November 10, 2020
From PM Press
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By Marie Dennis
National Catholic Reporter (NCR)
November 7th, 2020

Pfc. Raymond Rumpa of St. Paul, Minnesota, in Mỹ Tho, Vietnam, a Viet Cong base camp burning April 5, 1968 (National Archives/U.S. Army/Dennis Kurpius)
Pfc. Raymond Rumpa of St. Paul, Minnesota, in Mỹ Tho, Vietnam, a Viet Cong base camp burning April 5, 1968 (National Archives/U.S. Army/Dennis Kurpius)

Burglar for Peace
follows the trajectory of opposition to the Vietnam War, from draft
resistance to massive anti-war protests, with a particular focus on a
community of radical activists, including Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan,
Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAllister, whose legendary courage and
costly, disturbing actions were inspired by their Catholic faith. Drawn
to this “ultra resistance” following his own actions opposing the draft,
author Ted Glick provides an inspiring insider’s perspective on some of the most radical acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history.

Glick’s intense, personal account of conversion, call,
apparently reckless courage and careful discernment is a
thought-provoking backdrop to the powerful anti-racism uprising and the
increasingly obvious systemic failure claiming the attention of a
pandemic-stressed world this year. He rightly recognized that most
people today know very little about activities of the Catholic left
during the Vietnam War; he tells that story very well. He also rightly
assumed that insights gained through his own decades of activism for
peace, social justice and environmental causes could be of use to
contemporary social movements. He shares those lessons very effectively
as well.

The book includes compelling accounts of the author’s participation
in several high-risk burglaries, beginning in February 1970, as part of
the East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives. Particularly notable is his detailed account of entering the Rochester Federal Building with the Flower City Conspiracy in September 1970 to destroy draft files and to disrupt offices of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI. The Flower City Conspiracy’s trial in November 1970
attracted enormous public attention in Rochester and brought together
powerful voices, including those of Dan Berrigan and Barbara Deming, to
speak in their defense.

Ted Glick
Ted Glick

But breaking into the FBI office probably provoked FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to claim in public that
the Berrigans and other members of the Catholic left were planning to
kidnap Henry Kissinger and plant bombs in Washington, D.C. The author
and seven other people were indicted, tried, and eventually acquitted of
these charges, but seeds of division and mistrust planted in the “ultra
resistance” during that conspiracy trial were debilitating and long
lasting.

As inspiring as his detailed accounts of civil disobedience and other
public actions are, Glick’s thoughtful reflection on his 11 months in
prison is even more impressive. His respectful relationships with other
prisoners, continued efforts at organizing and the long term, in-prison
fasting in which he participated, even as he and his cohorts were moved
from one prison to another, were astounding. The lessons he learned in
prison on class and race had a tremendous impact on him as the war in
Vietnam was finally brought to an end and other major social justice
issues came into focus.

The depth of the author’s own journey was evident throughout the
book, but especially in his thoughts on fasting as a “simple yet
profound way to combine the spiritual and the political.” In response to
a massive escalation of the war in Indochina by the Nixon
administration, the author and 13 others in New York City along with 11
prisoners in the Danbury, Connecticut, federal prison began a water-only
“Fast for Life,” calling again for an end to the war. The fast began on
Aug. 6, 1972, and ended on Sept. 15, 1972. A few days later he wrote:

I am aware that I must develop some way — psychologically, mentally
and emotionally, much more that financially or physically — to deal with
what I have called “the tension inherent in living in a time of death,”
knowing that I can only consider myself a human being if I am living a
life for others, in resistance, not forgetful of the sufferings of my
brothers and sisters elsewhere, especially in Indochina. One crucial
insight that I believe has been gained, or more fully realized, as a
result of the fast is my awareness that other people, a community, loved
ones, are essential to my being able to balance that tension.

The radical Catholic communities that Glick encountered in the
anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s were shaped by the
thinking and leadership of Pope John XXIII, particularly his two
encyclicals, Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris,
and by the Second Vatican Council. The rich development of Catholic
social teaching in those years called us, the people of God, to action —
to apply Gospel values to critical social issues and to shape our
relationships according to Jesus’ model of the beloved community.

Frustrated by what he perceived as a rigid approach to
anti-war efforts, the author left the radical circles he had so
enthusiastically embraced, describing in his 1974 “Open Letter of
Resignation from the Catholic Left,” the new direction of his life:
“away from simplistic views on violence and war  … towards the digging
in of roots, authentic, honest and ongoing, with poor Third World and
working- class people.” For 18 years, he was estranged from Phil
Berrigan and Liz McAllister, but eventually rebuilt a friendship that
was mutually respectful of different routes to a more just, sustainable
and peaceful world.

The last chapter on “Lessons Learned” brings this really
extraordinary book “home.” As a Catholic woman deeply immersed since the
early 1970s in work for social justice, human rights, just peace and
respect for the integrity of creation, I have engaged in direct action,
been arrested many times for (minor) civil disobedience and participated
in campaigns for social transformation. I fasted with the author for 42
days to recognize the quincentenary of the “discovery” of America, and I
have deep respect for those in the Catholic left and the Plowshares
activists, among whom I count many friends.

So, I found Burglar for Peace to be both interesting and
informative. But, from the perspective of my current work — with Pax
Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative — I believe that
the book’s deepest value is in Glick’s concluding look at the
effectiveness of different nonviolent strategies in our current context,
where imagining and “living our way into” a new, more just “normal”
will require that we build organizations and communities that truly
reflect the life-giving values we claim to believe.


Ted Glick is the author of the forthcoming Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in Catholic Left Resistance to the Vietnam War. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War



Source: Pmpress.org