A Moon Shot to Save Lives

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

Is it time for another moon shot?  In the 1960s President Kennedy sparked the imagination of the American people by declaring that astronauts would go to the moon, “Not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”  His prediction demanded a large amount of financial support, determination, and imagination.  President Obama called for another moon shot to cure cancer.  We are still waiting in hope that successful outcome.

The “American Jobs Plan” initiated by President Biden is an ambitious effort to repair the nation’s infrastructure from roads and bridges to expansion of broadband, to the long-standing need for replacement of water pipes that contain lead, so that cities can provide clean drinking water.  For me, the next moon shot in the post-Flint, MI, era is clean drinking water. The crisis in that city should have been a wake-up call for our leaders to address – and it’s time to rouse them from their slumber.

When leaders in Flint decided to switch the city’s water source from the Detroit river to the Flint river, children paid a high price by accumulating high levels of lead in their bodies.  The city lived on bottled water and still has not fully recovered.  The Center for Disease Control estimates that the number of children with elevated blood lead levels in the United States is 1.2 million and the numbers are likely to go up, and many of these children suffer from long-term neurological damage.

President Biden’s bill proposes to replace 100% of the lead pipes and service lines.  The EPA estimates that improving and maintaining the nation’s water infrastructure over the next 20 years will cost about $750 billion – but that investment is offset by the positive impact on society.

Lead’s impact on the brain — particularly the developing brains of children and fetuses — is severe and systematic, “resulting in reduced [IQ], behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior and reduced educational attainment.” These impacts are felt at even low levels of exposure. What is the societal cost of generations of children with low academic achievement, low impulse control leading to crime and to teen pregnancy, and increased danger of addiction?

A 10 percent drop in the crime rate associated with lead abatement would generate $150 billion per year in benefits. A 2009 study by Elise Gould suggested that eliminating lead paint alone would generate somewhere between $41 billion and $199 billion in reduced expenditures on health care and special education, plus $25 billion to $35 billion in extra tax revenue. Just imagine what removing lead from the drinking water of young children could do.

Living in denial of the problem or arguing about the cost and benefits will not solve the problem.  How valuable is the health and safety of children in the United States?  We can cut the tax write-off of the three-martini business lunch, and instead vote for clean drinking water.  We can call for large corporations to pay taxes (55 corporations in the United States paid NO TAXES last year.) Fed Ex, Version, Niki can pay their fair share, especially since corporations made over $40.5 billion in profits.  We can close Guantanamo Bay prison and place those prisoners in federal prisons in the United States and save millions every year.  The list goes on.

Children in the richest country in the world (and in all countries) deserve clean drinking water.  This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but a moral issue.

This moon shot must be successful.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

A Weapon at Every Window

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

A few years ago, my aunt informed me that my uncle had a gun in every room of the house.  When I caught my breath, I asked if there had been robberies in the neighborhood or gun violence; she said no.  He said, “You never know what window they might come through.”

We are a gun culture. That reality is not going away soon and will not until we enact laws that bring real change.  Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, said as much recently.  “We need to DEMAND change from our legislators, not ask for change.  Whenever there is a town hall meeting in your area with senators or representatives, we need to be there with questions and demands for real legislative action that will provide protection for citizens of this country.”

Not everyone may be able to attend a town hall but contact through phone calls and emails need to flow in large numbers.  It is also important to thank those who continue to work for substantive change in gun laws.   My local representative, John Yarmuth, continues to wear a large pin with the letter F on it.  He receives an F from the National Rifle Association because he consistently votes for responsible gun legislation.  I thank him at every opportunity.

If we are going to succeed in reducing the devastating numbers of mass shootings, we must pass substantive legislation, such as the following bills:

  • mandate universal background checks for all gun purchases
  • make it illegal to purchase military-style assault weapons such as the AR 15 or AK-47 rifles as well as high-capacity magazines that can fire 100 bullets in a few seconds
  • create red flag laws that enable the police or family members to remove weapons from a family member who is a threat to himself/herself or others.
  • end legal immunity for gun manufacturers in the Protections of Lawful Commerce Act that shields gun manufacturers and sellers from civil claims brought by victims of gun violence.

In other words, instead of the current culture of permissiveness, we need to become a culture of prevention.

We had some success when President Clinton signed the Brady Bill in 1994.  This prevented the purchase of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and mandated background checks on all gun purchases.  Incidents of mass shootings dropped significantly. In 2004 the bill needed to be renewed, however President Bush allowed the bill to expire and gun violence has continued to increase.

I do not want to hear the easy mantra “You are in my thoughts and prayers” again.  Obviously, I believe in prayer, but it is not a substitute for responsible action that produces results in saved lives. As we approach the violence of Good Friday, I believe God asks action from us that can bring true peace.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Democracy in the Rear View Mirror

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

Just when you think voting in the United States could not get any weirder, 43 states decided to find a myriad of ways to restrict voting.  After over 60 judges around the country declared there was no voter fraud in the presidential election, and with the U.S Supreme Court adding their agreement, we continue to find efforts to relitigate what has been uniformly confirmed.  Georgia provided a hand recount and a machine recount, with the conclusion remaining the same.  Other states initiated voter recounts with no fraud found.

I guess good news is hard to accept.

Back to the weird season.  There are currently 253 bills in 43 states intended to restrict voting.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, these are some of the amazing and transparent pieces of legislation:

  • Pennsylvania and Virginia would eliminate ballot drop boxes.
  • Several states would require all mail in ballots to be notarized.
  • A Missouri bill would eliminate COVID 19 as an excuse for mail in ballots.
  • Many states would limit voter registration opportunities.
  • Some states have proposed aggressive voter roll back purges.
  • New Hampshire would require voters to present identification when returning absentee ballots in person.
  • Four states would require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

The list of restrictions is exhaustive.  One that caught my attention came from Georgia.  One bill would make it a misdemeanor to provide water or a snack for those standing in long lines to vote.  It should be noted that just between the 2020 Presidential election and the 2021 Senate runoff, more than half of the polling places in Cobb County, GA, were closed. People have stood in line at some sites for as long as six hours.  No water?  Really?

In Dodge City, Kansas a centrally located voting site moved to the outskirts of town, which means that those without a car are at a disadvantage.  Buses stop a mile away from the voting site.

What is the goal of these bills?  Voter suppression is clear, and the voters affected are primarily Black, Hispanic, Native American and poor.

The House recently passed HR 1, which will safeguard voting opportunities for people of all socio-economic levels.  It now rests in the Senate and needs your support.  The bill would improve national standards that would override much of what state legislators are trying to subvert.  The bill would provide universal eligibility to vote by mail, provide 15 days of early voting and would provide mandatory online voting.

This is an urgent piece of legislation.  The choice is clear—democracy or voter suppression.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Going Green in Winter – Focus on Personal Practices and Honoring Earth

Prepared by the Eco-Justice Committee

PERSONAL PRACTICES:

  1. It is helpful to have good seals on windows and doors.
    • It is most effective to have seamless caulking (around the edges) and good weatherstripping (where the two pieces overlap each other).
    • Applying new silicone caulking around the window edges and replacing any worn or flattened weather stripping on your windows keeps a tight seal on windows.
  1. It is possible to winterize your bike for commutes and errands.
    • Helpful actions are using wide tires, wearing layers and protecting hands and feet
    • It is helpful to identify roads that will give enough room to ride with snow on the sides
  1. Using non-toxic deicers on driveways and other areas or throwing plain sand down on driveways provides good traction for tires.
  2. Birds and wildlife will appreciate your efforts at keeping bird feeders full and having suet cakes and corn cobs available.
  3. Car preparations for winter include:
    • It is helpful to be sure fluid levels and windshield wipers are as they should be.
    • It may be helpful to have extra weighted items in a trunk or back of the car for added traction in areas of the country that have a lot of snow.
    • Some people carry bags of clay cat litter, sand or pieces of carpeting in their trunk to put under tires for added traction if stuck in snow or on ice
    • Having emergency food (granola bars, chocolate, trail mix, etc.) a blanket/sleeping bag, gloves/mittens, hat & scarf, flashlight with extra batteries in the event of emergencies is a good consideration if traveling in bad weather
    • It is helpful to have an extra bottle of windshield washer fluid in your trunk
  4. Cell phones are important to have with us when out.
  5. Dressing for the weather with layers of clothing are always good with cold temperatures.
  6. When more of us learn what efforts are being done at the local, state and national levels to combat the effects of climate change we are in a position to promote needed changes. There are many organizations promoting efforts to combat climate change. We all can get on some mailing lists and advocate for change by writing letters, signing petitions and financially supporting organizations working to make change.

 

HONORING EARTH:

  1. Become an EARTH advocate by encouraging others to honor, celebrate and care for EARTH
  2. Journal some experiences you’ve had with God’s good EARTH
  3. Try to spend some time outdoors on a regular basis to see and soak in the beauty of nature

Activities: Even in areas with cold and snow during the winter months, your physical, emotional and mental health needs the outdoors.  Remember there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.  These are things most happily and safely done with others.

  1. Get active: Try activities for the family like ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
  2. With another person or persons try fishing through the ice on a frozen lake whose ice is at least 5” thick
  3. Be creative: build a snowman/woman or create a snow sculpture or,
  4. Go on a photo walk – take pictures of tracks in the snow, ice/snow on the trees
  5. Share with others – Shovel the walk of an elderly or disabled neighbor or,
  6. Check on elderly or disabled neighbors. Perhaps, shop or prepare a meal for them
  7. Enjoy: Drive around town to view the Christmas lights
  8. Finish your outings with hot chocolate and cookies
  9. And when spending time indoors, start a new hobby or continue the one you already have e.g. knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, quilting, fly tying, wood carving, whittling, starting that new book, etc.)
  10. Connect with family and friends digitally, or even better with notes, calls, and other personal connections.
  11. Learn and Serve: volunteer with groups whose efforts make care for Earth a priority. Study issues, contact legislators and become involved.

The above suggestions can be adjusted to your particular circumstances and needs. You probably have many other practices that you already do. Discuss with your local living group/family other ideas that you could do to raise awareness. Make changes in a step-at-a-time fashion—adding a new focus or practice each month. Be patient and persevering—the Planet is worth it. We are all in it for the long haul.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Making the Lilly Ledbetter Act Reality 

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

As we continue to celebrate the lives of women who have made a difference in our country during Women’s History Month, I applaud Lilly Ledbetter as one who has made a substantial contribution in improving the lives of women.

In 1979, she took a job as an overnight supervisor with Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Gadsden, Alabama.  By the end of her career, she was earning less than any of the men in the same position.  She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and later initiated a lawsuit and, as a result, she was reassigned to duties such as lifting heavy tires.  Although she won the lawsuit, the Supreme Court overturned the decision.  The Lilly Ledbetter Act was signed into law by President Obama in 2009.

Still, women working full time year-round earn on average 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.  According to the Center for American Progress research suggests that women lose more than $400,000 over a 40-year career due to the wage gap.  For Black women and Latinas these lifetime losses can equal $946,120 and $1,135,440 respectively.

COVID 19 has exacerbated the problem of wage inequity.  According to FORTUNE nearly 80% of the 346,000 workers who lost their jobs in January 2021 were women.  More than 2.3 million women have now left the labor force in less than a year.  Most do not have the option of working from home.  With schools closed across the country, single mothers are often forced to stay home as the caregiver, and nearly half of the working women are in low wage jobs.  COVID has turned the spotlight on the dire situation low-income mothers face, especially with school closings and the high cost of childcare.  Salaries do not match the cost of the crisis.

It has been one year since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.7).  That bill, along with 400 others, rested on the desk of then Majority Leader McConnell’s desk, sometimes referred to as the “Senate graveyard.”  That was then.  What do we do now?

Many politicians state that they support equal pay for equal work, but their words have not translated into action.

What will the Paycheck Fairness Act do?  There are four main features:

  • Protect workers against retaliation for discussing pay with colleagues.
  • Prohibit the use of salary history in the interview and hiring process.
  • Mandate employer collection of pay data and other employment data disaggregated by gender, race and ethnicity.
  • Close the “factor other than sex” loophole.

Our senators need to hear from us on this urgent bill.  The Paycheck Fairness Act will make a difference in the lives of millions of women in the United States who have struggled to support themselves and their families.  This is a great way to celebrate the lives of women who have made a difference in our lives

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog