R.I.P. Philip Berrigan

Phil Berrigan died December 6, 2002 at about 9:30 PM, at Jonah House, a community he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends. He died two months after being diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer, and one month after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy. Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for the ceremony of last rites on November 30, to celebrate his life and anoint him for the next part of his journey. Berrigan’s brother and co-felon, Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan officiated.” I was saddened to learn of Berrigan’s death, having supported and followed his war resistance since the anti-Vietnam movement. It is quite timely to celebrate his life.

PHIL’S STATEMENT 12/05/02 (via Elizabeth McAlister)

Philip began dictating this statement the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was all clear – he had it written in his head. Word for word I wrote…

When I Lay Dying…of cancer

Philip Berrigan

I die in a community including my family, my beloved wife Elizabeth, three great Dominican nuns – Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, and Jackie Hudson (emeritus) jailed in Western Colorado – Susan Crane, friends local, national and even international. They have always been a life-line to me. I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes – a prime counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage >from testing, from explosions in high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can’t be cleaned up – and so on. Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities…

At this point in dictation, Phil’s lungs filled; he began to cough uncontrollably; he was tired. We had to stop – with promises to finish later. But later never came – another moment in an illness that depleted Phil so rapidly it was all we could do to keep pace with it… And then he couldn’t talk at all. And then – gradually – he left us.

What did Phil intend to say? What is the message of his life? What message was he leaving us in his dying? Is it different for each of us, now that we are left to imagine how he would frame it?

During one of our prayers in Phil’s room, Brendan Walsh remembered a banner Phil had asked Willa Bickham to make years ago for St. Peter Claver. It read: “The sting of death is all around us. O Christ, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is all around us. The death Phil was asking us to attend to is not his death (though the sting of that is on us and will not be denied). The sting Phil would have us know is the sting of institutionalized death and killing. He never wearied of articulating it. He never ceased being astonished by the length and breadth and depth of it. And he never accepted it.

O Christ, where is your victory? It was back in the mid 1960’s that Phil was asking that question of God and her Christ. He kept asking it. And, over the years, he learned

· that it is right and good to question our God, to plead for justice for all that inhabit the earth

· that it is urgent to feel this; injustice done to any is injustice done to all

· that we must never weary of exposing and resisting such injustice

· that what victories we see are smaller than the mustard seeds Jesus praised, and they need such tender nurture

· that it is vital to celebrate each victory – especially the victory of sisterhood and brotherhood embodied in loving, nonviolent community.

Over the months of Phil’s illness we have been blessed a hundred-fold by small and large victories over an anti-human, anti-life, anti-love culture, by friendships – in and out of prison – and by the love that has permeated Phil’s life. Living these years and months with Phil free us to revert to the original liturgical question: “O death, where is your sting?” <span class=”attrib”Pittsburgh IndyMedia


Out of this world

The music of the spheres turns out to be a mixture of whistles, chirrups, howls, static and something that sounds like chattering voices. Oh, and a string quartet and a choir.

The string quartet and the choir were not Don Gurnett’s idea. The mind of an astrophysicist tends to favour the hard evidence. But it was Gurnett who built the devices that captured the whistles and chirrups as Nasa’s Voyager probes hurtled past Saturn, Uranus and Neptune on their 25-year journey into deep space, and he was there to share a standing ovation when they formed part of Sun Rings, an hour-long piece written by Terry Riley for the Kronos Quartet and a 60-voice choir, given its world premiere at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium recently.” Guardian UK


‘Burning Bush’ comment draws prison term

“A man who made a remark about a “burning Bush” during the president’s March 2001 trip to Sioux Falls was sentenced Friday to 37 months in prison.

Richard Humphreys of Portland, Oregon was convicted in September of threatening to kill or harm the president and said he plans to appeal. He has said the comment was a prophecy protected under his right to free speech.

Humphreys said he got into a barroom discussion in nearby Watertown with a truck driver. A bartender who overheard the conversation realized the president was to visit Sioux Falls the next day and told police Humphreys talked about a “burning Bush” and the possibility of someone pouring a flammable liquid on Bush and lighting it.

“I said God might speak to the world through a burning Bush,” Humphreys testified during his trial. “I had said that before and I thought it was funny.” ‘ CNN


New Tools for Domestic Spying, and Qualms:

“…(F)ederal and local police agencies are looking for systematic, high-tech ways to root out terrorists before they strike. …(O)fficials are hatching elaborate plans for dumping gigabytes of delicate information into big computers, where it would be blended with public records and stirred with sophisticated software.

In recent days, federal law enforcement officials have spoken ambitiously and often about their plans to remake the F.B.I. as a domestic counterterrorism agency. But the spy story has been unfolding, quietly and sometimes haltingly, for more than a year now, since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Some people in law enforcement remain unconvinced that all these new tools are needed, and some experts are skeptical that high-tech data mining will bring much of value to light.” New York Times


The Biological Basis of the Placebo Effect — Imaging technologies bring empirical rigor to the study of a mysterious medical phenomenon. “What we’re getting,” says Harvard Medical School’s Ted Kaptchuk, “is good preliminary evidence that describes the hardwiring of the placebo effect–that is, the impact of symbolic treatment, and how it’s mediated through the neurobiology of the brain to produce physical effects in illnesses.” The Scientist


Decrying of Lott:

GOP Senate Leader Hails Colleague’s Run As Segregationist: “Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi has provoked criticism by saying the United States would have been better off if then-segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.

Speaking Thursday at a 100th birthday party and retirement celebration for Sen. Thurmond (R-S.C.) in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Lott said, “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Washington Post [with apologies to Pynchon…]