This coming Sunday marks the one year anniversary of this epic man’s death, and I wanted my first #BAMF/#mcm to honor him.
The first time I saw Dan was on a news reel that captured the Catonsville 9 action. I sat in a darkened room, watching as these folks poured home made napalm on 340+ draft cards. What struck me most was the reasoning behind doing such a thing; they were Christians.
- He’s a Jesuit.
Yeah. A Jesuit. If there were ever an award for sheer bad-assery the Jesuits would win. Hands. Down. Why? Because they’re on the forefront of social justice work … and Ignatian Spirituality. ‘Nuff said.
2. Catonsville 9
Dan was one of nine Catholic activists who burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War. On May 17, 1968, they went to the draft board in Catonsville, MD , took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, dumped them out, poured over them home-made napalm (an incendiary used extensively by the US military in Vietnam), and set them on fire.
His participation in the action landed him on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, on the cover of Time Magazine and jail. Did that stop him?
3. The Plowshares Movement / King of Prussia
On 9/9/80 Dan and his brother Phil along with 6 others trespassed onto the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they damaged MK12A nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files. They were arrested and charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts.On April 10, 1990, after 10 years of appeals, the Berrigans’ group was re-sentenced and paroled for up to 23 and 1/2 months in consideration of time already served in prison.Their legal battle was re-created in Emile de Antonio’s 1982 film In the King of Prussia,which starred Martin Sheen and featured appearances by the Plowshares Eight as themselves.
4. More acts of bad-assery!
- Berrigan traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the U.S. bombing of that nation had begun
- While on a sabbatical from Le Moyne in 1963, Berrigan traveled to Paris and met French Jesuits who criticized the social and political conditions in Indochina. Taking inspiration from this, he and his brother Philip founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship, a group which organized protests against in the war in Vietnam
- In 1968, he signed the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest pledge, vowing to refuse to make tax payments in protest of the Vietnam War
- Consistent life ethic supporter, “I see an “interlocking directorate” of death that binds the whole culture. That is, an unspoken agreement that we will solve our problems by killing people in various ways; a declaration that certain people are expendable, outside the pale. A decent society should no more have an abortion clinic than the Pentagon.”
There is so much more that I couldn’t hope to cover in this short piece. Dan really is one of my heroes, a person I look to for strength and inspiration. Check out his books, interviews, poems, etc… to know more about him if you do not.
Rest in Peace, Dan – we love you!