Something Right — and Here in Detroit

June 14, 2014

So much in the world seems to be going wrong, and there is so much anger and division in our society that it can be difficult sometimes to focus on what is going right.

Even I can get caught up in defending victims to the point where I despair unless I can be reminded that not everything is an angry battle. Sometimes, there are joyous battles. Take for example, the Detroit Capuchins.

The Capuchin Order was founded on the ideals of St. Francis and in 1883 they took root in Detroit. Since then they have been living up to their ideals of happy service to the poorest and least wanted of Detroit.

Every day they help treat drug addicts, reintegrate former prisoners, feed hundreds of the poorest, and generally spend time and conversation with people we tend to avoid when walking on the streets. Their Monastery was built on the East Side at Mt. Elliott, which even in the 1920s was known as a very rough neighborhood.

They go to places and help people we never see who are in desperate circumstances that would shock most Americans to know it existed within miles of their homes.

The amazing thing that one learns when working with them, is that they actually enjoy the work.  And after volunteering time at the Soup Kitchen or other services, and they help you to realize that the people you have helped have actually helped you far more. It will put the madness in perspective.

If you would like to support them or volunteer, contact them at:

The Capuchin Service Center
6333 Medbury St.
Detroit MI 48211

 

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New Slave Owners, New Plantation

July 7, 2009

The economic suffering of working families is nationwide, but I hope that it is not nearly as severe as in my home state of Michigan. It breaks my heart to drive across the Detroit area and see foreclosure signs popping up like weeds in the summer heat.

In 3 of the 4 zip codes in the area, the foreclosure rate exceeds 25% according to government statistics! The City of Detroit is already an urban Prairie with whole neighborhoods of deserted homes and empty lots. Coyotes have been seen within the City limits, along with other wildlife. But coyotes are not the only predators Detroit has seen. The City Fire Department’s pension fund is nearly bankrupt after being duped into investments by a slick Wall Street firm. City business has been up for sale to the highest briber of City Council members and other utility department heads.

It’s not only desperate in Detroit. Near Detroit’s Wayne County is Oakland County, one of the 10 wealthiest counties in the Country. Even in Oakland County the foreclosure rate is skyrocketing and challenges to property tax assessments are creating huge backlogs. Michigan is in a depression and I have to wonder how long before civil unrest begins. Hundreds of thousands of people are jobless, homeless and getting desperate – and who could blame them for being angry about yet another jobless recovery where the same multibillion dollar banking and investment firms who have ripped us all off are now being underwritten by our own tax dollars?

Citibank, which charges the people of Wayne County more in interest rates than some loan sharks, is increasing the salaries of managers 50% and giving out bonuses greater than those given before the recent bust – AFTER receiving billions of dollars of tax money for a bailout! Meanwhile, Detroit is becoming the reincarnation of Batista Cuba where poverty and desperation surrounds a few oases of Casinos and yacht clubs.

I get angry just being a witness to this social injustice which is only tempered by compassion for the people who are jobless, homeless and hopeless.

Are bankers the new slave owners and is a new style of plantation emerging in the U.S.?


1929?

October 7, 2008

It’s hard for me to drive court in Detroit. I ride down Woodward Ave. through Detroit and see mile after mile of blight – deserted and burned out homes and businesses, homeless people pushing all their possessions in shopping carts. Even people who have jobs appear to be in shell shock. Who did this to our country, the richest country in the world? I drive across the bridge to Canada; surely, they have poverty too. But nothing like ours.

Detroit is in a depression – not just a recession. There are so many who need so much help. The people don’t want handouts, they just want the opportunity to get a job and support their family. They want an opportunity to have their day in Court when they suffer injustice. Their suffering is something that I can do very little about and that is frustrating. I became a lawyer to help people who are suffering… suffering from injustice. Yet I live in a society that has devolved in the last 8 years into one that is so fundamentally unjust and cruel, economically and socially, that the sheer scale of victims being created is frightening. The people are tired, hungry and feeling hopeless.

You would not believe the line for food at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and other emergency shelters in Detroit. This is 1929, right? Not 2008?

I feel like I need to do more but I also feel overwhelmed and angry. The Detroit riots happened when I was a teenager growing up in Oak Park, which bordered Detroit. National Guardsmen patrolled the streets and you could see smoke billowing into the sky. You could hear gunfire through the night.

The economic and social injustice that the people of Detroit (and in other cities across the nation) are suffering now is as pronounced as it was then. There are whispers now in the media of an economic collapse. That collapse has already occurred among the poor and even a substantial majority of middle class families in Detroit. I can’t imagine by what grace these people are remaining civil and peaceful.
God help us if this election is stolen like the others.