A Time for Healing

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

Can we exhale now?  As sales of muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and bourbon escalate, I suspect many people are asking that question.  While most pundits predicted a bumpy ride, no one could have predicted the bizarre and mind-numbing behavior at election sites where poll workers attempted to count the votes.  In Arizona and Pennsylvania, men armed with military-style assault weapons (AR-15 and AK-47) were a menacing presence.  Workers needed to have police escorts to return to their cars.  Of course, those gathered were not wearing masks, adding another layer of danger. This would have been a good opportunity to remind protesters that the first amendment gives us the right to protest, not to intimidate.

Noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones found his way to Phoenix to claim that voting in the country was all a fraud.  Previously, Jones maintained that the Sandy Hook massacre, killing 26 students and staff, was a hoax intended to take guns away from Americans.  He continues to maintain that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax.  Chants of “count the vote” could be heard outside of Elections offices as workers were doing just that.

Since Joe Biden has been declared President-elect, I hope this will be the dawning of a new era of respect, understanding, and peace.

What has been deeply disturbing during the last four years is the fracturing of relationships.  Divorce has escalated overheated political disagreements.  Long-term friendships have ended, and holiday dinners have been carefully orchestrated, if not canceled.  When a daughter found out how her mother voted she screamed, “You are no longer my mother!”  Kellyanne Conway and George Conway, of Lincoln Project fame, ended their political involvement because their children indicated they no longer wanted to be part of the family.

There are hopeful signs that the carnage of disrespect and vitriol may decline.  We have a President-elect who, as a member of Congress, was comfortable and successful at reaching across the aisle.  Republicans in the past have praised his ability to bring people together.

As the dust settles, it is up to all citizens to push the restart button.  Instead of bemoaning the past, we need to seize the opportunity to rebuild relationships and rebuild a country suffering from deep racial, cultural and political divisions in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic.

What are the tools we need to bring to this new era?  I believe we need to bring patience (incremental progress is still progress), understanding, and the willingness to become professional listeners.  Real listening is the key ingredient.  Not much listening has happened in the last few years.

My grandfather was a civil engineer who built bridges around Kentucky.  I do not remember him because he died when I was three years old, but I see many bridges and think his work of building bridges must be our work.

Can we roll up our sleeves and start over, becoming bridge builders in the most challenging of times?

Where would you begin?

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

My Hope …

Blog by Associate Judy Hardy

My hope for our next president is that he sees himself as both a protector of our people and a protector of our Earth:

That he acts with integrity when it comes to the environment …
That he re-joins the Paris Accord…
That he appoints qualified/committed people to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of the Interior- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service, United States Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…
That he reinstates the environmental regulations that have been abandoned these last four years…
That he works to make where we live both air and water pollution-free…
That he protects our national parks and public lands from industrial exploitation …
That he works to make our nation less dependent on fossil fuels through regulation and the enforcement of those regulations …
That he commits to green energy (e.g. solar and wind) and makes the creation of green energy jobs a priority …
That he promotes/supports the production of U.S. built electric cars and the development of a nationwide network of electric charging stations and the improvement of the infrastructure of our roads and bridges…That he ensures the improvement and security of our electric grid…
That he supports and works with Congress to promote the provision of economic aid to villages, towns, cities, states, reservations, and territories ravaged by the effects of climate change…
That he institutes a modernized Civilian Conservation Corps that provides jobs for men and women which focus on environmental conservation…
That he champions and recognizes environmental stewardship by individuals, groups, corporations, and industries at an annual presidential award ceremony.

That’s my hope.  What’s yours?

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Voting for Democracy

“Democracy Dies in Darkness”

Washington Post

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

October 13, 2020, provided a surreal moment as I stood in line to vote, masked, socially distanced, with hands sanitized.

I thought of the many thousands of women who made this possible. They marched, were pelted with tomatoes, endured verbal and physical abuse, and were imprisoned so that I can stand in this line and vote, thanks to the 26 words of the 19th amendment:  “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex,” signed in 1920.

Fast forward to 1965.  Unfortunately, African American women and Native American women were not included in the 19th amendment.  With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means of discrimination were outlawed, and women and men of color were freed from one more barrier to vote. As we vote this year, we need to thank John Lewis and many others on the bridge to freedom for the right and opportunity to vote.

  • In Texas and Ohio, the Governor is only allowing one ballot dropbox per county for those wishing to
    Early voters at the single polling place in Franklin County, OH.

    vote absentee. Harris Country has a population of 4.7 million residents and ONE dropbox. Franklin County, OH, where our Columbus Motherhouse is located, has 1.4 million residents, one dropbox and one early voting site. Some residents have to drive 30 miles to drop off a ballot.

  • Postmaster Louis DeJoy has removed 671 letter sorters that can separate 35,000 papers in an hour. These are vital for counting votes rapidly.  In addition, he has removed numerous mailboxes around the United States and eliminated overtime for postal workers around the United States before a national election.
  • Numerous polling sites have been eliminated around the United States, including 1,300 sites in southern states and 320 sites in Arizona. As a result, many voters are standing in line for six to eight hours.
  • Some states that allow early voting are not allowing votes to be counted until November 3, which means we more than likely will not know the outcome of the election until much later. And the ever-present mantra of “election fraud” will be heard.
  • In North Dakota in 2018, Native Americans were deprived of voting because they did not have a street address. Reservations do not have street addresses!
  • In Dodge City, KS, the polling site was moved from a central location to the outskirts of town, more than a mile away from the nearest bus stop, making it difficult for poor and Hispanic citizens to vote.

The theme of the 2020 election seems to be “suppress the vote,” especially in areas where African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans live.

Congressional leaders and Presidents need to become interested in enabling free and fair elections by creating automatic voter registration, making voter registration portable between states, providing adequate numbers of voting sites that eliminate voters standing in line for hours, replacing antiquated voting machines (remember “hanging chads”?)  and providing less complicated mail-in ballots.  Add to the list the ongoing problem of foreign Russian interference (Russia, China, Iran) not being taken seriously.

There is a reason only 55% of eligible voters actually voted in 2016.  Barriers are real and will remain as long as we the voters do not demand that they change.

May your voting experience be unencumbered and a time of thanksgiving for all who made it possible.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

The Next Pandemic

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

2020 has been a year of endless harsh realities.  With over 219,000 dying of COVID–19, 30 million unemployed, businesses closing every day around the country, and the most divisive election to date, it is easy to lose sight of the next pandemic — homelessness.

In an interview with NPR, Cruz Santos said that she thought her life was finally turning around in early March when, after months of searching, she found a job at a shoe store. Two weeks later the store shut down, throwing her back onto the unemployment lines, and leaving her and her three school-age children at risk of losing the one-bedroom Bronx apartment where they live.  She says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and if they’re going to kick me out of my apartment.  And that’s something hard, you know. You can hardly even sleep sometimes.”

She is not alone.  According to Zach Newman of the Aspen Institute, at least 30 million people are at risk of eviction, or not being able to pay a mortgage.  They are in danger of losing their homes because the $600 a week unemployment benefit from the federal government’s CARES Act has expired, and there seems to be no new relief on the horizon.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on a single day, an estimated 292,623 single adults experiencing homelessness are over the age of 50, suggesting they may be uniquely vulnerable to becoming seriously ill during the pandemic.  There were 567,715 homeless in 2019.  Those who were fortunate enough to have an “emergency fund” have long since exhausted that small lifeline.

In the meantime, the three branches of government have played ping-pong with the lives of millions of Americans.  The House passed a bill to provide relief for those facing eviction, the Senate responded with a much smaller package, and the House countered with a bill that landed in between the original two bills.  The compromise offer was rejected by the Senate, and this bill, which could save 40 million people from eviction and homelessness, is in limbo.

With millions facing eviction, Senate and House members went home to campaign for reelection.  And with millions of people facing eviction, food insecurity for children climbing to as high as 17%, and more than 200,000 dead, the White House changed the script and called Senators back to Washington – not to help a nation in crisis, but to confirm a Supreme Court justice.

What is lost in this socio-drama are the millions of people who are suffering. People who simply want a job, food, and a roof over their heads. As winter comes on, those already on the streets and those fighting to keep their homes don’t need political posturing or “winning at any cost.” They deserve mercy.

Is anyone paying attention?

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Essential Respect

“Promote justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized, especially women and children, and work with others to identify and transform oppressive systems.”

                          Dominican Sisters of Peace, 2009

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

In a year unlike any other, we hear the voices of many expressing pandemic fatigues, who just want life to be back to “normal” again—eating in a restaurant without a mask, attending a ballgame with the stands full of fans and an end to virtual meetings.  Many others suffer from “outrage fatigue” in a year filled with political vitriol.

Others, sometimes called minimum wage workers, and more recently, “essential workers,” simply long for a time when their voices will be heard.  The message is always the same – a call for just wages and benefits that enable them to live without the fear of being homeless.

Cynthia Murray, a Walmart worker from Maryland, shares a common concern among low-wage workers, who are now considered “essential.”  She states, “We are the same people that they did not think were worth $15 an hour, but now realize we are worth more than that.  I’ve been there 19 years and I don’t even make $15 an hour… I have to work more than a week to get one hour of sick time.”

Bartolire Perez has worked at McDonald’s for 30 years and has participated in many strikes.  He says, “This time is different.  The next hamburger I make may be my last.”

Low wage workers, now called “essential,” are now on a level with doctors and nurses.  They are largely Black, Hispanic, and women, and continue to put their lives at risk, providing food and personal goods at a retail level.  Meatpacking plants across the country have shown just how vulnerable workers are.  However, media coverage of the struggling workers during the political campaign more often focus on blue-collar manufacturing workers, mostly white men.

The voices of workers themselves are largely absent from the debates, discussions and decisions that shape their future. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a $13 billion international social justice philanthropy, has said  “Too often the discussion about the future of work centers on technology rather than on the people who will be affected by it.”

When a president or senator talks about how good the economy is, I want to ask, “For whom?”  In the last three years the top 1% in the country have done very well, with a generous tax cut.  Several large corporations have paid no taxes.  Those who have money in the stock market have done very well, however, how many “essential workers” or “heroes” own stock?”

Pope Francis challenges all willing to listen:

“The struggle of working people, of the poor, is not a social or political question, it is the Gospel, pure and simple.  We are called to stand in solidarity with the poor, promote human dignity and the common good.”

This is an important time to ask those running for national office what legislation they will initiate or support to bring justice to “essential workers.”  How valuable is their work?  How valuable are their lives?

Can you live on $7.25 an hour?  I invite you to contact you representative/senator and ask that question.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog