There is an apocryphal story about a conversation between two pigs…
Jesus had just cast the demons out of the maniac of Madera into a herd of pigs. A herd of pigs was a lucrative business among the faithful when kosher taste buds failed. As the demon possessed pigs rushed toward a cliff, it was reported that one pig turned to the next and said, “where are we going.” The other pig said, “that is not important, what is important is that we must stick together and keep moving.” It was this type of wisdom that drove the madness of the cold war.
It was 1979, all of our efforts to provoke a peace awakening could not match the effect of revealing the secret production of the neutron bomb. I figure a bomb by any other name is…. not so with the general public. People were outraged. Once again many of us found ourselves in Washington DC. It was pitch dark in the basement of the host church, someone was moving from person to person waking people up, it was time for mass. The rhythm of the mass allowed me to not think, to pray, much needed for the upcoming day of action.
Under the leadership of Phillip Berrigan, we planned various acts of civil disobedience. The beauty of this type of witness is that it pulls the opponents into a drama that they have no interest in being part of. This is an effective and faithful way to break up the false consensus that surrounded the building of 5 nuclear weapons a day, the US contribution to the nuclear arms race. As Phil spoke, we dutifully filled the key holes of a half a dozen handcuffs with hot wax, making it virtually impossible for the police to unlock.
Trying to appear normal as we entered the White House tour provided the day’s only comic relief. No matter how you dressed up these nuclear resisters they just did not fit in. So we tucked our hair up under our hats, put on sports coats and dresses and “blended in.” On cue we made a break with the tour and sped across the White House lawn for our goal post, the White House fence. This was not part of the plan. The previous week a man had been killed by the secret service for running towards the White House swinging a pipe.
Federal marshals were chasing us across the lawn and warned us that we should halt or they would shoot. We ran forward even faster as if we could outrun even a speeding bullet. Upon reaching the White House fence, we stood there in disbelief that our support people were nowhere in sight. Phil, upon hearing we were running across the lawn, pushed people out of the way to see if we were alive.
Finally, our delivery people appeared and threw the hand cuffs over the fence. They fell a bit short of their mark – they landed at the feet of the police. The police smiled and assumed the gig was up. But somewhere deep inside of us, the anger of being reminded of our mortality, and of our future being taken from us, gave us the strength of survival and, possessed by God’s will to preserve, we wrestled the police to the ground and tore the cuffs from their hands. The handcuffs we snapped shut around the White House fence.
Unknown to us Jimmy Carter and concerned congresspeople were watching this entire fiasco. They were in the middle of a secret meeting plotting the demise of this unpopular weapon. The international media moved in, shoving for a good shot of the unwanted White House guests.
Several hundred miles away, my father Adolf Scotti had sat down to his traditional Sunday spaghetti dinner. As the spaghetti sauce dripped onto his freshly pressed, starched white shirt, the TV screen at the end of the table filled up with his son’s face and long curls. He sat there in disbelief as I shouted “just as these chains are being cut so we must free ourselves from the chains that bind us to this nuclear madness.”
My father swung toward the TV and spit out “and for this I sent him to Ohio state.”
- Vincent Scotti Eirene’