Father Daniel Berrigan Stood Out Among Progressive Spiritual Activists Nationally and Worldwide1
May 3, 2016 by Alfred
In a world ravaged by hegemonic militarist projections of power by so-called self-characterized “exceptionalist” actors who in the name of outright self-aggrandizing falsehoods carry out seemingly never-ending wars of aggression which result in utterly wasteful and destructive hemorrhages of blood and treasury, “we the people” of the United States and the peoples of the world at large, yearn for nothing more than an irreversible end the dishonest hate and fear incitement which in synergy with infotainment distraction and the politically intoxicating propagandism, thereby enable the corporate bribed and their corrupted – to – the – core neocon and neolib politicians, consumed by greed and undue power, to delusionally create a capitalism which has run amok and which in turn has succeeded in obscenely enriching those investors of the industrial military complex which along with segments of Wall Street, has invaded and entrenched itself into our thereby oligarchic plutocratic elite which runs in effect a pseudo and non-participative, so-called democracy.
According to the documented statistical evidence published by the prestigious organization American Friends Committee, the United States is budgeting to spend $634 billion of our tax dollars this year on the military. This amounts to about $ 1.2 million dollars per minute spent on war sand so-called “defense”.
With this lengthy and comprehensive foreword, this writer focuses on the history of the contribution of spiritual progressives who have and are among the real heroes and angels of this troubled world who have the potential and are participants in the renaissance of a major populist and progressive movement worldwide as they have become an indispensable component of our societies which have in the past and are particularly now part of the solution of the state of ethical putrefaction which has engulfed us nationally and internationally.
To focus on this subject generically would take a book, not an article.
So, on this May 2nd of 2016, this writer focuses on one of the giants of this the century in the area of progressive spiritual activism, who died on April 30, 2016 at almost 95, namely Father Daniel Berrigan, who along with his brother Philip Berrigan, and along with many many other social and economical justice activists such as their friend Howard Zinn, have relentlessly and selflessly dedicated their lives to expose the truth and to thereby to effectively oppose and block utterly unnecessary and hegemonic wars.
The case of the Berrigans and their companions and followers, is most particularly directed at the horrific U.S. war on Vietnam which has resulted in the death of some 2 million Vietnamese who to this day suffer from the toxic effect of the 22 million gallons of defoliants which was sprayed from 1961 to 1971on southern Vietnam, and this included 12 million gallons of the toxic Agent Orange. Additionally 55 thousand mostly drafted Americans died in this war and some 350 thousand were incapacitated were seriously.
Daniel Berrigan was a legendary Jesuit peace maker, a humanist, and a poet. He became the first catholic priest to get on a FBI list for his anti-war activism which never resulted in any damage to any human being, quite on the contrary.
This writer, who is the son of parents forced out of Germany by the Nazis, possibly or even probably would not exist at this stage were it not for the work of Daniel Berrigan and others daring and highly principled activists, since this writer was drafted and taken by military bus to be inducted to serve in the Vietnam war, but his records which would be used to complete the process were destroyed by a fire.
After immigrating to the United States with his parents, at the end of 1963, this writer who was born in Bolivia and arrived with a German passport, was drafted in 1968 to be sent to the killing fields of Vietnam. As it turned out, due to financial hardship a so-called “hardship deferment” was filed and granted by a vote of 3 to 2, so that this writer could stay in school for two more semesters and work at night to help himself and his parents make ends meet. This deferment however was limited to only one year.
What happened toward this end of that year, as the war in Vietnam increased in intensity, is that as a result of nationwide protests, draftboards, in this case in Maryland, were attacked and the draft records were destroyed so that those whose records were destroyed went off the radar of the Selective Service. This enabled this writer and many others, to therefore complete their education and avoid being sent to the war.
An event that contributed most probably to this liberation of this writer from the duty to serve and kill or be killed in war which was started and escalated on the fraudulent assertion of an unprovoked attack on two American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin (as legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg revealed in this Pentagon Papers), was that on May 17, 1968, Daniel Berrigan and others, raided the Catonsville, Maryland draft board and took outdoors hundreds of draft files and then used napalm, the same Dow Chemical agent which was used on men, women, and children in Vietnam which causes such deep burns that even the skeletal components of human bodies are burned, and set all of the files on fire.
In the name of (progressive) Christianity and Catholicism who practiced what Jesus literally preached, namely love for fellow humankind, these valiant heroes thereby saved lives of Americans and Vietnamese.
This writer guides himself along secular humanist values and there is no contradiction when this writer extolls the virtues of such giants of humanity as Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother Phil Berrigan, both of who, along with many others of their activism companions were arrested and jailed on several occasions.
The same applies to the spiritual progressive work of Jews (most particularly but not exclusively Jewish Voice for Peace) and Moslems including such important figures as the democratically elected reformist and moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.
In fact, this weekend’s liberation of the Green Zone in Baghdad constitutes a historic moment in how peacefully it was carried out and in how its inspirer, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for a government free of corruption, free of sectarianism, in effect an Islamic democracy comprising technocrats. What is also most noteworthy yet the mainstream media seems to deliberately ignore, is that cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has designated as his spokesperson the protest organizer, namely Akhlas al Obaidi, a woman !
This event could be viewed as potential renaissance of the Arab Spring.
Ultimately, spiritual progressives are religious humanists, and non-spiritual progressives are secular humanist, so that the qualifier “humanist” brings them together since it matters none what one believes since what matters is what one does with said belief.
This article ends with the inclusion of a Democracy Now tribute by legendary Amy Goodman in honor of this noble and heroic man.
Thank you for this, Alfred. You truly are a loving, understanding human being. I will miss Fr. Dan Berrigan. He was a giant among the genuine prophets – old and new in history – who have
literally put their lives on the line for humanity — for their faith and for their social justice beliefs.
What a dismal contrast between Dan Berrigan and the disgusting farce that we have just seen
played out in the media re the 2016 election.
It is people of conscience and the courage to speak out, like you Alfred, who continue to give me hope.
And the young people, too. Those who see something in Bernie Sanders….and who dream of a more just and compassionate world.