Dear Barry -- Here's some more material from my intermittent diary of
Plowshares events -- Letters from Phil and Susan and notes of our local
potluck gathering this past week. We've got another hard ice storm to deal
with -- lots of power outages, tree problems, icefalls and so on. I'm taking
advantage of power-on-again (for how long) to get mail out. . . At this
point, I'm down to the wire on preparing to leave for Guatemala and it's
likely I won't get to the NH trial. If I don't, hope you or some other
friend will write it up to share. Good wishes. Maureen
Letter from Phil Berrigan
Petersburg, VA. Dated January 2, l998
This is Phil's Christmas/New Year letter to friends. The page on which it is reproduced is imprinted with a circle in which appears a white graphic of a peace dove over land/shore on a black background and the following words of Ugo Betti --
It is childish to hope that the one who gives us specific duties will turn around and relieve us of them. It's up to each one of us alone: to choose, and then to act. Not tomorrow, not sometime in the future, but now. On a narrow ledge where there's barely space to put your feet. --Ugo Betti
January 2, 1998
"He shall be peace!" -- Micah 5: 5 1st reading, 4th Sunday of Advent.
Am writing from the federal dumpster in Petersburg, VA after transit from Cumberland County Jail in Portland. From Cumberland to Windham (a state facility) to Otisville to Lewisburg, to Petersburg.
None of this remarkable except endured by thousands of federal prisoners -- falling through the cracks -- no mail, solitary confinement, faint contact (sometimes none) with family and friends.
As we face the memorial of Christ's birth -- the word of Micah above struck me, words repeated by Paul in Ephesians. Christ is our peace because he killed sin, hatred, violence by his death on the Cross. At the same time, he became the source of reconciliation, for his blood sealed the new covenant with God, with neighbor (and enemy), with self, and creation. He accomplished this once and for all -- we need only say "YES!", need only to become partners in this sublime, redemptive work. It is the response to "follow me!"
Undergirding peace, of course, is justice -- a justice springing from love. Christians commonly get confused about justice and injustice. And because they seldom confront injustice, their justice is mere charity, which leaves systematized injustice intact. It is a cardinal principle of the gospel -- as important as the works of justice are, holding injustice accountable is equally pressing. In fact, the "NO!" to injustice makes the "YES!" of justice possible.
Let l998 be a year in which tens of thousands of American Christians call imperial America accountable for its crimes. I need not list them. Then perhaps we might more worthily hear the name "Christian." Blessedness and peace at Christmas and in l998. . . .
January 16, l998
Letter from Susan Crane
Camp Parks, Dublin CA. Dated Jan.10, l998
What a joy to have a letter from Susan today -- snow-covered from the storm outside that will make restoring power even harder for exhausted crews working to repair the damage of the worst ice storm ever in the north east. Hardships in Maine, in Montreal Que, and even in Camp Parks prison CA. are lightened by stories of human kindness flowering when the going is rough, small acts of mercy that make all the difference to life day by day.
Dear Maureen. Thanks for your letter and extra cards (which got to me! I went to the law library and made copies! Instant stationary. Thanks). Glad you've heard from Phil and Baggarly. . . but we are not allowed to write to any other prisoner -- so please pass whatever you hear on to me! I am completely out of touch. After being here three weeks, my phone numbers I submitted just got approved, but I'm not permitted any visitors yet except immediate family (who came Christmas -- it's a long drive).
I was glad when the marshals picked me up on Monday 12/22 to bring me to prison. The jail had been a difficult experience. They drove me direct to the prison. In the van, by myself, I looked around at the homes, streets and parks, realizing I wouldn't be out there again for a while. When we got to the prison, the marshals gave me to a B.O.P. officer, who knew me and said in a friendly way -- Welcome home, Crane. So I started to think -- is this my home? Will I come back here again? At any rate, that evening I was eating in the dining room with all the other 899 women. Many people were SO generous with me -- giving me warm clothes, food, stamps, kindness and cookies. Christmas eve I was able to go to midnight mass, and I was thankful. Good music, a good priest who talked about how humble Jesus was, and how humble our situation is.
So many people are here on extremely long sentences for things they didn't do (the conspiracy laws are really dangerous). Many political prisoners are here -- Puerto Rican independence fighters, the Resistance conspiracy, BLA supporters. These political people are looking at 35-80 years -- my sentence is an eyeblink . . . Please keep in touch. Peace to you. Love, Susan.
Letter from Phil Berrigan, dated Jan. 14
Phil is a very faithful correspondent. The envelope includes letters to forward to four others as he continues the mammoth task of writing to each and every person who sent mail in that long period when he bounced around from one dumpster to another, including an advent sojourn under lockdown with no communication allowed in or out. I've heard that Phil, Steve B. and Mark haven't been able to make headway on getting a bible study group going. It's Bible Belt country. Says Phil: "Things slow and stagnant here -- like we're divorced from the wrenching of the world." Divorced, too, for many months to come from the fellowship of family and friends that we enjoy on "the outside" (I think of Sweet Annie's gathering yesterday) and from the community,companionship, and visits that lightened "the inside" at CCJ.
Dear Maureen -- Here's a limping answer to yours of January 2nd. Thanks so much for writing. You know , the Donnellys made it to Jonah House, and I've heard of a wonderful visit. I'm sure they brought everyone au courant re friends in Maine.
It appears Mark and Steve will get released February 2nd though they're getting heat about fines and restitution. But the heat is smoke, since the turnkeys can't hold them past their date. Otherwise, it's an added sentence.
Things slow and stagnant here -- like we're divorced from the wrenching of the world. I'm working at recycling which is taken rather seriously -- cardboard and cans. I've been toiling away at our book project -- wrote a foreword to Francis Boyle's new book (he's the international law expert) and am now writing an article for Likkud, the Jewish journal of opinion. For recreation I exercise, watch an infrequent movie (they tend to be lousy) and read.
Could you do me a colossal favor and send the enclosures on? Thank you very much. Mebbe by February I will have caught up my Christmas mail.
This comes with added wishes for a blessed l998. Love and Christ's peace from this locale. I hope you're weathering the ice storm. Thank you for everything. Phil.