Philip Berrigan On The Necessity Of Nonviolent Resistance
Faith is a major component of Plowshares: You have to believe that hellish weapons are not the will of God. You have to believe that, with God’s help, you can get to these weapons. And, finally, you have to believe that you can do both symbolic and real damage to them. “Hellish weapons” means battleships that deploy Tomahawk cruise missiles; it means Aegis destroyers, B-52 bombers, and B-1 bombers; it means the whole array of nuclear first-strike weapons.
Vietnam, we discovered, was not only a war on people. It was a war on the very meaning of human communication. Manipulating language was just one more means to achieve their nefarious end. Words were merely rhetorical devices, as expendable as eighteen-year-old American boys, as destructible as the Vietnamese people.
The United States draft lottery for boys born in 1953, such as myself, took place during the first weeks of 1972. All 365 days of the year were dropped into the proverbial hat. The boys born on the first 150 or so dates plucked from the hat were sure to be drafted. Those with high numbers, two hundred or above, were safe: no draft, no war. No military of any kind. The ones who caught a seventy-five or lower could count on being sent to Vietnam.
Jail seems like a metaphor for the human condition: we all have life without the possibility of parole. And, as in life, some people serve their sentences in nicer places than others. Foxtrot — or “the hole,” as the inmates call it — is the worst place to be. It is like the underworld, a frightening and remote region where everything is cement or metal.
My father’s e-mails could be used to chart his manic-depression. When he’s in a good mood, he tells me how much he likes my books. When he’s in a foul mood, he tells me that I didn’t have it so bad as a child. He wants to know why I’m always writing about having been handcuffed to a pipe in our basement; after all, he did it only that one time.
My father, whom everyone calls Buzzy, and Alejandro, my brother’s Cuban boyfriend, are sitting at my parents’ kitchen table eating gefilte fish with horseradish. My sister Anna is doing a crossword puzzle — her fourth one today. It is midnight. My mother, a lifelong smoker, is in the hospital, having suffered a “massive” heart attack.