil, co-founder of Milwaukee Renaissance, where the Diary of the Worm was born. Godsil is now a partner in Sweet Water Organics, urban fish farmers and vegetable growers. He was explaining in simple and clear language how to compost. James was the one who introduced me to Growing Power and power of worms. I, in turn, helped him build his first compost pile. Now he is an ‘urban farmer’.
Each day I go out to the street in front of my house and my neighbors’ to rake the leaves into a wheel barrow and take them to my compost pile or to my worm depository, a mound of compost where worms can winter. No commercial outfit is going to take my manna from the trees and profit from it.
Prayer Vigil for 3 year old
There is a group of people who hold prayer vigils for homicide victims on the sidewalks near where they died. This morning we had three prayer vigils, the last one for a 3 year old child.
The headlines in the newspaper yesterday proclaimed “Homicide numbers match total for all of 2009.” By the police count, which is always lower than this group’s count, there were 72 killings as of yesterday with three months to go in the year. All of last year there were 72 by police count.
The Police Chief, when asked about these numbers, said in an interview that “an analysis of this year’s homicides reveals several differences in the circumstances surrounding some of this year’s killings when compared with last year’s.” However, when he gave his analysis he pointed out that “12 people have been killed this year in five separate multiple-victim homicides; two homicides involved prostitution and 5 involved homeless people; 90% of this year’s homicide victims has been arrested as adults.” He then went out to say how the crime rate has dropped, and how successful he has been since he came to Milwaukee a few years ago.
I read his analysis in disbelief. Was he implying that the homicide rate increased because some of the victims were prostitutes, homeless persons, casualties of multiple-victim homicides or had had been arrested before? I felt he was blaming the victims for being victims.
In our prayer vigils we pray for all homicide victims, be they children three years of age, homeless persons, or persons with arrest records. All victims of homicides are human beings and no matter whether they are rich or poor, with arrest records or no, should be treated with respect and dignity. Their deaths should be mourned no matter who they are.
No one deserves to be a homicide victim, and increased victims this year simply means we need to do more to prevent homicides. There are no excuses for homicides.
Be Not Afraid
Some children are afraid of worms, but that is a fear that is easily overcome. Some peace and justice activists are afraid of the FBI, and that fear is not so easily overcome.
In a week where 100,000 persons gathered for peace and justice in Washington D.C., all I hear about from local peace groups is protesting the FBI inquiry into peace and justice persons in three or four other states. No person has been charged, but the reaction has been great all over the nation. The issues of war and peace and discrimination seem to get lost in this reaction to the FBI investigation.
Today I heard on public radio that the Obama administration was introducing into congress a new law for new media, like the internet or social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. The law would require them to give the same access to government as the 1994 law forced phone companies to give. This would mean that with a warrant the FBI could tap into emails, tweets and Facebook pages. The commentator thought the new law would pass since Republicans are big on domestic security and Democrats want to please the president.
Could the latest FBI raids be a diversion to get peace and justice groups reacting and away from the real issues facing our nation? Also, reaction to the raids could set the stage for this new invasion of privacy bill to get passed.
I remember in the sixties that the FBI and other law enforcement groups used to tap our phones and follow us around. We never protested and often made light of it. We just kept our focus on civil rights and stopping the war in Vietnam. My simple message to this age of peace activists is “keep your eye on the prize” and fear not the FBI. Like the working worms, they are just doing their job. Reacting, rather than responding, can only strengthen fear and be a diversion. Fear Not the FBI.
This tree, pictured in front of my house, is no ordinary tree. It is unique. There is no other exactly like it in the world. Now it is full of color but soon the leaves will fall leaving the tree bare for the winter in order to soak up more sun, so in spring it can bear buds that turn green in the summer. There is a time for everything under the sun and trees know when to shed leaves and went to spring up new leaves. Each unique tree is tied into the weather, the sun and heat and cold.
Knowing the right time to speak or be silent, to listen or talk, to act or not, to speak out or withhold our voice has been difficult for me. I need to learn from the tree, sense the time to shed, be quiet and grow again. Although trees have no ears they listen to themselves and feel when it is the right time.
The weather is great this week for working outside preparing the gardens for winter. I need to do more of that this week since soon it will be cold with little sun and this kind of listening time outside will be limited.
I work to restore full court basketball playing and to close the School of Army (SOA) at Marquette University but all that will be in vain unless I take the time, like the tree, to silently listen to self. The tree in front of my house is no ordinary tree and I am no ordinary human being.
Talking on the phone today with a friend who was having trouble getting fair treatment from the government, I finally understood a phrase that has been thrown around in Christian circles for a few years: “preferential option for the poor.”
We believe all persons are equal and in the world of faith, and that is the way all should be treated. But in the world of government, law and order, health care, as my friend can testify, all persons are not equal. The rich, powerful, honored and healthy are “more equal” than the poor, weak, marginalized and sick, and are treated that way.
That is the way it is. So if we believe all people to be equal, as we believe, we need to give special treatment, privileges and choice to those who are poor, sick and marginalized. The “preferential option for the poor” is the only way to balance life and make it right to what we believe.
Dismas Becker 1936–2010
Today there was a funeral memorial gathering, mass and lunch for my friend Dismas Becker. There was a wide diversity of persons present at the service — present and past politicians, rich and poor persons, persons of all ages and ethnic and racial backgrounds. The diversity of the people at the service was a testimony to richness of Dismas’ life. His obituary in the newspaper called him an ‘activist’ but many of us will remember him as a kind and gentle friend.
How to be gentle and kind yet strong and passionate about my beliefs has always been a challenge for me. Dismas was a good model and I was blessed to renew our friendship as he approached his death.
Dismas was in great pain and dying for a long time. He prayed for death. Perhaps God extended his dying so he could teach us once again how to be kind and gentle in all situations.
Dismas had a past life as a politician but never could be one in this day and age of meanness and negativity. He leaves behind a faithful wife, a large family and many friends. However, the memory of how to be kind and gentle lives on with all of us.
Trespassing On Conscience
Today I took my friend Ella, of Ella’s Quilts shopping at Sam’s Club, a store, like Wal-Mart, that my religion forbids me to enter except when helping a friend. Ella was looking for black pepper and as is the case in this store all the quantities were large and expensive. I finally find a decent size bottle that was only $2.88 but Ella read the sign below the bottle that said $6.98. I finally convinced her to read the sign above the bottle and she put the pepper in her cart. However, at the check out counter she asked the girl what was the price of the pepper. The checkout girl confirmed it was only $2.88. All the way home she was proud of her good buy. But I kept reminded her how she did not believe me and we had a good laugh.
This shopping adventure came after a number of us of Breaking the Silence had a Freedom March at Marquette University to press them to Teach War No More and Close the School of Army at Marquette. Marquette does not allow any protest on campus unless they are approved so we mostly kept to the sidewalk which is public property. There was noticeable fear in the eyes of students as they tried to avoid us, our signs and our flyers calling for Marquette to keep to the Christian principles of conscience that it professes. We walked through the library lobby and although no security stopped us we went back to the sidewalk. We also walked into the Marquette Alumni Memorial Union. There the Marquette security guards were waiting for us and asked us to leave and go back to the sidewalk. We did and proceeded to the sidewalk at 12th and Wisconsin across the street where we had started. We were ending the march when a Milwaukee Police officer pulled one of us to the side and gave the person a citation for trespassing. They said that person was spotted in the union where the person had been banned. The person knew nothing of the ban and just the day before had been to the library and Union without incident.
Our flyer called for the priority of conscience over military values and some of us took the ignoring of our message by students and the citation authorized by the administration as an answer to our Open Letter to Four Leaders of Morality In Milwaukee. By silence and citations they are saying “we do not want to hear that message and if ignoring does not work we will marginalize you and penalize you for persistent giving us the message.”
Ella did not want to believe me about the price of the pepper but she checked it out and was glad she did. Marquette students, faculty and administrators do not want hear our moral message, and if we keep persisting they will ignore us or cite us for trespassing on their conscience … or quite possibly, like Ella, check out the facts and be glad.