This, rather, is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed … Isaiah - 58
So much to be thankful for, yet in another sense, it is life in a dark apocalypticle storm.
A wonderful family reunion in Mesquite, Nevada was sandwiched between two important events: an acute awareness of racism resulting in police violence and the attack on labor unions by Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans. All of this was prefaced by the death of my cousin- brother Mac McNabb.
F.V. McNabb, Jr.
I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the memorial. Mack loved tenderly, acted justly, and walked humbly with God. The balm for the hurt of his loss and the joy to celebrate his life was provided by family hospitality and love as we congregated at a party hosted by his daughter Meghan. It had been a while, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Mack’s kids and grandchildren.
A Mass celebrating Thanksgiving was held at St. Martin de Porres Parish, Milwaukee in the midst of the Ferguson killing controversy. The Mass was coordinated by three sister parishes of the Capuchins Franciscan Fathers: St. Martin de Porres- mostly African American, St. Benedict the Moor- mostly white, and St. Francis – mostly Latino. Last summer In Milwaukee, we also had a young black man shot thirteen times by a white policeman. Apparently the mentally ill young man was illegally sleeping on a park bench. A confrontation with the policeman resulted in the young man’s death. Milwaukee has a history of such killings; however, nothing was said at the Mass about racism and police armed violence.
It was a reunion of Langes in Mesquite, Nevada – my surprise 80th birthday party. I helped in the planning. We had a great time: golf, beautiful scenery, and good food. Our kids and grandchildren make us look to the future with hope.
Eighty year olds are not allowed to vote for the Pope; I did have Bruce Colburn of the SEIU in mind for the job.
Right to Work – Republican Financial Strategy
A main goal of the Republican Party is to destroy unions. Labor unions usually support democrat candidates with people power and advertising. The efforts are financed by members’ dues. Right to work laws ban labor contracts that require mandatory dues. Under ‘right to work,’ a labor union negotiates and advocates for all workers in the unit yet subsists on voluntary dues. Under this law unions are weakened if not destroyed.
Joanne and I went to Madison with a contingent from Voces de la Frontera Worker Center. I agreed to do civil disobedience. We sat in the gallery above the assembly floor. Behind us sat a group recalling Father Jim Groppi – civil rights activist and labor leader. I couldn’t help but think that he is in some way with us in the present struggle. Time came for civil disobedience – I stood up and shouted down to the floor. A state trooper gently escorted me out to the hall. Joanne followed about ten minutes later.
It wasn’t over, but it was. We knew the Republican majority would prevail but we went back a couple of days later for the final vote. Late in the afternoon we were with about 100 people crowded in the hall in front of the Governor’s office. Bruce Colburn of the SEIU introduced Sister Maureen McDonald, O.P. who courageously outlined the basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching that the Republicans oppose with ‘right to work.’ Next a construction worker spoke. With a similar message but different rhetoric than Sister Maureen, he denounced the bourgeois values of the Republicans and advocated for all workers.
The vote went against the workers – but it’s not over. For several days the Capitol resounded with the labor anthem:
In our hands is placed a power greater than their horded gold Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold. We can bring to birth a new word from the ashes of the old. For the union makes us strong!