Remembering Father Berrigan

Bernardine Dohrn writes of her memories of Father Berrigan, from a time when both of them were wanted by the FBI.

Dan Berrigan refused to report to prison, and during his time “underground” he repeatedly appeared publically to conduct church sermons or to give anti-war speeches, further infuriating FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. His was both a playful “underground” and a passionately moral one. He wrote, of the Catonsville action: “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children…”

The Weather Underground responded with a much less eloquent “communiqué” to “Brother Dan,” just after he was arrested in 1970. “We watched you, Dan, on TV when they took you to jail, smiling and with hands raised, handcuffed, giving the sign of peace. You have refused the corruption of your generation.”

I ran across these links today. Rest in power, Father.

The Priest Who Practiced Radical Direct Action: Father Daniel J. Berrigan | Beacon Broadside

Imagining The New Creation | Religious Socialism Blog

Bearing The Cross | Chris Hedges at Truthdig

The photo of Father Berrigan is by Jim Forest.

More On The Port Huron Statement at 50

Boston Review has an excellent collection of articles online assessing the impact and enduring legacy of The Port Huron Statement.

I especially like this, from Bernardine Dohrn:

The Statement endures, however, not only because it nailed our country’s systemic racism and global military domination, but also because it lit up the ideal of participatory democracy. The Statement’s authors didn’t simply call for participatory democracy; by carefully articulating their reasons and sharing them publicly, they showed what participatory democracy is.

Read more, including articles from Hayden, Ayers and others…

Forum: The Port Huron Statement at 50. [Boston Review]

The Port Huron Statement at 50

It begins like this:

“We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

It ends like this:

“If we appear to seek the unattainable, it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.”

In between, there is a child, observing the grand parade of America, and declaring that the emperor is naked.

The Port Huron Statement was completed on June 15th, 1962. It was principally the work of Tom Hayden, who was Field Secretary of Students for a Democratic Society at the time, and adopted by those in attendance at the SDS convention near Port Huron, Michigan. The SDS had grown out of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society of the early 1900s. During the few short years of its existence (1960 to 1969) the organization represented the intellectual core of an emerging “New Left” in the United States. It was the largest “radical” student organization in U.S. history, and the largest student organization of any kind in the 1960s.

Reading the statement again these many years later, I was struck by how it is, in almost equal measures, a relic of its time and a light to ours.

In These Times features an assessment of the legacy of The Port Huron Statement by 14 activists (including three of the document’s framers) that I found interesting. Bill Ayers had this to say. “Revolution is still possible, but barbarism is possible as well. In this time of peril and possibility, rising expectations and new beginnings, when hope and history once again rhyme, it’s absolutely urgent that we embrace the spirit embodied in the final words of The Port Huron Statement.”

I am encouraged to learn that a new Students for a Democratic Society was organized in 2006, and is active in campaigns for education rights, the protection of civil liberties, peace and anti-globalization.

Seek the “unattainable.” Occupy the future!