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Solidarity Shopping - Friday, January 31, 2014

I wrote a friend in Venezuela who is coordinating the School of Americas Watch (SOA Watch) delegation to Guatemala how, as a non-shopper, I found in my last trip to Guatemala (See Buried in Guatemala) a third world craft and clothing heaven. She wrote back calling shopping in Guatemala “solidarity shopping.” I like that term.

Solidarity shopping is what I do when I go to Goodwill stores to purchase clothing, shoes and odds and end. I have gotten some nice clothes, even designer type clothes, at low price there. I even exempt myself from the ban on buying products “Made in China” rule where I shop there. I figure that the clothes being second handed are exempt from refusal to buy “made in China” whenever I go or can.

Buying anything not made in China or sweatshops anywhere in the world is very difficult. Seldom do you see a “Made in USA” on any clothing product these days. Even shopping in the grocery store I need to be careful and check the label not only for terrible things like “high fructose corn syrup” but for “Made in China” labels on food products.

Solidarity shopping is hard to do in electronic products like my Apple I Phone. Although Apple proudly points out their products are designed in the USA they are made in China as many other electronic products. The last TV I purchased was a Magnavox, an American name TV. I asked the store clerk who owned Magnavox and he said it was Philips a company based in Finland. When I got home and was taking it out of the box I noticed that it was put together in China.

What makes shopping in Guatemala true solidarity shopping is that in the market places the sellers of the goods are usually the makers of the good. Indigenous people of Guatemala still make their own clothes and crafts and sell directly to the people in the market place. This is not true for other Latin American countries I have visited.

So it will be time for some new, not slightly used clothing, when I visited Guatemala. The purpose of our SOA Watch delegation is not to do solidarity shopping. Our presence there is to show solidarity with the people struggling for human rights in the country and try to persuade the government officials not to send their soldiers to the US Army School of Americas, (SOA), now called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, (WHINSEC), for military training. This USA military school at Fort Benning, Ga. is a training ground for terrorist in Central and South America. After many years of marches and protest we cannot get the US government to close this ‘school of assassins’ but have achieved persuading a number of countries in Central and South America from sending soldiers there to train.

So being in solidarity with poor, oppressed, marginalized has some fringe benefits as well as blessings. One major benefit is ‘solidarity shopping.’


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Forgiveness, Heart of Nonviolence - Thursday, January 30, 2014

“Father, forgive them, for they
do not know what they do.”
Luke 23:34

“Forgiveness is at the heart of nonviolence. Our strength and power of nonviolence is rooted in our ability to forgive.”

Forgiveness was on my mind tonight as I was preparing an email for friends of peace to attend Mission Week, next week, at Marquette where the theme is the ‘art and practice of forgiveness.’ I looked for and found many quotes about ‘forgiveness’ from persons like Gandhi or Martin Luther King but ended up making up my own quote, above.

Unless you forgive someone, in this case Marquette University for Teaching Killing on campus, how can you work to change the person or institution? It is hard to forgive someone or an institution when you believe in your conscience that they are committing acts of violence that hurt real people.

Administrators at Marquette never defend the institution for hosting three military departments on campus that teach values against the teaching of Christianity. They ignore the message or attack the messengers thus never giving any creditability to the charge. They keep silent and hope that instead of continuing to ‘break the silence’ we react to being ignored or attacked.

It is hard not to react but in practice of nonviolence, as in war, it is better to go on offensive and not always defending oneself to the detriment of the message. The power of nonviolence, as shown in life of Jesus or Martin Luther King Jr. is shown by their persistent message of love and truth not in their reaction to attacks.

Pope Francis said this eloquently a week or so ago when he was addressing a group of theologians: “The definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ makes every recourse to violence in God’s name ultimately impossible. It is precisely because of [Christ’s] refusal of violence, because of his having overcome evil with good, with the blood of his Cross, that Jesus has reconciled men to God and each other.”

The cross is the ultimate symbol of nonviolence when Jesus on the cross asks for forgiveness of those who tortured and crucified him. Forgiveness is at the heart of nonviolence.


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Let It Be! - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Icon of Mary “Mother of God”.

This morning I had cataract surgery and have been unable to drive. Recently I have been getting a number of calls from friends who do not have cars for rides. None today.

Late the other night, in the very cold, I was giving the adult son of friends, who had been stranded, a ride home. This young man is very intelligent and creative and we got into a discussion about if Jesus Is God. I said it was the deciding factor for being a Christian but he did not think so.

The next day I started thinking about how in my many years as a Catholic and Christian I had learned that Jesus is God. We can call Jesus, Son of God, Christ, Heir of God, Messiah or Savior but no matter what we say from the moment of the Resurrecting the followers of the Way of Jesus realized he was God and a human being, the word made flesh. The mystery of the Incarnation, God become human, is at the heart of my faith.

I have been thinking of various arguments to use with my young friend when tonight and elderly friend send me a drawing of Mary holding the baby Jesus with the words on the side saying: “And Woman said This is My Body, This is My Blood.” These are the words a priest says at liturgy when he consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Yes Jesus is fully God and is fully human.

In Orthodox churches behind the altar there is an icon of “Theotokos”, Greek word for “Mother of God”. If we believe as Christian Jesus is God then Mary is the Mother of God. The thought of God becoming a human being, being born to a woman, is a simple but mysterious belief and explains why some Christian faiths hold Mary in such high esteem.

In the Gospel Mary is an ordinary young woman when the angel appears to her to tell her she will be the Mother of God. She does not understand who this could happen but she says “let it be”, the will of God be done.

Back to the beginning. There is no way to prove Jesus is God and Human except by an act of faith, saying like Mother Mary, “let it be.”


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Down with Hypocrites! - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In the State of the Union message tonight the President made many references to military personnel “fighting for our freedom.” The longest applause was for a soldier he had met right before the soldier’s 10th deployment to combat.

During this deployment the soldier was very seriously hurt by a mine and his brain was damaged. After countless operations the soldier has learned how to speak again and can see in one eye. His disfigured face reflects his wounds. He was sitting next to Ms. Obama. I am not upset by the moment of glory given to this young man but find it hypocritical when the people who sent him to these “illegal, unjust, immoral wars” use him to promote more war that can only lead to more war and killing.

Not in the speech or news tonight was mention of the 28 persons killed in Iraq yesterday making the total number of deaths by war and violence this month to over 800 in this country we ‘freed’. After we leave Afghanistan as planned this year how many more persons will die in conflict and war? Not mentioned in the regular news tonight was a story that the President and Congress secretly resumed sending weapons to rebels in Syria trying to overthrow the Syrian regime by violence? We had stopped since the terrorist rebel groups, Al-Quada, who wish to replace the secular government with an Islamic state. were getting the weapons.

The President’s speech was full of hypocritical statements that drew applause from both parties; we are a special nation (exceptional like no other in the world; ”Killer Drones” will be cut back when the drone warfare race has risen to new heights with this President as the ‘kill list’ gets bigger and bigger with every drone strike; we need to pass an immigration reform bill like the one passed last year in the Senate which gave billions to security along the border and a very long wait list for an immigrant to be a citizen; we are a land of great ‘opportunity’ where everyone with hard work can be what they want to be.

I could just see Jesus wielding a whip walking down the aisles of congress tipping over the tables of these hypocrites. Of course he would have been killed before he got anywhere close to the podium of the President. No need for crucifixion when we have high powered automatic rifles and drones to do our killing.

A modern translation and paraphrase of Jesus talking in the Gospel of Matthew 23: 1–7. 11–12 might be in place here:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his followers: 2 “The makers of the law, government officials, sit in government seats. 3 We need to be careful to do what they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, especially the poor, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their promises and statements for the sake of media; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the all events. 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘honorable’ by others…”

“The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I did not have to change any words in the last two lines. In the Kingdom of God on earth they we are trying to build these mighty politicians will be last and the least among us, like the homeless beggar, will be first. Down with hypocrites!


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Struggle for Truth - Monday, January 27, 2014

I have observed that when people attack you and ignore your message, if you do not react and stay on message, the same people just ignore you and your message. I think that is good and better than reacting. By absorbing the attack it becomes clearer that it is the message that people are ignoring and a message ignored has a better ring of truth about it without a personal attack or defense.

Last week when I was going to Mass at the Jesuit retirement home I had an elderly and respected Jesuit priest come up to me and quietly tell me he agreed with the the letter I had printed in the sports section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]] commentating on Marquette’s violation of State and Federal reporting rules when, a few years back, when the institution did not report alleged rapes by MU basketball players.

You never know how your message is doing unless someone responds to it but you know if it is consciously being ignored there is something to it. When a person, like this Jesuit priest, makes a comment on a statement, positive or negative, you know the message be heard.

Martin Luther King Jr. felt strongly about breaking the silence and speaking truth to power and following one’s conscience. All the persons I admire, past and present believe this. But today, avoiding conflict, be it creative conflict, seems to take precedent over breaking the silence. I noticed way back in the early 70’s “doing your thing” and not hurting anyone seems to be the moral code of youth and still is. If you have a conflict with a person or message of someone, some think it is better to ignore the persona and/or message rather than speak your truth as you see it.

False conflicts are set up, Republicans vs. Democrats, Tea party persons against progressives, right against left as greed increases in our economic system, our education system becomes more militarized and the poor become poorer while the rich become richer.

On news tonight I heard the debated Farm Bill passed the Senate with major cuts to Food Stamps for those in need. The announcer said the cuts were more than the Democrats said they would accept but less than what the conservatives had demanded. Is this compromise or just another step in building inequality into our economic system?

Recently the House of Representatives and the Democrats agree to a budget spending bill for the year in which over half the money in the budget goes for military and war. Is this a compromise or a move toward a more militarized country?

Examples, like the above two, quiet things down for awhile and thus are not seen as a move toward a country with more income inequality and more militarized. False debates and pacification efforts, like the above, are simply a move by all parties toward a more militarized, individualized state.

The Gospel was written at a time when people thought in terms as members of a group or community not as individuals and the military was associated with the repressive forces of the Roman Empire. Thus the Gospel values of “Love your Enemy”, “Blessed are the poor” “sharing abundance with needy”, “the first shall be least”, “love others as self” make no sense to many in today’s world and are just empty words.

Persistent nonviolence, struggle for truth, is to only way, in my opinion, to overcome the ills of our society not petitions, letters, phone calls or more talk. I seldom get feedback on what I write in these postings which would be discouraging if I was writing to please others. But since I am just writing observations of life, as I see them, it does not matter. Someone responding to my words, negatively or positively, is nice but all my words are just my struggle to find truth.


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Which Way Wind Blows with Mental Illnesses - Saturday, January 25, 2014

Putting lyrics from two Bob Dylan songs together, Subterranean Homesick Blues and Blowin’ in the Wind we get:

“You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows”

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

These lyrics come to mind today since we had planned to go a chili fundraising concert today in Pulaski where both my grandsons were playing in jazz bands. But my wife, Pat, listening to the weatherman last night got scared of the long drive back and forth it takes to get to the high school and home. It turns out the weather was not that bad and the real cold and maybe snow weather is for the next two days when she needs to go to work in the library. When schools close library stay open for they are heating places for homeless persons. Homeless people often need to leave shelters during the day and public libraries are good places to be.
I was especially disappointed not to go to the grandson’s jazz concerts since we had to miss it last year as well.

Also I am disappointed at the constant weather reports geared to be sensational and making persons afraid, rightly or wrongly. I am old enough to remember the days before wind chill numbers and constant weather reports. My guess is that my grandchildren who live in a rural area and who all three take the school bus together, grade, middle and high school, will have school where city kids will not. Snow not cold would be another thing.

The answer for many things, besides weather conditions, is ‘blowin’ in the wind. There is constant talk these days about our broken mental health system in this country. Persons with mental illnesses, it has been shown, commit less crimes than ‘normal’ persons but the crimes that are more sensational, like the recent University and Mall shootings, make national news. Locally there are all kinds of ‘solutions’ going around including closing the poorly run, underfunded county Behavior Health Center.There is talk, just like in 80’s about going to a “community base system”. This idea failed in the 80’s mostly out of lack of funding and will probably fail again today when tax cuts are popular with politicians and spending for ‘common good’ is not.

However, the real answer why changes of the mental health system failed us in the 80’s and will fail us again is simple, the answer is blowin’ in the wind. The answer, my friend, is that we do not recognize mental health illnesses as we do others, like serious accidents, cancer and heart disease. If a person has a heart attack or a person suffers sever injury in an accident, the person, conscious or not conscious will be taken to a hospital and treated. However, an adult with a severe mental illness breakdown cannot be hospitalized without his or her consent, and even with consent will stay in the hospital or behavior health system just a few days, not until they are healed enough to go to a community based program.

Health insurance companies, stigmas on brain illnesses and lack of insight by sick person make it that way. We have a County Behavior Health Center that is not a hospital and been cited over and over again for lack of proper medical care for persons. Many poor persons with mental illnesses end up in jail, prisons or homeless shelters.

Our hospitals will only take persons who consent to be admitted and have health insurance. And then it is for a few days not till the person is healed to go back for community based care. Mental illnesses are brain illnesses and very physical but are not treated by society, health professionals and insurance companies as other illnesses like heart disease and cancer. We even had special hospitals for cancer and heart illnesses but full medical hospital for mental health brain illnesses.

I have a young adult friend who was seriously ill in his brain but could not be admitted to any hospital or good treatment center. One night he was severely beaten and left with a serious external life threatening head injury. He was taken to the emergency room and admitted. When he was out of danger with the external brain injury his parents asked if he could be put in the mental health section of the hospital for his ‘other’ brain injury. At the time he had no health insurance and the hospital said if he wanted treatment they would need to send him to the County Behavior Health Center, which would most likely refuse him, since he was, at the time, ‘not an immediate danger to himself or others’. He was released. Over the years he and his parents did seek treatment for his ‘other brain injury’, mental illness, and for various reason, lack of his consent or proper health insurance or facilities has not be admitted or released too soon. He continues to survive from crisis to crisis and there seems to be not much anyone can do about it.

Recognition of mental illnesses as regular illnesses seems like an oversimplified answer but it is the answer ‘blowin in the wind’ that we need to understand before we can move on with healing. We do not need a talk show, news report or weather man to know which way the wind blows with mental or brain illnesses.


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Pope Quote, Trouble - Saturday, January 25, 2014

2007 Protest in Union

Once a month my friends have a Stand for Peace at Marquette University to protest the military training program, ROTC, at this Catholic university. Last Thursday, when it was below 0 degrees outside, I suggested we have the stand for peace inside the Marquette Alumni Memorial Union. Last fall the vice president and the Legal Council of Marquette University told a friend and me, coordinators of Breaking the Silence, that we could present our message for Marquette to be faithful to the Gospel and stop military training for war and killing on campus in the ROTC programs on the Marquette University campus. In December 2013, when we had a protest inside the union to stop the military training program on campus, we were allowed to proceed without Marquette Security being call or the Milwaukee police. In fact over the years we have had many protest of ROTC in the Union and other buildings on campus without an arrest or citation.

However, last Thursday after we entered the union and held up our signs the Marquette security was there to say we could not protest with our signs on the Marquette campus. My sign was a quote from Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church. The headline said “Violence and Faithful are Incompatible.” See full poster and quote below. When we protested this command of the security, having been told by Marquette administration, we could present our message nonviolently on campus, the security officers responded saying hey were just “following orders” and would call the City of Milwaukee Police to have us arrested.

I asked the security officers whose orders they were acting on and they said their boss. I called him and he said he was also working on ‘orders.’ I tried to call the Vice President and Legal Counsel who said we could present our message on campus but the police arrived. The three of us agreed to leave if it was against the law or Marquette regulations to be in the union with our message but the police could not wait for us to check it out. They took our ID’s and said they would send us a citation for trespassing, which they did.

I wrote what happened to the Legal Council of Milwaukee and the Vice President. The Legal Council said the Vice President was on vacation but he completely denied that we had been given permission to present our message on campus. I wrote back that in my thirteen years of Jesuit education I had been trained to trust figures of authority, especially in a Catholic institution like Marquette University.

I had been in the Union earlier that morning for something else and no one stopped me. We also have protest ROTC many times in the Union over the years without getting in trouble. So I figure it must have been our signs that lead to this citation. The Jesuit taught me to be honest and practices the values of our faith. This lead me to object to Marquette’s Teaching Killing, Killing without conscience and thus to be present at Marquette protesting the presence of military training (ROTC) on campus. My sign with a quote from Pope Francis seemed to be what got me a police citation on campus. Maybe at our next event we can get Pope Francis to stand with us for Peace, since the Pope’s quote got us in trouble. Check it out below.


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Technology can Help or Hurt - Friday, January 24, 2014

Anti-government protesters help
a fellow protester injured in a
grenade attack during a rally in

When I was young we wondered what we would do with all the leisure times we would have on our hands when the then blooming technology would take full force. Now most Americans work harder than ever, if they are fortunate to have a job, for less pay and less hours. More than ever in our history, people cannot find a job, especially the poor and minorities, and many have given up looking, thus off the unemployment rolls. With technology the more we can do the more we do.

Today, I spent two and half hours using two phones, cell and home line, to get a friend to have his home phone line change from one vendor to another. We are not done yet since, after the new line is installed, we have to notify the present company of the change. I had to communicate to numerous computers, and trice was hung up on, to get the change made. Technology and more choices of phone companies have slow down the process and made it nearly impossible for low income friends with a disability, like my friend, to do.

Most people cannot imagine of what their live or job would be without a computer. To the few without cell phones, smart phones, tablets and computers the world is becoming more and more inaccessible. Most companies want you to use the internet to sign up, make arrangements or get information since computers work much cheaper than humans.

Computers have replaced many low or unskilled workers. Now even with education and training a good job is hard to get. With the modern technology of weapons even the military can be more particular who it accepts. With drones even killing can be with remote control.

Youth and Adults spend much more time with computers, TV’s and smart phones for entertaining than read books.

I do not want to be overly critical of technology since it has been used, like the field of medicine, to do wonders. But technology in itself is neither good nor bad; how it is used determines its value in our lives.

As a person who uses technology I am not saying do not use technology. It is up to us how to use technology. It can help or hurt.


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What a Crazy, Mixed Up,Upsides Down Day - Thursday, January 23, 2014

What a crazy mixed up day! This morning after seeing my eye doctor about past and upcoming cataract surgery, I went to the Marquette University Union to pick up talks for keynote speaker on “Forgiveness” at mission week. It had sounded like tickets would be hard to obtain for the public since students were limited to two a piece but that was not true. I got as many as I asked for.

Around noon I went back to Marquette Union to stand with some friends from Casa Maria, the Catholic Worker house of hospitality, who holds a monthly vigil against ROTC, military training, on campus. I suggested since it was so cold that they protest inside which we had been told by Vice President and Legal Council was now okay. We had tested the new policy at a nonviolent protest in December and the Director of the Union had told us, at the time, we could protest with banners and signs but we could not pass out flyers that were not approved. When I asked him if had checked with the Vice President and Legal Council he said yes, they had met the day before and had decided we could protest but not pass out leaflets.

Today, almost immediately, at near the same spot we were at in December, the Marquette Security officers said we could not carry a sign protesting the military presence on campus and had to go on the street or they would call the police to have us arrested. Again I pleaded with them to check with the Vice President and Legal Council and they responded they were just following orders. I asked to talk to their superior office on the phone. He said he knew nothing about the new policy on protest on campus that was given to him last September. He said we could leave immediately or be arrested. The three of us responded we had been led to understand that we could protest there but would leave rather than be arrested.

I went over to the desk to call Vice-President and Legal Council. As I did that the police arrived and said we would have to live the campus immediately or be arrested. As I was trying to make a call to the legal counsel the officer said “time was up” and took the ID of all three of us and said he would send us a citation for ‘trespassing.’


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Seeing Each Step with Eyes of Faith - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

One target of a US Drone
killing 12 civilians in Wedding
Caravan in Yemen

I ran across a picture quote today from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Thinking about it, there is lot of this kind of faith called for in scriptures and everyday life. We often do not know what the end, outcome or results, of actions will be so we take the first step without seeing the whole staircase. This is why it is so important that our first and each step, the means be the same as our end. This seems simple enough to understand, violence begets violence and history has taught us over and over again that the “means do not justify the end”.

Yet we continue to do it, use means we do not believe in to accomplish another end. “I voted for the “lesser of two evils” my friends often tell me. Why vote for any evil. We need to go to war to prevent war? We need to kill these people to set them free.

Killer drones, unmanned planes, are a good example of evil means, even though using for a good reason, bring evil results. Each week the President of the United States approves a “kill list” of suspected terrorist to be killed by drones and other means. On Dec. 12, 2013 a Yemeni wedding convoy of 11 cars was hit by four missiles from a USA drone. What or why this tragedy killing 12 persons happened we may never know. But we do know that senseless killings like this one do radical people against the USA.

We do know that Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, a leading terrorist’s organization, has grown quickly in Yemen. “Whatever we do, they will never look at us as human beings,” said Dahabiya, the elderly mother of one victim, a cousin of the groom, who left a wife and six children. “We end up with wounds they cannot see.”

So evil and violent means only make for more evil and violence. Our first step, even in faith, should be through the eyes of faith and be what we want to see. We need to see with the eyes of faith the first and each step of the Way.


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Money or Nonviolence Rules - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The wealthy, media and politicians tell us ‘Money Rules’ and they have the evidence to back it up. I am able to call about 95% of political races if I know who has the most money. That person wins.

Prophets, Gospel and history tell us “Nonviolence Rules” and they have the evidence to back it up. The elimination of apartheid in South Africa is a good example.

“Money Rules”, if you are willing to consider injustice, violence and greed. “Nonviolence Rules”, if you are willing to consider suffering, injury and sharing. The choice of “Money Rules” or “Nonviolence Rules” is ours to make.
A few pluses for “Nonviolence Rules”: nonviolence is sustainable and does no harm to others. It is long lasting and creates an “environment which it is easier to be good.” Nonviolence brings peace of mind and a willingness to endure much.

A few pluses or minuses for “Money Rules”: money brings power and force. It is hard to resist and money makes more money. Money can buy lots of things and is alluring.

You decide, Money or Nonviolence Rules!


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Decency Over Equality - Monday, January 20, 2014

On the news today the State Government of Wisconsin announced it expects a billion dollar surplus in 2015. Even before the money arrives in Madison the Government is announcing plans to cut taxes for the rich and middle income persons. To get this surplus the State Government of Wisconsin seriously cut into aide for public schools and into medical assistance for the poor. Someone dared to suggest that the excess money, when it comes, be used to restore these cuts which hurt our educational system and the most vulnerable amidst us.

Tonight on NBC World News it was announced that the “World’s 85 richest have same wealth as 3.5 billion poorest”. The same report, taken from Oxfam, says “The wealth of the richest 1% in the world is now 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s people.”
Does anyone see a problem with these two news reports? I am not seeking “equality” but “decency” in economic justice.

Everyone, especially politicians, are quick to praise Martin Luther King, on this his Federal holiday. If they really knew and understood Martin Luther King Jr., the principles and values he stood for and the use of nonviolent direct action he encouraged, they would not be so eager to praise him.
One of the biggest insurance companies in the USA and Milwaukee gave their employees the day off and encouraged them to do community service for a day. Similar scenes took place throughout the country. Tomorrow they can all get to their real business making the rich richer and the poor poorer maybe feeling a little better about it.

The hypocrisy of many Americans may only be exceeded by their greed.
My veteran friend came over today looking for a little work. He had the day off from his ‘training program’ at the Veteran’s administration where he works a forty hour week for $3.25 an hour. The VA justifies this low age since my friend has some mental health issues after his ten years in the military. I pay him $20 for two hours worth of work. He needs to work at the VA 6 ¼ hours to make $20.

A worst example of greed: a McDonald’s worker in Chicago making $8.25 an hour after two decades at this food chain. He would need to work 550 years to make the CEO of McDonald’s annual salary of $8.8 million.

These examples are not only indecent but are pornographic. When will this race for greed ever slow down and love of neighbor take over? Maybe we should use some of the nonviolent direct action of Gandhi and King rather than just talk about it. We need less talk and more action, less greed and more giving. Service is good. But as long as we do our ‘service’ and go right back to the economic system that takes from the poor to give to the rich all is lost.
We do not need equality but just decency.


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Neighbor is Denise - Sunday, January 19, 2014

St. Catherine Church

Some years ago, while living in Madison, I heard that Jimmy Carter, the former president, gave a talk at the University of Wisconsin and asked the question of the audience: “How many poor people do you have as friends?” The question made me think. At the time I knew only one person with two sons that could be considered poor. When that person got a decent job and become sought of middle class I had no one.

Nowadays in Milwaukee I have many good friends who are poor, or as I would rather say, people in need. Some suffer from illnesses and some have very low incomes but they are my friends and I feel very privileged and blessed to call them friends.

Yesterday Brian and I made a home visit with a lady, Denise, who lives directly across the street from St. Catherine Church and office. She is a fifty six year old woman who has suffered a lifetime of hardship. She has severe physical injuries and illnesses and has been scarred by many bad experiences she suffered as a youth, suffered by her son and grandchildren. Once she saw we were open to listening to her she opened up the flood gates of her life and experiences. I noticed she made references to her religious faith as she told her story. After listening for a long while I asked her if she had a Church or religious community she can turn to for comfort and aide. She mentioned that she attended, when she could, a small church nearby but they were really were not a support community. I mentioned there was a very kind priest, pastor of St. Catherine who lived in the Church rectory right across the street. That led her to tell a story of how she had met a woman from St. Catherine’s outside a few months ago. The woman was a member of St. Catherine St. Vincent De Paul Society (SVDP), which we represented. According to her they talked for over an hour and half and the woman gave her a voucher for the couch that I was sitting on. There was no mention of that voucher on her record sheet the central office had given us or she might have been told she can’t be served again for another six months.

Brian and I were representing the St. Catherine SVDP conference but both of are members of St. Benedict the Moor church, the original church for African Americans in Milwaukee or ‘colored persons’ as they were called. She told us about how St. Benedict’s had helped her get her GED after she had dropped out of school, was in trouble with the law and got herself together. It was probably not the Church but another Catholic Church program called St. Benedict that helped her in the 70’s but it did not matter. The Catholic Church was there to lend her a hand when she was in need.

Her physical needs for a voucher where small compared to many other families we visit in the neighbor. However, her need for a faith community was strong. As the woman from the Church she talked to, we were privileged to give her a bit of hope and concern.

The leaders of St. Catherine parish have recently decided to put the million dollars they received from the sale and closing of another Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee into an endowment for ‘future Church’ use. Some of us had encouraged the Church to use the money for personal works of mercy in the neighborhood which is the main mission of St. Vincent De Paul. Our Holy Father says the main mission of our Catholic Church is the evangelical movement of serving the poor, ill, marginalized, our neighbors.

If St. Catherine Church was to be ask “Who is My Neighbor” as Jesus was once asked. I would say your neighbor is Denise, go visit with her.


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Seeking Definite Forgiveness - Friday, January 17, 2014

“A definite forgiveness will
mean a definite recognition of our
M.K. Gandhi

The Gandhi daily quote I received today from India reads: “A definite forgiveness will mean a definite recognition of our strength.” This quote means a lot to me since I often say that I forgive persons who wronged me but wonder if it is a “definite forgiveness” The word ‘definite’ adds a whole new twist to forgiveness. Definite means no sly demeaning remarks about the person you forgave. Definite means complete and without question. Definite means you cannot avoid or ignore the person you forgave. ‘Definite forgiveness’ is much harder than ‘vague forgiveness’.

To be definite or indefinite in forgiving is the question. I cannot control the forgiveness the other person gives me but I can control my own forgiveness. If someone wrongs me and I take it in and forgive and love the person who wronged me with ‘definite forgiveness’ I can see how I will be strengthen. By not defending myself to wrongs and accepting them with love and forgiveness I can come out of the situation with renewed strength and with recognition of that strength.

The phrase “peace thru strength’ is thrown around a lot by politicians who believe the only way to fight violent force is by violent force. Although history tells us that violence against violence only leads to more violence we keep on doing it.

We had our first two prayer vigils for homicide victims this year today. We usually pray for the victim and the person who committed the crime. Society believes in punishment but not forgiveness, certainly not ‘definite forgiveness’. How many men and women who have committed crimes and done their time are still not forgiven by society and face job and other discrimination.

I even heard of one retirement home that would not take a friend and her husband since her husband had a criminal record. My wife hearing this wondered if we would be rejected by a retirement home since I have a criminal record from the Milwaukee 14 nonviolent action of 1968. I told her not to worry since I was white, had money and, although it was called “arson, burglary and theft” it was a political action against draft system for war in Vietnam.

Jesus’ last act before his passion and death in all four Gospels was his tipping over vendor tables in the Temple. That was it, the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities could not overlook his action. He was tried, punished and killed by the Romans within days. His crime, written on top of the cross was treason: Jesus of Nazareth, King of Jews.” No one was ‘king’ of Jews except the person the Romans appointed. His enemies did not forgive him but Jesus, rather than restore to violence, accepting his suffering and death and until the end ask for definite forgiveness for those who crucified him. That type of ‘definite forgiveness’, going to the cross, is difficult but we must seek it.


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Pope Says - Thursday, January 16, 2014

Speaking of the possible perversions of authentic faith in the one true God, Pope Francis said, “The definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ makes every recourse to violence in God’s name ultimately impossible. It is precisely because of [Christ’s] refusal of violence, because of his having overcome evil with good, with the blood of his Cross, that Jesus has reconciled men to God and each other.” (Vatican Radio, 1/15/14,Pope Francis address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the International Theological Commission)

This came from my friend Father Charles McCarthy of the . He points out
“If the Pope had said that Catholics must return to the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue only, the U.S., British, Irish, etc. airwaves, TV, radio talk shows, Internet, papers, magazines and pulpits—from the far right to the middle of the road to the far left—would be ceaselessly and volcanically bellowing in all directions.” But this radical statement is followed by silence in the media and church.

When the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church makes a statements on gays or abortion it is repeated around the world by foe and friends. But this statement, as others he has made on violence, is met by silence. Yet violence in our cities, in our wars, between nations and between persons rages.

The whole statement will come soon but probably will be followed by the same silence. The media is constantly talking about or showing violence yet when the Pope says “every recourse to violence in God’s name ultimately impossible” he is ignored.

Being ignored is something I know about and it is a difficult form of hatred to deal with. Our Holy Father, unlike me, will not be defensive about his statement but will also keep making it over and over again.

Another friend who was seriously hurt by a Catholic institution she has served for nearly 25 years told me tonight that she has forgiven them and is ready to move on with life. Forgiveness of this violence to her, she says, has given her many blessings and she prays for the person who caused this great harm.

The pope is saying what most people of faith, many Christians and Catholics, do not want to hear: you cannot justify violence in God’s name.” What the Pope Francis says makes big news but not when he is speaking truth to power.


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Senseless Killings - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Senseless Killings

Three white men catch an African American teen,
Stealing something from a liquor store.
The Black teen ends up dead before help can arrive
And the district attorney does not charge the three white men with any crime.

A retired police officer is annoyed by a person texting
In front of him at a local theater, before the movie.
They argue and the retired police officer pulls out a gun
And shoots and kills the man who was texting.

The President of the USA adds a ‘suspected terrorist’ to his ‘kill list’.
The next week an unmanned drone sends a missile to kill the suspect
And two women and a child die with the suspected terrorist.

A twelve year teen walks into his Middle School and shoots two teens
Before turning his gun over to a teacher who confronts him.

A young solider is trained to kill and to seek and enjoy killing in the military.
He leaves the military with same taste for killing as was foster in him by the military.

Two young teen friends are walking down the street when they get into an argument over music.
One pulls out a gun and kills his friend.

These are all ‘senseless killings’ but they will not stop
By preaching, laws and enforcement of laws and regulations.
They will only stop when the military, schools, politicians, all of us
Create an ‘environment’ where it is easier to be good
And everyone, from the President to the teen on the street,
Recognizes it is wrong to kill.


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Keep It Simple, Do Not Kill - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Going to Church last Sunday we heard an interview with a soldier who had contacted pubic radio to record his experiences when he was in war and about an interview when he has returned. He entered the military as a 30 year old young adult who wanted to serve his country. He left military training as a man who, like many others in the military, wanted to kill someone. He describes his transformation from a patriotic to a killer. You can hear his interview on Good Guys Act 4, #515 on “This American Life”]]

His story of being taught to kill, seek and enjoy killing is hard to hear but, in light of what we know about modern military training, sadly it is easy to believe.

Killing is all around us, killing in the media as entertainment, killing in streets of our city, killing in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. There is all type of proposals to stop the killing, data driven policing, more weapons and more talk about stopping the violence.

Like many things in life we search for the solution when sometimes it is right in front of us. Science teaches us that killing another human being is not natural and affects the brain. Our Christian bible and other religious writings tell us : “Thou shall not kill” as one of the commandments and Jesus tells us to go further and ‘love our enemies’. We are told we should respect all humans, despite race, creed, and gender. We hold to the truth “that all men are equal” and enjoy the “rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Yet we tend to justify killing if it by ‘drone’ on a suspected enemy or of 16 year old African American boy caught by three white men for stealing from a store.

Father McCarthy told me last summer that many bibles had changed the wording of the fifth commandment “Thou shall not kill” to “Thou shall not murder”. This change of wording changes the meaning of the commandment and I questioned if he was right. So I checked many translations of the Old Testament in the Bible and almost all, except Catholic translations, have changed the word ‘kill’ to ‘murder’.

Like many woes of our society the answer is within us and right before us: Humans should not kill other human beings. It seems like the answer Do not kill is too simple or we are too stupid to understand it.


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Rjection, Part of the Way - Monday, January 13, 2014

On one of my birthday wishes a friend wrote about enjoying my friendship: “Who else can talk about church, the pope and racial discrimination all in one five minute car ride?” I do have the curse or blessing of being able to connect a lot of thoughts in my mind. Some like this and some do not. I say it is about of being ‘crazy’, or more suitably, being ‘next to normal.’ Some people say that my thinking fast is not listening but friends realize I am listening just jumping ahead.

In primitive time people with this gift and others, like hearing voices, were considered divine like and to be respected. Today we are called, nicely, people with mental illnesses.

When reading my friend’s email I kept thinking of a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola in his book the . This is the prayer: “Eternal Lord and King of all creation, humbly I come before you. Knowing the support of Mary, your mother, and all the saints, I am moved by your grace to offer myself to you and to your work. I deeply desire to be with you all wrongs and all rejections and all poverty, both actual and spiritual—and I deliberately choose this, if it is for your greater service and praise. If you, my Lord and King, would so call and choose me, than take and receive me into such a way of life.” It is one thing to accept wrongs, rejections and poverty and another thing to pray for them I still cannot pray for them but am learning, with age, that if we seek to follow the Way of Jesus, wrongs, rejections and poverty just come our way.

As we left the restaurant tonight after dinner a young man approached me and asks for a dollar to get some food. When I pulled my wallet out to look for a dollar he asked for five. Not seeing the dollar handy I pulled out the five and gave it to him. I asked him again what he wanted the money for and he said “food.” He thanked us and walked away. I thought that a few years ago this could have been my son. At times he was homeless,hungry and living on the streets in a strange city. Like my son I believe this person had been wronged, rejected and certainly suffered poverty. No matter why he was begging in downtown Milwaukee we are blessed by his presence and rather than ‘judge’ him we need to treat him like we would wanted to be treated ourselves.

I know people who like me and admire my persistence in faith. I know some people who do like me and sometimes let me know why. These two groups I can deal with. It is those who ignore me, or worst yet, my message that I have a hard time with. When you wrong or reject a person you are recognizing the person exists. However, when you ignore a person you are acting like the person does not exist, be it ‘crazy’ or unimportant. Poverty, being wrong and rejection are just part of the Way.


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Still Horrified by Racism - Sunday, January 12, 2014

At Easter time 2007 I wrote an online essay The Sweet Waters of Discrimination in Milwaukee. I talked about a “structured, systematic form” of discrimination “that is so prevalent that it is hard for us living in it to see and feel it.” With the essay I did a series of positive suggestions to city and county leaders about specific ways to change this systematic discrimination. One way was a police training program started in Memphis ,Tennessee when a high number of persons with mental illnesses were being killed by police officers. The program trained police how to deal with persons with mental illnesses and reduced deaths. The police chief at the time wanted all of her police officers to have this training.

This year after a number of killings by police officers by persons with mental illnesses I tried to find out how many of the present police officers were being trained. I could not find out until the other day when an article in the newspaper pointed out that after 7 years of the program only 20% of the police were trained in this program. The present police chief has taken a “data driven” position to reducing crime in segregated neighborhoods which means he goes by computer program’s data where to place the police and to track suspects. Simply. police presence in the most segregated area has increased as crime has increased and incarceration of young adult African Americans has increased with poverty and unemployment.

Today, after Church, we met with another Church to discuss ways to combat for which North Central Milwaukee, the most segregated neighborhood in the most segregated city in the USA is the focal point. (See M.A.P.S. Maps of Segregation, Poverty, Criminalization of African Americans in North Central Milwaukee.)

Another spark to recent awareness of the incarceration of African American males is the book The New Jim Crowe, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book eloquently talks about this serious form of racism in this country and everyone wants to talk about the book and the problem. We were talking about what to do with our new awareness and the main thing was to have more talks and discussions on the subject. More talk with direct nonviolent action will lead to more talk and less action until a new topic of discussion rises to the surface.

In talking about this subject everyone is so careful not to use the word ‘racism’. But as the book points out this is exactly what it is. The old Jim Crowe laws were overt and direct. The new Jim Crowe laws, like ‘War on Crime’, are more subtle but end up in the same place, discrimination against African Americans.

When I was a child I was horrified by the overt racism of the time. Now that I am adult I am horrified by the subtle institutional racism of the time.


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Be Aware of the Brain! - Friday, January 10, 2014

“Human brains are the most
complex objects in the known

Did you ever lose something that you recently had in your hand or forget when you placed it? If you answer yes,it probably just means you are getting old. When it started happening to me I was really worried since I have experienced my father’s Alzheimer’s disease which eventually lead to his death. I had a lengthy test done at the neurological department of a local hospital and although the test was very difficult the Doctor said I was showing no signs of preset Alzheimer’s or dementia of any type at this time. However, misplacing things still happens and happens today.

When my son was suffering from a brain illness and from other people I learned that human brains are the most complex objects in the known universe and one we know little about. There have been all types of research on cancer, Aids and other diseases and conditions but very little research, until recently, on the brain. We label brain illnesses with various names like Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar, Alzheimer’s etc but are just beginning to learn about them and how the brain works. We know the differences between breast cancer and prostate cancer but little about different types of brain diseases. Certain brain diseases we label at mental illnesses and often do not understand the physical causes and the connection between brain diseases.

I have observed that persons with brain diseases, often the ones we label mental illnesses, have certain key moments of crisis, just like other physical diseases or body injury do. We know enough to take a person unconscious after a car accident to the hospital but cannot take a person with acute symptoms of a brain disease, although they have no awareness of the illnesses, to the hospital. In fact, seldom, if ever, they are taken to a full hospital. If fortunate they may be taken to a partial hospital, called the Behavior Health Center but most often end up in jails or prisons. The County Jail and the House of Correction have many more persons with brain illnesses than the Milwaukee County Behavior Health Center.

If a person is taken to a Mental Health facility they most likely will be released in a few days without long term treatment. I have some friends who have a son with a brain illness that is labeled as a mental illness. Crisis after crisis they tried to get their son in a hospital for treatment and failed because the hospital would not take him without his consent or he would withdraw cooperation in a few days. When he a young adult he he was severely beaten by some youths as he was walking down a street. He was taken to the emergency room of the hospital near death and some of his injuries to head and brain were treated. When his outside physical injuries were healed his parents asked if he could be taken to mental health floor of the hospital for other treatment of his mental health illnesses. At the time he had no health insurance and being over 18 the hospital refused him treatment and said he had to go to Behavior Health Center. Since that time he has had a number of brain (mental health) crises and either has been refused entrance to hospital or being taken in for a few days and released. Our system, especially if you are poor, does not give families an opportunity to seek treatment for a loved one. Families are forced to live by crisis to crisis, to seek out treatment and cooperation of ill persons who due to the nature of the illness, does not accept his or her injury.

Agencies that work with persons with mental health often treat them as ‘clients’ and not as physically ill persons and, like loved ones, need the consent of the person with brain illness for treatment.

In my lifetime I have seen many movements for civil and human rights for groups, women, gay persons, minority groups like African Americans that have met with various levels of success. Rights are obtained when persons in the group working together with others, struggle and fight for their rights. I do not expect to see this happen in my lifetime since persons with brain illnesses, like schizophrenia, often do not realize they have a brain illness, and if they do they are scared by the stigma associated with such illness.

When we become aware of persons with brain illnesses, like war veterans with Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) we deal with the symptoms of disease not with causes, like violent environment they are in war where at times “they must kill or be killed” or watch a close friend die.

The Brain is a beautiful and mysterious creation that we need to understand and when this organ is ill we need to know causes and treatment. We need to be aware of Brains.


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What is It all About? - Thursday, January 09, 2014

Michael Caine in the 1966
film Alfie.

“What is it all about Alfie is a famous line from a 1966 film and song Alfie. Alfie tells the story of a womanizing young man who leads a self-centered life, purely for his own enjoyment, until events force him to question his uncaring behavior and his aloneness.”

‘What is life all about’ is a question we all probably ask ourselves at times. A month ago I wrote a posting Never Ending Questions in which I share my reflection on a question my therapist asked: “What do you do for fun.” I took the question to mean what I do that brings me peace of mind, blessings, meaning and joy in life. A friend, down South, read this post and shared some thoughts he had about the purpose and meaning of his life.

Many years ago I read a book called Man’s Search for Meaning that tells the story of how prison inmates in concentration camps in World War II who had a purpose in life survived better in these dire circumstances. Also we all probably have heard that “If you do not have something in your life worth dying for you are not really living.”

There are many levels we can take the question: What is it all about Alfie, Bob or Frank? But it is important we ask the question or otherwise we can become depressed or just sleep walk thru life. What is it all about?


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Pope and Dirty Church - Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of
the Gospel)

My observations powers seem dim these days. When that happens I tend to get preachy. Since I do not want to be preachy tonight I will share, on the side and below, a picture with the quote from Pope Francis I used last night in the posting.

Maybe tomorrow I can see, hear, touch, feel life better and thus make an observation.


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If We can do It in Milwaukee, We can do It Anywhere! - Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Demonstration for Peace and
Justice in Milwaukee

Today I got word that a well know Jesuit priest activist, John Dear, is leaving the Jesuits, Society of Jesus, and most likely the priesthood. John has been in the Jesuits for 32 years and what is disturbing about about his leaving is why: He claims that the Jesuits have abandoned the struggle for peace and justice they were know for and are making alliances with government and military institutions. (See Leaving the Jesuits after 32 years.)

It is disturbing because abandoning the poor and marginalized and making alliances with military is just what we are seeing here in Milwaukee in the two issues we are working with, The abandonment of Catholic Church in North Center Milwaukee and Marquette, a Catholic Jesuit University, teaching war and killing on campus.

The Catholic Church, not just Jesuits, abandoning the poor and marginalized and making alliances with military forces is not just happening here in Milwaukee or with Jesuits but everywhere. What makes Milwaukee unique in this abandonment of justice and peace by the Catholic Church is that Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the USA and North Central Milwaukee is the most segregated part of Milwaukee. Also Marquette University is the only Catholic Jesuit university in the USA to host three Department of Defense training programs, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force and only one of two Catholic Universities in the county to do so, the other being Notre Dame.

Last week I wrote a letter to the Pope of the Catholic Church, Francis requesting his aide on dealing with these two issues in Milwaukee. He has spoken out strongly about both issues of peace and justice but Catholics are just watering down his words, like often is done with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.


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How Cold is It? - Sunday, January 05, 2014

It is cold today. How cold is it, you ask? It is so cold that weather reports take up more of the local news time than the Green Bay Packers. It is so cold that many of us forgot the ‘good old days’ when we thought cold weather, below 0, in the winter was normal and we went around our business. It is so cold that big grocery stores in wealthy neighborhood ran low on food while big chain stores in poor districts, which are very few, had plenty of food. It is feared to be so cold that a Christian Church made the local news by opening up its Church doors to homeless persons. (Can you imagine that?) It is so cold the prisons and jails are full of people who are homeless and ill. It is so cold that all schools, even those that children from low-income families who find heat and food in school are closed while public libraries are open to serve as warming shelters. It is so cold that even the ice cycles on my gutter are not growing. It is so cold that the fear of cold is rising on the list of all the things we fear. It is so cold that TV viewing and use of video games is going up. It is so cold that the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. (Wait a minute that happens all the time!) It is so cold that we may need to extend giving food to the hungry, beyond Christmas time. It is so cold that we have another excuse to forget learning from history. It is so cold that can forget about the climate change and the arctic ice melting from the ever increasing warm weather. It is so cold that thinking about how cold it is, makes us cold. It is so cold we have an excuse to be lazy. What did we ever do without computers, cell phones, tables, radio and TV telling us how cold it is?


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Stuck or Struck? - Saturday, January 04, 2014

Here it is four days in the New Year and I am stuck on the same two issues of justice and peace as I was last year: Stop teaching of killing at Marquette University and for the Catholic church to hear the cry of the poor in Milwaukee. I am stuck on these two issues because they still are two local important efforts that I need to help break the silence and make a change.
But I need to ask, am I really ‘stuck’ or am I ‘struck’ by these two issues?

Stuck implies not moving on while struck implies some action. How can I move on when in my conscience these are two important issues that need local attention and action? Also I believe that moving on would be wrong when these two conflicts of value and belief system are not resolved.

Someone wrote me today that a person preventing the local Catholic Church from the hearing the cry of the poor and doing something about it had “really had the “poor at the heart of their giving.” The person who wrote to me and the person being talked about might really believe this. But I am of the ‘old school’ thinking of St. Ignatius of Loyola and our present Holy Father in the Catholic church in believe that “Love expresses itself more in deeds than in words.”

Stuck implies standing still, like stuck in the mud. Struck means taking some action and implies moving on although these may get messy and dirty at times.

Pope Francis talking about the Catholic Church says: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,”

I guess I am struck rather than stuck on these two issues for awhile.


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Drowning In Technology? - Friday, January 03, 2014

This posting is for Jan. 2nd and today, Jan. 3rd. Last night when I went to post this, the server for all our local wiki web pages was down. Maybe it is something I said in the following post about technology that got passed on to the NSA and to server in Illinois. I am sorry and for penitence will forgo a new posting for tonight. But will be back tomorrow.

The New Year has just begun and I am already drowning with more digital devices with more and more information. Our small phone cell package was up so we got new, more advanced small phones. Using the I Cloud we had to transfer our data and apps on new phone and now need to learn how to use if effectively. For a self Christmas present we purchased very inexpensively a Tablet, most for reading E books, and need to set it up for use. Today we picked up our new slightly used car and need to learn how to use some of the digital devices on it. It is a smart, hybrid car.

When we got one of our first computers, many years ago it seems now, I found myself browsing the web and learning to use all kinds of stuff that I did not need to use. This is when I learned of the ‘monastic’ approach to use of computers, be single minded, learn only what you need to learn and resist the urge to go exploring on web or get addictive to programs like Facebook or digit games.

Now with all this new technology coming at me I must once again take on the learning curve to use what I find useful for writing, research, enjoyment, hobbies etc. I am not worried as much about robots becoming more human like but us becoming more robots like.

Technology is great but if one does not watch themselves they can drown their lives in technology.


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Recognize The New Jim Crow - Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The New Year should be a fresh start but the past is dragged with us to the present and into the future. I have a tough time with the Candle Light vigil we had Monday night for the 121 homicide victims in Milwaukee. We have prayer vigils at the site of homicide victims in Milwaukee after the killing happens but at the end of the year we have one vigil for victims and family.

Since many of the victims are young African American adults the vigil usually is in North Central Milwaukee. This year it was at St. Gabriel’s Church of God. There was great spiritual music throughout the service but also there was a lot of testimony. They were good witnesses to lives of victims but after awhile the message was very repetitive. The message was how we individually had to change our ways and pray for peace in our troubled neighborhoods. I agree with this message but think it is only half of the message that needs to be heard. The other part of the message is that we must hold politicians, church leaders, City, county and State governments accountable for the conditions that have been created in the area that is at the root of violence in the area. Yes, individuals must be held responsible for their actions but so should institutions and individuals that create the environment where it is very difficult to be good. The roots of violence, which most acknowledge, are poor educational system, high unemployment, extreme poverty and the institutional prison system which recycles young African American thru the system over and over again without rehabilitation or treatment.

But this is a message that politicians and employees of these institutional do not want to hear. There were a number of speakers on the agenda offering words of inspiration, encouragement, home etc. However, there is a deferment to politicians and every one present from County sheriff to House of Representatives needed to speak. After two hours of speeches my wife, who is recovery from hip surgery, needed to leave. The last speaker we heard was probably the best, a mother of a homicide victim some years ago.

We liked the soulful music the best but both of us thought the many speakers, repeating similar messages and thoughts, was too much and actually distracted from the prayer service. From years past we know the names of the victims are read and a candle is lit for each one but we had to leave after two hours.

I felt the service that had been going on for 21 years had been hijacked by politicians, officials and ministers who want to repeat over and over again how the violence is all the people’s fault and all we need is prayer and faith.

North Central Milwaukee, which is the place of more crime and homicides, is the most segregated part of the most segregated city in the USA, the poorest area of the fourth poorest city in the nation, the part of the city with the highest rate of incarceration for African Americans in the State with the highest rate in the country with highest rate of incarceration in the world. (See M.A..P.S.. As long as people accept these conditions as their problem and fault and not part of the environment that has been created they will continue to exist. Institutional racism, poverty, poor schools, and criminalization of population are the New Jim Crow in the age of color blindness exist. Until we recognize it we cannot change it.


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