Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

Who Are the Heroes?

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Archie Anglin works 12-hour days as a bus driver in Columbus, OH. With the coronavirus everything has changed for him. He wears a mask covering his usual smile, he greets people on his new mission — he’s doing all he can to protect his passengers. He takes people worried about getting the virus to the hospital and offers his support, takes essential workers to their jobs, and takes many to the grocery. He does not express concern about his own safety, but about the safety of his passengers.

One of his passengers comments, “A smile can go a long way. Without people like Archie, this city would shut down.” He is one of the “unsung heroes.”

Yolanda Fishe, a 48-year-old cafeteria worker at T.W. Brown Middle School in Dallas, TX, is another hero that does not make the news. She says, “I’m still going to work because we’re still feeding kids that attend my school as well as any child in Dallas that needs a meal. I’m loving it because I miss the kids’ faces. We are feeding our community and I love that. I am nervous about getting the virus because I have two grandchildren at home. My daughter wants me to stay home, but I say no. Jesus was a worker. That’s my purpose.”

We see “frontline heroes” on the news every day—doctors, nurses, EMT workers, firefighters.  However, many behind the scene frontline workers like Archie and Yolinda are also putting their lives on the line.

They deserve financial protection and health care protection. Millions of workers have lost their jobs and experience long waits for unemployment checks, and frequent long food lines for the first time in their lives. Who is protecting them?

We need frontline heroes in the Senate, the House and in the Oval Office. Much attention has been paid to rescuing the airline industry and big business. We need the same energy supporting bus drivers, grocery workers, and farmers.

We as citizens are called to be heroes as advocates, calling on our leaders to make just decisions on behalf of those without a microphone. We need action, not more photo ops.

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Earth Day

The nation celebrated its first Earth Day in 1970, April 22—a response to the widespread awareness of the devastating pollution of our country. Remember Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)? The Cuyahoga River on fire?Urban smog? In July 1969 we had had the first moon landing; with the Apollo 17 crew in 1972 we saw the Blue Marble image of Earth. How small we are in the Heavens!

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, December 1970)and federal legislation expanding specific rules and

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller

actions for clearing up our air, mandating personnel training, emission controls of industry, and transportation fuels. Water was next with the Clean Water Act (1972) and then our Endangered Species Act (1973). Earth Day became an annual world event, leading to the Paris Agreement of 2016 and its focus on climate change which is affecting the world’s patterns of rainy and dry seasons, the ocean’s temperature, global glaciers and the stability of our polar ice packs.

Just consider our resource of water—depending on where you live in our states, plenty of it and sometimes too much? Is it drinkable, much less available for you if you rely on a well or spring or water pipes? A reminder: less than 1% of Earth’s total fresh water is available for us and as the polar snow and ice packs or glaciers diminish their water either goes into the salty ocean or dries up in the land heat. Despite the Vatican’s calls supporting water as a human right, our political powers such as the US and Europe cannot agree—Kyoto Water Forum 2013.

In a snapshot of our Earth today we see her burning [California 2018, Australia and the Amazon 2019-20], parched due to droughts or flooded and whipped by excessively strong hurricanes and rains. All God’s creatures—animal, aquatic, bird and human—are suffering from the smoke and pollution of chemicals in what we wear, eat, and breathe. We cannot continue to rely upon piecemeal or individualized actions as tree planting, composting, solar heat or rainwater collection.

Should not this Earth Day and the days, weeks, months following be revolutionary once again? Can we not strive to be truly transformed in our own way of seeing what God has given us? Can we become the preachers for all through our decisions (personal and social) in what we drive, how we illumine our buildings, conserve our own lands or support in our larger communities?  This is the Common Good of our Earth World which we broadcast.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Democracy at Risk

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

After the election of George Washington in 1789, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin if the United States was a republic or a monarchy.  He responded, “A republic, if we can keep it.”

Under norms of rationality, the recent Wisconsin democratic primary would never have happened.  Governor Tony Evers sought to postpone the in-person Democratic primary because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders issued by his own office.  This appeal was denied by the conservative Wisconsin state supreme court and later denied by the similarly-conservative U.S. Supreme Court – a Supreme Court which, by the way, cast their votes on this remotely, a privilege not granted to Wisconsin citizens. Television cameras focused on thousands of primary voters wearing masks, trying to position themselves six feet apart from each other as they stood in line for as long as two hours.

These people risked their lives not only to exercise a fundamental right, but to do their civic duty, when seeking absentee ballots could have protected them.  As they reached the interior of the voting sites, they had to stay within two feet of poll workers… many of whom were elderly and therefore part of a vulnerable population. Wisconsin voters carried signs reading, “This is crazy,” and “Is this democracy?”

This irrational and irresponsible decision could infect many citizens with the virus and cost lives.  It was later discovered that nine thousand absentee ballots requested earlier by voters were never sent, disenfranchising people who followed the rules to vote absentee.

Voter suppression is not a new phenomenon.  Numerous barriers to voting came to light during the 2018 mid-term election.  In Dodge City, KS, the polling site was moved from a centrally-located area to the outskirts of town more than a mile from the nearest bus stop, making it more difficult for the poor and Hispanic citizens to vote.  In North Dakota, Native Americans were deprived of the opportunity to vote because they did not list an address when registering to vote; reservations do not have street addresses.  In Georgia, many African American voters were removed from the rolls because they had not voted in the previous two elections.

After the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision to weaken the landmark voting rights act, many states lost no time eliminating polling places. Arizona closed 320 sites in 13 counties. Southern states have closed 1,200 voting sites. There was one common denominator in these closings: the large majority was in areas populated by people of color.

Voter suppression is real and growing. I believe in light of this obvious weakening of fundamental democratic rights, Benjamin Franklin would answer the question about our nation much differently today.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

In a time of quarantine, is the real problem inside?

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

COVID -19 has upended the lives of millions around the world.  All of our institutions now have to find ways to survive now and recover after this pandemic is over.  Churches, considered the rock of spiritual and emotional support for many, now have drive-through anointing and confessions. As the stock market plummets, jobs are lost and social support systems are weakened. We are in an alien land without a road map.

Much critical attention needs to be focused on what is going on in homes around the country.  COVID-19 has changed the context of children’s lives, with school closings, activities outside the home eliminated, and in-person counseling no longer possible. With once-reliable support systems no longer available, tensions increase and instances of domestic violence and child abuse have become more frequent. Skyrocketing unemployment and loss of emotional support systems fuel fear and anger, with child abuse or violence against a spouse too often the result.

Few have thought of the collateral damage of the virus, like victims of rape or sexual assault, who may stay away from overrun hospitals for fear of exposure to the virus.  Undocumented immigrants may fear going to the hospital and being reported to ICE.

Pro Public summarizes the problem facing many: “Social workers from the front lines of America’s beleaguered social service system, which strains to care for millions of vulnerable people in the best of times, sound the alarm during the current reality.  They have written, urging that the country not overlook a secondary crisis growing out of the global pandemic: that those who already live on the margins, many of whom rely on counseling face-to-face for support and survival, will suffer out of public view, behind closed doors, kept shut to keep the virus out.”

During this time of long-term uncertainty, much can be learned from the 12-step programs used by those in addiction recovery. Living for today … getting through a period of difficulty one day at a time, is an important form of coping and self-care. Don’t look to the trip you planned in July or the wedding in October. Concentrate on getting through each day to the best of your ability.

Likewise, the final step of most recovery programs states that the key to maintaining our own emotional well-being is to help others. In this case, the mantra, “We will get through this together,” needs to focus on the most vulnerable, who are often alone already. It’s not always hard to see the families who are on edge – now is the time to reach out with a wave on the street or a call or a text. Just as staying in during this pandemic may save a life, reaching out while we are all behind closed doors may do the same.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

How Far Have we Come in 50 Years of Earth Day?

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

April brings thoughts of the beauty that surrounds us. Flowers with a rainbow of colors abound, and the gray of winter disappears. Even though we are limited in our movement because of the coronavirus, the beauty is there to inspire. April also brings to mind Earth Day and all that has happened since April 22, 1970, when Senator Gaylord Nelson hosted an environmental teach-in.

Fast forward to 2020 and we find rubble in many forms:

  • the United States withdraws from the Paris Accord
  • the EPA suffers drastic cuts
  • the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are weakened
  • changes in the Endangered Species Act threaten all wildlife
  • scientists are ignored

 

Is there any good news in today’s reality?

While our government is ignoring an environmental crisis, individuals are stepping up with a determination that inspires. Students have made the streets their new classroom, drawing attention to climate change and the urgency of the most critical concern of our day. While that may not make parents or principals happy, their voices need to be heard—this is their future!

I have been impressed by students who are collecting plastic bottle caps.  These caps are sent to a company that produces benches and picnic tables made from this normally-discarded plastic.  More individuals are refusing to use plastic straws, instead using metal straws, or simply drinking from the glass.

Informed citizens know the state of our plastic-infested oceans.  The Pacific Ocean is now called ‘plastic island” because it contains an amount of plastic twice the size of Texas, harming marine life and destroying ecosystems. We dump 150 million metric tons of plastic in all of our oceans, and add eight million tons each year, according to the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions. One survey found plastic in 94% of our tap water.

What better time than this “Earth Month” to make a difference with our choices and our voices.

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog