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“When You’re Poor, Money is Expensive”

“When You’re Poor, Money is Expensive”
From Tim Schrag

This article in The Atlantic by Derek Thompson provides insight and points the way to some interesting ways forward, to those of us who wish to address the plight of the poor. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/its-expensive-to-be-poor-money/374361/

 

The author at least hints at actual alternatives to predatory lending such as payday loans, rigid bank credit standards for lending, etc. Issues of justice (or injustice) which create poverty are sometimes tiny but powerful. This article helped illustrate some of these problems.

 

A valuable bonus in the article is the embedded link found at the end, a 40 minute mini-documentary entitled “Spent: Looking for Change”.   Here’s an ‘appetizer’ from this documentary (and article) which might pique your interest in viewing the entire piece.   “Turning to pawn shops, check cashing services, and using payday loans to meet basic financial needs can be costly for many of us, with $89 billion a year going to fees and interest for using these types of alternative financial services,” they write. Unbanked families spend 10 percent of their money replacing traditional banking services. That’s as much as most families spend on food.

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Veterans for Peace on Armistice Day 2013

Our committee, staffed by pacifists mostly, reflected on this statement that was published by Veterans for Peace on Monday, November 11, 2013. Being an army veteran and a member of Veterans for Peace, I have appreciated this perspective on the holiday as most of us know it, since I first realized the history and historical meaning of the holiday.

The original post here:
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/pressroom/news/2013/11/08/veterans-peace-armistice-day-2013

_____________________________

Veterans For Peace calls for the observance of Veterans Day to be in keeping with the holiday’s original intent. Congressional Act (52 Stat.351: 5U.S. Code, Sec.87a) approved May 13, 1938, made November 11th of each year a legal Federal Holiday,“A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

The ceasefire on the, “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 along the European Western Front was such a relief to all those involved as the world had never seen such horror and carnage as World War I. The horrible conflict that had come to be known as the “War to End War” brought the bulk of humanity to contemplate abolishing war.

Veterans For Peace calls on its members and allies to observe Veterans Day by rejecting militarism and the glorification of war. We call on the nation to honor veterans and all those who have died in war by working for peace and the prevention of war. There is no better way to honor the dead than to protect the living from the fear, terror and moral deprivation of war.

VFP Resolution Submitted by Bob Heberle, VFP Chapter 27, (Endorsed by VFP Chapter 27)

Whereas bells worldwide were rung on November 11, 1918 to celebrate and recognize the ending of WWI, “The war to end all wars” and
Whereas to commemorate that peaceful pledge, bells were rung November 11 for over 35 years, and
Whereas, legislation making November 11 a holiday passed in 1938, ” Shall be a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” and
Whereas the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars, and
Whereas the substitution of the word “Armistice” to “Veterans” changes the focus from peace to war by celebrating and honoring warriors and war, and
Whereas that November date symbolized the nation’s desire to hold to a peaceful future and away from war, and
Whereas, too often rhetoric and patriotic symbols are used instead of genuine compensation for the extraordinary sacrifices and services of military personnel, and
Whereas 90% of victims of wars are now civilians and by honoring only veterans, the public is distracted from the awful price paid by those other than military members, and
Whereas Chapter #27 has for over 17 years promoted the ringing of a bell eleven times at its ceremonies on November 11 and at other solemn occasions such as funerals to remind the public of that Armistice Day peace pledge, and
Whereas the ringing of bells is so much more fitting and peaceful than the often practiced gun salutes and fighter plane flyovers.
Therefore Be It Resolved that Veterans For Peace, Inc. urges its membership to adopt the procedure of honoring peace by focusing on bell ringing on Armistice Day, November 11 and other solemn occasions.

Approved at the 2008 VFP national convention

Illinois Fracking Rules Out. Take Action!

Forwarded from our friends at Illinois People Action.

Dear Members and Friends of Illinois People’s Action,

IDNR has published the Fracking Rules.  This starts the clock ticking.  We will have 14 days to formally request hearings and until January 3 to make comments.  We will need your help in the following ways:

  • Send IDNR a postcard or letter  or call them requesting a hearing in Central Illinois after January 3. IPA will be sending a formal letter but we need each of you to back us up.  Two hearings have been scheduled so far: One in Chicago on November 26 and one in Southern IL (Rend Lake College) on December 3.  Both are 2 hour hearings that run from 6:30 – 8:30.  This leaves out any person in central Illinois who works a day job.  Send a letter or postcard requesting a hearing to:
    • Robert G. Mool
      Department of Natural Resources
      One Natural Resources Way
      Springfield IL 62702-1271
      217/782-1809
  • Send comments on the drafted rules.  Send one today!  Please see the attached document for the suggested topic of today’s comments.  Feel free to cut and paste the italicized comment BUT please add your own sentence or two to personalize the comment.  Make your comment by going to:
  • http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/OilandGas/Pages/OnlineCommentSubmittalForm.aspx  Fill out the information required, click on the Section B radial button and then submit the comments we have attached (or write your own).  Make sure if you submit your own comments on a different section of the rules that you click the correct radial button associated with the section of the rules you are addressing.
  • NOTE:   New Yorkers sent in 200,000 comments on their proposed rules.  There were so many, it put a cog in the wheel.  We want EVERYONE receiving this email to to make comments.

Now is when the rubber meets the road.  We told IDNR and our legislators that the public is not happy about the weak regulations.  We need to act now and demonstrate we are not going away!

Please stay tuned to upcoming emails from IPA and be ready to take action!

In solidarity for our health and environment,

Your IPA staff

Book Review: Jeffrey Kovac, Refusing War, Affirming Peace: A History of Civilian Public Service Camp No. 21 at Cascade Locks

Jeffrey Kovac, Refusing  War,  Affirming  Peace: A History of Civilian Public Service Camp No. 21 at Cascade Locks. Corvallis, OR, Oregon State University Press, 2009.  ISBN 978-0-87071-575-4.
Reviewed by Gerlof D. Homan

Some 12,000 men served as conscientious objectors during World War II.   For religious/and or philosophical  reasons  they refused to be part of the American military machine.   Proportionally, that number was relatively small as compared to the total number of British conscientious objectors.  Among the 12,000  were  4,665 Mennonites.  During the First World War conscientious objectors were often brutally treated.  It was only in 1918 that many were allowed to do farm work. During the Second World War they were permitted  to perform civilian  work of “national importance.”  They were housed in 151  so-called Civilian Public Service (CPS) Camps, that had once been used by the New Deal’s   Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Most of the CPS camps  were run, financed,  and organized  by the three so-called  Historic  Peace Churches: Church of the Brethren, Quakers, and Mennonites.  Sixty-three of the camps were run by the Mennonite Central Committee.

The story of World War II conscientious objectors has been told, but little has been written about  individual  CPS camps. This reviewer can think of only one other  study of a CPS camp: Gordon Zahn’s Another Side of War: The Camp Simon Story.* However, this is only an  account  of a short-lived and failed  Roman Catholic camp. The story of Cascade Locks, Camp #21, is the most complete of any CPS camp. It is written by the son-in-law of one of the  CPS’ers in the camp, Charles  Davis, and  is based on a great variety of sources,  interviews, diaries, the camp’s  newspaper, The Columbian, etc.

The men in CPS camps performed a variety of tasks many of which were related  to  forestry, soil conservation, etc.  Later many were permitted to work as “smoke  jumpers,”  ward attendants in mental or regular hospitals, and serve as “guinea pigs” for medical and dietary  experiments.

CPS Camp #21 at Cascade Locks, OR, was located near the Columbia River about twenty miles northeast Portland. The name Cascade Locks is derived from the locks in the Cascade Rapids of the Columbia River. The camp itself was actually located in Wyeth about eight miles east of Cascade Locks. A small side camp was established  on nearby  Larch Mountain  to place a  crew closer to areas of potential forest  fires. The location  of Cascade Locks had been chosen because of  its easy access to roads and rail and offered a variety of U.S. Forest  Service Projects in  Mount Hood National Forest. From a scenic standpoint  the camp was  a spectacular site,   but it also received  a large amount of rain and had very cold winters. Cascade Locks was started  on November 27,1941,  and closed in June 1946. An average of some 200 men stayed in the  camp and  a total of at least 560 spent some time there making it the largest CPS camp.

*Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1979.

The camp consisted of four dormitories, a dining hall, an infirmary, a laundry and latrines. The men turned one of the buildings into a library  and renovated  the old CCC chapel. Initially,   Cascade Locks was administered jointly by the Brethren  Service Committee and Mennonite Central Committee. This joint sponsorship soon proved to be unsatisfactory , and in May 1942 it became a Brethren camp.  Some forty-seven Mennonites did serve in the camp at one time or other in addition to many other denominations.  Among the latter were, of course, many Brethren and Methodists, some Quakers, a few Jews, and one Moslem.

Until February 1944 Brethren Rev. Mark Schrock served as the camp’s director. The author has much praise for his very able leadership and shows how much the men appreciated  his  important  contributions. It was Schrock who placed his personal collection of some 2,000 books  in the camp library. Unfortunately, the library and all the books were lost in a fire in February 1943.  After his resignation a committee assumed leadership of the camp.

Few CPS camps had  many able and committed pacifists many of whom had lively and varied interests. Like most CPS camps, Cascade Locks had its own newspaper the The Columbian but also a literary magazine, The Illiterati . The men  also showed much interest in thespian  activities  and engaged in book discussions.  Furthermore, they  organized, what they called, the School of Pacifist Living.

Among its most famous residents was the well-known actor Lewis [Lew] Ayers who  had starred  in the famous 1930 film  “All Quiet on the Western Front.  But Ayers did not stay very long. He preferred to serve a non-combatant medic and left in May 1942.

Another resident at Camp 21 who drew much attention was George Kiyoshi Yamada.  Yamada was  of Japanese  ancestry and arrived at Camp 21 in December 1941. However,   like all Japanese living along the west coast, he was instructed to leave Cascade Locks to go to a War Relocation Camp for Japanese internees.  Director Schrock and  the men in  camp as well as other CPS camps  protested  against the transfer.  As result Yamada was transferred  to a  CPS camp in Colorado  Springs, CO.

The men of Camp 21 also protested in 1942  when they  were asked to build logging roads  for a new camp called Three Lynx.  The men, led by Schrock, concluded that  this project was in some  way war-related. Their protests  were successful and  the U.S. Forest Service agreed to drop the project.

Not everyone in Cascade Locks and other camps was content. The men were often bored because the work offered few challenges.  Also their meager pay of $2.50 per month,  caused financial hardship for their families.  Others were disillusioned with CPS.  A number of men  at Cascade  Locks but also in other camps walked out. These men were arrested and sentenced.  One person at Cascade Locks decided to join the army most likely for financial reasons. The same happened in other CPS camps.

The author concludes that CPS Cascade Locks created a community where justice was a guiding principle, the arts and learning flourished, and individual differences  respected. Perhaps to some extend the same can be said about many other CPS camps. They were avenues of peace.

 Refusing War, Affirming Peace  may inspire you to become a peacemaker and strengthen your Mennonite peace commitment.

Peace in Syria

– Re-posted from our friends at Mennonite World Conference

Click here to see a pdf version of this letter.

Conflict in Syria 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

We greet you today in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we lament the horrendous and inhumane atrocities – reports of which fill our newspapers and dominate our television screens – as the world is again rightfully concerned about actual violence in Syria and a potentially expanded conflict.

As he [Jesus] came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).

It is not difficult to imagine Jesus still weeping today: over Damascus, Washington, D.C., Moscow, Paris, London, Jerusalem, Cairo, New York, Beijing, and many other places. The world is not the way it was meant to be. At Jesus’ birth the angels proclaim “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Through him God hoped to “reconcile the world,” calling the church to be God’s co-workers in the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18-19).

The Body of Christ weeps with Jesus today. We weep not only for Syria, but also for other situations affecting our brothers and sisters: the poisoning of crops and water supply in the Choco, Colombia; the land stolen by huge multi-national corporations in Panama; the historic and ongoing strife and war in Congo; the alienation and suffering in Egypt; and the millions of refugees displaced by human strife. We weep because the dominant patterns of confronting violence, protecting the vulnerable, and working for peace continue to be strategies of increased militarization, trust in revenge, and confidence in punishment. Our world continues to hope for peace by preparing for war.

The weeping Jesus chose a different path. He decided to trust in God’s sovereignty over the nations. He affirms the prophet Isaiah’s conviction that: “The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but God will rebuke them…” (Isaiah 17:13).

Above all, Jesus chooses suffering love to the point of death on the cross, rather than military options of terror, revolution, or the protection of national self-interest. God transforms this suffering love into Gospel. Through the power of the resurrection, God converts the weapon of Roman state-terror (the cross) into the “power of God to save” (I Corinthians 1:18).

The Gospel is God’s response to the sin of the world, and is given to a world not yet redeemed. The Gospel is Good News because of sin, not in spite of it. As followers of Jesus, the church too “seeks peace and pursues it” (Psalm 34:14). The Apostle James has a timely reminder for us about the inseparable bond between the pursuit of peace and the hope for justice:

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of justice is sown in peace for those who make peace (James 3:16-18).

We invite you to express this vocation of peace through justice by:

1)    Praying: Pray for all those who understand themselves and others as enemies. Pray for each other as sisters and brothers in Christ – in our Communion and beyond – as we seek to live out our vocation of suffering love amid the roar of the nations. (Please note that the World Council of Churches has also designated September 21 as the “International Day of Prayer for Peace” http://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/events/international-day-of-prayer-for-peace).

2)    Worshipping: Mennonite World Conference has set aside the International Day of Peace (Sept. 22) as our time to express our vocation of peace in worship. Please do participate in this shared opportunity. Materials for this service can be found at http://www.mwc-cmm.org/sites/default/files/website_files/peace_sunday_2013_en.pdf

3)    Witnessing: Please feel free to pass on this letter, as appropriate, to others: family, friends, other Christians, other denominations, government leaders, and media outlets.

4)    Sharing: Please go to http://www.mwc-cmm.org/article/peace-syria, https://www.facebook.com/MennoniteWorldConference or email to rjsuderman@mwc-cmm.org and share actions of worship, prayers, and witness that you have done or are planning to do. This will be a source of encouragement and inspiration for others to become involved.

Multiple loyalties are calling for our commitment. We face a time of weeping, testing, and choosing. Our prayer is that:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you (II Corinthians 13:14).

 

César García                          Paulus Widjaja                        Robert J. Suderman

General Secretary                  Peace Commission Chair       Peace Commission Secretary

Oppose U.S. military action against Syria

USS Barry fires Tomahawk missiles

Urge your Members of Congress to oppose U.S. military action against Syria.

Background: The U.S. government appears to be preparing for a military attack against Syria, in response to last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

U.S. missile strikes could well lead the U.S. into an ever-deepening military conflict and will certainly cause even more suffering for the people of Syria who have already suffered so much. The MCC representative for Syria and Lebanon reports on her numerous conversations with Syrians in the last few days: “Without fail they are all saying the same thing. ‘We are all very worried. We hope the U.S. won’t do anything.’” Read MCC’s call to end the violence.

While allegations of chemical weapons attacks are extremely serious, the U.S. and others in the international community must allow U.N. investigations to proceed to determine the facts of what happened, and then respond through appropriate diplomatic and legal channels, not militarily.

It is urgent that Members of Congress hear today that their constituents are opposed to U.S. military action in Syria, including U.S. missile strikes and sending weapons to opposition groups.

Faith reflection: Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Action: Please call or email your Members of Congress today, urging them to oppose U.S. military action against Syria. The Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121.


Alert prepared August 29, 2013 by Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, director, rals@mcc.org.

Voting today on Fracking in Illinois

fracking_ipa_orig

– By Meredith Schroeer

The Illinois legislature could vote at any time on the controversial bill to regulate fracking in Illinois, SB 1715. It is true that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups had input on this bill.  But that does not at all mean that they support fracking.  They do not want fracking in Illinois.  What they support is a two-year moratorium on fracking, until the experience of other states with fracking can be adequately studied.  But if there is no moratorium, they did want the best regulations they could get for fracking, because at the present time there are absolutely no regulations on fracking in Illinois, and fracking is coming.  For a personal statement on the Illinois Sierra Club‘s position, visit their president’s blog:  http://sierraclubillinois.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/illinois-fracking-update/

The experience of other states with fracking is worth considering. In Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming, people have been forced from their homes because their water became undrinkable (flammable, in some cases).  Families have become ill, property values have plummeted, and precious woodland, farmland, and ranchland have been sacrificed to drilling rigs and pipelines.

Right now there is a glut of natural gas, so there is no compelling need for fracking to begin in Illinois.  As for the much-touted jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show, not the 125 jobs per well which the industry promises, but instead 1.7 jobs per well.

Last summer we learned how precious ample, clean water is. If you would prefer that we not risk this irreplaceable resource, please ask your representatives to vote for a moratorium on fracking in Illinois: HB 3086 and SB 1418.  Thank you for caring!

Anti-fracking advocate Sandra Steingraber opposes fracking before IL House committee

Senator Murphy Maiden Speech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 20113
CONTACT
Ben Marter
Kaylie Hanson

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today gave his first ever speech on the floor of the United States Senate. Murphy called on his colleagues to put partisan politics aside and act now to pass the common sense gun reform legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Senate.

A YouTube video of Murphy’s speech can be found here HERE.
Broadcast quality video can be downloaded HERE: MURPHY1stspeech.mp4
Below is the text of Murphy’s speech:
Mr. President, it goes without saying that we all do our jobs here that we seek a seat in the United States Senate for a reason. We decided to run for this high office because of issues that we deeply care about, whether it be more affordable health care or better housing or lower taxes. In a job like this you’re driven to find the issues that move you. And then sometimes there are issues that find you. When I was elected to the United States Senate last November, I never imagined that my maiden speech would be about guns or about gun violence. Just like I could never imagine that I’d be standing here in the wake of 20 little kids having died in Sandy Hook or six adults who protected them. But sometimes issues find you.
And so here I am. I’m so pleased to have the Majority Leader and the Majority Whip and so many of my colleagues on the floor with me here today. I want to start, though, with the unpleasant part. I think it’s important for all of my colleagues to understand why we’re having this debate this week and next week about gun violence, why for the first time in decades we were able to break the logjam to do something about the waves of violence that have plagued this nation. It’s easy to avert your eyes from the horror of what happened in Newtown. It’s easy to just box your ears and pretend that it didn’t happen. But we can’t ignore the reality because it’s here. And on a disturbingly regular basis it’s here. In Columbine, in Tucson, in Aurora, in Sand Hook, and the next town’s name is just waiting to be added to the list if we do nothing. So here’s what happened.
Sometime in the early morning hours of December 14, a very disturbed, reclusive young man named Adam Lanza went into his mother’s room and shot her dead in her sleep. A few minutes later, maybe hours later, he got into her car and drove to Sandy Hook elementary school.  About 9:35 he shot his way through locked doors with an AR-15  semiautomatic rifle that owned by his mother and he began a 10-minute rampage that left 20 children, all 6 and 7-year-olds and six adults who cared for them, dead. In ten minutes, Adam Lanza got off 154 rounds from a gun that could shoot up to six bullets a second. That high-powered gun assured that every single child that Adam Lanza shot, died. Lanza shot most kids multiple times. Noah Pozner was shot 11 times alone. The state’s veteran medical examiner who had been on the job for decade said he had never, ever seen anything like this. But several children did escape. Six kids were courageously hid in a classroom closet by their teacher, Victoria Soto, who shielded her kids from the bullet bullets and died that day. Five other kids ran out of the room when Lanza had trouble reloading. Five kids alive today because the shooter had to stop and switch ammunition magazines. And whether it’s because he had trouble reloading again or because the police were coming into the building at 9:45am Adam Lanza turned one of the weapons on himself and the massacre ended but not before 26 people were dead. That’s the reality. And the worst reality is this: if we don’t do something, right now, it’s going to happen again.
But really, Mr. President it’s happening every day. And this country has just gotten so callously used to gun violence that it’s just raindrops. It’s just background noise. And that reality, the one in which we are losing 30 Americans a day to gun violence in which a chart that shows you how many have died since December 14 is almost unreadable because it’s a cast of thousands, that reality is just as unacceptable as what happened in Sandy Hook that day. And so the question is are we going to do anything about it or are we going to sit on our hands like we have for 20 years and accept the status quo with respect to everyday gun violence and these increased incidences of mass shootings? If we’re really serious about doing our jobs here we can’t.
Now outside the beltway, this isn’t a debate, this isn’t a discussion. Eighty seven percent of Americans think we should have universal background checks. That everybody who buys a gun should prove they are not a criminal. Two-thirds of Americans think we should restrict these high-capacity ammunition clips. Seventy six percent of Americans believe that we should crack down on people who buy guns legally and go out and sell them in the community illegally.
The American public knows that we got to do something here and so why have we been stuck for so long? Well, first, is because Members of Congress have been listening to the wrong people. We should be listening to gun owners. They comprise a lower percentage of Americans than they did 30 years ago, about one third of Americans today own a gun, but they’re a really important constituency. The problem is that the N.R.A. doesn’t speak for gun owners like it used to. And yet we listen to that organization more than we should. Ten years ago the organization came here and argued for universal background checks in the wake of Columbine. Today they oppose those background checks even though 74 percent of N.R.A. members support universal background checks. I don’t know the exact reason for that but maybe it is because increasingly the N.R.A. is financed not by its members, by everyday, commonsense gun owners but by the gun industry, tens of millions of dollars coming into the N.R.A. from the gun industry, a program that actually allows the N.R.A. to make a couple bucks off of every gun that’s sold in many gun stores across the country. We’re not listening to gun owners. If we were, this wouldn’t be a debate in this chamber.
But secondly, and maybe most importantly, we’ve really botched a conversation in this place about rights. And rights really are at the core of this debate. You know, I hear when I’m back home in Connecticut a lot of people talking about the right to bear arms as an unalienable right or a God-given right. And of course the constitution makes no such claim. The idea of an unalienable right, that’s actually found in the Declaration of Independence. It is a phrase we know very well. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal and they’re endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Amongst these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
But liberty isn’t just about having any gun you want, any time you want it. Liberty has got to also be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence. I mean, what kind of liberty did these kids have in that classroom in Newtown, being trapped by an assault weapon-wielding madman?  And maybe more importantly what kind of liberty does a kid just up the street from here in Washington D.C., have when he fears for his life every time he wants to walk to the corner store or walk home from school? That’s not the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that our founding father talked about. But even if we do accept that part of liberty is owning and using a gun, then we have to ask ourselves these questions: to what degree are our liberties really infringed upon? If we just suggest that there’s a handful of weapons too dangerous to own. To what extent are our freedoms trampled upon by just saying that you’re going to need to reload your semi-automatic weapon after every ten bullets rather than after every 30 bullets? How gravely do we really risk tyranny when we just moderately restrain the size of a legally purchasable clip? If liberty is really our chief concern, than preserving and protecting the lives of innocent little kids has gone away pretty marginally constraining a weapons payload. If we can’t agree on that what can we agree on? And if we accept this balance, then the policy prescriptions are pretty simple.
First guns should be available but they should be available to people of sound mind, with no criminal records. Now, we’ve believed that for a long time. Since the Brady Bill has passed, we’ve had about 2 million people who were stopped from buying guns because they were legally prohibited to do so. The Brady Bill has worked, the problem just is that 40 percent of weapons sold in this country don’t go through background checks. I hope we’ll have some good news by the end of the day on this front but that’s a pretty easily acceptable premise. Criminals shouldn’t own guns.
Second, a small number of guns are just too dangerous for retail sale. We’ve always accepted that premise as well, we’ve always drawn a line that says some weapons are reserved for military hands, others can be in the hands of private citizens. We know that assault weapons kill, and we know what happens when we banned them the last time. Gun homicides dropped by 37 percent. Nonlethal gun crimes dropped by an equal percentage.
Third, some ammunition too easy enables mass-slaughter. What legitimate reason is there for somebody to be able to walk into a movie theater or to a religious institution or to a school with 100-round drum of ammunition? Why do we need that?  Hundred rounds, never mind 30 rounds. That doesn’t sound too radical, does it?
So what does the gun lobby tell us about these ideas?  What do they say is wrong with this approach that’s grounded by data, that’s supported by people all across the country? Well specifically we hear two things over and over again. First, that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun. Second, that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Well to the first part of the argument, Newtown is part of the answer. Nancy Lanza owned a gun because she lived alone; she wanted guns to protect herself. She was alone a lot of the time. The guns that Nancy Lanza used weren’t used to fire upon intruders in her home. They killed her and 26 other boys and girls and parents. That’s not just an anecdote, that’s a reflection of a statistical trend. If you have a gun in your house, it is four times more likely to be used in an accident than it is against an intruder. If you own a gun it’s much more likely to be used to kill you than it is to kill someone that’s trying to break into your home. And as to the second argument, as author Dennis Henigan once put it, guns don’t kill people. They just enable people to kill people. Guns are employed in only about 4 percent of felonies. But they’re used in 20 percent of all felonies involving bodily injury. Guns enable violence that is just vastly more violent. How do we know this? Well we know it by what happened in Sandy Hook that day, but maybe even more poignantly we know it by what happened that very same day on the entire other side of the world. On that same day, the 20 kids died in Newtown, in Henan, China; a madman walked into a school and attacked 23 schoolchildren with a deadly weapon — same day. Twenty kids in Newton, 23 kids in China. In Newtown, all 20 kids who were attacked died. In China, all 23 kids who were attacked lived. Why? Because in Henan, the assailant had a knife. Not a gun that could spray six bullets a second. So forgive me if I dismiss those like the president of the N.R.A. who choose to ignore the effect of the laws that we’re debating this week and next week. When he said that all we’re talking about here is feel-good legislation.
Well, he’s right about one thing. It would feel really good if Daniel Barden got on the bus this morning to go to school. Daniel was an immensely compassionate little kid. He was always sitting next to the kids in school that sat alone. He never left a room without turning the lights off. When his family would go to the grocery store, they’d leave the store, they’d get halfway across the parking lot and Daniel wasn’t there because he was still holding the door open for people who needed a way out. He loved smores.
It would feel really good if Ana Marquez-Greene could sing all those songs that she loved. She sang and performed everywhere she went. She came from a really musical family. Her mom said that she didn’t walk anywhere, that her preferred mode of transportation was dancing. She loved most to sing and dance in church. She loved it when her parent read to her from the Bible.
It would feel really good if Ben Wheeler got to ensure this beautiful spring day outside today. He was a piano virtuoso. He had already done a recital, and he was six years old. But what he really just loved was playing outside with his older brother Nate. They loved to play soccer together. The morning that he was killed, he told his mother that he wanted to be a paleontologist when he grew up. He said, “That’s what Nate’s going to be. I want to do everything that Nate does.”
So that’s our task. Beat back all the naysayers who say that we can’t do this. That we won’t change the way things are. I believe we can. I believe that we’re good enough to drown out the voices of the status quo, and the lobbyists and the political consultants. I think that in the next couple weeks we’re good enough to change the way things are.
And finally I want to tell you one last story to explain why I know that we’re good enough. I think that when we see people in need, when we see children stripped of their dignity, we’re just too compassionate a people to close our eyes. I know that sometimes we wonder what we really are inside. Are we truly good or is goodness a learned behavior?   And it may sound strange but after December 14, I just know the former to be true. Because after and during the shooting as if to swallow up those ten minutes of evil, millions of acts of infinite kindness just rained down on Newtown, from the teachers who protected those kids to the firefighters who didn’t leave that firehouse for days afterwards to the just millions of acts of humanity and gifts and phone calls that came in from the rest of the world.
And because of Anne Marie Murphy. Ann Marie was a special education teacher,  charged with the care of Dylan Hockley, this little boy. A wonderful gentle little six year old boy. He was living with autism but he was doing great at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Anne Marie loved Dylan and Dylan loved Anne Marie back. There was a picture on his refrigerator of Ann Marie and almost every day he would point to Anne Marie with pride to his parents. Nicole, his mom whose here this week, said at Dylan’s funeral that when she realized that Dylan wasn’t going to show up at the firehouse that day with all the other kids who were returning from the school, she hoped she’d see Mrs. Murphy, but she knew she wouldn’t. She knew that Anne Marie wouldn’t leave Dylan’s side if he was in danger. And she didn’t. When the bullets started flying, she brought Dylan into her arms, she held him tight inside that classroom, and that’s just how the two of them were found.
On Monday, Nicole flew down here to Washington with myself and President Obama to try to make the case that things need to change for Dylan, for Anne Marie, and for the thousands of other people before and after who have been killed by guns. And as Nicole and the other parents walked up the steps of Air Force One, one mom raised a piece of paper above her head with a note that she had scribbled on it that day. And the cameras caught the moment. The note just said simply, “Love wins.”
I believe today more than I ever have before that if we are truly doing our job here in this chamber, then loves has to win every single time.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Who makes history?

By Gerlof Homan
Originally Published: November 23, 2010

In a previous Menno Notes essay, I discussed possible ways in which history may or may not move: some feel that history is a record of progress. Therefore, history is a process of linear progression, and change is equated with progress, if not perfection. This belief is rather deeply embedded in the American psyche. We traditionally believe that our world is constantly getting better, although there are many among us today who view the present and future with much concern, if not skepticism.

Others assume that history moves like a biological organism: a nation or civilization is born, then flourishes but eventually or inevitably declines or withers.

Then there are also those who see history as a spiral: civilizations flourish and decline, but after some time they may come back and reach a higher stage of development.

This time we will ask, who makes history? The answer may not be as simple as we think. There are many who feel that history is the gradual unfolding of God’s plan and all change can be attributed to a higher power. But especially in the western world with its emphasis on the importance of human reason and individualism, it is generally assumed that all history is made in the minds and hearts of humankind. It is human beings who instigate change, wage wars, stage revolutions, invent mechanical and scientific devices, and pollute and destroy the environment. For better or for worse, they are the agents of change. Such thinking does not seem to make much room for God’s role in this human drama. It is assumed that God was the creator and sustainer of this world, but was and is not actively involved in the historical process. God was the great clock winder, but no amount of prayer and supplication would move God to intervene or interfere.

This kind of belief is known as Deism, and some of our founding fathers subscribed to it in one form or another.

But this kind of do-nothing God does not satisfy our desire to know or understand. If our God is a kind and loving being, as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, God cares, worries, and takes pride in creation. In so doing, God becomes part of our human historical process. Most likely God would also like to see history move in a certain direction, perhaps toward a perfect, or more perfect world?

How then does God interfere in human events? God does so in a mysterious and subtle way. Somehow God touches the lives of men and women, and moves them to action. However, we cannot prove or document that God actually stirs and moves. That is a matter of faith in an inscrutable but loving God. We as humans also rebel, resist and choose evil paths of destruction and hatred. Thus eventually history is often the outcome of a struggle between a persistent and patient God, and stubborn and sinful, but sometimes compassionate and creative, humankind.

I like to think that some time in this long historical process of interaction between God and us, our Creator will prevail.

Why have so many Mexican corn farmers left their farms (and come to the US)?

By Meredith Schroeer
Originally Published: December 09, 2010

In her article Far from Home in the May 2010 MCC Women’s Report, Linda Gehman Peachey reminds us that many notable persons in the Biblical narrative were forced to leave their homes in search of food. Among them were Abram and Sarai, and later Jacob and his family, who went to Egypt during a time of famine at home. Elimilech and Naomi and their two sons went to Moab to search for food also.

Peachey argues that many immigrants from Mexico are fleeing to the U.S. for the same reason: they can no longer feed their families. “While natural disasters such as drought, earthquakes and hurricanes sometimes play a role, economic policies can also have a devastating effect. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, has been very harmful to Mexican farm families. It forced them to compete with cheaper imports from Canada and the U.S., and required Mexico to end many of its agricultural programs. Over the past fifteen years, two million farming jobs have disappeared, and another eight million farmers abandoned their land because they no longer had access to credit, government subsidies, or a guaranteed price for their products.”

The majority of Mexican farmers affected by NAFA were traditional corn farmers. After NAFTA took effect in 1994, these farmers were no longer eligible for Mexican government subsidies. Additionally, they were now required to compete in the marketplace with heavily-subsidized U.S. and Canadian agribusiness products. Between 1995 and 2006, U.S. government subsidies to American agribusiness for corn production ranged from $1.8 billion in 1996 to $9.3 billion in 2005.

“For the farmers who managed to hold on, monthly income fell from about 2000 pesos a month in 1991, to 230 pesos in 2003. Meanwhile, food prices increased nearly 600 percent from 1994-2000. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the number of Mexicans migrating to the U.S. increased dramatically since NAFTA came into force in 1994. Two-thirds of undocumented Mexicans currently in the U.S. have come since 1994” (Peachey).

In public debates over illegal immigration, one hears very little about the U.S. trade and agricultural policies which have driven millions of Mexican corn farmers off their land. Perhaps if these policies were more widely known Americans would have a different perspective on the many issues surrounding illegal immigration.

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