were most pretty poor,
but people took pains to look their best,
and everyone noticed when you wore
the same clothes twice in one week.
We were poor too,
but we wore second (or third) hand
clothes and off brand sneakers,
and those clothes were
in a pretty tight rotation that
often meant repeat performances
a few times a week.
Our school was 90-something
percent black … we were white.
we knew we were different
long before we learned
about the military industrial
complex and mutual assured
destruction, before we were
old enough to attend
(and participate in) the
community’s weekly liturgy
and bible study, before we
learned about the Christian
mandate to perform the works
of mercy and love our neighbor,
before we could diss on
Junior ROTC and spew facts on world
hunger, before we spent our
Summer Tuesday mornings
picking up bruised fruits
and veggies at the Jessup Food Terminal
to share with the people
who lined up around the block
at our three story row-house in Baltimore …
challenges “fitting in,”
and it was a pretty
hectic place with people
always coming and going.
and our parents—despite the
interruptions of going to jail
and meetings and the demands
of communal life—offered pretty
structured life for my brother,
sister and I that in retrospect
was probably pretty important.
After dinner and chores on
weeknights, Dad would read to
us — Narnia Chronicles,
Lord of the Rings, Dickens, London, etc…
And once a week that
would be Bible study instead.
and tumbling lessons.
We went to the library for
their weekly movies (Buster Keaton,
Charlie Chaplin, my brother
laughing so loud that everyone
else laughed because he
laughed not because of
what was happening on screen),
and for story hour.
AT JONAH HOUSE COMMUNITY, FOUNDED IN JUNE 1973
FRIDA BERRIGAN, 34, lives in Brooklyn, NY.
She is Senior Program Associate of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation.
Previously, she served for eight years as Deputy Director and Senior Research Associate at the Arms Trade Resource Center at the World Policy Institute at the New School in New York City.
She has also worked as a researcher at The Nation magazine.
Frida is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor of In These Times magazine.
She is the author of reports on arms trade and human rights, U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the domestic politics of U.S. missile defense and space weapons policies.
She has been a featured expert on national and regional radio outlets, and regularly speaks on national security issues to citizen’s organizations and at major conferences throughout the United States."
Frida is a daughter of Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister.
More about Frida Berrigan:
To win a copy of one of Palecek's books, or leftover Christmas candy, or maybe a "Deception Dollar," be the first one to correctly answer the following.
Frida Berrigan would rather be ....
a. Burning Toby Keith CDs in Catonsville
b. In the cast of Hairspray
c. Pounding on something with a small hammer
d. President Obama's Secretary of Spending Money on People Not Arms
e. Messing everything up in some Raytheon bigshot's office
f. Far away from all this vegetarian-consensus-we shall overcome crap
a) By “burning” do you mean copying?
I like D, but it would probably be a lot of work
g. be a dentist, but does not want to go back to school.
NAD: Frida, hello, thank you for taking the time for this.
What's the inside scoop about growing up in Jonah House, for inquiring minds who need to know?
It was different, as they say in the mid-West.
In elementary and middle school:
Many of our classmates were “latch-key kids.”
We had an over-abundance of caring (and kookie) adults living with us.
The kids at our school were most pretty poor, but people took pains to look their best, and everyone noticed when you wore the same clothes twice in one week.
We were poor too, but we wore second (or third) hand clothes and off brand sneakers, and those clothes were in a pretty tight rotation that often meant repeat performances a few times a week.
Our school was 90-something percent black … we were white.
For those three reasons, we knew we were different long before we learned about the military industrial complex and mutual assured destruction, before we were old enough to attend (and participate in) the community’s weekly liturgy and bible study, before we learned about the Christian mandate to perform the works of mercy and love our neighbor, before we could diss on Junior ROTC and spew facts on world hunger, before we spent our Summer Tuesday mornings picking up bruised fruits and veggies at the Jessup Food Terminal to share with the people who lined up around the block at our three story row-house in Baltimore …
So, there were some challenges “fitting in,” and it was a pretty hectic place with people always coming and going.
But there was also a lot of love, and our parents—despite the interruptions of going to jail and meetings and the demands of communal life—offered pretty structured life for my brother, sister and I that in retrospect was probably pretty important.
After dinner and chores on weeknights, Dad would read to us—Narnia Chronicles, Lord of the Rings, Dickens, London, etc…
And once a week that would be Bible study instead.
We had weekend chores and swimming and tumbling lessons. We went to the library for their weekly movies (Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, my brother laughing so loud that everyone else laughed because he laughed not because of what was happening on screen), and for story hour.
NAD: Did you ever long for a Bolton Hill "normal" family life?
But I guess the thing that helped mitigate against that longing becoming over-powering was the sense—from a young age—that our parents were not bringing us up in this iconoclastic, counter-cultural environment just to make us miserable or to feed their egos.
We were not different just for the sake of being different. Community, the discipline of work and prayer, gleaning food for ourselves and our neighbors, not owning a lot of stuff—all those things sustained a culture of resistance and contributed the fact that we were a little different—but they also provided the foundation upon which a rich and dynamic family and community life with a lot of freedom and agency and joy.
NAD: Where did you go to high school, college?
Did your classmates know who you were?
Did it matter?
We went to Baltimore City College High School, a public, college prep magnet school, that is one of the oldest high schools in the city.
It was big and diverse and we studied Latin.
The “Berrigan” thing came up, but mostly from our teachers.
It was not a big issue for our classmates.
And when they knew, it was like: “oh, cool.”
I went to Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
It was great.
Small town plus apple orchards and sheep.
I looked more like my college classmates than my high school classmates, but I did not “fit in” there either…
But by that time, it was fine—no one really fits in anywhere.
I loved the classes, the library, the run-down-around-the-edges facilities at Hampshire.
I liked how small the classes were and how quickly everyone knew everyone.
The school has a hippie-party reputation (that is well deserved) but it is also a school of students who take their work really seriously, and once I hit a stride there I worked really hard (and had fun too).
NAD: I suppose you have heard a million times about, "I remember you when you were just this tall."
Along with stories about your father and mother.
You ever get tired of that?
Not really. People like to share
NAD: Do you feel any pressure to continue the family tradition?
NAD: Have you ever been arrested?
NAD: What was it like having your mother and father away at prison for so long?
Lots of letters.
A commitment (from each of us) to keep the family close despite bars and bulletproof glass.
We did a good job.
But it was not fun.
NAD: What are your brother and sister doing?
Kate lives in Oakland, California and works for an organization that supports disabled people who live independently.
She volunteers with Critical Resistance, a prison abolition organization; is a sometimes trainer for the Ruckus Society; and is a killer rock climber.
Jerry lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his wife Molly, their two kids—Amos and Jonah, the best nephews ever—and another couple in a new Quaker-Catholic Worker there.
All four of them went to Kalamazoo College and have come back to do work with kids in their East Kalamazoo community. He has grown into quite the construction (and reconstruction) maven, and he and Molly share a job as youth ministers at two local Catholic Churches.
NAD: Why the arms trade? Why did you pick that as your specialty?
It chose me.
NAD: There are arms everywhere and we are selling everywhere.
NAD: Isn't it getting steadily worse? Is there any conceivable reason for hope?
We did a study at the end of 2008 called “US Weapons at War: Beyond the Bush Legacy.” Here are a few of our findings:
· The United States is the world’s top arms-supplying nation, having entered into over $32 billion in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements in 2007—a nearly three-fold increase over 2005.
· During 2006 and 2007, the United States provided weapons and military training to over 174 states and territories, up from 123 states and territories in 2001, the first year of the Bush administration. While many of these transfers were relatively small deals completed under the commercial licenses granted by the State Department, a number of key countries of strategic significance were added and/or restored to the U.S. client list during the Bush years, including Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia.
· Of the 27 major conflicts under way during 2006/07, 20 involved one or more parties that had received arms and training from the United States.
· Total U.S. transfers to areas of active conflict exceeded $11 billion in 2006/07. The five biggest recipients were Pakistan ($3.7 billion), Turkey ($3.0 billion), Israel ($2.1billion), Iraq ($1.4 billion), and Colombia ($575 million).
Arming Human Rights Abusers
More than half (13) of the top 25 U.S. arms recipients in the developing world during 2006/07 were either undemocratic governments or regimes that engaged in major human rights abuses. This represents a one-third reduction from 2005, when 18 of the top 25 U.S. recipients fit these categories. But even given this positive change, the current pattern of U.S. sales remains in stark contrast to the Bush administration’s pro-democracy rhetoric.
Total U.S. arms transfers to undemocratic governments and/or major human rights abusers totaled more than $16.2 billion in 2006/07, and the top recipients were Pakistan ($3.7 billion), Saudi Arabia ($2.5 billion), Iraq ($1.4 billion), United Arab Emirates ($983 million), (Kuwait ($879 million), Egypt ($845 million), Jordan ($474 million), and Bahrain ($308 million).
· The majority of the undemocratic and/or human rights abusing governments armed by the United States are in the two regions viewed as “central” to the war on terrorism: the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Bahrain) and South Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan).
Subsidizing Weapons Sales
· U.S. security assistance funding has nearly doubled over the past eight years, from an average of $6–$8 billion a year prior to the first Bush term to an average of $14–$15 billion a year during the Bush administration.
· Of the over $108 billion in security assistance funding authorized from FY 2002 to FY 2008, over a third—$39.7 billion—was disbursed through new programs like the Afghan and Iraq Train and Equip programs, the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), the Pentagon’s Section 1206 program, and the Coalition Support Fund program of assistance to countries fighting alongside U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. All of these programs are authorized and implemented by the Pentagon, and all of them are markedly less transparent and accountable than traditional security assistance programs supervised by the State Department.
· Of the top ten U.S. arms recipients in the developing world, five—Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Colombia—rely heavily on U.S. government subsidies to purchase U.S. weapons. These countries track closely with the top recipients of U.S. security assistance during the Bush administration (FY 2002 to FY 2009), which are as follows: Afghanistan ($29.7billion), Iraq ($27.9 billion), Israel ($21.6 billion), Egypt ($14.9 billion), and Pakistan ($9.7 billion). These five countries alone account for over 83 percent of all security assistance disbursed by the Bush administration in the FY 2002 through FY 2008 budgets.
Why I have hope:
Because as the global community has come together to outlaw and regulate weapons like landmines and cluster weapons, as we work against nuclear weapons or against military operations in this or that far flung corner of the globe, we teach each other and are taught by history that the only work to be about is the work of abolishing war, the work of peacefully settling differences, the work of opposing injustice and violence.
Each one of these specific undertakings—whether successful or not—underlines those lessons, engraving them more deeply on our hearts, and each one of these specific undertakings puts us in touch with people who motivate and challenge and teach us…
NAD: If you were asked to be Secretary of Defense, would you?
No. Power corrupts, absolute power… etc.
It is also probably pretty boring.
NAD: Do you have hope in Obama?
I have hope in people.
In that old adage about the people leading, and the leaders following.
Will we lead? Will Obama follow?
Those are the questions to ask… not: will he fulfill my hopes.
NAD: Does your favorite coffee cup have words on it? What are they?
The cup I drink out of at the office is a Center for Constitutional Rights 40th anniversary cup, and it is emblazoned with the Fredrick Douglas quote: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
NAD: What did you absolutely have to get done by noon today?
Drink much coffee and write a to do list … but now it is 4pm
NAD: How about by Christmas 2009?
— Rein in the number of meetings I go to on a weekly basis
— Start “War and Peace”
— Close Guantanamo
— Finish all my unfinished writing assignments
— Send off my 2008 Xmas cards
— Design a cross word puzzle
— Start writing a book on the Pentagon
— Perfect our composting system at home
— Unpack from our move in November 2008
NAD: Walking to Guantanamo.
Was that scary? Empowering? Tiring? Hot?
Yes. Yes. No. Yes.
Read more at http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2483/walking_to_guantamo/
NAD: If you would like — please insert a link here to something you would like linked to, with a brief tag re: where that link goes:
New America Foundation, Arms and Security Initiative:
Witness Against Torture
War Resisters League