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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

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Wake Up to bring Light to Darkness - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mary of the Garden, Tonight

May 1st is May Day, Worker’s Day, St. Joseph the Worker feast, the day of the Immigration march and the first day of the month of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the mother of God. This year, however, in looks like another chilly and rainy day not the beginning of the month of May flowers. Maybe we need to pray to Mary for warmer and sunny weather that will brighten our lives and bring May flowers.

The statue of Mary in our garden backyard is surrounded by yellow daffodils during the day and shines with a solar spotlight at night. It is strange that the sun of the day, little that it is, brings energy to light the statue of Mary by night. Maybe there is a lesson we can all learn from this light of Mary, to savor all the bits of light we can, so when the darkness comes we can shine.

A probable homeless man was sleeping outside a Starbucks in downtown Milwaukee today. A policeman was called, woke up the man up to question him, the policeman took out his nightstick, the homeless man grabbed it and a scuffle broke out. The sleeping man wound up dead with 10 bullets fired by the police officer.

An investigation will follow but this tragic death of this still nameless man reminds me how dearly we need police training to deal with the poor and persons with mental illnesses. Our former police chief was involved in this type of training for all police officers but the present one and the mayor rather invest money in what they called “data driven policing.” Incidents of police shooting unarmed persons have increased over the years. This man, without a name so far, is just looked on as useless, a nobody, a tragic victim, of no importance.

Maybe the sleeping man downtown was a worker who had lost his job and found himself living on the streets. His days had become dark and blinded with rage when the policeman woke him up. We may never know what happened but we know that we need to bring some light to this dark event and insist that, once again, our police officers are trained to be sensitive to homeless and ill.

How many more deaths will it take of unarmed persons dying from police action before we wake up and do something to bring light to the darkness?


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Overt Racism Vs. Institutional Racism - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The overt racist, secretly recorded, remarks of the owner of the NBA LA Clippers basketball team is big news and lead today to his lifetime ban from basketball and efforts are underway to force this owner of the team since the early 1980’s to sell it. Everyone, players, fans, black and white applauded the NBA commission banning of this owner for some remarks he made to his former girlfriend awhile back.

I wish we could get a little bit of the outrage expressed on this over racist remarks over the institutional racism that marks this city and many others in the country. Where is the outrage when government, businesses, churches and even Catholic organization like St. Vincent de Paul make decisions that reaffirm the North Central neighborhood being the most segregated area in the most segregated city in the USA, the poorest area in the fourth poorest city, the area with the highest unemployment rate, the most criminalized area as well with the deprived public education system. (See M.A.P.S.)

Institutional racism does more harm to more people than any overt racist remarks from an old white guy. Yet this type of racism goes on and on while we wait for the next old white guy to make a racist remark.

In the 60’s when we protesting against “institutional racism” at the university students and faculty seemed to understand what we meant. If we talk about it today or ‘institutional militarism’ at Marquette University no one seems to care.
When racism or any ‘ism’ is overt it gets attention; when it is subtle and more destructive it gets ignored. Our society has been conditioned to care about the overt and superficial but not about the subtle and deep seated. Personally I will take the overt racism over institutional racism any day.

When racism or any ‘ism’ is overt it gets attention; when it is subtle and more destructive it gets ignored. Our society has been conditioned to care about the overt and superficial but not about the subtle and deep seated. Personally I will take overt racism over institutional racism any day.


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Friendship Makes Milwaukee Famous - Monday, April 28, 2014

Today it was cold, dark, windy and rainy and the rest of the week is predicted to be the same. Keeping spirits high is difficult for me in this type of weather but I got a lift today from a call from a friend. My friend is a kindred spirit but visits Milwaukee, her home town, frequently or we talked by phone. But recently we both have been busy and there has not been much communication. So today, for me, was a good day to reconnect with my friend and catch up with our lives.

I am blessed to have as my best friend, my wife. We celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary last Saturday. I can share with her whatever is going on in my life and best of all, she is very forgiving.

When I was working in business or non-profits I knew a lot of persons but felt I had few of any close friends. Since I retired from working for money I have developed many good friendships with people of all ages, sex, income levels and races. Sometimes close friends come and go but most stay for life.

Part of having close friends is moving back to Milwaukee in 1995. Milwaukee is a big city but has a feel of a small town where everyone seems connected to everyone. This might be changing as the city becomes more transient and less long term residents but it is still there. Milwaukee, despite all its woes is a friendly environment where people can still talk to strangers and feel comfortable.

What worries me most about friendly Milwaukee is the discrimination by race that going on. Even during the heyday of the civil rights movement and open housing marches we did not have such racial discrimination as we have now, with separate neighborhoods for low income African Americans and low income Hispanics. The racism is not as overt as it was in the 60’s but it is extremely more powerful. People fear certain neighborhoods and the causes of poverty and violence, low employment, poor education, declining home ownership, lack of transportation; withdrawal of services seems to be spiraling out of control. If anything destroys the neighborhood spirit of Milwaukee it will be the failure to deal with root cause of violence and poverty. No one, not even the St. Vincent De Paul Society, dedicated to poor and marginalized, wants to be part of investing in these segregated low income neighborhoods.

Besides dealing with causes, not symptoms, of poverty and violence what can help save Milwaukee is friendship. Just like when I am low I can be picked up by a friend, so can Milwaukee rise again by friendships across and income levels and racial difference? Milwaukee needs to break down the walls of separation that are being built around North Central and South Central Milwaukee from the rest of the city and suburbs and declare friendship is what makes Milwaukee famous.


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Speaking Passionately Yet Peacefully - Sunday, April 27, 2014

“I have no special talents.”
I am only passionately curious.
Albert Einstein

Recently at public events I find myself asking a question or making a comment with great emotion and passion. It is like something takes over my body and mind. People really like my question or comments or really do not like them. What is going on? I was taught in my spiritual training in Spiritual Exercise to discern to seek what leaves you in peace and avoid that what leaves you upset. Yet on the other hand I was trained to allow the spirit speak thru you, just to let go and let God. If I could only control or condition the strong feelings that come out to me I would be okay.

For example, today I attended a wonderful reading of Project Unspeakable, a work that connects the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. It was excellent and authentic. There was an hearsay quote at the beginning that excused President Obama for everything wrong that is going on now with unspeakable by saying he was not doing anything out of fear. I thought that remark was out of place but such a minor scar on an excellent production. However, the first person to ask a question asked that these hearsay remarks be repeated, excusing President Obama, from anything like drones, new nuclear weapons etc. I found my hand going up and speaking very passionately how the President was intelligent and knew what he was doing with killer drones, deporting more persons than any president in history of USA and on and on. I found it hard to stop as I was speaking by channeling words from an unknown source.

My efforts to slow down, do more reading, reflection and responding are failing, at least for today. Now if I could only learn to speak passionately yet peacefully.


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Obstacles In Garden of Life - Saturday, April 26, 2014

In the Garden of Life we encounter obstacles to growth, a Catholic University Teaching Killing or a Catholic organization straying from its mission of works of mercy to investing to make money. Sometimes in life we cannot dialog or reason with these obstacles, like an infestation of bugs in the garden or poor soil. All we can do, if there is no creative conflict and dialog possible, is to take action, direct action to move past the obstacle to growth.

In the civil rights movement when there was no dialog or healthy discussion there was no choice but to take direct nonviolent action, putting our reputation, money and perhaps our life on the line. There are some things worth struggling for and maybe even dying for. Our conscience drives us to action, if we can only hear and see what we believe.

This morning I was wasting my time and time of others present talking with persons in our St. Vincent De Paul Conference about how the present move to invest 3.2 million dollars in the suburbs for a thrift store rather than building one in the area of most need where we serve. Comments like that is ‘your opinion’ of mission statement which I do not agree with or I do not care to know more were an expression of the futility of a dialog. My insistence on making my point was also futile.

This afternoon I was talking in a retirement home with two elderly priests, one a Jesuit and one a Franciscan. Although they did not agree on everything they could talk and dialog because they saw in each other themselves and the same vision of life and what is right. The Garden of Life was flowing all around the three of us because we had similar values that were worth struggling and suffering for.

In the Garden of Life we encounter obstacles to growth but if we struggle, sacrifice, dialog, act and work together these obstacles can be overcome. All are welcome in Garden of Life but when we face obstacles we can overcome and keep on growing


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Three R’s Reading, Reflection, Respond - Friday, April 25, 2014

Reading to Reflection
to Responding

It is time to get back the basics: Reading, Reflection and Respond. I read a lot these days but it is mostly stuff on the computer, sometimes newspaper and magazines but not much of real books, fiction or nonfiction. There is nothing better than a good book, like the book I am trying to read now, Howard Zinn’s “People History of the USA” to get in depth knowledge of a subject. With fiction it is a delight to exercise the imagination. What takes away from the time I used to read? TV and Internet takes a big hunk of time. Now for a break during the day I do not take time to read but turn on the TV looking for the least objectionable news or sports reporting. My wife, Pat, a librarian reads a lot and really enjoys it although she works full time and likes her selective entertainment TV shows.

Reflection, be it prayer, repetitive words, using the senses of imagination, or just plain emptying the mind of thoughts is needed more these days than ever before. We are in an information and entertainment driven society and there is too much crowding our brain that leaves us open to tension and insensitivity. Everyone seems to understand the importance of reflection but it hard to practice in our fast paced society. Perhaps this need for reflection is what draws me to gardening. It seems like when I am working outside, like today, my mind, body and spirit focus on the task on happen and my awareness grows.

I am slowing learning with age how important it is to respond not to react. Some people choose to ignore things they do not want to know, as of ignoring them will make them go away. Some, like I often did and still am labeled by some, react. I had gotten away from reacting and tried hard to respond with opinion, research or history. But for some it does not matter if I respond than react, they still want to put me in the react box. I need to learn to live with this stereotype and come back peacefully responding. I find it hard, especially when I see a clear injustice, not to react but by restricting situations I put myself in, am improving in responding. I used to joke about being rejected and when working with youth even took on the rap name of ‘reject’. By living a life as reject and not reacting is something St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us in his Spiritual Exercise is something to desire and pray for. I am not sure if I am there yet but at least I am getting better.

Reading parts of a book each day rather than overloading with information, slowing down enough to take time to reflect and responding, not reacting to what life bring us are the three r’s that I need these days.


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Racism Is Racism - Thursday, April 24, 2014

North Central Milwaukee outline
in yellow; Black=85% or
more African American; grey=
85% or more white; red=
integrated blocks; green=
predominately Hispanic; white
= nonresidential blocks

It is time to call the refusal to dialog about the placement of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store in the North Central Milwaukee rather than the one planned for suburbs for 3.2 million dollars what it is. It is time to call “data driven policing” which focuses police in North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the removal of funds for education in North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the blaming of people in North Central Milwaukee for the environment what it is. It is time to call the Criminalization of North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the over 50% unemployment of adults in North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the reduction of Catholic Churches in North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the segregation of African Americans in North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the reduction and withdrawal of transit services and businesses in North Central Milwaukee for what it is. It is time to call the ‘food desert’ of North Central Milwaukee for what it is.

It is Racism, pure and simple. The Racism of today, just like the New Jim Crow of today, is not as overt as it was in the past, but it is just as deadly and immoral as it ever was. People, black and white, fear calling it racism but it is and until we face the ugly truth and name it, we cannot deal with it. We are building a wall of racism around North Central Milwaukee and the more we ignore the truth the more our self prophesying comes true.

This morning at prayer vigil for two homicide victims a public radio reporter asked about comments that a preacher had made that it was the African American people in North Central Milwaukee that had to make conditions better in this area. He was not asking me for my comment and I would have called the statement “The New Jim Crow”. Yes, persons should be held responsible for their action but we cannot change persons by words. We can only change ourselves. However we can change the environment in North Central Milwaukee by building a St. Vincent De Paul Thrift store. We can end “data driven policing”. We can increase funds for public education. We can provide treatment for persons with drug or alcohol problems rather than prison. We can build businesses and provide better transportation in this area. We can provide decent health care for all who are ill of mind, body and spirit. We cannot change anyone but, to paraphrase Peter Maurin, Co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, we can “make that kind of society in North Central Milwaukee where it is easier for persons to be good.”
Racism must be called for what it is, Racism


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Money Trumps Enviornment? - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oh,the Joy of a Daffodil

Finally I was able to pick some flowers from the garden, daffodils, to make a fresh flower vase. Last year I had daffodils and more flowers in March. Now with the chilly weather in the forecast for the end of April it looks like it will be May before the flowers really get in bloom. This climate change or climate cooling or warming is, according to some experts, beyond the scope of no return. Glaciers melt, avalanches increase on Mount Everest, sever droughts in parts of USA, mudslides in Washington State, lack of spring in Milwaukee, what is happening to our earth?

Earth Day was yesterday and celebrations go on until next week. But what can we celebrate when the ‘big powers that be’, mining companies in Guatemala, energy consuming giants in China and cars in USA just keep poisoning the earth in the name of money.

Money trumps democracy in elections, with person with most money usually the winner; Money is free speech according to our Supreme Court; Love of money keeps taxes low and poverty high; Now will money trumps the Earth! What good is money if we do not have a livable earth? We cannot eat money, use it as a shelter, plant in the group to grow it or even drink it.

My African niece just returned from visiting her family, 16 years after escaping civil war and extreme poverty in her home in Sierra Leone. I remember how much she seemed to suffer from the separation from her family that lives in poverty, even after the civil war. Although she was poor and a struggling student she would faithfully sent money home whenever she could. Now after returning to USA after a three week visit she is homesick once again. She told me how her family still struggles in extreme poverty but how joyful and full of life everyone was. After I picked her up and brought her here for some dinner and to pick up her car the first thing she did was to get a phone card to call home. It took her several calls to reach someone on the block her extended family lives. Although it was very late at night it turns out it was the day with electricity, every other day, and all the cell phones (no landlines after the war) were recharging and many in her family were watching a movie. She has a decent job here but has piles of debt from her education. Her family has little work and money but enjoys each other and lives life fully.

Making money trumps our environment but leaves us often with poverty of joy.


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Truth, Result of Conflict and Struggle - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

The classic question of ‘what is truth’ seems to be answered these days with the comments that truth is something relative and we all have our own truths. There is something to that comment, even Gandhi who called his life an ‘experiment in truth’ referred to his ‘opinion of truth.’ But many believe, as I do, there is some objective truth that we must seek and act on.

Jesus also said “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18: 37). In major religious faiths you find some common values and truths, like the dignity and value of human life.

If we believe something is true, like teaching killing at Marquette is contrary to our Gospel and faith than we have an obligation in conscience to act on this truth. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement says that we must follow our conscience even if it is an erroneous one.

I noticed these days when you express your ‘opinion of the truth’ and explain why you believe this is true, people who disagree, often do not enter in a creative dialog but simply ignore you and your message of truth. I find this happened with my recent letter to the executive directors of St. Vincent De Paul voicing my opinion of the truth why the move to invest 3.2 million dollars in a store in suburbs was against the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. So far they just ignored my letter as they have done many times before when I have said something they do not agree with. In other words, instead of recognizing someone’s opinion of truth’ and trying to reconcile that with you own ‘opinion of truth’ they just ignore the message. Clarification of the truth cannot happen where there is no dialog or discussion. Thus, all parties keep on doing the same thing which leads all further away from truth. There is truth in the world but unless we seek and struggle for the truth it will not be discovered. Truth is a result of creative conflict and struggle.


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Pat Tillman, Victim of Reflexive Killing - Monday, April 21, 2014

Pat Tillman NFL Star\Army Ranger

Conversation tonight with a friend reminded me of a web project I started and did not complete. It is a Retreat in Daily Life called “Finding God in all Things, a retreat for a pilgrim in a busy world.” It is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola which is a four week retreat that has been converted into many forms. This one is in the form of 13 weeks of gathering of a small group with daily reflections. I have been thinking of finishing it for some time now and maybe this is the time. Although my work in my Growing Power Model Home Garden is just getting going my activities with resistance at Marquette University and change with St. Vincent de Paul Society are slowing down. I have been thinking of taking a time out from action for awhile and making more time for reading, reflection and writing. This project would be a good start.

There are a lot of projects I would like to do, especially one involving research and history. But research information and learning from history seem to be an unwanted commodity in today’s society so maybe focusing on the spiritual would be attractive. Working on the garden and doing some spiritual writing and reflections seem like a good way to spend the summer months. The garden is outside and the writing and reflection is inside.

Also by chance life just happens and offers an opportunity for reflection if we are looking for it. I have been talking a lot about reflexive shooting, killing without conscience but last night in escaping to sports on ESPN I found by chance a good example. It was an ESPN Outside the Lines story on Pat Tillman, the famous NFL football player who was killed by friendly fire by Army Rangers in Afghanistan. There were two interviews of Army Rangers present that day, 10 years ago, one with Pat Tillman on the hillside and one with a group of Army Rangers below that were firing on them, mistaking them for the enemy. The one with Pat Tillman being fired on commented that if the soldiers below had taken a few seconds before firing they would have realized they were shooting at their own guys. The soldier below talked about how they were trained to shoot at a target the commander officer was shooting at, without thought, just instinctively. After the death of Pat Tillman both soldiers suffered greatly with marriage problems and divorces, with alcohol and Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They never talked to each other but felt an overwhelming sense of guilt from this death, a result of military training of reflexive killing, killing with thinking or conscience.

The story of Pat Tillman’s death might be a greater understanding to a student of the results of military teaching to kill reflexively at Marquette than any research or preaching.

There are examples of our spiritual and value beliefs all around us if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. The tragic death of Pat Tillman is just one.


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Grapes of Wrath Become Grape Leaves of Delight - Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rolling Grape Leaves of Delight

Today, Easter Sunday, Pat and I had made lots of stuffed Grape Leaves to take up to our son’s house to celebrate Easter with him, his wife and our three grandchildren. It is a favorite food for all of us. However, this morning our daughter-in-law called and said our son, David, had a virus, and it might be best if we did not come up. So for dinner tonight we enjoyed a wonderful meal of Grape Leaves and will do so tomorrow night and Wednesday for dinner.

Making and eating the Middle Eastern meal of stuffed grape leaves, the leaves which we picked in our backyard last summer, reminded me of a quote that has been in the back of my mind for awhile. It is a quote from the book Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The book, published in 1939, is set during the Great Depression, and “focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other “Okies”, they sought jobs, land, dignity, and a future.” At the end of the book Tom Joad, the eldest son is forced to flee the migrant workers camp because of his struggle for human rights for the poor farm workers. Saying goodbye to his mother he says:

“Maybe it’s like Casey says. A fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but only a piece of a big soul, the one big soul out there that belongs to everybody. And then it don’t matter. Then I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere…Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a company thug beating up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad, and I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready…And when our people eat the stuff they raise, and the houses they build, I’ll be there too.”

Times have changed but in ways the poor are still suffering from the hands of rich and mighty. Struggling to take a stand in solidarity with poor by practicing the Mission of St. Vincent De Paul Society or resisting the teaching of war and killing at Marquette I am tempted to give up at times but keep on going knowing that I must take a stand and fight for what is right and need to follow my conscience.

If nothing changes in my life time, if our struggles for peace and justice fail, the belief in the Resurrection keeps me going. For if we are with people who struggle for peace and justice then we will be there, at least in spirit, “when our people eat the stuff they raise, and the houses they build” or when they Teach War No More at Marquette and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul devotes all its resources to the works of mercy. The Grapes of Wrath will become the Grape Leaves of Delight.


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Dialog with a Marquette Student on ROTC - Saturday, April 19, 2014

Marquette ROTC Protest

A while back Breaking the Silence received a rather harsh letter from a Marquette student telling us why we were so foolish protesting the military (ROTC) on the campus. I wrote back trying to be kind and sensitive in my response. He wrote back and I responded. Below, in dialog form are his comments, called ‘student’, and my response, ‘Bob’.

Student: You really think they teach killing to students? Please give me some examples. Please also show me Marquette ROTC curriculum that says the word “kill” in it. They’re taught to disarm the target, take down the target, etc. Typically in defense of their own comrades. Marquette ROTC students HARDLY see combat. You do realize you’re part of the minority in this argument. Do you even have curriculum that is CURRENTLY taught in ROTC classes? I don’t think that the University would hand you such documents and rightfully so.

Bob: The military admits and Marquette does not deny that reflexively killing, killing without conscience is being taught in military. I first heard of reflexive killing at Marquette University during the viewing of a film, approved by the military, called Soldiers of Conscience. You can now watch the film yourself on YouTube. There is an even a scene in the film of a ROTC class in which this is taught. The military ethics of West Point who narrates much of the film has a paper presented to military command in 2000 that you can find a link to at “Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War”

Marquette University has oversight of the curricula of all departments of the University except the three departments of Military Science, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. This is part of the contract with Department of Defense. You can verify this information with Provost of Marquette, acting one or past provost who is still around campus.

The movement at Marquette to resist ROTC at Marquette was student inspired. In the official History of Marquette University it states “By May 1968, the university issued a second set of rules, this time for ‘Faculty Participation in Disruptive Demonstrations.’ By then a key target was the Reserved Officers Training Corps, a fixture at Marquette since before World War II.” (Milwaukee Jesuit University, Marquette 1881–1981 by Thomas J. Jablonsky 329) This web page needs an update but the resistance to ROTC on campus is at least 46 years old. You will notice that in the early pictures of resistance to military on campus there were hundreds and hundreds of students participating in this resistance and, as you note, none today. There is many reasons for this but as a student at MU in 60′s I can say with some authority it is just not ROTC, but moral issues of civil rights, discrimination, apartheid, racism that no longer appeal to students as moral issues to act on.

Student: I don’t believe I called you a name, just stated fellow student’s thoughts of you and your organization. At this point you’ve pissed off most of the Marquette campus. Most students (maybe even all) are in support of what Marquette does and I have NEVER seen a student picketing on campus, sitting in on official campus business or anything else that your group does. I saw you disrespect a veteran on campus after he exposed your flawed logic. It was disrespectful and quite frankly it was sad. It disgusts me that your group harasses ROTC students in uniform. They are scholarship students who work hard and deserve to be left alone.

Bob: I believe your characterization of students at Marquette is degrading to students. As far as veterans I do not think you will find any disrespect of veterans. I have good friends who are veterans and even at students at time in ROTC at MU. Just as I was motivated in 1968 to take a stand against Vietnam War and selective service system I am motivated, in large part, by veterans today. The suicide rate among veterans and soldiers in the military is reported at 22 per day since 1968. At least one of those I know was a ROTC graduate of MU. If you really care about soldiers in the military and veterans I will be glad to supply you with reading materials and other stuff directly from veterans.

Student: Please take your fight to legislature, to the campus president or somewhere else where a decision can be made. For student’s sake, I hope you’re banned from campus. My faith system is mine and mine alone, I appreciate that you have a strong view on something in life, however I
don’t believe you should be throwing it in the faces of our ROTC students, US military veterans and the general campus population.

Bob: I take strong objection to the tone of this statement. You might have you own ‘faith system’ and set of values but I am a Roman Catholic Christian and share my basic faith system and values with millions all over the world. The Holy Father of the Catholic Church says “Faith and Violence are Not Compatible” and I believe that. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the priority of conscience overrides any government orders or even that of an administrator at MU. See Gospel Values Vs Military Values.

Student: Your picketing/protests and obnoxious and I’m not sure the Catholic Faith would support what you do either. Please ponder that. Take your fight to the right people, not the general student population. They think you’re insane (not calling you a name, just stating other student’s reactions to your rants).

Bob: On this Holy Saturday I have the strength to take any insults you or other students may use against any of us for expressing our conscience and deep faith. I would hope we could talk about all this person to person and face to face but that probably will not happen. I do hope you read this email and check out the links.

I accepted the fact that we cannot change anyone but ourselves but we can create an environment where we can civilly discuss and dialog on these moral issues.

Student: I will remain anonymous to protect myself.
Bob: Be Not Afraid!
StudentStrong: L.
Bob: Again thank you for responding. I hope you read and reflect on my response. God Bless You,
Bob Graf


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No Way to Avoid Nonviolent Cross - Friday, April 18, 2014

When is enough, enough, and one gives up fighting a battle. Since 1968 or earlier there has been a struggle to end military training (ROTC) on campus at Marquette University. I have traced some of that history, since 1968 on the struggle to end military training on campus. See history of this resistance from 1968. In Marquette’s official history book it says: “By May 1968, the university issued a second set of rules, this time for ‘Faculty Participation in Disruptive Demonstrations.’ By then a key target was the Reserved Officers Training Corps, a fixture at Marquette since before World War II.” (Milwaukee Jesuit University, Marquette 1881–1981 by Thomas J. Jablonsky p. 329) This web page needs updating but the resistance to ROTC on campus is at least 46 years old.

Today I received a 2nd anonymous letter from a Marquette University student telling us how foolish and terrible we are for protesting military training on campus and how no students supported us. We do not have students supported the movement at present but it was student organized movement. Without looking at the research behind our statements he criticizes us for making statements like the military training teaches killing without conscience and violates Gospel values. I can point out that Marquette or military has never denied these statements, which come from military manuals and how our Catholic catechism teaches us to put conscience over military training. But I doubt if it will do any good for the modern young persons, as many in America, are not interested in facts, research or truth. Everything, even faith and values, is reduced to that is your opinion and I have my opinion. I often used the phrase “Do you own thing” to summarize modern morality.

Does this mean the few of us left should give up the struggle to get military bases off this Catholic Jesuit University? I do not think so but it does challenge our tactics.

Looking back in history and in our times at people of conscience I admire I found Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. Dorothy Day, Fr. Jerry Zawada, Franz Jägerstätter, Lorenzo Rosebaugh, Roy Bourgeois and many more. Many of these suffered from living their conscience and values, we called names and insulted and many were killed for what they stood for.

Wait a minuet! This is Good Friday when we look back at Jesus, fully God and fully human, who was insulted, rejected and died for what he believed. We now call this man, strip naked and put on a cross, our savior, and many try to follow the way of Jesus.

I will write the Marquette student back again thanking him for his rejection of our message. At least he took the care to respond. There seems to be no way around it or avoid it, we must bear the nonviolent cross to be who we are.


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Where has All the Money Gone? … Lawyer Going! - Thursday, April 17, 2014

I was in Federal Bankruptcy court this morning to show support for the victims of sexual abuse when the Archdiocese Bankruptcy plan was decided, a plan the victims felt was unjust and unfair. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has already spent 11 million plus fighting the victims and was proposing a very small amount to some of them. When I got there the hearing was already in process and being in the back of the hall I had a hard time hearing. But I did make out the lawyers for the Archbishop, who in the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church calls the shots making statement and objections over and over again. Finally the Judge said she would not make a decision on the plan today but wanted to go over it and ask the Archdiocese and insurance companies to clarify things.

When an old friend left I did too, figuring I would read about what happened or did not happen in the newspaper tomorrow. The lawyering up of the Archdiocese to fight tooth and nail the victims of sexual abuse really bothers me. Instead of reconciliation and settlement the last Archbishop of Milwaukee and the present one have decided to hide away in trust as much money as they could and spend the rest on lawyers fighting the victims. I knew money matters in politics, the one with most money usually wins, but now I am learning that money works in the criminal justice system. Poor people get little justice while those with money can spend so much to win.

People in solidarity with poor and marginalized can never win any victory, even human rights, any longer in justice system. People have tried it with major corporations like Wal-Mart or McDonald’s only to spend lots of money and lose. One of the parishes the Archdiocese, closed in 1993 to form the merged parish of Blessed Trinity, was sold for a million and half dollars. However, then the Archdiocese sued the new owner hired a bunch of lawyers, lost in court and blew most of it on lawyer fees. The leftover funds where at Blessed Trinity and when the Archdiocese closed and sold that church the money went to a ‘trust fund’ to protect it from anyone, including the poor and needy.

The Supreme Court of USA says institutions are people and money is free speech and destroys restrictions on campaign funding. Where is all the money going? To the lawyers and rich as you would expect.


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Homeless Jesus - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

‘Homeless Jesus’

I went to a local Lenten talk today at St. Francis Church and heard a Franciscan Capuchin priest, from the House of Peace, talk about the “Spirit of St. Francis”. St. Francis had a deep appreciation of the actual poverty of Jesus, born where animals were fed, homeless at age 30, died stripped naked on the cross and if it was not for one of his followers, Nicodemus, his body would be thrown on the garbage pile along with others killed by Romans.

When you look at Jesus this way, rejected and marginalized it is easy to understand how the sculpture of homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench is so controversial. A statue of a ‘homeless Jesus’ sleeping on a park bench was rejected by cathedrals New York and Canada before finally finding a home in an Episcopalian church in an upscale neighborhood of Davidson, N.C. This statue startled this community. Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away. Some neighbors feel it is an insulting depiction of the Son of God, and what appears to be a hobo curled up on a bench demeans the neighborhood.

This last remark reminds me of a suggestion a friend had the other night when he called me up to say the City of Greenfield, an upscale neighborhood near Milwaukee, had reversed its decision and would now allow a real estate develop to erect a 3.2 million dollar St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store in this upscale neighborhood, a store that should have been constructed for a fraction of the cost in the neighborhood served by St. Vincent de Paul, with the poor and outcast. He suggested that at the grand opening of the new store we bus people from North Central Milwaukee out to the new store to shop. City of Greenfield wants the money this new development will bring but do not want the people it is meant to serve.

I certainly believe that if Jesus would appear today he would certainly be a homeless person, maybe one of the people that hang out at the day shelter each day helping other homeless persons.

Any real reading of the Gospels show Jesus was a ‘rejected’ person with no place to rest his home. The people who killed this obscured man in Palestine are long forgotten but the name of Jesus, the homeless person, lives on.


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God’s Your Uncle - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It’s “Bob’s Your Uncle” Time

Many years ago, when I was new to the Catholic Worker movement and its House of Hospitably in Milwaukee I was concerned about the day to day existence of the house and its works of mercy to the poor. Michael Cullen, co-founder with his wife Nettie, told me not to worry, that God will provide what we needed in the house. We just had to do what we could do and God would do the rest. It worked.

Last Sunday our pastor passed on some words of wisdom he had received from an elderly priest when he was young. The priest had told him just to do the right thing and all would be well. Again God will provide.

This morning one of the members of our faith sharing group asked me about the phrase “Bob’s Your Uncle”. I told him it was a British slang word meaning “No problem”, “the solution is simple”, “there you have it”, “you have what you want, “all will be well”; I have heard some say the slang phrase has a meaning similar to English slang of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I used it as my email handle, bobsyouruncle, and many persons, besides nephews and nieces, call me “Uncle Bob”. I like to think I have the attitude of ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’.

I needed all the “Bob’s your uncle” spirit I could muster tonight. I was writing an open letter to the Executive Director of the St. Vincent De Paul Society (SVDP) tonight to try to begin a dialog about the mission of the Society and the mission of our SVDP stores. I got a phone call from a person who was present at the City of Greenfield City Council meeting tonight saying the Council had reversed itself since a vote after the public hearing last week and was now granting a special use permit allowing the Executive Director and Real Estate developer to go ahead for the 3. 2 million dollar investment in a store in this suburb. (You can read about this store and dissension it caused in last Sunday’s newspaper at In quest for dollars, St. Vincent de Paul Society faces identity crisis.

I do not know what kind of secret behind the scenes was made to get the City Council to reverse its decision without any more public input but the news was devastating to hear. In my opinion it will be a real setback to the SVDP in Milwaukee, especially to the poor on the North side.

I will finish my letter about mission of the Society but it took all the “Bob’s your uncle” spirit I could muster to keep home alive that the society in Milwaukee can survive to serve those in need. Maybe we need to say “God’s Your Uncle”.


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Home Town Looks Better - Monday, April 14, 2014

My hometown, Milwaukee

Today it snowed, tying some kind of record for winter days with snow and tonight the temperature is going down to 22 degrees. I saw a Cardinal bird today in the backyard but he or she is probably going back south or in hiding. The Cardinal baseball team is in town so maybe the bird came with them for the road trip.

Tonight a good friend who suffers from I call a brain illness or some call a mental illness told me, unexpectedly, that he needs to move out Milwaukee to one of two other smaller towns in Wisconsin. I asked him why and he said that ‘they’ were after him. He could not define who ‘they’ were. I told him about the great support network he has here in Milwaukee that he cannot find quickly in these two other towns, but that did not matter much to him.

Our conversation reminded me of many conversations I had with my son, Peter, who thought that if he just moved to another city all his troubles with his mind would be over. Actually he did go to San Francisco and Settle one journey and to New Orleans and Texas at another time. Both journeys ended with disasters since by changing locations he could not get free from his illness.

After the second journey he stayed in Milwaukee but kept talking about, up till the night before he died, about going to another city to live, most notably Chicago. However, I believe that deep in himself he knew that he could not escape the suffering he felt by moving. After his death our pastor said that Peter finally got to Chicago, where there was no more suffering.

This common illusion of persons with mental illnesses is deep in all of us. If only we could go somewhere else all would be good. A friend of mine got herself into some trouble in a northern city and had been talking with me today about how if she and her son could be back to California all would be well, despite the fact she and her son would need to live in a homeless shelter. Talking with her today, reality set in, and she will try to get herself out of the mess in her life where she is now.

Half jokey, I told my wife tonight that if we ever felt we had to get out of Milwaukee that I would like to go to Hawaii. From what I remember from my visits there when my brother and his family lived there, was that the weather was always nice, bright and sunny, the scenery was beautiful and people there had a laid back lifestyle.

I will probably live and die right here in Milwaukee, my home town. Not looking for change of locations my home town looks better and better to me each day.


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The Stuff We Consume - Sunday, April 13, 2014

During Lent I have been fasting at times from all food except bread and liquids. That has been good with only one major setback. When I do eat something, like going out for a Fish Fry last Friday, my stomach rebels and I feel sick for a few days. Who said that a person cannot live “by bread and drinks” alone? I think what is happening is when the body is free of sodium, fat, chemicals found in most food it enjoys the break. However, going back to eating fried foods or ones high in sodium wrecks havoc. I guess you cannot have you cake or food and eat it too.

We finally finished today grinning, sifting and storing the spices, basil, mints and hot peppers, we grew last summer, dried and stored away in the freezer. We, Pat and I, even made a spice jar for salads, consisting of sea salt, basil, mint, garlic powder, peppers and a little cilantro. Pat put some on the salad tonight and it was good. Herbs spice up all the food and do not make one sick.

Eating less in Lent has caused me to lose a few pounds but nothing significant. Maybe now that I can get outside and work in the garden, growing some healthy food, the exercise will help with losing weight.

The food we grow, herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant and beans as well as some of the healthy foods we buy do not make us gain weight or get sick. It is just all the other stuff we consume.


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Be Careful What You Wish For But Wish! - Saturday, April 12, 2014

Be careful what you wish for. I wanted to get the word out about how our Milwaukee County St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) is being run as a social agency not, as its mission states, for person to person contact with those in need. I got a reporter from the local newspaper interested and gave her all kinds of information about the Mission of the Society and the Mission of the SVDP stores. I also put her in contact with a very knowledgeable person on why a 3.2 million store in the suburbs was not a good investment and why we should invest a much lesser amount in the where we need a store in North Central Milwaukee.

The reporter decided not to use any of the information I had sent her or to even quote the two persons who testified at the Greenfield City Council against placement of new store in Greenfield. You can read the story yourself at In quest for dollars, St. Vincent de Paul Society faces identity crisis. At least the editor who writes the headlines got it right by saying how we face an identity crisis.

I hope the phrase any publicity is better than no publicity is true. Some of us will respond to the article but we need to be careful not to be defensive but to state clearly the mission of the Society is not to make money, run meal program or even to provide material items for the poor. The mission is of SVDP is below and the mission of the SVDP stores: “Serving Christ’s needy is the primary goal of all St. Vincent DePaul Stores. (See full Mission Statement of St. Vincent De Paul Stores below.)

I hope I do not regret encouraging this reporter to write this article but those of us who see, feel and live the mission sometime become like the poor and marginalized we serve, ignored and without much voice. So be careful what you wish for but continue to wish.


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Where Everybody Knows Your Name - Friday, April 11, 2014

Norm, Everybody knows his
name at Cheers

Today two people, whose names I did not know, recognized me today and called me by name. One was at a prayer vigil for homicide victims when a local PBS radio person, who sometimes records our prayer, approached our small group before the prayer vigil and asked him if someone would comment on the bill the Governor just signed that would increased the number of sound boxes in the city that record gun shots and aide in locating where they were shot. I said I did not think much of the idea and with all the money we are spending on detecting crime and punishing people we could be doing something about the causes of crime, poor housing, high unemployment, racism, drug and alcohol prevention etc. After I spoke my piece he looked at me and said “You are Bob Graf”. I just said yes and we went on with the prayer service.

Tonight Pat and I took a friend from Chicago to a Brewers game. About the sixth inning as I was roaming the inner walkways looking for some popcorn to purchase when a group of young people passed me by. One of them said, “Bob give me five”, I did and said ‘hey’ not knowing who he was.

Milwaukee has always been one of these cities where everybody seems to know everybody or, at least, someone who knows both persons. I have always attributed this feeling as well as people talking to strangers in stores, ballgames or even, tonight, in the men’s restroom to the fact that Milwaukee had a high house ownership and people that grew up in Milwaukee, like myself, stay in Milwaukee or eventually come back to live. However, the fabric of home ownership is starting to break down especially in the North Central Milwaukee where there are hundreds of abandoned homes waiting to be torn down or sold, inexpensively, to a big landlords.

For whatever the reasons I enjoy this feeling of a small town in a major city and want to preserve it. It is nice to live in a place where, almost, everybody knows your name.


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One Man Revolution - Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ammon Hennacy

Ammon Hennacy, Catholic Worker and Christian Anarchist is one of my favorite characters in the Catholic Worker movement in the 20th century. Today someone sent me an article from the Salt Lake City Catholic newspaper called The ‘One Man Revolution’. The ‘One Man Revolution’ is a phrase that many of us have used to describe the spirit of the Catholic Worker and it is also the name of a book Ammon wrote right before he died in 1970. The book consists of seventeen chapters with each one devoted to an American radical. These included Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, John Woolman, Dorothy Day, Eugene Debs, Malcolm X, Mother Jones, Clarence Darrow and Albert Parsons.

Here are some quotes from his earlier book, The Book of Ammon, that describe a little of his way of thinking. “[T]he only revolution worthwhile was the one-man revolution within the heart. Each one could make this by himself and not need to wait on a majority.”
“We really can’t change the world. We really can’t change other people! The best we can do is to start a few thinking here and there. The best way to do this, if we are sincere, is to change ourselves!”
“Too many of us dissipate our energy by being ‘for all good causes,’ attending meetings and passing resolutions, organizing and presenting petitions — all this effort to change others, when if we really got down to it we could use this energy to change ourselves… We become tired radicals because we use our weakest weapon: the ballot box, where we are always outnumbered, and refuse to use our strongest weapon: spiritual power.”

Now days the words “Socialist” or Anarchist have taken on a different meanings but the truth that Ammon spoke still rings true. We can only change ourselves and if we took some of the energy we spend ‘for all good causes’ and used it on ourselves we could use our strongest weapons, our spiritual power.

I am guilty of using lots of energy trying to change the world and not changing myself. However, in my elderly years I have started to attend less meeting, sign less petitions, voting and tried to tap into myself and spiritual power.

Some people will not let me out of the ‘bag’ they put me in as an ‘activists’ but that is okay and should not be used as an excuse for not changing myself. All revolution starts with the one man (or woman) revolution.


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Lessons Learned - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Person-to-person service to
those who are needy and
suffering” (From Mission of St.
Vincent de Paul)

Here is an open letter that I will try to send to Presidents of 54 Councils of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee County. I say try because the names of conference presidents, like many things in the Roman Catholic Church, are kept secretive. Most members did not even know about this City Council public hearing.

Lessons Learned from City of Greenfield Public Hearing on Special Use Permit for SVDP Store

Dear Vincentians,

There was a public hearing Wednesday, April 2, at the City of Greenfield City Hall on granting a special-use permit for a St. Vincent De Paul store at the former Wal-Mart building in the City of Greenfield. For reasons of financial liability, the vote was 3–2 against issuing the special-use permit. There were Vincentians on both sides of the issue of this special-use permit. For me, the hearing had several lessons to be learned:

1)In my opinion, we need to radically restructure the Society of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee to align it with our mission. If we are to “end poverty through systematic change” we need to start with ourselves. Lesson #1. More to come on this subject; if interested, let us know.

2)The real estate developer represented SVDP and argued the case for a special-use permit. He claimed the purpose of the store was to raise money to be given to conferences for funding work in the city with home visits. How would the suburban store ever be profitable with a 2.5 million dollar initial investment, plus payments to City of Greenfield in lieu of property tax and the heavy operating cost of the suburban store? However, if the proposed store in Greenfield could be profitable, its existence would be a violation of the principles, rules and spirituality of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul. Unlike other thrift stores, that exist for the profit of owners or to raise money for some non-profit’s mission, SVDP thrift stores are only meant to exist to serve the needs of the poor to buy inexpensive clothing, household items and furniture; and, to be of service to conferences for home visits. If a SVDP center makes a profit, which some claim our present store does, the money should be used for the greater mission of the SVDP, person to person service to those in need. SVDP stores do not exist to raise money for the poor as the Real Estate Developer suggested to the City of Greenfield. (See Mission Statement of SVDP and Society of St. Vincent De Paul Store Manuel, Mission Statement, p. 5). That is Lesson 2.

3)Another reason for the store was to have a place to drop off clothing. Residents of the suburbs and even some Vincentians fail to realize that we have trucks for pick up of clothing and household items. Other thrift stores, especially for-profit stores, constantly call to solicit items for pick up, using their names, such as Easter Seals, Disabled Veterans, etc. The for-profit stores give a small percentage of earnings to the charity. The non-profit, like Goodwill, use it for their mission of work training. By soliciting donations for direct personal service to the poor in our store and by our home visits, we can do the same, perhaps even better, with the large network of Catholic Churches. Donations of items could be tremendously increased. Lesson 3.

4)I realize that people drop off clothing and other items at the thrift stores that they shop at. Whenever I go to the Goodwill store on 108th street, I bring some used clothing or other small items. I am met by a couple of workers who take the donations from my car into the store. I do not like to shop in normal stores so I shop at Goodwill. The store is smaller than our south-side store but always has a variety of clothing that is marked for size and can be tried on easily. People drive by Lincoln and Forest Home or another centrally located store on the North side, and if they feel comfortable shopping there, would also drop off clothing and other items. In fact, there are many major thrift stores near Greenfield; but, there is only one major store, Value Village, a for-profit national chain, on the North Side. Poor people are very generous with the little they have and would support a store doing the mission of SVDP. Lesson #4.

There are probably other lessons to be learned from the City of Greenfield public hearing. Let us perceive and learn from these lessons; and, restructure our SVDP Society in Milwaukee to more effectively serve those in need. Lessons can be learned or lost.


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What Goes Around Comes A Round - Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Chickens come home to roost

We have all heard phrases like “the chickens come home to roost” or “what goes around comes around”; yet when it comes to learning from the lesson that what we sow is what we reap we are slow to learn.

When you have “letter to the editor” published in our local newspaper you are supposed to wait for two months before submitting another one. Yesterday I felt so strongly about an issue of public concern, the second shooting at Ft. Hood that I wrote a letter to the editor asking for an exception. To keep the letter around 200 words I did not say that the type of teaching reflexive killing, killing without conscience was happening at our own local Catholic Jesuit University, Marquette University.

I know it is a message people do not want to hear and the letter probably will not get printed but I felt compelled to express it. Here it is:

Dear Editor,
In investigating the tragedy at Food Hood and the rate of suicides with soldiers and veterans, reportedly 22 per day since 2008, the media or government is not looking into how military training has changed.

After World War II the military discovered that only one of four soldiers fired their weapons at the enemy. So the military developed a way of training which drills soldiers how to fire their weapons without making the conscious decision to do so. In 2000 CPT Pete Kilner, an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy, presented a paper to command stating the danger of this type of training. “Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so….The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively… This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat. (“Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War”) Today over 95% of soldiers fire their weapons at the enemy.

The military knows the grave dangers of teaching reflexive killing, yet continues to do so.

Bob Graf

“What goes around comes around!”


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A Mother’s Worst Nightmare - Monday, April 07, 2014

A mother holds picture
of son with a mental illness
fatally shot by police

My friends have an adult son who suffers from a mental illness. Sadly, my wife and I know the trials of parents in this situation. My friends have made numerous attempts to get their son help with his illness. However, due to the mental health system and the nature of the illness they have been unable to do so. Our deceased son was taken to jail or the mental health center a number of times by police officers. Once I asked my friend, the mother, why she did not commit her son or call the police when he was out of control. She answered by saying she was afraid that if the police came they would kill her son. I thought that was an unusual response since the mother was very familiar with the mental health system and knew of the training the police used to go through how to deal with persons with mental illnesses.

The training is called Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). It is a training program developed in a number of U.S. states to help police officers react appropriately to situations involving mental illness or developmental disability. When I first heard about it the police chief in Milwaukee was a major supporter and wanted every police officer to have this training. Shortly afterwards we got a new police chief and I started to hear about more and more reports of shootings by police of persons with mental illnesses. When I checked into the program I discovered that the new police chief is not a supporter of the program but rather has invested police resources into what is called “data driven policing.” (Personally I call this a code name for the New Jim Crow). The local paper reports that we only have about 20% of police with CIT training and when calls come in about persons with mental health breakdowns they are often not called to the scene.

Yesterday on the TV news I heard about how a mother called the police on her adult son when he was having a mental health breakdown so he could be taken to the mental health facility. She went outside with her grandchild and when four police arrived they called her son out of the house and, according to her, after uttering a few words fired many bullets at him. Fortunately he did not die and is in the hospital. The police claimed that her son had a rifle in his hand when he came out of the house and that is why they shot him. She was a witness to the event and claims he did not have a rifle when he came out of the house and she does not understand why they fire multiple shots at him. The newspaper this morning only reported the police version the store that the police were justified in shooting him. Since police shootings of individuals in Milwaukee are always justified by the police and DA we probably will never know what really happened.

However, now I understand why my friend will not call the police on her son although he has no gun. She does not want police to kill him as often happens when police not trained how to deal with persons with mental illnesses respond. Calling the police for help with your ill son and than watching him being shot by the police is a mother’s worst nightmare.


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The Church and War - Sunday, April 06, 2014

During the liturgical time of Lent, the six weeks before Easter, I have been receiving from Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a Melkite Catholic priest and director of the Center for Christian nonviolence regular reflections, that he calls “Lenten Examination of Conscience.” Reflection #7 caught my eyes yesterday because it criticizes church members, Father McCarthy calls 99% Christian, who find ‘loopholes’ in God’s word revealed in Jesus. This one starts with words and ends with a link to a 10 minute video reflection on “Gospel Nonviolence, Church and War.” You may not agree with it but it is interesting:

The Church and War

Christians, whether they be bishops or bumpkins, who speak 99% against war, capital punishment, abortion, violence and/or enmity are not proclaiming the truth that Jesus taught. They are treating Jesus’ teaching as if it were philosophy. It is not! It is the revealed will of God, or it is nothing. The spiritual blind spot, that underlies proclaiming this “99% Gospel,” this “Gospel with Loopholes,” is that such Christians have not grasped the totality of the difference it makes if God has really spoken His definitive Word to humanity in Jesus. For a Christian to say that God has to be corrected by him or her by their making the logical opposite of what Jesus taught as truth the new truth of the Gospel is just silly—but catastrophically destructive.
Ten Minuit reflection of Christian Nonviolence, ‘The Church and War.’


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Active Gardening, Passive Sports Viewing - Saturday, April 05, 2014

We actually got outside for a few hours today to pick up garbage and sticks in the garden and to reck leaves. It is just a start, a late one at that, but it is start to getting the garden ready for planting. The day was full of gardening but the night was full of sports. The Wisconsin mens’ basketball made the final four of the NCAA basketball tournament but lost the game tonight by one point. At the same time the Milwaukee Brewers went on to beat the Boston Red Sox in 11 innings by one run. The lost by Wisconsin was a bigger than the Brewers win but at least it was some consolation for this sometime sports fan.

The work in the garden left me refreshed; the two sports events left me unfulfilled. According to the discernment of spirits developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola I should learn what leaves me positive and what leaves me empty. But in our society of sports fanatics and artificial food the lesson is not so clear. Acting on what we know is best takes strength and courage that I do not always have.

Gandhi says: “Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from an indomitable will.” But I am not so sure about that. I know strength is more than physical strength but do not believe will power, no matter, how strong, is enough. I believe it takes some outside power. Working with the earth, it seems, makes one stronger than sitting in front of a TV watching sports.
Working with soil brings me in touch with something outside of myself while passively watching sports is like sleeping while awake; however, rest is good and sports are entertaining, take little effort and is something outside of ourselves and control.

Maybe a combination of active gardening and passive viewing of sports is best, or maybe not.


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Going Down Fighting (Nonviolently) - Friday, April 04, 2014

Palestinians protesting Land
Week in April 2005.

Of all the No, Give Me a Break happenings of last Wednesday, I forgot to mention one that was personal. On January 23, 2014 three of us were arrested for ‘trespassing’ by protesting in the Alumni Union at Marquette University. We had understood from the Vice President and Legal Counsel of Marquette that we were all to protest against military training, ROTC, on MU campus. We had done this a few times before after we were told it was okay and were not arrested or even told to leave by MU security. Believing we had permission to protest on campus we said we would live if we did not have permission. As we were trying to confirm our permission to protest on campus and were trying to contact administration officials, we were cited for trespassing.

My two friends’ court case and mine were separated. In the meanwhile I received a letter from the legal counsel of Marquette University who, after talking with the Vice President of Marquette, wrote me saying “that you were erroneously informed by DPS (Department of Public Security) officers that you were not allowed to protest on campus” and that the University does not intend to pursue this case and does not oppose the dismissal of that charge.

At my plea hearing I tried to tell the Municipal judge about the error in our arrest for trespassing but she would not listen to me and ordered me to pre-trial hearing. At the pre-trial I tried to present the letter to the assistant city attorney but she looked over my court record and saw that I had been convicted of trespassing after going on Marquette property having been issued a banning order, order of No Trespass last year. The order had been lifted by Marquette but she saw in the 1st paragraph that I was in an area of the union that was restricted for leafleting, something we did not know, and never considered the lifting of the banning order. She refused to listen to me and Judge called me and sent a trial date. When I tried to clarify the matter and show her the letter of the error that had been made in our arrest she would not listen. So now I have a trial date for case where I was “erroneously” arrested for protesting.

Now I know how it feels when a young man, a poor person appears in court and city attorney or Judge will not listen to you plea your case and you are pushed from one court hearing to another. My friends had another judge and assistant attorney and when they presented my letter the assistant city attorney said it only applied to my case and not theirs and although they were arrested in error also they too must stand trial. I plan to ask that they drop the charges or give me a change of venue. The other judge in municipal court was the one I had last year in my trespassing for breaking the banning order case and I know he will hear us out.

Watch out what you wish for. I have often said I wanted to be in solidarity with poor and marginalized. Now that I am being treated as the poor and marginalized I cannot complain and if I have to go to jail to make my point about the lack of justice in our court system I will. If I do not get a break I will go down fighting (nonviolently).


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Reflexive Killing Is Killing Us - Thursday, April 03, 2014

The gun Nidal Hasan used
to kill at Fort Hood

When tragedy strikes at a military base like Food Hood yesterday, or when suicides rapidly increase with soldiers and veterans, reportedly about 22 a day since 2008, people ask the question why. Why are these wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, producing more soldiers and veterans with serious mental health issues? There are no easy answers but one place most are afraid to look is at the training that soldiers are receiving for these wars.

Actually, in the film Soldiers of Conscience the military makes clear how its training of soldiers has significantly changed after World War II, when they made a study and found out that only one of four soldiers fired his weapon at the enemy. From 25% we have now gone to 95% in these recent wars. What changed? The military says how by incorporation of video games, “reflexive fire drills” and other methods of killing without thought or conscience is the reason why the shooting at other human persons has gone up.

In January of 2000 the Ethic professor West Point presented a paper to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics in which he argued the “Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War” Before the Iraq and Afghanistan war the military was aware of the dangers of teaching reflexive killing. In part he said:

“Training which drills soldiers on how to kill without explaining to them why it is morally permissible for them to do so is harmful to them, yet that is the current norm. Modern combat training conditions soldiers to act reflexively to stimuli—such as fire commands, enemy contact, or the sudden appearance of a “target”—and this maximizes soldiers’ lethality, but it does so by bypassing their moral autonomy. Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so. In and of itself, such training is appropriate and morally permissible. Battles are won by killing the enemy, so military leaders should strive to produce the most efficient killers. The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely—and understandably—suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat. [3]” (“Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War”)

Naturally the military could not justify “reflexive killing”, killing without conscience but


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No, “Give Me a Break” - Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Money or votes in politics?

Breaking News: Tonight the City Council of Greenfield, WI voted 3–2 to deny a special use permit to create a St. Vincent De Paul Thrift store in this suburb. The spokesperson for the SVDP store turned out to be a real estate developer who would profit handsomely from the 1.8 million dollar purchase and maybe from the $600,000 renovations needed. There were only five of us from the City of Milwaukee opposing the permit but some members had collected 154 petitions, mostly from Milwaukee residents in opposition to the store. Everyone present for the SVDP store in the suburb was a suburban person. We, the poor and city residents were outnumbered by suburbanites but won the day.

I still will pursue my efforts for people to understand the Mission of the St. Vincent De Paul Society so this tragedy will not happen again. The fact that this kind of proposal could have gotten so far is unbelievable but in this age, sadly, it is believable. We have gotten so far off target in our moral values that this and other worst things could happen.

Some years ago it was hard to believe that someone could buy an election. But now, after over 95% of politicians with the most money winning elections, it is not so unbelievable. In 2101, in the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, the court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. If that was not enough, today the Supreme Court in another 5–4 vote eliminated limits on how much money people can donate in total in one election season. Money matters much more than voting. Give me a break!

Yesterday, I heard that Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin had issued a proposed Federal budget, not because he had to, but one that “he says will come into balance by 2024, in large part through steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, just as millions begin to see its benefits.” Today, I heard that a Catholic University, Marquette University, was holding a special award ceremony and luncheon for Paul Ryan in Washington D.C. where tickets and sponsorship where going for up to $25,000. The group that sent me this information, Faithful America was asking us to sign a petition to Tell Marquette University: Don’t keep any money from Paul Ryan fundraiser - give it to the poor. (You too can sign this petition)

Today, another soldier at Ft. Hood went out a shooting spree killing and injuring persons before killing himself. The media and president are asking all kind of questions of why this is happening. But no one will talk about how military training, like at Marquette University, teaches young men and women to kill reflexively, to kill without conscience and the effects that this way of killing has on the brain.

A Society to serve the needy buying a 1.8 million building in the suburbs; the Supreme Court eliminating limits on much people can donate in one election season; Paul Ryan, a Congressmen who seeks to take from the poor and give to the rich receiving an award from a Catholic University;and, the sad tragedy of soldier trained to kill without conscience turning his gun on other soldiers and himself, is too much to handle in one day. We scream: “Give Us a Break” but there is no break. We in our hearts that it us that must “Break the Silence”… and end-this-madness.


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Poor April Fools Joke? - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

There has been a recent effort by staff and some members of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul to place a thrift store in the suburbs rather than in North Central Milwaukee where it is needed and, many of us believe, would serve the mission of the Society of St. Vincent De Poor, to serve in a personal way people in need.

I wrote a letter to the 54 presidents of the conference of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee County but the central office and President of the Executive council would not give me addresses of Presidents or give out the copies of the letter I left for each person at the central office.

I tried appealing to common sense, morals and reasons of central office and leaders with a document stating Ten Reasons for Creating a New Store for Society of St. Vincent De Paul on the North Side of Milwaukee rather than in the suburbs in Greenfield. Those I sent it to, who support the store in suburb, just ignored my reasons and refuse to enter into a creative dialog.

I agree that there should be no conflicts in doing our mission to serve those in need in the Society. But when something is being done that goes against our mission we cannot be silent and must cry out against a move that hurts those we serve. I felt hopeful, when during announcements after Church last Sunday, a long time member of the Society, a Vicentian, asked for signatures on a petition to the City Council of the suburb of Greenfield to deny the permit needed for a thrift store. The voices for the poor are not organized and the ‘powers that be’ will not enter in dialog and creative conflict with us but we must cry out. Otherwise our faith and mission of our Society is just a poor “April 1st Joke”


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