Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dan Berrigan must-see update

What would happen if two men walked into a Pentagon and . . .

Is this a joke? Well, yes. But. If it's 1995 and the two men are Jeremy Scahill and Daniel Berrigan . . .

We're back to Democracy Now, and Amy Goodman's interview with Scahill (well, mostly just letting him tell his story) on his acquaintance and friendship with Berrigan. Part of a DN follow-up special on Berrigan titled "A Moral Giant: Remembering Father Daniel Berrigan."

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Homage to Daniel Berrigan

Last night Judy and I watched the Democracy Now program honoring Berrigan, who died on Saturday at 94. He has been an inspiration to both of us, so we were moved by seeing all the clips, hearing his voice again, etc. One of the most moving segments is about the trip he and Howard Zinn made to Hanoi in January of 1968, to bring home three US prisoners of war. They spent their first night in a Hanoi bomb shelter, under what Berrigan described as "a rain of fire," bombing by US B52s:

So we were in this shelter and very unexpectedly came on three children, who were crouching in there, too, against all expectations, and one of the elder children feeding rice to one of the younger ones. And I wrote this little verse within a couple days and tried to read it later at our trial –

Children in the Shelter

Imagine; three of them.

As though survival
were a rat’s word,
and a rat’s death
waited there at the end

and I must have
in the century’s boneyard
heft of flesh and bone in my arms

I picked up the littlest
a boy, his face
breaded with rice (his sister calmly feeding him
as we climbed down)

In my arms fathered
in a moment’s grace, the messiah
of all my tears. I bore, reborn

a Hiroshima child from hell.

Another tribute by a long-time friend and follower, in,  said that experience "obliterated from then on any capacity he might have had to cloak the realities of war in abstraction." (I'm now recalling another Berrigan saying, something like "no principle is worth the sacrifice of any individual human being."

Judy recalls that once in the 1970s when she and Jack lived not far from Detroit and were associating with (and becoming) peace & justice "activists" in what was called the Great Lakes Life Community, they had Dan Berrigan to their home for dinner one evening. They were impressed that this internationally famous (cover of Time magazine, etc) hero of the peace movement was quite unassuming, friendly, and easy to talk with. They mentioned that they were getting newsletters from Thich Nhat Han, and Berrigan said something like "You're in good hands there!"

But, about "heroes," an interviewer once asked him, "You are a hero of the peace movement, but who are your personal heroes?" Berrigan: "I don't believe in heroes. I believe in community."

I met and had the opportunity for a brief conversation with Daniel Berrigan in the late fall of 1984. I hadn't yet quit The Job, but I was trying to wake up from the standard American Dream/Nightmare. Berrigan listened patiently to my story, then took a piece of paper and wrote out for me the address of the Catholic Worker community in New York City. I don't recall his exact words at that time, but another Berrigan quotation i came across this morning rings true to my memory of the man:

Your faith is rarely where your head is at and rarely where your heart is at. Your faith is where your ass is at! Inside what commitments are you sitting? Within what reality do you anchor yourself?”