Don’t Touch

Dan B.An excerpt from Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (ed. John Dear, p.50).

One day, as we were being taken handcuffed from the jail for a court appearance, a young nun who was a dear friend reached out her hand to mine in solidarity as we issued from the jail. One of the marshalls came forward in a swift, reptilian move. He crashed down between our hands with a karate blow. “Don’t touch!” It was the epitome of the system; he had said it all.

Don’t touch–make war. Don’t touch–be abstract, about God and death and life and love. Don’t touch–make war at a distance. Don’t touch your enemies, except to destroy them. Don’t touch, because in the touch of hand to hand is Michelangelo’s electric moment of creation. Don’t touch, because law and order have so decreed, limiting the touch of one person to another, to the touch of nightsticks upon flesh.

I am, in this autumn of 1969, under federal sentence of three years, for destruction of draft files in May of 1968. So my life enters upon its middle course. These many beautiful years cannot be lived again. But they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit, and I take them, in true measure, with me toward whatever lies ahead.

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