Peace & Justice Blog

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


 

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 News, Peace & Justice Blog

The Lifeline of Water

“Let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream”

         Amos 5 – 24

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

When someone asks me what I do, I say I work for an organization that saves lives. That organization is Water With Blessings.  Since 2008, Water With Blessings has provided water filters to mothers in countries around the world lacking clean drinking water.  At present, we serve 48 countries, from Haiti to Uganda.  After training on the use of a water filter, these “water women” sign a covenant agreeing to share their water filter with three other families.  The training is both practical and spiritual, and the women are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christian.  They understand the importance of community and of sharing the essential element of clean drinking water.

While we slept last night, 3.600 children died because of a lack of clean drinking water.  According to Water With Blessings, contaminated water causes 90% of the deaths of children under the age of five.  In Uganda, many parents do not name their child until after the age of two because many children die before that time.  We have seen, however, that the provision of water filters has greatly reduced the instances of cholera in Haiti – in our first 14-village campaign in Haiti, there have been no cases reported at all. Water filters from Water With Blessings, and the “water women” who share them, have become a lifeline for more than 400,000 households worldwide.

Water With Blessings is the good news regarding clean drinking water.  Most citizens in the United States take clean drinking water for granted, unless they live in Flint, Michigan or in Navajo Nation in the southwest, where 30% of the population do not have running water.

We need a reawakening of our responsibility to conserve this essential resource through personal and corporate efforts.  The eco-justice committee has provided numerous ways of doing just that.  (see Water Witness.) We must be watchdogs of legislation on the state and national level that negatively impact our water.

Women sit in a class to train them on how to use the water filtration system provided by Middletown, Kentucky based nonprofit, Water With Blessings. (Photo by Bryan Woolston)

The Clean Water Act of 1972 established the basic structure for regulating discharge of pollutants into the water of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface water. The Clean Water Act, under the EPA, has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry, and is a good example of bipartisan efforts to serve the country’s health and the earth’s health.  Democrats and Republicans overrode President Nixon’s veto, and he signed the bill.

According to Clean Water Action, sadly, we retreated on the protection of the Clean Water Act in 2019, when the federal government wiped out protection for the streams that feed the drinking water for more than one in three Americans, and that filter pollution and protect communities from flooding.

We can create more good news by our conservation efforts and our voices, even in the midst of multiple crises.  The need to protect our most essential resource remains in our hands.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Code Red

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

This is the third and final blog on common good voting as we prepare for our national election.

“In the U.S. we will advocate for common-sense gun control laws such as requiring universal background checks before purchasing arms, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, promoting strategies to prevent gun violence, and provide adequate financial resources to establish mental health programs for victims and predators and prevention for at-risk people.”

Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates       2013

 

 

They are called “The Mass Shooting Generation” and they demand change.  They were born into a world reshaped by the 1999 Columbine High School attack that left 13 people dead. They have lived through the Sandy Hook shooting of six-year-olds and their teachers. They stood in fear and shock at the Stoneman Douglas high school attack in Florida.

In this generation, six-year-olds are forced to practice active shooter drills. Parents buy bullet-proof backpacks for their children. According to the National Center for PTSD, 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third will develop acute stress disorder Our children are suffering mental exhaustion.

Since Stoneman Douglas, these young people have organized around the country, meeting with state and federal legislators, calling for action.  They do not want to hear, “You are in our thoughts and prayers” again.  They want action to make schools, churches, concerts and shopping malls safer.  They are tired of attending the funerals of their classmates and teachers.

Much time is spent organizing marches and demonstrations, giving tv and newspaper interviews, encouraging voter registration and educating the public on the need for legislation that addresses the causes of gun proliferation and violence.  As in the past, they often hear empty slogans and promises.

“Code Red” has become a familiar sound for students, informing them that an active shooter is in the building.  This is followed by calls to anxious parents, hoping this will not be the last communication.

According to the American Public Health Association, between 1999 and 2017 there were 69 high-fatality mass shootings, involving high capacity magazines, resulting in a 62% higher average death toll.  Bans on high capacity magazines appear to reduce the incidents of mass shootings and the numbers killed.

What needs to happen?  Congress needs to pass bills that eliminate the manufacture and sale of high capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons such as the AR – 15 and AK 47.  Police around the country support this ban.

These weapons are intended for military use, and the only reason to have one is to kill many people in a short period of time.  The 2017 Vegas concert shooting, which killed 59 people and injured more than 500, is proof of that.

Finally, Congress needs to pass a universal background check bill that requires anyone wanting to buy a weapon to pass a background check.  At present, only 60% of those wanting to buy a weapon go through a background check; those purchasing a gun at a gun show are not required to go through a background check. Only 13 states have a universal background check in place.  The Brady Bill, which provided for such background checks, was signed into law in 1994. allowed to expire in 2004 by the Republican-led Congress and President George W. Bush.

As common good voters in 2020, we are called to vote for senators and a president who will take protecting students and all citizens from mass shootings seriously, by enacting responsible, common-sense laws to stop the slaughter and to end  the national “code red.”

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog