The trouble with our state

 |  On the Road to Peace

This week, my troublemaking friends and I might, after several postponements, be standing trial for our attempt in Santa Fe Sept. 26 to pay a visit to Sen. Pete Domenici and urge him to sign the "Declaration of Peace," a pledge to help end the U.S. war on Iraq. To aid our case we boldly subpoenaed the good senator, who is up to his ears in problems for his role in the firing of prosecutors. His lawyers are wrangling to keep him out of the courtroom, so our trial may well be postponed again.

But resistance to the war grows and with it our hope. A few weeks again, the Philadelphia Fourteen, another Declaration-of-Peace group, were acquitted for a similar case. Trapped in an elevator too, for going to see their senator, the police milled about monitoring their moves. Their verdict gives us hope -- if we keep at it, others will be acquitted, and others and others, and the props holding up the lies will come down in a crash. And the war, one day, will end.

I draw hope from another quarter -- the tenacious witness of my Jesuit brother, Daniel Berrigan, who turned 86 last week. This summer, a series of his 10 best books, including his autobiography, will be republished by Wipf and Stock.

To celebrate his birthday, and his keeping at it all these years, friends have produced an astonishing CD of Dan reciting and reflecting on 25 of his best poems. I wrote the liner notes, Martin Sheen and Howard Zinn wrote the text for the back of the CD. Just before he died, novelist Kurt Vonnergut sent his endorsement, "If Jesus were a poet, this is what he would sound like."

In honor of Dan's birthday, our Philadelphia friends' victory, and this great new CD, I thought I'd offer the title poem, Dan's insightful summation of these 50 states. May it inspire us to speak out against this unjust, immoral, illegal war, through our own nonviolent action.

EcoCatholic.jpgVisit NCR's Eco Catholic blog for the latest news on environmental issues in the U.S. and around the world.

The Trouble With Our State

By Daniel Berrigan

The trouble with our state

was not civil disobedience

which in any case was hesitant and rare.

Civil disobedience was rare as kidney stone

No, rarer; it was disappearing like immigrant's disease.

You've heard of a war on cancer?

There is no war like the plague of media

There is no war like routine

There is no war like 3 square meals

There is no war like a prevailing wind.

It flows softly; whispers

don't rock the boat!

The sails obey, the ship of state rolls on.

The trouble with our state

-- we learned only afterward

when the dead resembled the living who resembled the dead

and civil virtue shone like paint on tin

and tin citizens and tin soldiers marched to the common whip

-- our trouble

the trouble with our state

with our state of soul

our state of siege




John Dear's new book, Transfiguration, (Doubleday, with a foreword by Archbishop Tutu) is available from
or your local bookstore. To order a copy of the new DVD, "The Narrow Path: Walking the Way of Peace and Nonviolence with John Dear," go to To order the new CD of poetry read by Daniel Berrigan, go to For more information, see:


NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.



NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

March 24-April 6, 2017