Monday, May 28, 2012


All is still not quiet on the Western Front.

hat did Jesus mean when He said, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”  When he told us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”?   The deepest, and often unexplored, mystery of our faith is how to fight evil with good, replace violent hatred with mercy.

Today we celebrate the memory of those who died fighting in defense of our country.  Those who’ve suffered through the battlefields of war and tell an honest story, describe it as hell.  They honor dead comrades, but want to forget the painful carnage that includes the faces of those they’ve killed as well.

Cain  and Abel, 19th century Bible illustration                           Cain and Abel -- painting by Titian

If God has created every one on the planet as brothers and sisters, how can we persist, after the living resurrected message of God’s Son, in killing each other Cain and Abel, in defense of some earthly kingdoms?  There will be conflicts, but we are gifted with the Holy Spirit, to use all ingenious kind courageous inspiration to solve them without bloodshed.  We are called to follow Christ new commandment, “Love one another--as I have loved you.”  The Pentecost grace is given.  Who are we to say it can’t be done?
Pentecost -- by El Greco

To encounter one good but difficult example of how telling the true story of wars past can help us respond to this call, I hope you all will spend an hour listening to “What happened at Dos Erres?”  a public radio program broadcast that aired this Holy Spirit / Memorial Day weekend.  This nearly unreported atrocity of the early 1980's occurred at a time when our President Reagan was promoting troops like these Kaibiles  as “freedom fighters,” and the scorched earth tactics they employed were being taught them by our “School of the Americas.”  “Low intensity warfare” was the order of the day in Central America, to repel the advance of Communist guerrillas before they could reach our borders.  They enemy is always portrayed as lethal to our way of life.  Listen to each voice in this complicated web of friend and enemy to our cause.  The investigators, Guatemalans especially, are courageous.

An undated photo of Lt Oscar Ovidio Ramirez Ramos--the Lieutenant and his fellow Kaibil troops led a 1982 massacre in young Oscar's village in Guatemala-- Photo, Matthew Healey for ProPublica

The program host Ira Glass describes himself, as I was, very involved in following and trying to diminish the hostilities of Central America in those times of Iran-Contra Cold War by proxy.  The people and clergy of the Diocese of San Cristobal in Chiapas Mexico, where I’ve often gone on medical peace mission, offered refuge to the many Guatemalan villagers fleeing the violence of their own army.   A friend, photojournalist Larry Towell, began his career in solidarity with the disappeared victims of Guatemala’s conflict.  He documented the discovered remains of a similar massacre not far away in El Mozote, El Salvador.  Massacre was recurrent military policy in Central America.
El Mozote, El Salvador -- excavation of remains

Photos by Larry Towell---Below are from book, "Gifts of War"

There is so much devastating cruelty in the world—My Lai, Flanders’s Fields, blitzkrieg and
Holocaust, Battle for Normandy, the killing fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, Palestine, Bosnia, Iraq, El Salvador, Darfur.   Yet this radio story and those who tell wars’ dark secret give me hope, that in recognizing war itself as evil, we may commit to dismantling the weaponry, and not training our children for war anymore.

El Peten is closest Guatemala state to border with Chiapas, Mexico

You can stream the program at this site, This American Life archives.

Program can be downloaded and saved as a podcast for free this week on iTunes.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Sunday, May 20, 2012


My bike carries only 1 big limb at time--Sam's friend left it years ago in high school, now a workhorse for our back-alley woodlot.
I pick up sticks.  They come down regularly,
All over town.
Sometimes whole branches balanced on bike handlebars.
Sometimes the ‘99 Voyager carries the load.
Some we carry by hand.

The bowsaw cuts most of them down to size.
Together with the dead ash felled, sawn, split, hauled from Chris’ woodlot
These heat our house.
There’s gas furnace backup
But the work of the EPA grade woodstove
Fed from fallen limbs
Makes me feel whole
At 64 still part creation’s steward.

 Bicyclist carries wood  near Camana, Peru - photo by Bob's Bike Tours
Bike carrying bamboo

Bike fully wood loaded in Subsaharan Africa

Monday, May 14, 2012


Graduates of the University of Alabama's class of 2011--photo by Butch Dill--AP
In the richest country in the world our college graduation gift to the bright and energetic is an average debt burden of $23,000.  That’s for those that make it through in 4 years.  55% still don’t make it after 6 years of studies and mounting debt.  Only 30% of our young people go and graduate from college, less than in most developed nations.  And that’s up 4% from 12 years ago when war-based financial crisis has made going to college an alternative “job” in itself.   Joining the military has become an increasing choice of post graduation “employment” in recent years.   Those who can’t afford college, and can’t find a job are part of the “economic draft” that has become a major factor in military recruitment for the never-to-end War on Terrorism.

Instead of promising our graduates the possibility of changing the world, we saddle them with a heavy promissory notes ball and chain.  From the 5-13-12 NYT A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College, we have these quotes.
With more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country, crippling debt is no longer confined… Now nearly everyone pursuing a bachelor’s degree is borrowing.
If the trends continue through 2016, the average cost of a public college will have more than doubled in just 15 years, according to the Department of Education.
In the article it draws a parallel to the housing bubble blowout—we now have an education debt bubble.

What a discouraging defamation of the inaugural challenge President Kennedy made to young people of our nation 52 years ago.  Is it now, “Ask not what you can do for your country, but how to repay your bankers?”  This worldwide vision of Peace Corps motivated service to God and country is replaced by personal financial worries.  There was an “urban legend” in the early 70’s of a session between Nixon, who hated the young anti-war protesters, and his strategists Haldeman & Ehrlichman, in which he pleaded for a way to neutralize them.  They came up with a plan for big college debt.  Simplistic, and I have never been able to find confirmation, but the monetary stumbling block to more young critical creative endeavors, certainly has occurred.

y the first week in July, Congress must act, or the rate on student loans will double from 3.4 to 6.8%, compounding the problem.  Democrats want to pay for the ongoing low rate by requiring more wealthy individuals to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes; Republicans want it to come from cutting out preventative health care services from Obamacare {further weakening a program which now has expanded coverage for college age kids}.  This is the same Congress that struggles mightily to tip the balance  of mandated 50/50 budget cuts onto the backs of social programs, further increasing the military industry’s share.  Republicans controlling the House are eying big cuts to food stamps as they piece together legislation to trim $261 billion from the federal budget over the next decade, hoping to forestall major Pentagon cutbacks.  – from Food Stamp Cuts Eyed By House GOP ToForestall Defense Cutbacks, 4-17-12 Huffington Post.

I’d call these Congressional functionaries for Wall Street profiteers and military industries not Democrats or Republicans, but Scribes and Pharisees.  Listen to Jesus’ admonition.  “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  ….  They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."  Mt 23: 13, 4

The less onerous Democratic plan to pay for college debt relief with some slight increase in the wealthiest tax obligations was “defeated” by a positive 52 to 45 vote on May 8, 2012 {8 votes shy of the new standard “super majorities” necessary to get anything done in Congress these days}.   Stay tuned to your media outlets to see if in the eventual vote we might have some small initial conversion, from honoring the dollar power speculation of corporate wealth, towards renewed possibility for our young adults’ dedication to national community service.
When will we free our young people from bondage to a failed war economy, a system that favors only the few at the top?  Come Lord Jesus, fill the hearts of your faithful, rich and poor, with the Pentecost fire of your love.   Fill us with the wisdom from above.

For further reference see---

see and hear---

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, May 7, 2012


Fisher Body Plant #1 -- photo by Edward Burtynsky

"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'"  Mt 23:16
 Fischer Body Plant #2
With the profits-driven outsourcing of manufacturing for decades , and people of means fleeing Detroit in droves [a 25% decrease the past decade alone], is it really surprising that one of the nation’s poorest cities is going bankrupt? See a status report from Reuters.
There is now insult to this injury in Detroit. A consent agreement for emergency management controls the city.  Certainly there was abuse and corruption in recent and past city governments, as in most major cities. That has cost the budget millions. But Detroit’s total debt approaches a couple billions.   Still we see many cities across the nation with debts approaching bankruptcy. Business Insider reported 16 of them in December 2010.  None of these, except Detroit, have had emergency managers imposed. 1
Vallejo and Orange County in California simply went through bankruptcy. Hamtramck, MI was spared with a state loan. In fact, emergency managers rule cities only in Michigan, though Indiana and New York are considering facilitating legislation like our P.L. 4 which Gov. Snyder signed into law early in his administration. Dallas, Texas has a general operating debt also in the billions. No talk of emergency manager takeovers there. 2
And now Detroit et. al.
What is unique about Detroit, and all the other Michigan cities that now have become emergency management takeovers, is their very large African American citizenship. Percent black population in 2010 is as follows for all those Michigan’s cities now managed by edict of the Republican statehouse: Detroit 82.7%, Flint 56.6%, Pontiac 52.1%, Benton Harbor 89.2%, Ecorse 46.4%, Highland Park 93.5% { only school district is state managed}. [from U.S. Census data 3] Contrast this with 19.4% for Hamtramck--given a governor’s pardon. Incredible reversal into plantation politics, for Republicans who began their party over a century ago, as declared champions for abolition of slavery. The claim is made by staff of the Sugar Law Center that 50% of Michigan’s people of color are now under emergency management.
n the end, if a city faces bankruptcy, then its local people and representatives should be the ones held responsible to hammer out agreements with creditors. What gives a state government in the hands of a different political party, and foreign to the life of the city, the right to swoop in selling off city assets, and breaking city contracts? These managers will also determine the budget for voting booths etc. in the upcoming national election in Detroit. Is this likely to help or hinder Michigan’s support for the first African American president?
The petition to put on the state ballot a proposal to rescind P. L. 4, which brought on this surge of emergency management, was signed by a healthy surplus of the requisite voters across the state. In Lansing on this April 26th it was reject by the Michigan’s Board of Canvassers, by a 2 to 2 vote. The font used for the heading on the petitions was too small by millimeters.
Some from Gov Snyder's side of the fence are trying to take pictures too, of the protest at their gated community against the emergency manager law on Jan 15, 2012.
Please go to the website Michigan Forward--Stand up for Democracy for more information, and to become involved.
Martin Luther King said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” This is becoming true for too many of our laws and regulations, especially those that pertain to elections. The will of the people is being replaced by the will of the powerful. Please work and pray for a healing of the wound that could kill our democracy. Those who wield power really do depend on all the rest of us who don’t have so much. God help the 99%, to help the 1% see that.
Martin Luther King--In Birmingham Jail

"Many of us have been prisoners of fear and prejudice. We have preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism it condemns. We have allowed conformity to social pressures to replace compliance with social justice."    ---Brothers and Sisters to Us---U.S. Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter on Racism,1979
 "For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”    Lk 6:38

The Last Judgment--  by Rogier van der Weyden