By Eric Martin
American Catholic Studies Journal
“I believe that we can change the world. I really do.”
These words close the stirring personal testimony and valuable historical documentation of the Catholic Left in Ted Glick’s Burglar for Peace. Told with first-hand stories, journals, old letters, and court transcripts of many who made up the draft board raid movement to stop the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Glick’s book acts as a memoir of a period in his life as well as a snapshot of the American Catholic underground’s most visible offensive against the war.
Compelled to action in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Glick threw himself into the campaign of Bobby Kennedy before turning to what became known as “the ultra resistance.” His first action came in 1970 with the East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives group of eleven, including two nuns and four priests, who destroyed thousands of draft files. He provides details that are rarely noted about these [End Page 65] actions, such as how they broke in (planting someone at the top of the stairs during the day who would open a door after closing) or cased the buildings (having fake couples in a parked car observe late-night light patterns in the building for weeks ahead of the action). This allows for the movement’s dramatic lore of theft, liturgical pyres, and prison witnesses to be complemented with the tedium of long hours in preparation, captured in poems Glick wrote while hiding in the building. “The sun is coming down slowly, casting window frame shadows upon the wall a half flight down. We wait for the time” (33). Accounts like these let us see more clearly the ingredients that made up the splashy morning headlines.
Among recent releases on major figures in the movement like John Loughery and Blythe Randolph’s Dorothy Day, Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Celebrant’s Flame (on Dan Berrigan), and William Marling’s Christian Anarchist (on Ammon Hennacy), Glick’s book is a refreshing view from one of the many lesser-known voices in the Catholic Left. One of its significant contributions is providing detailed court transcriptions not just of those in the movement but also of their interrogations of the FBI on the stand, giving space to the words of unfamiliar names along with the attention given to Liz McAlister and the Berrigans. Teachers looking for concrete descriptions of what resistance in the Catholic Left entailed will find Glick’s treatment of lengthy prison fasts and solitary confinement to be valuable resources for undergraduate students, laid out in straightforward journal form. For those looking beyond the canon for treatments of the Catholic Left (from someone who was not Catholic and details reasons for leaving the movement), nonviolence in the American anti-war movement, or a convicting call to action in our present from a veteran in peaceful rebellion, Burglar for Peace is, to borrow from Glick’s opening words in the preface, a way to “find oneself going deeper and deeper” (xiii).