The world lost two great fighters for peace and justice this past week.Daniel Berrigan
was a lifelong peace activist, a man who was ready and willing to put his body and soul on the line. He was a writer, a thinker, a pacifist, an idealist, a pragmatist, and a priest.
Berrigan was also a leader, someone who, early on, helped make visible the connections between racism, poverty, war, and capitalism. He became a leading figure in the peace movement during the Vietnam War. Naturally, he was on the FBI's "most wanted" list and served time in prison.
Later in his life, Berrigan founded the Plowshares Movement
, which used daring acts of civil disobedience to draw a spotlight on the US's nuclear arsenal.
Here are two pieces from The New Yorker
celebrating Berrigan.James Carroll remembers his "dangerous friend".
Eric Schlosser remembers how "a handful of a handful of pacifists and nuns exposed the vulnerability of America’s nuclear-weapons sites": Break-In at Y-12
.Following in the giant footsteps of Dorothy Day, Berrigan's life and work demonstrates that religion can be a positive force for social change.
Michael Ratner's life and work also defies stereotype: he was a lawyer who spent his entire career defending the scorned, the falsely accused, the scapegoated. He was a trailblazer who pioneered the use of the law to champion human rights. Long ago, when I contemplated going to law school, I dreamt of Michael Ratner as my role model.
Democracy Now! devoted an entire program to the celebration of Ratner's life and work.The trailblazing human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72.
For over four decades, Michael Ratner defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He served as the longtime head of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Attorney David Cole told The New York Times, "Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world. He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful."
In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration’s use of the military base to house Haitian refugees.I can't begin to do justice to either of these men, but I didn't want their deaths to go unnoticed on this blog. Their passing saddens me and their lives inspire me.