In the baleful light of the deaths of whole peoples, deliberately and repeatedly inflicted, our neglect of the moral questions raised by wars, our petty concerns about religious renewal, seem to me a blinding form of self-deception: good housekeeping in a plague-tormented city.
from "Letter to the Young Jesuits"
America is Hard to Find is a compilation of Daniel Berrigan's writings while on the run from the FBI, letters from Danbury penitentiary, and a potpourri of poems and thoughts on the state of the country. The work as a whole reveals the spiritual journeys of a poet-priest who has endured the darkness and desolation of imprisonment and struggled through the meaning of his political acts of conscience.
A bleak paragraph describes the pall which hung over his spirit while behind bars:
Dying was a kind of banal continuum with living crowded, messy, gray, noisy, a limbo by day or night. The senses are toned down, the body and mind tend to lassitude, the sweet stimulus and variety of the world are a forbidden fruit, a remembrance of aching grief.
In an angry letter to the judge who sentenced the Catonsville Nine, he recounts the horrible conditions in the prisons, the forces that dehumanize the inmates and points to the public attitude that makes for this situation: "I mean that our prisons do not rehabilitate, because our society itself is destitute of a vision of man." Another letter went to J. Edgar Hoover. But the establishment remained mute.
One marvels at the resiliency of Berrigan's spirit under the stress of imprisonment. But the high-pitched excitement of his underground experience must have carried him through. Many of his writings on the run are included in this collection. Especially to be noted his "Life at the Edge" piece, a work of essay art and theological daring; his prose poem review of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's biography; notes to the actors in The Trial of the Catonsville Nine and several letters to the Jesuits.
The book stands as a tribute to the perseverance of Christian commitment and faith under fire. In a poem he proclaims:
remember me I am
free at large untamable
herein catching traces of that same Christian freedom that enabled early Christians to spread the faith in the face of tyranny.