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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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The R Word - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did Racism play a role in
death of Dontre Hamilton?

With all the talk about segregation, incarceration of African-American black males, poverty areas in minority neighbors and racial profiling of African Americans no one wants to use the word Racism. There is talk about segregation, inequality, poverty and even discrimination but the word Racism is avoided. Yet what is happening in Milwaukee if it is not Racism.

The dictionary has two meanings for racism: 1) prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races; 2) the belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior. For the first meaning a quote from Malcolm X is used: “”I am a Muslim and … my religion makes me against all forms of racism.” (Speech, Prospects for Freedom) The second meaning reminds me of how our soldiers are taught how to look at the enemy as inferior humans, be they Korans, Vietnamese or Arabs. We know what is best for people of other countries.

Yet, unless we admit that we live in a racist society how can we ever change it. Awareness is a necessary step for change. So we talk and talk about segregation, even racial segregation but fear to use the R words.

Taking down the basketball rim so African Americans cannot play basketball full court basketball is what I would call racism yet using the R word outrages neighbors. The high rate of African American incarceration we can call discrimination but using the R word to describe it does not happen.

Back in the 60’s we were not afraid to use the word ‘racism.’ We called the racial prejudice of Marquette admitting just a small number of African Americans students “Institutional Racism.”

Whites, Blacks, Hispanic need to come together, to restore fresh air into this discussion and awareness of Racism so we fear not the evil of R word.


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Racism and St. Vincent de Paul Society in Milwaukee? - Monday, September 29, 2014

Home visit by Vincentian

I spend most of my writing time today composing a letter in response to a letter put out by the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. the Society’s mission is to serve person to person those in need and her letter does not deal with this. I will spare you my line by line response to her ‘facts’ using their own staff numbers and Rule and Manuel of St. Vincent de Paul in the USA. The full letter will come soon on this web site with all the many footnotes. But for now I offer you a rough draft of the last part of the letter.

Racism and St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) in Milwaukee

North Central Milwaukee where a SVDP thrift store is needed for the conferences who receive thousands of requests each year has a household income of $20,787.00 and is 85% plus African American. In Greenfield and surrounding area where conferences receive around 10 requests per year the average household income is $42,586.00 and it is 85% plus white.

There is many more facts and figures but basically the residents of North Central and South Central (over 85% Hispanic) area have become poorer and poorer over the years and while SVDP Society is spending more and more money, not on the needs of the poor but on building a central office controlled bureaucracy that now consumers about $4 million a year, money which the poor cannot afford. SVDP conferences in North Central and South Central Milwaukee because of the increased burden, outdated phone request system, lack of funds or lack of members have gone out of business or cannot serve all those in need. Meanwhile money for needy conferences or twining goes to Central Office and less money goes toward serving the mission of Society, unpaid members making person to person home visits to those in need.

I do this research and cry out for the poor not because I like to but because I am a proud member of the Society of SVDP and need to. I am a native Milwaukee who moved back home a Vincentian in 1995. The top two executives, you and Michelle, have a total compensation of over $170,000 as reported to IRS tax form from 2012–2013. You and the other 2 million dollars of staff are good intentioned people and what you do may be legal. But the poor and those of us who serve the poor are also good people. Let us create a new society of SVDP in Milwaukee that makes its primary mission person to person home visits. You can do the numbers yourself with your own information and Rules and Manuals of SVDP but let me say, personally and from my heart let us be free to be the Society we are meant to be.


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Men and Women for Others - Saturday, September 27, 2014

Father Pedro Arrupe S.J.
gave the speech 41 years ago
Men and Women for Others
that challenged Jesuits and World

Today and this week I received an extraordinary number of request from friends, needing rides, needing to borrow money, just wanting to talk with someone who would listen and asking for advice. At times I was tempted to think how about me? I need more time to read, write, be quiet and pray. But then I thought back on my Jesuit education in the Ignatian Spirituality which I learned about in my 13 years of Jesuit education and still study and try to practice. One of the core elements of Ignatian Spirituality is being “Men and Women for Others.” In address to educators in 1973 Father Arrupe S.J. than the Leader of Society of Jesus, Jesuits, described it this way. “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ - for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. “

Living in a society of individualism run rampart n (Give me my tax break and hell with common good), living in the me generation when “do your own thing” abides and truth and facts are treated with “you are entitled to your opinion” being “Men and Women for Others.” However, if I look at my busy week as being a man for others my busy week is blessing.

Whenever I am asked for rides I remember that years ago after giving someone a ride they asked me how they could pay me back. I said they already have by allowing me to be of service to them and just to leave the blessings at the door as they got out of my car. I called my car the Blessing Cab since it allows me to receive so many blessings.

Special blessings are received from poor, “least of neighbors.” An Indian priest, who was from the lowest caste in India became a Jesuit priest and went back to work with the outcast caste of India told me once that he found peace and grace in the people he was working with. He prayed to God to give him the grace and blessings he discovered with the poor and marginalized. He said that God answered him by saying: “I gave all my grace and blessings to the poor, go to the poor to receive them.” Looking at life this way I am full of gratitude.

One of my social justice projects is to reform the local St. Vincent de Paul Society. Blessed Frederic Ozanam(1813–1853), co-founder of the Society put it this way: “We must do what is most agreeable to God. Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us go to the poor. ” The local Society rather than offer person to person contact with people in need has developed into a four million dollar social agency that derives money and donations given to the poor and, according to Rules of Society, belong to the poor.

So, yes, let us strive to be Men and Women for Others. It might be hard at times, involving inconvenience, poverty, suffering and insults. But the Reward of being Men and Women is an everlasting blessings and one full of joy and gratitude.


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Without Action, Nothing Will Change - Friday, September 26, 2014

This morning I heard Michelle Alexander, the author of the book The New Jim Crow speak at a local community college. As in her book she was articulate about the mass incarceration of African American young adults which Wisconsin, Milwaukee and in particular North Central Milwaukee is at the epic center. There was a panel discussion after her talk but no questions or comments from the audience were allowed.

I noticed the local panelist talked about poverty, racial segregation, poor education, high unemployment; high incarceration rates of African- American males in Wisconsin and in Milwaukee but failed to break it down to particular section of Milwaukee, what we call North Central Milwaukee. (See M.A.P.S.). Also I was listening to hear the word ‘racism” used, an illness Milwaukee suffers from but heard it used once.

Michelle Alexander’s talk was articulate and the panel comments were enlightening except for one individual who was funny and articulate blowing his own horn but I knew how he mistreated my two African American friends who had created the community gardens on the North side. One of the panelists was especially poignant,a researcher from UWM who with her husband had blown up the dirty little secret about incarceration of African Americans in Wisconsin, Milwaukee and in particular in North Central Milwaukee. Pat and I knew the two of them a long time ago and were at their wedding. She spoke to the ‘white’ people in the crowd pleading with them to join the movement to end the massive incarceration of African Americans which Michelle Alexander called
Afterwards one of my friends in the struggle with the St. Vincent de Paul asked to me my friend from years ago. I introduced her and in her enthusiasm for the struggle which she calls “racism” asked if she could meet with her. My friend of old said she feels more comfortable behind her computer doing research did not say yes or no but said she would let her know. On the way out of the hall my research friend made the comments of how she was getting all the glory for the research but her husband did not mind or want. She also wondered how long this interest in incarceration of African Americans would last before everyone move on to the new ‘cause of the day.’ I understand her concern because we are both old enough to understand how in this day and age people jump from issue to issue, never digging them into one and taking a strong stand that means action, confrontation and conflict until there is a significant change.

I feel her concern but like her must keep on doing what we do best, researching, and speaking, taking nonviolent actions until there is a significant change. The words of the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” “I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’;, keep on a-talkin’, Walkin’ into freedom land.” Research, talks, panel discussion are great, inspiring and necessary. But without action, especially nonviolent actions, nothing will change.


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Quotes from King Today - Friday, September 26, 2014

I like good quotes and have a number of them from Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and various other persons on the front page of . A good quote is words taken out of context that on their own make good common sense. Some persons, like Thomas Merton, have good quotes in writing; some like Martin Luther King Jr. are good at quotes from speeches and Dorothy Day at both.

I was looking again today for a quote I heard from Martin Luther King Jr. on a day of reflection some years back in which he talks about the more active he gets the more he needs to pray. I could not find the quote but found some more good ones, below, from King that I can add to the quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. web page. These are the ones that fit well with where I am at with my life these days.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”


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Conflict Can Be Good - Thursday, September 25, 2014

Someone I deeply respect told me today that they seek a life without conflict. They believe cooperation and collaboration should replace conflict. This seems to be a reigning belief of our society: Avoid conflict at all cost.

I must admit that no one, including me, likes conflict. But looking over history often it has been conflict that has brought change for the better. For example, without conflict of the civil rights movements where would minorities be today? Would woman and African Americans have the right to vote? Without conflict can we have a ‘free press’.

When I was a community organizer back in the 70’s we were taught that creative conflict was the way to bring change. Now community organizations shun conflict and confrontation.

Conflict I think is natural, the way of nature and of human beings. How we deal with conflict is the key I believe. Dealing with conflict by violence or ignoring persons does not work. Dialog and openness of mind turns conflict in something positive.

In Christianity the cross is a symbol of conflict. Yet by accepting conflict and holding on to truth and self integrity Jesus was able to create the nonviolent cross and through the conflict of the cross bring redemption.
Conflicts can be good.


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Dorothy Day and the Little Way - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dorothy Day and her Grandchildren

Today is the 46th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 action. I could write about the release of the DVD “Hit and Stay” the story of the many nonviolent actions of Catholic Left in 60’s and 70’s. I could write about that or about our action burning Military recruiting files at Marquette. However, I rather share with you an article that another member of the Milwaukee 14, Jim Forest, sent me today. Dorothy Day and the Little Way have been a major influence in my life.

by Robert Ellsberg

(The Liguorian, September 2014)

On June 15, 1955, at the sound of a siren, signaling an imminent nuclear attack, the entire population of New York City obediently sought shelter in basements and subway stations, or, in the case of school children, under their desks. According to the authorities, this first in a series of annual “civil defense” drills was a “complete success.” Well, almost. It was marred by a middle-aged, white-haired woman and twenty-six others who refused to play along with this war game. Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and her companions, instead sat in City Hall Park, where they were arrested and later sentenced to jail. The judge who imposed bail likened the protesters to “murderers” who had contributed to the “utter destruction of these three million theoretically killed in our city.”

Of course, “three million,” the theoretical casualties of a nuclear strike in New York City, would hardly have measured the potential devastation. Actual plans for nuclear war involved casualties in the hundreds of millions. Unknown at that time were the effects of “nuclear winter,” the catastrophic side effect of a nuclear exchange that might have destroyed all life in the northern hemisphere. As Dorothy Day saw it, the illusion that nuclear war was “surviveable” and therefore “winnable,” made such a war more likely., To participate in such exercise for doomsday, she believed, was an act of blasphemy. And so she went to jail.

On that clear spring day in 1955 it was more than twenty years since Dorothy Day had founded the Catholic Worker—at first a newspaper, and then a movement consisting of “houses of hospitality” in New York City and slum neighborhoods across the country. In such communities the “works of mercy” (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless) were combined with a commitment to social justice and the envisioning of a society “in which it is easier to be good.”

There were many who admired her work among the poor. There were even many subscribers, in the heart of the Depression, who sympathized when The Catholic Worker questioned an economic system that produced so much poverty and desperation. Few, in those early years, joined Day in the conviction that the way of Jesus was incompatible with any kind of killing. And on the day of that first civil defense drill in New York City, the number of Catholics who agreed that this was a crime against God and humanity could evidently fit inside a single police wagon. But for Day, it all went together. The Catholic Worker was an effort to live out the radical implications of the teaching of Christ: that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do directly to him.

For almost fifty years, until her death in 1980, Dorothy lived by these convictions. As a result she received a fair amount of criticism. Some called her un-American. She was charged with being weak, irrelevant, and foolish. (In reply, she stated, “We confess to being foolish, and wish that we were more so.”) Some accused her of being a secret Communist. Before her conversion in 1927, she had in fact participated in left-wing movements and befriended Communists and other agitators. In the 1950s, J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, placed her name on a list of dangerous radicals to be detained in the event of a national emergency.

And yet the tide has turned. In 2000 Cardinal John O’Connor submitted her cause for canonization to Rome, where, upon its acceptance, she was named a Servant of God. In 2012 the U.S. Catholic bishops joined Cardinal Timothy Dolan in endorsing this cause, a long process that may conclude one day in her becoming St. Dorothy. If so, she will certainly be a saint with an unusual backstory, including her arrest on behalf of women’s suffrage, a bohemian youth, and an abortion, following an unhappy love affair. All this occurred before her conversion to Catholicism. Yet even the circumstances of her conversion are unique in the annals of the saints. This


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Can We Bomb Our Way to Peace? - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

USA bombs terrorist base

The US led air assaults by bombers, drones and cruise missiles was unleashed on terrorist targets in Syria the last few days. Military leaders say these this bombing campaign will continue for a long time. The Syrian government, one we are trying to overthrow, does not mind since these are the same terrorist group they have been fighting for years.

Can the USA and allies forge peace in the Middle East by bombing? If history is worth anything the answer is no. Bombs lead to more bombs as war leads to more war. Syria, as Iraq and Afghanistan is already a causality of war with hundreds of thousands of persons killed or having to flee. A poll by USA newspaper shows that the majority of Americans support the bombing of Syria as necessary for self defense. However, as we have found out the past the more people we kill the more people that want to kill Americans. In fact, ISIS and other terrorist groups are recruiting followers in the USA, England and other nations where some of the people see the killing as unjustified and war on Muslims.

There are so many lessons of common sense, like killing and violence leading to more killing and violence that many American seem not to get, or if they do, do not want to acknowledge it.

Can we bomb our way to peace? Nature, History and Common Sense say no but we continue to try.


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Where have All the White Students Gone? - Monday, September 22, 2014

Steve Kelly, left, and a
Wackenhut security guard assist
our friend, Jerry Zawada, toward
a holding pen at the Nevada
National Security Site during
a civil disobedience action
marking the United Nations
International Day of Peace
Sunday,Sept. 21, 2014.

Yesterday I again heard the cry for us older activist for peace and justice to support our youth who are struggling with issues so we do not need to be so active. I wish this was true but, at least for white University age students, it is not true.

While students at Marquette University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and other local universities and colleges are encouraged and do works of mercy, some even getting university credit for their work. But when it comes to resistance to injustice and violence they are mostly absent and encouraged to do so.

This rang true to me today when I saw pictures of the hundreds of thousands marching yesterday in New York City to protest climate change. I could not find many white university aged person in the photos. I goggled images of the march and find many pictures but not many white students.

This has been my experience of students at Marquette University over the years. There are pictures in the 70’s and into the 80’s of hundreds of MU students protesting apartheid in South African, ROTC and many other issues.

Today if we get a few students joining us we feel fortunate and eventually the culture of the university, the What does it matter to me takes over]].

Students will go to talks and films describing injustices and do social service work but when it comes to doing acts of resistance they are mostly absent.

In contrast a picture in the paper today of Russians marching in protest of Kremlin supporting Ukrainian rebels seemed to be mostly of white college aged students.

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, did both, acts of resistance and acts of mercy. Doing one without the other seems somewhat empty.

Where have all the White Students gone when long time injustices and wars continue?


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What Does It Matter to Me? - Sunday, September 21, 2014

Brother’s Keeper

Today a new acquaintance from Kansas City sent me this text of the prepared homily of Pope Francis. What is surprising is that he delivered it at a Military Cemetery.

Below is the full text of the prepared homily of Pope Francis

Visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Military Cemetery of Redipuglia
(13 September 2014)

After experiencing the beauty of travelling throughout this region, where men and women work and raise their families, where children play and the elderly dream… I now find myself here, in this place, able to say only one thing: War is madness.

Whereas God carries forward the work of creation, and we men and women are called to participate in his work, war destroys. It also ruins the most beautiful work of his hands: human beings. War ruins everything, even the bonds between brothers. War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying.

Greed, intolerance, the lust for power…. These motives underlie the decision to go to war, and they are too often justified by an ideology; but first there is a distorted passion or impulse. Ideology is presented as a justification and when there is no ideology, there is the response of Cain: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9). War does not look directly at anyone, be they elderly, children, mothers, fathers…. “What does it matter to me?”

Above the entrance to this cemetery, there hangs in the air those ironic words of war, “What does it matter to me?” Each one of the dead buried here had their own plans, their own dreams… but their lives were cut short. Humanity said, “What does it matter to me?”

Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction…
In all honesty, the front page of newspapers ought to carry the headline, “What does it matter to me?” Cain would say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

This attitude is the exact opposite of what Jesus asks of us in the Gospel. We have heard: he is in the least of his brothers; he, the King, the Judge of the world, he is the one who hungers, who thirsts, he is the stranger, the one who is sick, the prisoner… The one who cares for his brother or sister enters into the joy of the Lord; the one who does not do so, however, who by his omissions says, “What does it matter to me?”, remains excluded.

Here lie many victims. Today, we remember them. There are tears, there is sadness. From this place we remember all the victims of every war.

Today, too, the victims are many… How is this possible? It is so because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms, which seem to be so important!

And these plotters of terrorism, these schemers of conflicts, just like arms dealers, have engraved in their hearts, “What does it matter to me?”
It is the task of the wise to recognize errors, to feel pain, to repent, to beg for pardon and to cry.

With this “What does it matter to me?” in their hearts, the merchants of war perhaps have made a great deal of money, but their corrupted hearts have lost the capacity to cry. That “What does it matter to me?” prevents the tears. Cain did not cry. The shadow of Cain hangs over us today in this cemetery. It is seen here. It is seen from 1914 right up to our own time. It is seen even in the present.

With the heart of a son, a brother, a father, I ask each of you, indeed for all of us, to have a conversion of heart: to move on from “What does it matter to me?”, to tears: for each one of the fallen of this “senseless massacre”, for all the victims of the mindless wars, in every age. Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep.


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Be Not Afraid to Call It Racism - Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stop Racism one Rim
and one SVDP Thrift Store
at a time!

In 2007 I wrote an essay called The Sweet Waters of Discrimination in Milwaukee. In 2008 I wrote an essay called Essay on Violence in Milwaukee. In the essays I talked about structural discrimination and made some specific suggestions of how to curb the violence. In those days I was not completely ignored and got some response and comments from public officials, Mayor, Police Chief and County Executive at the time. However, nothing was changed by my essays and the discrimination and violence in Milwaukee has increased.

I have done some addition research and writing on discrimination and violence in Milwaukee but now realized that I was missing the main cause of discrimination and some of the violence in Milwaukee, recognizing racism.

No one likes to hear or use the word racism but we, before we can solve any problem, we need to call it as it is. People can say that the taking down of basket board rims in our County parks was because players were nuisance or due to violence. However, if you look at the County Parks which lost rims in Milwaukee County they are in neighbors with a majority of white residents, 85% plus. The rims where lost when African-American young adults started to play basketball at the parks. Outside of a few parks in the very southern white suburbs and county parks in the segregated, 85% black neighbors of North Central Milwaukee, there are no full court basketball courts in county parks. Call it what you want, full court basketball players, a nuisance, dangerous young men even “recreational redlining” the facts are it is simple and pure ‘racism.’

The decision by white St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) staff and board members to build a thrift store in a white suburb of Greenfield, which is 85% white and with a household income of over 42, 000, where it is not needed, rather than in North Central Milwaukee, 85% African American with average household income of $20,000, where it is needed, is clearly a ‘racist’ decision.

In the white suburbs there are very few home visits to people in need per year where in North Central there are thousands. The purpose of the SVDP thrift stores is to serve the conferences in serving those in need. Some white conferences members say the store is to create a “revenue stream”, to make money, to serve the poor in North Central Milwaukee. But the budget just passed by the board makes it clear that with the addition of new store in the suburbs the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will run a much greater deficit than ever. Rather than ‘revenue stream’ the thrift store in the suburbs will create a greater debt for a Society that says “all monies belong to the poor” and it mission is not to make money but to facilitate person to person home visits to people in need. The African American poor in North Central Milwaukee, the most segregated city in the USA know what to call it: Racism.

The Police chief of Milwaukee puts his budget money in what he calls “data driven policing” rather than Crisis Intervention Team (CIP) training does not recognize the tragic error of one his policeman who shot an unarmed African American male who was sleeping on a park bench in a public park. Yet a local employee had called the police twice earlier in the day about this man in the park and both times the police came and found nothing illegal about his presence. The police asked the employee not to call any more since the man was doing nothing illegal. A third call was made and a police officer, probably unaware of the ‘data’ of the first two calls, arrives on the scene and ends up shooting the young man fourteen times. Over four months later the case is still under investigation. The family knows that race played a large part in the killing of their beloved family member as does the illegal searches, profiling, stop and arrest of so many African American males.

In fact Wisconsin has the highest ratio of young adult African American males in prison of all the states in the USA and great majority of them come from the racially segregated are of North Central Milwaukee. How can someone not call this Racism?

Racial discrimination, just like poverty, abuse, imprisonment, profiling by police, poor education and high employment does not excuse a crime but it plays such a large role in creating an environment for violence and discrimination.

Today we made a SVDP home to visit an African American family in North Central Milwaukee that the man and woman had seven kids, 18 and under in the house. As we pulled up the house we noticed a number of police officers roping off a crime scene across the street. We asked what happened and the lady of the house there had been a shooting. Tonight on the news they reported eight shootings in Milwaukee in the last day, some of them fatal. My wife and I looked for this location and it was not on the map. Violence in racially segregated neighbors of North Central and South Central (85% Hispanic and poor) have become routine and expected. Our police chief says criminals are shooting mostly criminals, although the newspapers and other sources have found many victims of homicide have no or very little criminal records. Calling people in racial minorities names, like cowards, stupid,wacko’s, criminals, and sick persons does not aide in crime fighting but just reinforces racism.

More examples of racism can be given. But ignoring the poor, criminalizing African American males, cutting funds for public education, placing a thrift store in white suburbs at a cost of millions to the poor and black, taking down basketball rims where African Americans use them, a police officer shooting an unarmed African American male 14 times needs to be called what it is “racism”.

A ten year girl was shot and killed last year at a recreational park in the city by the shooting at each other of two African American males. When family and friends rallied at the playground they did not call for taking down the basketball rim or elimination of the park. They called for more neighborhood unity, more support for the playground and more work in fighting violence. Naturally the community, the girl and the shooters were African Americans.

Until we can say the word, understand it and face it we will only prolong the problems that racism fosters in our in our city and County. We need not To Be Afraid to call it as it is, Racism.


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Nick Ridell Lost of Extraordinary Man - Thursday, September 18, 2014

Word came this morning that Nick Riddell had passed away last night. Nick was a fascinating characters someone whose life would make an excellent book and movie. But his life will not appear on the screen or in a book for he died, as he wanted it, a quiet death.

I first met Nick in the 60’s when he was a Carmelite priest and just finding his voice in the peace and justice movements. He was not only a supporter of the selective service files burning of Milwaukee 14 he was involved in a similar “Hit and Stay” action, the Chicago 15. Somewhere along the line he left the priesthood and when it came time to go to prison Nick went underground. After he was caught he went to the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute. Since we moved out of Milwaukee when he got out of prison we lost track of him but understood he became a popular bartender in a community pub called the Interlude. When we moved back to Milwaukee Nick had been a drug and alcohol counselor. We saw him at some reunion events and understand he had become quite an artist.

When he got ill he moved to some assisted housing unit and kept to himself except when there was get together of old friends. I remember seeing him at our house when we had a gathering of old friends. He looked old and ill but still had that wonderful smile and quick wit about him. Sadly the last few times we saw Nick was at funerals of mutual friends.

One of the people who kept in touch with Nick and told us about his death was a high school student, John, in the 60’s, the time of the Milwaukee 14 and Chicago 15 actions. He got to know Nick when Nick was a bartender at the community pub and kept in close contact with him till the end.

Nick was a man of many lives but singularly committed to others. Even when he was ill he did not want people to fuss over him. John and another friend who kept in contact with Nick till the end said he made no arrangements for his death or memorial service. I wrote back and said we needed one, not for Nick, but for ourselves. His death was expected but leaves us sad. We the living need to remember him as an inspiration to our lives. He was, in his mind, just an ordinary person but to many of us he was extraordinary and his death is our lost.


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Begging is for Blessed! - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Just before noon today I was on the sidewalk at Marquette University passing out flyers about our rally to end militarism on campus on Sept. 24th, the 46th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 burning selective service files. I wore an Army hat I had picked up at Goodwill plus my homemade T Shirt to close down ROTC on campus.

As usual many students just ignore you or say thank you as they walk by and do not take the flyer. A few take the flyer, out of curiosity or interest. They do not know what the Milwaukee 14 was and they are trained to show no interest in MU teaching war and killing. But most just refuse any flyer no matter what.

I was by myself when a large group of students were leaving one of the halls. A young adult African American male approached me and said he was homeless and could I help him out with money for food. I said sure I could but he would have to wait a few minutes since the students were descending on us and I needed to get out these flyers. He said he would help distribute the flyers and he did, although he did not know what they were about. I was going to go to Mass at Gesu next door at noon but said to the young man that I would take him out for lunch. He became honest with me and said he really wanted the money to help his girlfriend who was sick and staying at his ‘pad’. So I gave some money, he thanked me, was on his way, and I went in the Church.

You never know if beggars are being honest with you or not but my policy is, if I can, to help them out in some way without judgment. In this case I felt the person, the second time asking, was being honest. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits who started Marquette University, was a beggar when he first turned his life around and decided to follow the way of Jesus. In fact, many great persons, St. Francis and even Jesus did some time begging.

A scripture scholar wrote how a translation of “Blessed are the poor” basically meant in Jesus’ time blessed is the blind beggar. Families at Jesus’ time took care of their own but there were some persons, like widows and blind beggar that were very dependent on community and needed to beg to live. Physically, materially or spiritually we are all dependent on others. Begging is for the dependent, the blessed of God.


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Tired but Blessed - Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It seems like in the fall and spring I go through a time of being very tired. I think it probably has something to do with the change of weather, although our fall this year has been about the same as the summer, 70’s with rain. The body seems to be saying I need this time to catch up with sleep. Staying up at night is usually not so much a problem, when I am so tired, but getting out of bed in the morning is difficult.

At faith sharing this morning we were talking how our lives can “make a difference.” Getting myself up and going these can make a difference. When I am tired my motivation is low. So being self motivating is important.

When I can see through my tiredness I see how blessed and exciting life is. Today I had contact by phone, in person and at dinner with friends, talking and walking on some important issues; I had a chance to work in the garden and dehydrate some cheery tomatoes. In fact I was shoveling composite around when a friend called about some ‘crap’ that is being thrown at us for trying to do good. I was I had some cow manure to throw around. I got some reading done and did some writing. My lovely life came home from work late tonight and we had a nice conversation. I got my brandy and soda drink now to calm me down for sleep. Being so tired is not so bad when one is blessed.


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Easier to be Poor, Harder to be Good! - Monday, September 15, 2014

I have been writing of how the changes in our society, high unemployment of poor, making it more difficult to vote, raising taxes of the poor, taking away public transportation, cutting back on food stamps and health care, building thrift stores for rich rather than poor are making it harder and harder to be poor. It occurred to me that the phrase, ‘harder to be poor’ might be misunderstood. A better one might be that our individualistic society is making it easier to be poor.

Peter Maurin and other Catholic Workers have talked about how we cannot change another person but we can make “it easier to be good” by changes in the environment in which we all live. We Catholics believe that the government, on all levels, exists for the ‘common good’. We believe in the principle of subsidiarity that “holds that social problems should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level consistent with their solution”. Thus the government does not exist for individuals, like lowing taxes, but for the community, doing what is best for all and cannot be taken care of by individuals alone. The common good means making it easier for all to be good.

Lots of our social problems, like violence, poverty, poor education stem from the widening disparity between the poor and rich. When a smaller and smaller percentage of people have a greater and greater amount of wealth there will be problems as we see all around us.

In a garden if we put 98% of our resources into 2% of the garden and let the other 98% of garden go to waste and to weed, eventually there will be problems. As with nature, it is with society. By making it easier to be poor we are creating problems for all of society. If the purpose of government is for the ‘common good’ we must seek a government that is lessening not widening the gap between the small percent of rich and the rest of society. By making it easier to be poor we are creating an environment where it is harder to be good.


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Love or Hate but No Indifference - Sunday, September 14, 2014

“The opposite of love is not hate,
it’s indifference. The opposite of
art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy,
it’s indifference. And the opposite
of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel

The weather is get cooler, down in the 50’s but cheery tomatoes and green beans keep on going.

I got a couple emails today from people I do not know appreciating this web page or my efforts at nonviolence. Of course this week I did get an email from a local person I do not know saying to take him off my mailing list and another one from SVDP board member criticizing me. This love or hate responses reminds me of the reaction to Milwaukee 14 action or the civil rights marches of 68. I think it is good, to get love or hate reaction rather than being ignored, the new version of the opposite of love. As Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor said: “The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

We are taught to be indifferent or silent on controversial action. Last week when we had some trouble getting into the St. Vincent de Paul Board meeting, I stood in front of the open door till someone came out and said we all could come in. One of our members thought that we got ‘near violent’ by just standing in the open door. Many people today think nonviolent action is just protesting or picketing but would not think of civil disobedience.

This brings me back to the green beans and cherry tomatoes that keep on coming even when the weather cools. Their persistence will come to an end but only after all life is taken out of them. This reminds me of my posting the other night of Keep on Talkin.
Drawing out love or hate from friends or enemies is much nicer than indifference or being ignored. Ignoring the cheery tomatoes or green beans but not picking them would be hard to understand. So I say bring on the love or hate but please no indifference.


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Walk Humbly With God - Saturday, September 13, 2014

“Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts,” (Psalm 96: 5–8)

The other day when I attended the St. Vincent de Paul Board meeting I tried very hard to listen. However, at the end of the meeting when I got up to speak I noticed that most Board members were not listening and those who heard my words did so with a hard heart, not really hearing what I was saying.

Being hard of heart and really not listening is a problem I too battle. If you really listen to some people you hear “racist” and insensitive remarks. I struggle with how to listen with an open heart. For years I have struggle with Psalm 96 on not hardening my heart.

Today at a memorial liturgy for a friend I listened to the first reading, a brief one she had probably chosen. It was from the Bible, Michal 6:8: “This is what the Lord God asks of you, only this: To act justly, to lover tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” This might sound simple but I believe it is the way to keep from hardening our hearts.

To act justly means not to be afraid to say and do what you believe in conscience is right. To love tenderly means to do what you believe is right without hate or vengeance. And to walk humbly with your God means to always remember how poor and dependent we are. Simple or difficult as this is, I believe it is the way to hear the voice of God and not harden our hearts.

If the almighty God became one of us, weak human beings, maybe we can empty ourselves to walk humbly with God.


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Harder to Vote and Be Poor - Friday, September 12, 2014

86 year old peace and justice
leader talks to media how
struggle for human rights
for poor continues.

Today a Federal court ruled that the Wisconsin ID voting law, requiring a valid photo ID to vote is legal. The Governor says this law will make voting easier and cause less cheating at the polls. The facts are that for thousands it will make voting in Wisconsin harder and that there has never been a charge of voter misrepresentation made, let alone a conviction. But facts do not seem to matter much in politics these days.

One thing for sure it is becoming harder and harder to be poor in Wisconsin. Friends report to me about the recent lost of health services, like dental care in Wisconsin and the severe reduction in food stamps which are important to many persons and families. The environments the poor live in have become more dangerous, good education, good housing and employment opportunities are harder to attain. These facts are not only backed up by stories but from research, statistics and numbers.

I have experienced this fact, becoming harder to poor, directly. My friends call me up with stories, of new rules, bureaucracy and obstacles they must face to survive. Discrimination, especially based on race is at an all time high. I can see for myself when we make home visits that just the basics, a bed for a child or a stove or refrigerator to prepare food are very difficult to obtain. When our new governor ran for office the first time he promised to reduce taxes for everyone. He did for everyone but one group, the very poor for which he actually raised taxes.

If some politicians want to make it ‘harder to vote’ I really do not care too much. It may simply point out the uselessness of voting for change where there is no true democracy. However, making it harder and harder to be poor affects all of us. As the poor become the poor the burden on rest of us, except the 2% very rich, becomes greater. It cost us a lot less to provide a good education than imprisonment.

Personally for me it is hard to be quiet, when government and even private groups that mean well make it harder and harder to be poor without opportunity to move out of poverty. When will we ever learn that making it harder to vote and harder to be poor just leads to less meaningful voting and more poor.


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No Dialog No SVDP Mission - Thursday, September 11, 2014

Civil Rights Struggle of 60′s

Last night at the Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) board meeting, the property committee chair for St. Vincent de Paul Board claimed his committee has been working on the new thrift store in Greenfield for 46 weeks. Most membersdid not even know about this effort until an offer to purchase a building in Greenfield was publicly announced in February.

Attempts since February to have a dialog about the location in the suburbs where the SVDP thrift store is not needed rather than in North Central Milwaukee, where it is needed, have failed since the Board has consistently refused to dialog. They have been open to listen to dissent but not to dialog. Some of us have listened to them when they speak but not have been able to dialog. There has been only one presentation to 33 of 55 Presidents of conference but not a real dialog, although some presidents later have called for it.

If we could have a dialog, the two reasons, given by staff and board for the new store could have been discussed. One reason was “sustainable store” and the other was for “revenue stream”.

At the SVDP board meeting last night one argument, a self sustainable store, was given at the door by a board member, the treasurer, as he was trying to keep out non-SVDP members, like a 86 year old civil rights leader who had been picketing with us. When we mentioned that SVDP was using “money belonging to the poor” for the new store he counteracted that the 3.4 million dollars borrowed for purchase and renovation of building as well as the operating cost and employee compensation would all be paid back over the years by the store itself. He said money was used from the trust fund of SVDP as collateral for the loans but store would make enough sales to be self sufficient or sustainable. This is along the lines of what the executive director of SVDP has said that we were “investing in Greenfield”,a suburb 85%, white and with a high household income.

The other argument we have heard came from a board member on the TV news last night about the protest at the meeting. He mentioned, as others have before, we needed to invest millions in the Greenfield to create a revenue stream for the Society to invest more money in serving the poor like in North Central Milwaukee, 85% African-American and with low household income. This second argument says not only will the new thrift store pay back the millions he takes to construct and operate but that it will create a profit.

A member at our local conference meeting today mentioned that a store in North Central Milwaukee could have met both reasons. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target have invested millions into store in North Central Milwaukee not only to be self sufficient to create a revenue stream or profit.

If there could be a dialog during the last 46 weeks I would have argued that either of the two reasons, store being self-sustainable or creating a “revenue stream” have little or nothing to do with the , the or the way of the Gospel. The mission of the Society is simply to do works of mercy, person to person, home visits with people in need. Thrift stores simply exist to aide this mission by offering low income persons an inexpensive place to shop that is supplied by donations and for persons who could not even afford items a place where they could redeem vouchers given to them at home visits. It is to be a friendly place where all kinds of persons can work, local person in need finding employment and volunteers can work together.

A store in Greenfield, self sufficient or creating a “revenue stream” does not fill the main mission of the Society or the mission of the Thrift Stores “to serve Christ’s needy.“


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Keep On Talkin - Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fair Housing Marches 1968
in Milwaukee

I saw on TV news tonight how the police chief was trying to dismiss the organized protest over the death of an unarmed Dontre Hamilton by a police officer by saying how one of the organizers of the protest was just doing it for his own personal glory and attention getting. A group of young men, with some African-American politicians were quick to respond to the Police Chief’s attempt to minimize the message of the group by marginalizing one of its members.

This effort to marginalize one person in a group as an effort to ignore the message is one I, sadly, know about. I am easy target for organizations like Marquette or Central office of St. Vincent de Paul because I am a loud and outspoken voice for issues of racism and resistance to war and violence.

Tomorrow we are going to picket the St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Central Office with our message that the poor cannot afford the millions of dollars. One of the organizers of the nonviolent action got a call from the President of SVDP. One of the first questions she was asked if she was knew me. What difference did that make except as attempt to diminish this persons concern on this vital issue affecting her community?

There is another person in this struggle who has also been marginalized although as a former member of the SVDP Board of Directors he knows a lot about the inside workings or the organization and central office. What do we two, who did not know each other until this struggle, have in common. We both have nothing to lose. The other person is retired by work and left the SVDP society when he could no longer take the harm they were doing to the poor. Others can lose funding for their work, lose glory, or lose power in their community. Even the media has something to lose by covering events that influential people do not want them to cover.

The same person who received the call from the President of SVDP, the other day in a meeting with a 86 year old veteran of the civil rights struggle, started to sign some lines from a civil rights song: “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” The verses that stuck in my mind are: “I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’;, keep on a-talkin’, Walkin’ into freedom land.”

In the struggle to resist teaching of war and killing at Marquette I used to joke that Marquette, years ago, put me in jail, suspended me, fired me, took a degree away, so all I had to lose was my MU library card. When I was banned from Marquette they took away my library card, which since has been restored.

In this struggle with SVDP they could stop me from making home visits to those in need and receiving the blessings I receive from this work of the Society of SVDP. I doubt if they will. No matter what, I plan to keep on walkin and keep on talkin.


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Voting That Counts - Monday, September 08, 2014

Palestinian farmer looks over
his orchard of trees bulldozed
by Israeli military, yet
‘refuses to hate’.

A friend sent me an article today decrying The Death of Expertise. The author admits that ‘experts’ on a subject can be wrong that “what has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.”

This reminded me of my complaint that facts and history do not seem to matter much on issues and all right and wrong, truth or lies is a matter of opinion. It is part of the “Do you own thing” philosophy that seems to be dominate these days. It is not reality that matters but the individual perception of reality.

I am seeing all these ads for Governor that says the opposite thing on the same issue. The present Governor has created jobs or he has failed in creating jobs. I asked myself if I knew of anyone that might vote in the election for Governor that has not made up their mind already. I could not think of anyone. I asked myself the same question and she could not think of anyone. Yet millions and millions of dollars are being spent on advertising for each candidate.

I think all the ads are just to reinforce those who have already decided who to vote from. If that is true the person with the most money, the present Governor, will win the election as happens 95% of the time. This thought makes me more determined not to vote until we have open and democratic elections that will make a difference.

Even in protest actions, like that around the young adult sleeping on a public bench in a public park killed by a police officer. At each rally someone reminds us to vote. The mayor, DA or police chief who are stonewalling the investigation are not running for election and even if they were would it matter?

If voting does not matter what does? Today I read somewhere about a Palestinian family near Bethlehem that had their orchard of trees bulldozed by the Israeli militaryfor no good or legal reason. They have suffered other hardships by Israeli authorities but they ‘refuse to hate’. They take a nonviolent stand and keep on going without vengeance or hatred. Now they are really voting with their lives and their actions do matter. Now that is voting that counts.


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Our Leaders are not Stupid - Sunday, September 07, 2014

Perception or Reality

Now the weather man says we are in for cold spell with temperatures in 40’s to 60’s. We did not hot weather this summer and now are we going to skip early fall or ‘Indian Summer.’

The weatherman might predict the weather but we live the weather and that is what is important, the present condition. The same goes for the economy and the state of the endless wars and increasing inequality we face in the USA. Talking heads may talk about it but we must live it.

With the issues of what is the Mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is a microcosm of what is wrong with society. In the Society in Milwaukee as in the USA a very small group of people make decisions for the rest of us. The executives of corporations, the politicians claim to know what is best for us although just the opposite is often true. Take the ‘war on terrorism.’ Actually it is created more and more terrorist and now we have a new enemy, ISIS, worst than all the rest before them. It is hard for me that our political, corporate and military readers are not smart and did not know what the end results of efforts of war and killing would lead. People excuse politicians, saying they could not help themselves. Politicians, like military contractors, business leaders know exactly what the results of their action.

They are not stupid or people easily duped. Every time the president orders a drone to shoot missiles on a village, home or caravan of cars he knows that innocent people will die and more terrorist will be born. Tonight on read an article on the Common Dreams web site called: How American made ISIS. Now ISIS, the terrorist group, by awful killings is trying to excite us into a war of USA vs. Muslim world, something that would be to their benefit.

In the garden or on my lawn I know that if I over fertilized the plants or grass it will die. If the USA retaliates against countries, like it did attacking whole countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than going after the criminals it knows what the results will be, death, destruction and endless wars. Our leaders are very smart person and know how to sell us perception as reality. Our leaders are not stupid.


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Justice & Peace Back to the Future - Saturday, September 06, 2014

Jimmy Pierce of NAACP Youth
Council with Father Groppi

Today, in preparation for our protest at the St. Vincent de Paul Central office of “investment of money belonging to poor” in Greenfield rather than in North Central Milwaukee I was talking with two persons who were present in the civil rights struggle of 60’s for open housing. She was 40 years old at the time and now is 86 years. We were talking about person we knew in common, Dismiss Becker and James Groppi and events we shared. We were both on the school bus Father Groppi drove to Resurrection City in D.C. after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Now at the 46th anniversary year of passage of the Fair Housing law in Milwaukee she is still active and says of our times: “We quit too soon and never finished our work of obtaining civil rights.”

This month is also the 46th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 direct action of destroying selective files in opposition to the war in Vietnam and the Selective service system. On the anniversary day, September 24, 2014 we will be protesting on the Marquette University campus, the new draft system of education, like the military training for war and killing on the Marquette campus. (Part of the flyer is below)

In 1968 we were saying “No Justice, No Peace” and today we are still saying it. We are in the present going back to 1968 to move on in struggle for peace and justice in 2014.


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Cherry Tomatoes Run - Friday, September 05, 2014

Late but sure, the grape and cherry tomatoes are having a very good year in my front yard garden. Small tomatoes are not good for making salsa or pasta sauce so we have been eating them, dehydrating them for future use or giving them away. Today I made a tomato run to two friends who live alone on a fixed income and with some physical disabilities. They both appreciated the cherry tomatoes and my stopping by.

Gardening has many fringe benefits and this is one: the blessings I received on my cherry tomatoes run.


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Money for the Poor Going to Suburbs - Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Black is 85% African American
and Gray is 85% white. Dots
= families living below poverty
level. Greenfield is 53220
outlined in purple and North
Central Milwaukee is outlined
in red.

My veteran friend has had a tough life. Although he spent ten years in the military he was not entitled to any benefits except Medical help at the VA. After time on the streets he was finally able to get his life in place thanks to the Vet’s Place. However mental health problems prevented him from being able to keep a job.

I met him one day a few years ago when he came by the house looking for work. Except for times when he was restricted he would come by for a few hours a week, work in the garden and do some chores around the house and I would pay him a decent wage per hour worked.

For years, with the help of the VA, he had applied for Social Security Supplemental Income since the only source of income he had was from doing odd jobs. After rejections the money finally came through and he was able to get his own apartment on the South side. The VA and various veteran groups were of great help for him in the move. He called me up earlier in the week just looking for a few objects, like a bed frame and some pots and pans. He is living close to a few Catholic Churches on the South-side so I told him to call the central office of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) and ask for a home visit of the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Conferences.

He did call and the person who did intake on him told him St. Vincent de Paul had no conferences serving his area. He was confused since he lived near a few Catholic Churches. He called me back. I encountered this problem before, people in need living in poor neighborhoods being told by central office “we do not serve your area.” I had discovered earlier that the central office uses a very outdated computer system based on Church boundaries that no longer apply. I offered to purchase software based on GPS system that would tell the operator where the closest St. Vincent de Paul conference was. They rejected the offer and, instead, spend hours changing the boundaries when a conference expands its area or, in most cases, stops making home visits because of lack of funds or people to make the home visits.

Individuals like myself, wife and friend make home visits outside the area of our Church to neighborhoods like the North Central side, the poorest and most segregated area in Milwaukee. (Near South-side is the second most.) So when my friend called to say he was rejected for home visit I sadly was not surprised. The computer system said that the Church next door, like others churches on North and South side was no longer making home visits.

I called the Central office and asked for the person in charge of intake calls. I was given to someone who has worked there nineteen years and someone I knew. She gave me the line about how the Church right next door to his house had stopped making home visits and she was not sure if the Catholic Church conference a few blocks away was making home visits. She is the person who takes care of the outdated geographic system for assigning calls. I explained how our SVDP home visits team had just completed 16 home visits in an area far from our home and how the whole history of St. Vincent de Paul since the beginning at the University of Paris was for people to cross into areas of need to make home visits. She did not budge from her position. She did say that maybe he could just buy a frame and some pots and pans at the SVDP South-side thrift store. I guess that was true for her.

Over the years the central office of St. Vincent de Paul has grown into a major bureaucracy and has a nearly two million dollar budget for operating the central office, two meal programs and one thrift store on the South-side. A copy of the 2013–2014 approved projected budgets, put out by the central office, has 1.8 million dollars with over 99% going for compensation and operating expenses. All this has little to do with the Mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society which is to make person to person home visits with people in need. The individual conferences raise their own funds and must pay 50–100% of the price of vouchers they give out to people in need. Conferences spend over 99% of their budget on serving persons in need.

Last winter the central staff, a few members of the Society and outside consultants decided to pursue a thrift store in the suburb in Greenfield, an area full of WalMarts’ and thrift stores that does not need another one rather than pursue a store in North Central Milwaukee where it is really needed. The St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store Mission Statement clearly states: “Serving Christ’s needy are the primary goal of all St. Vincent De Paul Stores.” In the Society all our money “belongs to the poor” so some of us were outraged when we heard of plans to spend millions of dollars to purchase, renovate and operate a thrift store in Greenfield which has an average household income of $42,586.00 rather than for a low or no cost create a thrift store in North Central Milwaukee where the average household income in one of the zip codes is $20,787.00.

I was outraged at the arrogance of the central office and highly paid staff spending millions of dollars, which according to the SVDP manual of USA belongs to the poor, while rejecting this veteran who was only seeking a little help from the competent home visits system they had created and maintained over the years.

I decided to wait awhile before calling my friend back and went out to the garden to work. When I came in he called and he told me that he had walked over to one of the nearby Catholic Churches and told them of his need for a bed frame and some pots and pans. They understood his need and said they would have someone call him.

Members of St. Vincent de Paul conferences who make home visits know what it is all about and know deep in their hearts that the money we take in does belong to the poor. Yet some silently go along with the Central Office thinking after all those years “they know best.” Since a few of us exposed this capital sin the central office and the few inside persons have proceeded in secret and with lack of transparency and without input of members. Somehow they got 1.9 million dollars to purchase the suburban property, are now contracting out renovation and soon plan to hire 30–50 persons in the suburbs; the store is too far for central city people to travel there, especially without a car. (Also the new store is in a 85% plus white neighborhood while North Central Milwaukee is 85% African-American.

Millions of money for the poor is being invested in the suburbs while the poor, like my friend, get poorer and find it harder and harder to survive. I am outraged. Are you?


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When I am Weak, I am Strong - Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Before people ignored me some would call be a ‘prophet’. I did not think I was at the time and still do not think so now that I am called other names and ignored. However, I do identify with the first reading in yesterday’s Scripture readings, Jeremiah 20: 7–9. Jeremiah complains that God ‘duped’ him. The message God gave makes him an object of laughter and mockery. He tries to ignore the message of God “but then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”

When my message about the racism of taking down basketball rims or building a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store or the militarism of Marquette goes out from me it is ignored and the messenger, me, gets ignored, rejected and marginalized. Some may think I like being rejected but I do not. In the old days when I was called on to give a talk to a classroom or write something for a publication I felt good about it and thought I had something to say.

I must admit part of the problem is the type of messenger I am. I do come across as arrogant or prideful but that is my weakness and has nothing to do with the message. The poor, weak, ill and some family and friends understand that but many do not.

A friend of mine, a woman priest, sent me a press release from Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests named: “Violence perpetrates suffering and is against the will of our Loving God.” It is a short brief release but made me wonder that we can do about it, what is the action. She wrote back saying: “Continued prayer and self-reflection on journey to becoming whole and fully human…doing daily work/ministries.” I agree.

We can be imperfect and weak but must proclaim the message of our conscience and by self reflection and daily ministries, that bring God’s blessings, keep on going. Our hope is “when I am week I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)


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Democracy Comes with Suffering - Monday, September 01, 2014

An Indian Muslim carries
a placard of Myanmar opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi during
a protest march near the
Myanmar embassy in New Delhi
on April 9, 2013

A new month, the end of the summer that never was and the US military enters another country, Somalia, with ground troops on a mission. US military actions around the world hardly make news any longer. We rule by might with the largest defense force in the world, bigger than the rest of the top ten countries in military spending. We are also by far the largest seller of arms in the world, making our economy dependent on war and violence. So it is no wonder that we have such a high rate of homicide and shootings. The empire of the United States rules world with violence and suffers the results, violence in USA.

Right now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, is trying to bait us to enter the war in Syria. They know the right buttons to press, like the execution on video of US Citizen, to push us into war. They want a war of US and other Western nations against Muslims in the Middle East to strengthen their power. Perhaps we have learned our lessons from entering into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the devastation and destruction of these countries, leaving them much worse than we found them.

The USA lives by the sword and dies by the sword. It is no wonder that a Catholic Jesuit University who professes to live by the Gospel teaches war and killing without using conscience on its campus. A friend told me that students at Marquette are no longer interested in the issue of military training to kill on campus because they have no personal stake into war like they did when we have a selective service system and the draft. I do not think that is true.

Many in the 60’s and 70’s committed acts of civil disobedience and nonviolence against the draft and war who had no worry about being drafted into the military. Students in general have no great passion about any issue of peace and justice, even civil rights. University students just like their parents and other adults have a sense of helplessness. They can vote, write a letter, sign a petition but it really does not matter much.

I believe they are right. Without working together with people power and nonviolent direct action they cannot really change anything. The “powers to be” want us think voting matter and give tons of money to determine the elections. We are spied on, blasted with propaganda, kept divided and kept struggling for more power, wealtlh and glory.

When will we learn that the road to peace and justice is doing peace and justice? Democracy does not come with inequality, with military might or the barrel of a gun. True democracy comes only with suffering, sacrifice and being the peace and justice we want to see.


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