Notes From The Underground; Or, I Was A Fugitive From The F.B.I.

From the May 19, 1970 Issue

May 7 marks exactly a month since I packed the small red bag I had bought in Hanoi, and set out from Cornell, looking for America. So far, it has been a tougher and longer voyage than the one which set me down in North Vietnam some two years before. In the course of that month, I have changed domicile some six times; this in strict accord with a rule of the Jesuit Order, making us, at least in principle, vagabonds on mission; 'It is our vocation to travel any place in the world where the greater glory of God and the need of the neighbor shall impel us.' Amen, brothers ....

For at least the past six months, when jail was becoming a nearer and larger threat, the students with whom I worked for three years, and for whom my decision most incredible apparitions of evil mankind has witnessed within the last half-century, in this nation, as well as others, convince us there are moments when force must be met with force. Nor do we believe there is nothing at stake in Southeast Asia .... The outcome in Southeast Asia will make a difference. But not the decisive difference needed to justify a war which may last longer than any America has ever fought, employ more U.S. troops than in Korea, cost more than all the aid we have ever given to developing nations, drop more bombs than were used against the Japanese in World War II, and kill and maim far more Vietnamese than a Communist regime would have liquidated--and still not promise a definite outcome. The disproportion between ends and means has grown so extreme, the consequent deformation of American foreign and domestic policy so radical, that the Christian cannot consider the Vietnam war merely a mistaken government measure to be amended eventually but tolerated meanwhile. The evil outweighs the good. This is an unjust war. The United States should get out .... 
    Berrigan . . . seemed to be of some import, said to me time and again, with imploring; when they come for you, don't go in! The festival at Cornell offered a delicious opportunity, too good to let pass. Some 10,000 students had come together for a post-Woodstock festival of arts, politics, communal living, all in honor of non-violence and Catonsville. Such a gathering, it seemed to me, must not be taken lying down, lost in wondering admiration. According to certain presumptions, mainly of university officials, (whose relief was guarded, oblique, but in the air) I was indeed going to jail. But those to whom 'I was responsible, in the church and the resistance, had other urgings, rarely expressed, often legible in faces and eyes. Would I be inventive on the night, open to other voices, other directions? 

The evil outweighs the good. This is an unjust war. The United States should get out .... 

    Irresistible. At 7:40 P.M. on Friday April .17, I ended ten rustic days in hiding on the land, and entered the great Barton Hall, scene of last year's 48-hour live-in after the Black seizure of the student union. Scene, too, of ROTC reviews and maneuvers and confrontations; the only place on campus where gun toting is 'invisible' and legal to this day. I was decked out gorgeously, like an ,outer space insect, in big goggles, motorcycle helmet and jacket, surrounded by a troupe of students, variously hirsute, hippy, fierce and celebrational. Waskow was thundering away on stage, the Freedom Seder was in progress. The moment arrived when Elias the prophet is summoned, figure of providence for all those in legal jeopardy. Supposing that I qualified, I walked on stage. The next hour and a half were stormy indeed. I recall a Sense of weightlessness, almost of dislocation; the throng of young faces, singing, dancing, eating, the calls of support and resistance. Much love, many embraces, the usual press of journalists. Then in a quiet moment, a friend whispered; Do you want to split? 
    It was all I needed. Why not indeed split? Why concede, by hanging around, that wrong-headed power owned me? Why play mouse, even sacred mouse, to their cat game? Why turn this scene into yet another sanctuary, so often done before, only delaying the inevitable, the hunters always walking off with their prize?
    When the lights lowered for a rock group, I slipped off hack stage. Students helped lower around me an enormous puppet of one of the twelve apostles, in use shortly before by a mime group. Inside the burlap, I had only to hold a stick that kept the paper maché head aloft, and follow the others, making for a panel truck in which we were to pack the costumes. The puppets were pitched aboard; I climbed in, blind as a bat, sure of my radar, spoiling for fun. It was guerrilla theater, a delight, just short of slapstick. An FBI agent ran for the phone, our license plate was recorded, the chase was on. But our trusty van, hot with destiny, galloped for the woods, and we made it. 
    The rest is modest history of sorts .... 

FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN, S.J., convicted for destroying draft records in Maryland, has refused to surrender to the authorities.

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