it's time to talk politics!

I can only marvel and bow in prayer at the events of the last few months!

I wish to bring three events: the first is a national problem, the second hurts those in Illinois and the third hits me in my local community.

I watch the presidential debates and they argue over how they will handle the present economic crisis. I watch the government commit to give away $700 billion dollars! Yet, STILL, Wall Street continues to crash! I don't understand it, but I am amused and bewildered at the pictures of men in suits displaying poses of devastation as they see their glorious system crash. Yet, I know it is not good! As that enormous figure ($700 billion) rattles in our minds, Obama and McCain talk of the effect on Wall St and Main St, I cry "let's mention Poverty St!" I lament in noticing that the poor seem to be ignored on both sides, with McCain loving on the wealthy and Obama speaking to the hard working middle class struggling to survive week after week!

But, I think, we need to face three facts:

1. the biggest affected population in this economic crash are poverty stricken people!

2. $700 billion creates an enormous hole that must be filled: you have to take the rocks, dirt, mud and clay to dig a hole. In other words, where did this money come from and how will they repay it? Just as spending money on a very expensive war has drastically affected America's poor, so will Wall Street's economic catastrophe.

3. as a result; the number of poor, homeless and sick will rise! One reason could be: Americans have lived above their means for years, living in luxury and buying on credit for a long time - in other words, buying what they want, where they want, when they want and how they want! Sadly, Americans will not and possibly cannot make the necessary sacrifices to keep out of Poverty street!

It is happening already:
Record numbers are pleading for shelter, yet the shelters are full!
Record numbers are sleeping on the streets, in parks and on loading docks!
Record numbers are getting higher as the weather is getting colder!
Record numbers need to pray for the homeless!

Before Wall Street crashed: Illinois' Governor, Rod Blagojevich, held a press conference telling how he wanted slow the recidivism rates, create alternative solutions to prison for non-violent crimes and turn some existing prisons into the Sheridan model - treatment based incarceration.

I was at this press conference and received the booklet outlining his proposal; it sounded beautiful! Non-violent Crack-heads, junkies, marijuana smokers and other people caught with drugs will be mandated to go to treatment instead of prison, costing the State a lot less and reducing the problem of substance abuse.

The present model is this: you're caught with any drugs (including marijuana) or paraphernalia, you face the mandatory minimum sentence (normally works out as 61 days in the Joint and one year on parole) and a life of having "possession of controlled substance" on your rap sheet. My Opinion is this: This present system does not work because the parolee then cannot get employment or housing due to his bad "rap sheet" and, thus, a life of addiction and / or selling continues! I have personally witnessed this on countless occasions and studies have proved that the fear of imprisonment does not cure people from a life of drugs - in fact, it has often increased the likelihood due to connections people make while locked up! As a side note: Human Rights Watch noted that Illinois in 2003 had a 23 (black) to 1 (white) ratio of drug convictions, even though about 70% of drug users in Illinois are white! Do the math and tell me the system is not racist!

Back to the issue at hand. The proposal was presented and the Governor received a standing ovation. BUT ..... politics rears it's ugly head: Within a couple months, Blagojevich cuts his budget by $50 million (a lot of money, but, a lot less than the gift to aid Wall Street). Two significant areas that suffered cuts are in mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Do you see the contradiction? Do you see that the words spoken were merely words spoken and the legs to run with it have been mutilated! Ahhh .... the glory and power of politics!

Who is suffering for these cuts? Again, it is the poorest of the poor, as they are ones who fail to qualify for health insurance and the treatment centers and mental health facilities cannot afford to supply cheap or free services to those in desperate need.
This is already happening!

Bi-polar, schizophrenic and depressed folk roam seeking someone to supply their prescriptions, while a heroin addict desperately seeks inpatient treatment and no bed is available - the window of opportunity closes!

The political beast has been exploiting again and widened the gap between the wealthy and "the least of these!"
Pray, as this affects us all!

Now I will gravitate to things of magnitude in my neighborhood; The local Salvation Army (The Tom Seay Center) was forced to shut it's doors on September 30 due to the deterioration of their building, and sadly, they were given no option to re-open in the same neighborhood. They used to house 95 single men per night, but that ceased in May 2007! Until the official closing, they had continued to provide 500 meals per day (breakfast and lunch), casework, showers, laundry services, mail, phones and a day time drop-in center.

It's just another gaping hole that has affected the plight of the poor and homeless. Some neighbors celebrated and photographed the now boarded up building. The Salvation Army management and CDHS released a statement which satisfied the rich and made the poor cringe (sneering at the abuse of propaganda) - How can maxi-vans parked sporadically throughout the city continue to feed to the capacity The Tom Seay Center had been doing for 35 years? How will these men and women receive casework, or laundry slots, or a place to receive their mail, or a just a place to rest and relax out of the freezing cold? How do these vans (if there is more than one) meet the needs and provide "better" services like their statement read?

Big holes with nothing to fill them in with but a bunch of paper towels - the homeless, the poor and local providers realize what a strong wind will do, while many are satisfied by the paper towels and the accompanying endless rhetoric!

We were prepared and saw people digging when it came to Tom Seay, but another crater suddenly appeared overnight. The Chicago Sun Times told of REST's overnight shelter at Epworth Church being evicted by the end of October. Due to an ongoing battle over heating finances, REST will no longer be able to shelter these 65 men nightly! Wow! I pray this conflict is resolved and these men aren't faced with facing a winter in the park, on trains and any warm cubby hole they can climb into! REST already turns away 30 men per night and Uptown's facilities for men continue to dwindle into nothingness; the goal and purpose of many trying to make a profit.

So with sadness, I see many craters left empty; 65 empty beds, 500 empty plates and an empty, but warm room on a dismal freezing day, just name a few!

Who can fill these holes?

My questions are:
Where a man sleep when he is cold and tired?
What will a woman do when she and her children are starving?
What will a man do when he has no place to rest?
How does a man or woman act when they are in survival mode?
Where will a man pee when there is no toilet for him to use, yet the concrete jungle is fill of bathrooms?
What does the covetous or jealous person do?
When the belly is empty, when the legs are tired, when the brain is fried and when employment is just distant memory - how would you act?
When a jail cell comforts you with warmth, when a uncomfortable seat on the train is the giver of rest, when your prized possessions remain in pockets and in your back pack and when the places of hope have their doors closed - where do you turn?

As I finish this bleak post, I am struck by the power and the kingdom of politics, money and propaganda! It is a kingdom that is extremely powerful, whether on a national, state or community level, it is a political kingdom which turns men and women away from their dreams and creates a person who submits to the machine! A machine which desires to run in pursuit of power and money, while ignoring the plea and cause of justice, love and mercy! A Kingdom which caters to the rich and treads on the poor and weak!
BUT ....... I know and trust in a Kingdom more powerful than all the temporal kingdoms of this world! A Kingdom that thrives and secures victory through acts of weakness, humility and frailty! A Kingdom that is eternal, a Kingdom that loves the poor, a Kingdom that will never fade away and a Kingdom of Light in a world of darkness!

My purpose and struggle is to live freely as a citizen of God's Kingdom amongst the propagandizing powerful kingdoms that wrestle against my God, me and the people I fight for! My purpose and struggle is to advocate for and love the "least of these", even though the "powers that be" quest to scatter them among wolves. My purpose and struggle is to fill the holes, not with paper towels, but with the everlasting fruit of the Spirit!
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