You Wouldn’t Get a Carpool

My book club was recently discussing the ways people avoid talking about problems. One woman said that her daughter, who is Jewish, was being shown homes in several suburbs of Chicago. Her realtor would steer her away from listings in towns that would not welcome a Jewish family by saying, “You wouldn’t get a carpool there.” This meant that Mrs. Goldberg would not be able to find 3-4 other mothers who would be want her children in their carpool. Obviously “You wouldn’t get a carpool there,” sounds better than “People in that town are prejudiced again Jewish people.”


Norwegian Christmas Cookies

My great-great-grandfather grew up near Fortun, in Norway. Three families owned the entire valley, so he would have been a tenant farmer, a day-laborer, or a servant. Since he could not marry into one of the three land-owning families, he had no way to raise his station in life or make more money. In the 1850’s he came to Vernon County, Wisconsin, where he worked hard as a laborer on dairy farms, starting his days at 4 am milking the cows by hand. He saved his money, so that my great-grandfather could own his own farm. They ran the farm, said their prayers, and sang their hymns in Norwegian.

By the time of my grandmother,… Read more


Book Review: The Accidental American

“It is always about race,” says Rinku Sen, the Executive Director of the Applied Research Center. “The people who advocate for restricting the number of new immigrants talk about jobs, disease, and demand on social services, but they are really talking about keeping out people of color. It is important for the people who want a more sensible immigration policy to understand what the anti-immigration forces really mean. The restrictionists count on us being silent.”

To get this idea across, Rinku Sen wrote a book with Fekkak Mamdouh called “The Accidental American – Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization.” (2008, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers). She has informative chapters on the… Read more


How Do YOU Want to Die?

Who benefits if Americans are afraid to talk about death and dying? Or even making choices about the quality of their own end of life care? Clearly not the taxpayers, who according to a study by Duke University, save $2,309 for each Medicare patient who chooses to die in a hospice. Clearly not the family and friends who love the patient. Another study showed that patients in hospice live 29 days longer. Certainly not patients with a life-limiting illness, who can live at home with hospice care with less pain, fewer symptoms, and more dignity. Being able to talk about death, to plan and share advanced directives, benefits our country, our family, and… Read more

Fundraising When Money is Tight

Mal Warwick is what diplomats would call the Old China Hand. He has simply done more than anyone else. He has raised money and taught others how to raise money on every continent except Antarctica. This year he developed the first online viral fundraising conference that reached 400 sites in 42 countries. He has helped create more progressive organizations than most activists join in a lifetime, including Business for Social Responsibility co-founded with Ben Cohen, the “Ben” of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. His marketing savvy has enabled scores of national and international organizations to grow and prosper, including the NAACP and the Global Fund for Women. As a die-hard progressive he has done the… Read more

Dorothy Day: Protester, Journalist, Someday a Saint?

The last time Dorothy Day went to jail was at age 75 while protesting with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers supporting grape workers in California. The first time she went to jail was at age 20 with a group of suffragists who were demonstrating at the White House in favor of giving women the right to vote. In between she co-founded the largest organization of Roman Catholic lay people for peace and social justice: The Catholic Worker. On May 1, 1933, Dorothy Day and a handful of volunteers started selling the Catholic Worker Newspaper in Union Square in New York City for a penny an issue.

©Bob Fitch Photo

They sold 2,500 papers… Read more

Spring Cleaning – Make Room for the New

Comedian George Carlin said, “That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”

And Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement said, “We must turn the other cheek, give up our cloak, go a second mile.” She was a paragon of nonviolent civil disobedience and voluntary poverty.

But how does voluntary poverty work for most of us in America who are smothered with stuff? If you want to feel freer, have more time to change the world, and get closer to your spiritual self, dump your stuff. This is the time for… Read more

Handel’s Messiah: Music for Many Good Causes

Music can be a marvelous way to make money. Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid concerts have raised more than $33 million to save family farms. The First Lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, donated the royalties from her last album to La Fondation de France and personally delivered the first check for €280,000 to a school in Haiti wiped out by mud. Organizer Pete Seeger will be celebrating his 90th birthday with a concert May 3rd to help clean up the Hudson River.

Most people think of Messiah as Christmas music, but it opened in Dublin, Ireland, on Good Friday in 1742 as a fundraiser. It was advertised “For the relief of the prisoners in the several… Read more


Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching

We don’t know our own history. I aced the mandatory eighth grade Illinois Civics class in 1960, by repeating what I had been taught about Abraham Lincoln. But I was not taught about Ida B. Wells, the African-American journalist who did as much as anyone to stop lynching in the United States, even though I had probably gone past her home in Chicago on the way to White Sox games.

How did Ida B. Wells get written out of history? First, lynching is such a horrific subject, that most adults don’t want to think about it, let alone teach it to children. Second, Ida was a “difficult woman”, who antagonized everyone from President McKinley to… Read more

Po Boy Tango, Reviewed

Food is so much more than just food. It is how babies bond with their mothers, how we woo our sweethearts, and how we comfort the bereaved. We serve special foods to show respect or to ask for forgiveness.

Kenneth Lin’s Po’ Boy Tango is a new play that shows how food can do all that and much, much more. There are three characters: Richie Po, an immigrant from Taiwan, who wants to prepare his Mother’s “Great Banquet” for his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Gloria B, an African American woman who Po hires to cook the feast. And Po’s mother, who is the star of “Po Mama’s” cooking show on TV back in Taiwan.