Nonviolence . . . Human trafficking . . . Women . . . . The elderly . . . Immigrants' rights . . . Housing. . . Children . . . Prisoners' rights . . . Health care . . . World Hunger . . . Globalization, as it affects Latin America . . . Care of the earth . . . Seamless ethic of life

Note: The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author's and should not be ascribed to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes or its members.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 86th Anniversary of His Birth

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 86th Anniversary of His Birth
Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
~Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Price Acceptance Speech

    I’ve been pondering what Dr. King might say and do were he alive today. What would his message be in the aftermath of the instances of killings of unarmed Blacks by members of law enforcement as well as the ambush-style killing of two police officers in New York?

    What do we see happening today? On the one hand, according to an analysis of seven years of FBI data (2005-2012) submitted by local law enforcement, 96 unarmed Blacks were among the 400 reported deaths of Blacks by members of local law enforcement. Because only a small number of precincts reported statistics to the FBI, this may well be an underestimate. More recently, we recall the death of Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee on April 30th. Unarmed and suffering from mental illness, he was shot 14 times by Christopher Manney (a White police officer who is not being charged with the death). We also remember the killing of Michael Brown by a White police officer on August 9th in Ferguson, MO. That officer, too, is not being indicted. The death of unarmed Blacks at the hands of White police officers occurs all too often, with law enforcement officers often cleared of wrongful death. The situation has given rise to a wave of protests across the country under the banner Black Lives Matter.

    On the other hand, in 2014, 50 officers were killed in the line of duty, 15 of them ambush style (see article).  Among them were Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos who were shot while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn, NY, on December 20th, 2014. A number of counter protests are now taking place to support law enforcement officials. In today’s Fond du Lac Reporter, for instance, Paul Pfeffer invited people to rally in support of local law enforcement on Saturday, January 24th from 2-3:30 on West Johnson Street. Will rallies such as this further exacerbate the racial divide?

    I’m concerned about what seems to me to be a false dichotomy – if I hold that Black Lives Matter I am perceived to be in opposition to law enforcement officers (and vice versa). Why does the racial divide continue to be so problematic in our country more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement? An article posted by Public Religion shows that the divide seems to be growing deeper:

    Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his commitment to nonviolence may again be a source of inspiration for us. He believed that the enemy is not the individual “out there” but rather the prejudice that rests in our own hearts. We form the Beloved Community by living Christ’s commandment to love one another. Eugene Peterson, in his biblical translation The Message presents Jesus’ challenge in modern parlance: 

            43 "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten 
           companion, 'Hate your enemy.' 44 I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your
           enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives
           you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working 
           out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives
           his best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the 
           good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect 
           a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, 
           do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 "In a word, what 
           I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your  
           God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God 
           lives toward you.” 

Imago Dei. Made in God’s image. I believe that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would invite us to refuse to hate. Instead, show mutual love and respect to everyone – Black or White, civilian or police, poor or rich. For love is of God. And it is the only way to vanquish the racial divide that bedevils us. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015 the hard-working taxpayers...

Governor Walker Promises Reduced Role by Government “…of the people, by the people, for the people…” (President Lincoln)

In his second inaugural address on January 5, 2015 Governor Walker quoted this text from the Wisconsin Constitution:

     "All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights;   
      among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to secure these rights, 
      governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." 

Freedom and prosperity come not from the mighty hand of government but from the dignity of work, Governor Walker stated. He outlined his vision of a more limited government that provides economic opportunity to its citizens through access to quality education, skill-levels that enable people to obtain higher-paying jobs, and expanded highways to meet the needs of various industries. These actions by the government will lead to a future of freedom and prosperity for every person who lives in the great state of Wisconsin, he suggested.   

Looking back, Mr. Walker said, “We took the power away from big government special interests and returned it to you, the hard-working taxpayers.” Perhaps he was referring to his action in 2012 to restrict collective bargaining rights for some civil workers. Maybe he was speaking of his rejection of federal funds for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Most certainly he was not considering the benefits that would accrue to Wisconsin’s citizens through an orderly transition from a military industrial economy to a peace economy, an increased investment in renewable energy companies, or the expansion of rail service in Wisconsin. 

During the last four years was power returned to the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin or was it increasingly handed over to corporations through tax reductions on property, income tax credits, sales tax refunds, and reduced regulatory oversight? “Wisconsin is Open for Business” was Governor Walker’s promise in 2012 with a goal of creating jobs, jobs, jobs. Some businesses did seem to benefit mightily; a couple examples come to mind. Gogebic Taconite Mining helped draft State legislation that opened northern WI to its iron mining operations. Expanded frac sand mining in western Wisconsin occurred when the State Legislature reduced local government controls, negatively impacting citizens’ health and their environment.

Did Governor Walker’s first term result in increased freedom and prosperity for all of Wisconsin’s citizens or did his Administration pursue more vigorously a path of corporate welfare over individual welfare? According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel average personal income in WI lagged behind the country as a whole as well as surrounding states except for Illinois (March, 2014). Will all the citizens of Wisconsin experience better outcomes in Governor Walker’s second term when he promises an even leaner State government? Prospects appear bleak, and suggest that every Wisconsin voter remain vigilant and active so that increased freedom and prosperity will accrue to all – especially the most vulnerable among us.