Resistance, Family, and Community

Edited by Rosalie G. Riegle Vanderbilt Univ. 387 pp. Paperback, $29.95

Much of the public reveres the better-known peacemakers who broke what they saw as unjust laws and suffered imprisonment: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, William Lloyd Garrison, Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Henry David Thoreau, Joan Baez. But what about the lesser-knowns: Arthur Laffin, Liz McAlister, Robert Ellsberg, Bruce Friedrich, Claire and Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, Paul Magno, Kathy Kelly, Frank Cordaro, John Dear, Bill and Sue Frankel-Streit?

In varying stretches, all did hard time for protesting or resisting the military policies of the U.S. government, the one that King called in 1967 “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” They saw their government, not themselves, as violators of laws, moral and international.

They are among the 75 dissenters interviewed in recent years by Rosalie G. Riegle, an author of two books on the Catholic Worker movement and an oral historian on the faculty at Michigan’s Saginaw Valley State University from 1969 to 2003. “Today,” she writes, “one hears little about the resisters’ arrests and trials in mainstream media. Unlike newspapers and television of the Vietnam era, which reported dramatic stories of draft file burnings and the resultant trials, contemporary media seem bored with nonviolent actions, so the voices have been muted.” Deftly and doggedly, Riegle brings to life the passions, morals and courage of the dissenters and the often-severe price they paid, for themselves and their families. Many are worthy of full biographies of their own. In due time, let’s hope.

Colman McCarthy