Wayward Chronology

Note: I started this chronology simply to assist my memory of my own development. Writings are mentioned here that do not appear on this website. Most are unpublished Msses.

The journey begins as it has for many born into a sectarian world. It was post-WW II, being educated during the Cold War, through young adulthood being disciplined in secularity and religiosity by blind loyalties and fierce protectionisms. There was America and there was The Church. With a capital THE only for the catechized legions within the regnant spiritual Holy Roman Empire. This was bifurcated allegiance however, a subordination drawn from within the Faith and not from without the Pledge: Render unto Caesar. First and foremost one was Catholic. The journey was spiritual. The Earth in all its manifestations was dirt and dirty: sin and sinning flesh, temporal goods, the pleasures of the senses only the spiritual, the soulful, the time yet to be spent in eternity was good and Good. From the midst of this I arose not in singularity but individually, seeking to rise and be released! Saved.

I lived within. Faithful to a scriptural verse I often heard but did not fully understand, until the understanding was past: “in the world, not of the world.” Ubiquitous icon of the Crucified Son. Living within I were unaware of how others lived over against us. Their living was not true living; not validated by my priests. With the simplicity of inexperienced minds, I sincerely thought that they too would disappear as had so many cultures, societies and civilizations which Mother Church had tolerated, conquered, and simply outlived. Not only did I learn the truth of the famed phrase that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”—that outside The Church there is no Salvation—this I learned but learned it with its true meaning that outside The Faith there was nothing at all of any worth or value.

What took us outside was the Vietnam War. Good old mythic thump in the road—stench of rotting corpses in puddles of blood. Yet, it also took us inside. Into an inside I did not, as a sectarian, believe existed. This was prison. I did not value prison as other than a poor imitation of the Confessional. Thus, the popular term “penitentiary.” But just before I got Inside I committed an unintended mythic act: I performed an Earthfolk ritual though, back-then, I had not this term to describe it. Rather, I thought I was performing a warrior ritual, albeit, one of the non-violent warrior. Ha. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, so did I go in and out and in. The story of the “Minnesota 8” anti-war draft board raiders, our trial, documents, and loads of other material is at http://www.minnesota8.net

1971 saw “Resistance as Sacrament” published in a small Catholic intellectual quarterly called Cross Currents (XXI, #4, Fall). It contained the gist of my appellate brief for my felonious participation in the draft raids of The Minnesota 8 (July 1970). We received the longest sentence handed out to Sixties white anti-war radicals: five years. We were originally indicted on “sabotage of the national defense”—today’s domestic terrorist charge. The language in the article is thick. I had been jettisoned—or been cast out by!—my Roman Catholic theological language. However, when the FBI arrested me, how else was I to speak to judge and jury?

The only language I had was that of the Biblical tradition. So, I thrashed about at the edge of legality justifying myself with a “Defense of Necessity” higher-law argument. This was a reach, but even the self-referential Anglo-Saxon Common Law tradition is fragile at its edges where it meets its own historicity and so its limits—the limits of all rational actions, namely, that at some point one must believe in something or someone even if it is simply a belief in rationality itself or your own existence or that there can be Law. Yet, Judge Edward Devitt saw our game: “You gentlemen are worse than the common criminal who attacks the taxpayer’s pocketbook. You strike at the foundation of government itself.” Again, what can be “higher” than the Law, itself?

I had the distinct privilege of defending himself. “He who defends himself has a fool for a lawyer!” proved quite accurate. Yet I was ably braced and buttressed by my co-counsel’s legal expertise, attorney Ken Tilsen. It was a curious trial. The judge allowed a week of presentation and closing argument, only to cast out everything I had said in his instructions to the jury! Did I truly believe that they understood my appeal to “socio-political sacramental acts”? Ha. There were those among us who shared the sectarian humor. (Though I must say that this article is truly all I have ever had to say! Understand it and all the rest is but explication and exposition on the theme.)

On appeal, Charles Bisanz provided guidance. I went down to St. Louis: shoulder length hair, nine-inch robust beard, flowery headband—however, somewhat more the secondhand Catholic Worker profile than stylish Radical Chic—I pled my case. [United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit 459 F.2d 697 (1972)] Know that it took six months for the appellate court to hand down a decision. Why? After release, I met a woman who told me why. She was the clerk to appellate Judge Heaney. Himself a Catholic, she argued that the case was reversible. In time, Heaney was seen in the Visitors Room at Sandstone FCI (Minnesota) during visits to his incarcerated anti-war nephew.

June 1972 I entered Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) then a medium securty prison. Expecting to do the full five years given the reign of Nixon, matters went sideways. Attorney General John Mitchell was first AG ever indicted. An rumors flew that Nixon was breaking the law. Oddly, all of the Minnesota 8 got released on June 23, 1973, although five did six months more than myself and Mike, my rap partner.

It would be a while before something else could be written. There was prison, the bleak time on parole, then off into marriage, three decades in corporate America as a salesman/manager… yet ever the optimist—1974-1978— I went back to graduate school at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley into a joint doctoral program with UC, Berkeley in “Historical Studies” where I researched and produced “The Religious Dimension of the Rise of the Penitentiary Movement 1787-1822.”