Plowshares Update Package
From Maureen Webster

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.

Dear Friends,

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.

January 19, 1998
Potluck Gathering of Plowshares Support Group
at Sweet Annie's Teashop, Portland ME

Kevin Wyer hosted us at Sweet Annie's Tea Shop on Congress Street. -- Sweet Annie, I learned, is the name of an herb, bunches of which are suspended from the rail of the balcony that surrounds two sides of the restaurant. There's nothing like coming in from the icy cold and finding welcoming friends for warming body and soul. I find the Wirtzes and the Bussells -- Jack and John bantering as always; Steve Cohen and friend happy and eager to share their news; John Burke with a ready smile. To Kevin's delicious home-made soups and good bread each of us adds more goodies until there's a veritable feast laid out before us. It's a special time. After nearly a year of get- down-to-business meetings tonight's gathering over potluck lets us simply enjoy being together. There's more impromptu personal sharing along with exchange of latest news of "The Plowshares Six" and discussion of vigils.

Here come the Donnellys; Mary's mother, 87, died this morning--she was ready to die and her passing is not unexpected, yet there is important grieving to be done ("good grief"). "This is a good place for us to be this evening," says Mary, "among so many friends." Now come Wells Staley-Mays and Kitzi, the Slavicks. Sean Donahue has driven in from New Hampshire to join us -- a gentle giant, black locks flowing. We miss Jessica who's working hard for Maine Won't Discriminate (big vote coming up next month--we're combating an attempt to reverse the anti-discrimination law ) -- She gets a warm welcome (and soup!) when she joins us later on in the Circle.

As we eat, there is much conversation about the experiences of the stalwart souls who did 24-hour vigiling in the freezing cold re economic sanctions against Iraq, the heating up of the US/Iraq confrontation, the robbery and rape of American students in Guatemala, upcoming court dates for CD actions . . . . Heavy stuff, lightened by some banter about spousal accounts of how the Wirtzes first met and the Donnellys; joking about the latest shenanigans of political notables; and an inventive group perusal of copies of the Casco Bay Weekly's annual fill-out-your-choices opportunity to name the best this, that and the other in Portland. The best soup -- at Sweet Annie's Teashop, of course. The best boondoggle -- Tax break for BIW. The best people -- the Prince of Peace Plowshares. And so on. Lots of laughter about nominating Judge Carter and his courtroom in suitable slots.

Sipping delectable teas and coffees, we push back the tables and regroup in a circle. Outside, passersby, huddled and hurried, glance longingly in at the warmth and light within Sweet Annie's. . . We bring Mary Margaret (Mary's mother) into the Circle. Mary Margaret, Presente! Mary D. tells of how her great grandparents came over from Ireland, how Mike and she had visited the family village but her mother never had. There's positive news of support for the Donnelly's prospective trip to Iraq around the end of February. About $1,500 plus medical supplies have already come in to help their participation in this venture. Bill asks about my Guatemala trip -- I'm off with the Witness for Peace delegation January 31 -- all Mainers, age range 28-75, and including people from H.O.M.E. in Orland.(Homemakers Organized for More Employment). Well spend the campo part of the time in the Indian village of Comalapa, an Emmaus community connected with H.O.M.E. Delegate Ed Bradley, has had devastating news of his wife's drowning this weekend in Santa Domingo. Sally (Whitcher) had been part of the USM group doing rural health clinic work in the Dominican Republic. Ed and Sally were both long-term staunch supporters of Peace Action Maine (donations to PAM in lieu of flowers).

Steve's suggestion about weekly vigiling on the Iraq situation engendered further assessment of last week's Congress Square 24-hour vigil in frigid temperatures. There were congratulations among the stalwarts who braved the storm; stories about people they had engaged in conversations (estimated contact about 200 people); anecdotes about the TV crew upset with the vigilers because they wouldn't "get out of the way" around 4 a.m. to allow advance shots of Monument Square for a piece on the Vice President's upcoming visit; and there was laughter in the thanks to Sean for backing off wanting a three-day vigil!! Decision -- BIW vigils Wednesdays at noon continue as usual; in addition, those who want to will do the Iraq vigil Tuesdays at noon at least until the Donnelly's leave on their trip. And (for further discussion next meeting), the vigiling in Bath the week of Ash Wednesday will probably take the form of (say) 2-hour presence every day that week rather than a single 24-hour vigil.

The younger ones among us -- Sean, Steve, Jessica -- talk of decisions they've been wrestling with around Civil Disobedience (CD) actions . . . Steve . . . . . . . . . [re courts] . . . Sean is in a tough spot. Sentencing is coming up in New Hampshire soon. There's the issue of whether he should do the jail time for non-payment of fine at a time when there's need for leadership in addressing the Iraqi situation. The writing's on the wall for the end of his employment, sooner or later. Half the Board members of Peace Action New Hampshire are against getting into further CD action. They'll continue his pay for a maximum of l0 days jail time, then nada. It's clear that should he engage in further action, it will be without their support. Hard questions. Sean has been wrestling with assessing consequences of different courses of action. A big man with a soft voice, he speaks about the example of the Prince of Peace Plowshares and how he's come to see that he, too, is called to stay faithful to the gospel, doing "what has to be done" and relying upon God's promises in whatever ensues. Jessica shares her thinking in deciding to work for Maine Won't Discriminate and . . . . . . . . . .[re courts]. We listen with empathy and affirm presence and support whatever befalls. For their part, S, S and J will share their decisions -- We agree there should be no surprises among support group members.

It's time to close the circle. Hugs. Good wishes. A few ordinary people, young and old, in a little Portland tearoom. They come and go from BIW, Lockheed, the Pentagon, the School of the Americas, Central America, Iraq, in journeys to accompany the oppressed and resist injustice. Such audacity. So few. Such small voices. But God watches us --retying boots, pulling on coats, trudging out into the cold night -- stumbling little people, trying to be faithful. See you in court', See you at the vigil', Meet again in two weeks'. The lights go out in Sweet Annie's Teashop.

January 20
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.