WIDEN THE PRISON GATES: Writings from Jails April 1970-December 1972 by Philip Berrigan

WIDEN THE PRISON GATES: Writings from Jails April 1970-December 1972

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Phil Berrigan, unlike his more mystical philosopher-poet brother Dan, strikes one as a two-fisted, tough-as-nails street fighter, one who relished the confrontations with J. Edgar, et al., taking a sporting delight in watching the plastic Goliaths squirm. And squirm they did, dumbfounded by the audacity of this nonviolent revolutionary who allowed himself few distractions ""from the work at hand, which is simply to be serious with one's revolution."" These prison notes from Lewisburg, Danbury, Harrisburg, Springfield, and so on, cover the two and a half years Berrigan spent in assorted pens for burning draft files in Catonsville, Md., and include his high-voltage reactions to the Justice Department's remarkable indictment of him, along with five others, ""for plotting to blow up the heating systems of Federal buildings. . .and also to kidnap Presidential Adviser Henry Kissinger,"" his observations on the trial itself and the stellar team of defense lawyers including Ramsey Clark, Leonard Boudin and Paul O'Dwyer who made mincemeat of the prosecution. In these letters and journals Berrigan's resistance to Moloch never wavers; he draws sustenance from petty harassments by prison officials, long fasts, weeks in The Hole, strikes and work stoppages by his fellow prisoners. He has little use for the anemic liberalism of do-gooders and Movement hangers-on; his is the uncompromising apostolic militancy that insists on maintaining the offense, ""entering the fire."" ""My thoughts come out like rabbit turds, tough and round and poor,"" says Phil reflecting on the sins of the Church -- ""Only a handful of murdered or jailed Latin American priests and a few Christians in the United States, jailed or underground, rescue the Church from total and willing manipulation by the respectable murderers."" Blistering sarcasm, ironic good humor and a joyous energy that confounded his captors ("" 'Pursuant to our conversation, I'll expect you to eat!' ran one desperate note from the warden"") make this the life-affirming document it is.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Simon & Schuster