Journal of daily reflections on the progress of my home-based agriculture experiments, mixed with observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends.
I have talked in these posting a lot about how ‘hard and expensive’ it is to be poor. Today I drove a friend to the dentist. She has severe fibromyalgia, a brain illness that causes chronic pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure. She needs to go in a wheel chair to the back of her Chevrolet Blazer where she can lay down in the backseat. Everything she does is full of pain. In the elevator today I brushed the back of her head accidentally and she immediately felt the increased pressure. It is hard to be chronically ill.
I mentioned how the other day I helped salvage material from my 86 year old friend’s house that was in a fire. Having a house burn down is a dramatic experience for anyone, especially for an elderly person. Any major change and adjustment in life is hard when one is old. It is hard to be old.
For some young African American adults is extremely hard to be black. Being stopped by police officer for being suspicious, finding jobs or getting a good education is hard. It is refreshing to see the new civil rights movement which can be seen in a movement like #Black Lives Matter.
It is hard to have a prison record. No matter what is said, employers do discriminate against a person with a prison record. It is hard to be an ex-convict.
It is hard to have a mental illness. Brain illnesses are not treated the same way as other illnesses or injuries. People with a mental illness are identified with their illness and called ‘mentally ill’. We would never call a person with cancer, ‘cancerous’. Stigma is hard to live with.
I can go on with people who in our society find it hard to be who they are. But from the above I can say it is very hard, to be poor, black, young or old, ill with a prison record. These are the persons who we are talking about when we say Jesus’ ‘preferential option for the poor’ or we call bless, while we allow society to treat them with inequality and make life ‘hard’ for them.
Perhaps a forgotten beatitude in the Gospel is “Blessed are those who have a hard life, they will have a life of ease.
See the full list of articles in the Diary of a Worm.
First they ignore you
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
“Everyone in the world knows that Jesus and His teachings were nonviolent except Christians.” M. Gandhi
A Biography of Dorthy Day by Jim Forest
Letter from Dorthy Day prime directive of Gospel
In general, in the first flush of Lent, the struggle is undertaken bravely. What if during the long weeks the fervor lessens and the work of accumulating graces was continued with many lapses, but by effort of will. That time when will has to be brought into play is perhaps the most important of all, despite failures and the total lack of a sense of accomplishment, of growth. Fervor comes again with Holy Week, joy comes on the day of resurrection, with all nature singing exultantly God’s praises.
To keep united to God through the suffering Humanity of His son—that is the aim of Lent. — Dorothy Day from her column “Day After Day”, The Catholic Worker, April 1935
People Need to be Distrubed.
“When it is said that we disturb people too much by the words pacifism and anarchism, I can only think that people need to be disturbed, that their consciences need to be aroused, that they do indeed need to look into their work, and study new techniques of love and poverty and suffering for each other. Of course the remedies are drastic, but then too the evil is a terrible one and we are all involved, we are all guilty, and most certainly we are all going to suffer. The fact that we have “the faith,” that we go to the sacraments, is not enough. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ with napalm, nerve gas, our hydrogen bomb, our ‘new look’.” (“Are The Leaders Insane?” By Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, April 1954, 1, 6.}
“Paper work, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens — these things, too, are the works of peace, and often seem like a very little way.”
— Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage, December 1965
Where we are all going?
…. “I am sick up to the teeth and beyond the teeth, up to the eyes and beyond the eyes, with all forms of projects and expectations and statements and programs and explanations of anything, especially explanations about where we are all going, because where we are all going is where we went a long time ago, over the falls. We are in a new river and we don’t know it.”
(extract from a letter from Thomas Merton to Daniel Berrigan)
Violence embedded in culture itself
“The real focus of American violence is not in esoteric groups but in the very culture itself, its mass media, its extreme individualism and competitiveness, its inflated myths of virility and toughness, and its overwhelming preoccupation with the power of nuclear, chemical, bacteriological, and psychological overkill. If we live in what is essentially a culture of overkill, how can we be surprised at finding violence in it? Can we get to the root of the trouble? In my opinion, the best way to do it would have been the classic way of religious humanism and non-violence exemplified by Gandhi. That way seems now to have been closed. I do not find the future reassuring,” — Thomas Merton edited with an introduction by Gordon C. Zahn (Boston, MA: McCall’s Publishing Company, 1971), p. 230
If you want to study modern history
If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.-- Thomas Merton New Seeds of Contemplation, ch 17
worshiping the false self in place of God
“After all, what is your personal identity? It is what you really are, your real self. None of us is what he thinks he is, or what other people think he is, still less what his passport says he is… And it is fortunate for most of us that we are mistaken. We do not generally know what is good for us. That is because, in St. Bernard’s language, our true personality has been concealed under the ‘disguise’ of a false self, the ego, whom we tend to worship in place of God.” —Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe
Harcourt & Brace, 1949, p. 349
silence between words
“For language to have meaning, there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him. For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence,”
—Thomas Merton, “Philosophy of Silence,” in Disputed Questions
(NY: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1960), p. 181
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
Poor in the Military
“Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence
Delivered 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City
Worth Dying for
“If you haven’t found something worth dying for, you aren’t fit to be living.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Fear Each Other
“We often hate each other because we fear each other; we fear each other because we don’t know each other; we don’t know each other because we can not communicate; we can not communicate because we are separated.”
Priority of Conscience
“And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is agrave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.” Fr. Roy Bourgeois in his letter to Maryknoll why he could not recant his belief and public statements that support the ordination of women.
“Over the pope … there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.” Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI,in his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s document, Gaudium et Spes.
Nonviolence or Militarism
Breaking the Silence
Child Soldiers and Military Training at Marquette University
Military Spending Voting Records of Rep. Paul Ryan [R]and Rep.Gwen Moore [D] of Wisconsin from 2005 – 20012.
Chris Hedges gave this speech Saturday at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo, Wis., before a crowd of about 2,000. His address followed one there by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who seems to be preparing to run in the Democratic presidential primaries. The Fighting Bob Fest, the annual event at which they appeared, brings together progressive speakers from around the country and honors Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette (1855–1925), a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who opposed the United States’ entry into World War I. Parts of this talk were drawn from Hedges’ past columns.
by Chris Hedges
I would like to begin by speaking about the people of Gaza. Their suffering is not an abstraction to me. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I spent seven years in the region. I speak Arabic. And for much of that time I was in Gaza, including when Israeli fighter jets and soldiers were attacking it.
I have stood over the bodies, including the bodies of children, left behind by Israeli airstrikes and assaults. I have watched mothers and fathers cradle their dead and bloodied boys and girls in their arms, convulsed by an indescribable grief, shrieking in pitiful cries to an indifferent universe.
And in this charnel house, this open-air prison where 1.8 million people, nearly half of them children, live trapped in an Israeli ghetto, I have witnessed the crimes of occupation—the food shortage, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. As I have witnessed this mass of human suffering I have heard from the power elites in Jerusalem and Washington the lies told to justify state terror.
An impoverished, captive people that lack an army, a navy, an air force, mechanized units, drones, artillery and any semblance of command and control do not pose a threat to Israel. And Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill hundreds of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war. It is state-sponsored terror and state-sponsored murder.
The abject failure by our political class to acknowledge this fact, a fact that to most of the rest of the world is obvious, exposes the awful banality of our political system, the cynical abandonment of the most vulnerable of the earth for campaign contributions. Money, after all, has replaced the vote.
The refusal to speak out for the people of Gaza is not tangential to our political life. The pathetic, Stalinist-like plebiscite in the [U.S.] Senate, where all 100 senators trotted out like AIPAC windup dolls to cheer on the Israeli bombing of homes, apartment blocks, schools—where hundreds of terrified families were taking shelter—water treatment plants, power stations, hospitals, and of course boys playing soccer on a beach, exposes the surrender of our political class to cash-rich lobbying groups and corporate power. The people of Gaza are expendable. They are poor. They are powerless. And they have no money. Just like the poor people of color in this country whose bodies, locked in cages, enrich the prison-industrial complex.
When you are willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable for political expediency it becomes easy, as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have amply illustrated, to sacrifice all who are vulnerable—our own poor, workers, the sick, the elderly, students and our middle class. This is a Faustian compact. It ends by selling your soul to Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil. It ends by deifying a military machine, now largely beyond civilian control, that, along with our organs of state security, has established surveillance and a security state that make us the most spied-upon, eavesdropped, monitored and photographed populace in human history. It is impossible to describe yourself as free when you are constantly watched. This is the relationship of a master and a slave.
Politics, if we take politics to mean the shaping and discussion of issues, concerns and laws that foster the common good, is no longer the business of our traditional political institutions. These institutions, including the two major political parties, the courts and the press, are not democratic. They are used to crush any vestiges of civic life that calls, as a traditional democracy does, on its citizens to share among all its members the benefits, sacrifices and risks of a nation. They offer only the facade of politics, along with elaborate, choreographed spectacles filled with skillfully manufactured emotion and devoid of real political content. We have devolved into what Alexis de Tocqueville feared—“democratic despotism.”
The squabbles among the power elites, rampant militarism and the disease of imperialism, along with a mindless nationalism that characterizes all public debate, which Bob La Follette denounced and fought, have turned officially sanctioned politics into a carnival act.
Pundits and news celebrities on the airwaves engage in fevered speculation about whether the wife of a former president will run for office—and this after the mediocre son of another president spent eight years in the White House. This is not politics. It is gossip. Opinion polls, the staple of what serves as political reporting, are not politics. They are forms of social control. The use of billions of dollars to fund election campaigns and pay lobbyists to author legislation is not politics. It is legalized bribery. The insistence that austerity and economic rationality, rather than the welfare of the citizenry, be the primary concerns of the government is not politics. It is the death of civic virtue. The government’s system of wholesale surveillance and the militarization of police forces, along with the psychosis of permanent war and state-orchestrated fear of terrorism, are not politics. They are about eradicating civil liberties and justifying endless war and state violence. The chatter about death panels, abortion, gay rights, guns and undocumented children crossing the border is not politics. It is manipulation by the power elites of emotion, hate and fear to divert us from seeing our own powerlessness.
As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties. They know that nearly half the country lives in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are harder and harder to hide.
It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, has yet to rebuild itself and turn on a feckless liberal class that has sold its soul to a bankrupt Democratic Party.
“Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?” James Baldwin
“The thing about following Jesus is that you don’t do the right thing because it works; you do it because it’s the right thing. If it doesn’t work, nothing works because the wrong thing doesn’t work either. I think we have proven that.” Rev. John L. McKenzie
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
“In reality, there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its own inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe. Every being enters into communion with other beings.
In every phase of our imaginative, aesthetic, and emotional lives we are profoundly dependent on this larger context of the surrounding world.” -Father Thomas Berry
“The problem which divides people today is not a political problem; it is a social one. It is a matter of knowing which will get the upper hand: the spirit of selfishness or the spirit of sacrifice; whether society will go for ever-increasing enjoyment, or for everyone devoting themselves to the common good… .”
~ Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, co-founder of St. Vincent De Paul Society
Jokes and Editorial Cartoons
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Restoring the Senses, Gardening and Orthodox Easter