Peace & Justice Blog

Stay up to date on peace and justice issues, both locally and internationally, and learn how you can take action.


 

An Empty Seat at the Table

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

Thanksgiving Day often has been gray, with the leaves gone from the trees and winter beginning to blow in.  But this 2020 Thanksgiving is especially gray, with a somber tone of loss.  I find myself visualizing Thanksgiving tables around the country with an empty chair – a chair once occupied by a grandparent, mother, or favorite uncle. These were not numbers in the country’s 258,000 + people lost to COVID-19 but lives well lived.

As much as the loss of these too-many lives, I am saddened by the divisions that the reactions to this virus has produced, turning a deadly health care issue into a political issue. I recently called a donor to thank her for her contribution and wished her a “safe” day.  She responded with a blast of angry comments about evil – the evil of a hoax she called COVID. There was little time to catch my breath, and no point in saying I believe in science …the Earth is not flat …astronauts did land on the moon… and, yes, Elvis is dead.

Evil is alive and well, and conspiracy theories are one such toxic evil. They have separated families who may otherwise join each other at the table. They threaten the lives of many who are being careful but are often put at risk by those who refuse to wear a mask, and a government that has not discovered responsibility.

This pandemic was called a hoax by the president, even though he knew in January that it was very dangerous. And people died. Many governors refused to require masks and encouraged large gatherings. And people died. Health care professionals were pushed aside at a time they were needed most.  And people died. Yes, I believe evil exists.

Despite all the losses and the lost opportunities to save lives, there is much for which I am grateful.

I am grateful this Thanksgiving for all the sacrifices made by health care workers, the doctors and nurses who have worked 15- and 18-hour days, sacrificing sleep and risking their lives.  I am grateful for the grocery workers, farmers and truckers who have fed our country.  I am grateful for the essential workers who have kept our nation moving at personal risk to themselves. I am grateful for those in the communication industry who bring the light of truth through disinformation and conspiracy theories.

I find the words of Kristen Clark Taylor, author and former Director of Media Communications for the Bush administration, inspiring:

“Let’s be bold in our thinking as this disease is in its deadliness.  Let’s let the numbers – the lives lost, the resulting grief, the unimaginable pain— order our steps as we move towards Thanksgiving. 

Mindset matters. 

Let’s train our brains to not just seek, but find gratitude, even in these dark days.  Let’s get audacious with our gratitude.”

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Transforming A System

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

“America Has the Best Politicians Money Can Buy”

Will Rogers

It appears that billionaire Charles Koch has had a “come to Jesus” moment.  Koch, age 85, wants to undo the damage his many millions of dollars in campaign contributions have cost the country in polluting our air, water and land.  According to Rolling Stone, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined.  Across its business, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.  Charles and his late brother, David paid a $35 million penalty in 2000 for its 300 oil spills in Texas and other states.  This was only one of many lawsuits.

As far as funding political campaigns go Koch recently remarked to the Huffington Post, “Boy did we screw up.”  He now wants to work across party lines for solutions to poverty, gang violence, homelessness, and other social problems.

For all who consider the urgency of passing real campaign finance reform, this is a classic tale of billionaires and millionaires setting the agenda for the country.  Oil companies influence elections just like the 44 billion of the Koch brothers.  They provide astronomical funds for candidates who will protect the interests of the fossil fuel industry.  The pharmaceutical industry pours in millions to make certain they can continue to increase prescription drug prices and block generic drugs whenever possible.  The NRA has been successful in electing senators and representatives who refuse to support responsible, common-sense gun legislation.  Their name is legion. It is called “dark money.”

For many decades citizens have bemoaned the reality of “dark money” and hoped that the next election would produce a congress and president willing to provide solutions, not promises.  There was a start in 2002 when the McCain-Feingold bill passed, regulating “soft money.”  This was undermined by the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision.  The decision basically said the corporations were people.  Really?  I believe corporations are corporations and look for ways to maximize profit and make shareholders happy.  This does not help the senior who must cut her pills in half in order to have enough money to pay the utility bill and buy food.  She sees prescription drug prices go through the roof.

What can we do in 2021, with a divided government (waiting for Georgia) to determine addressing ongoing problems like campaign finance reform.?  Both parties have been reluctant to take on campaign finance reform because it takes big money to be successful in a campaign. That, however, should not prevent the people who elected leaders to call them to do the hard work of reform.  We need a bill to set a maximum for donations from citizens and corporations and not a sky-high maximum.  Ideally, neither candidate donations will exceed a certain amount.

Righting the ship of the country is worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

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