It is a privilege to be selling the most militant anti-war paper every day of the week in some part of this greatest city of the greatest country in the world in these days of preparation for war, and for the imposition of universal military training upon a nation supposedly founded as a refuge for those who hated militarism in the old world.
"Why don't you go back to Yugoslavia?" shouted a passerby as I was selling THE CATHOLIC WORKER at 43rd and Lexington.
"Never thought of it," I replied.
I was standing by the corner where I had been twice arrested. Here the wind blows terrifically, but it is a good corner to sell the papers as the people go down toward St. Agnes where the flag is visible in front like a government building; or as travelers go to Grand Central Station in and out of this big city, or pass by in their routine business. Here the sidewalk is narrow and anyone desiring a paper can buy one without much trouble, while at the wide thoroughfare at 42nd and Lexington it is difficult to penetrate the crowd.
Across the street on this day was Howard, a young Congregational minister from New Jersey, trying his first day at our street apostolate. He had bought a copy of the CW and my Autobiography (of a Catholic Anarchist) from me a few weeks before and decided that he wanted to do his bit to spread the CW gospel. Across on the other corner was Francisco Fernandez Jiminez from Cadiz, Spain. He is 28, and with us every day except when helping Lee Peery bake bread at Peter Maurin Farm. And across at Grand Central was Patricia Rusk at her regular place. That day Bertha Tisius, who works as a nurse at night, was unable to come down to help us as she usually does.
Here, each Friday from 11am until 3pm, Catholics who have known the CW for years send through us greetings to Dorothy (Day), Tom (Sullivan) and others of the CW whom they have met. Non-Catholics who read in the NEW YORK TIMES or NEW YORK POST or the editorial in the Dec. 28th issue of the CHRISTIAN CENTURY about my arrest for selling the CW on this corner, greet us and often buy extra copies of the paper to give to friends.
In September Francisco had visited our office, bought my book, and visited with Patricia. He had heard about us through the Quakers and was on his way to the Bruderhof in Rifton, New York, preparatory to going to the Bruderhof in Paraguay. He was nine years of age when the Franco rebellion sought to overturn the government of Spain. Not a conscious anarchist with a capital "A," but anarchistic, as Spaniards tend to be, he was, however, pacifist inasmuch as he wanted nothing to do with war. So rather than do time in the Spanish Navy, he jumped ship and entered this country illegally. He attended William and Mary College, went back to Paris on a scholarship, and stowed away again and came here to Northwestern University. He had notified the Immigration authorities that he was entering illegally . Later he was put on parole and a the end of this parole, which was due in a few weeks, he was granted voluntary departure from the United States instead of going back to Spain and imprisonment or worse for his refusal to be a part of the Franco terror.
Now with his contact with the CW absolutist position and selling THE CATHOLIC WORKER with us daily he felt the need to take a definite stand about parole from a government when he did not believe in governments. Accordingly, he went to Peter Maurin Farm (on Staten Island) and fasted and prayed and was silent for three days and came back with letters to the Spanish Consulate and the Immigration Service renouncing his Spanish citizenship and saying that he was willing to take the consequences, in Spain or any other country, that he must obey God rather than man.
My emphasis has been on refusal to register for war or to pay income taxes for war. This is my native country and I love it and its traditions emphasizing liberty and I feel no desire to renounce membership in it, although I have long ago seceded from participation with the government. Francisco and I discussed all this and we each drew the line differently but with respect for each other.
The Spanish consul read the letter in which Francisco said; "If men would love one another there would be absolutely no need for governments. What we need is not governments but Love, and certainly we do not find Love in the organized government of men....Not with pride, but with humility I have pledged to disobey the government of men in order to obey the government of God."
The Spanish consul said that in order to international law a person could not renounce the citizenship in one country without taking that of another country. He did not know or understand that Lee Durling, conscientious objector, who did time in jail in World War II and whom I have met at pacifist conferences, did appear before the U.S. consul in Paris in 1954 and renounce his American citizenship according to Section 349 (a6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and that this is perfectly in accordance with international law. Durling had, like Francisco, come to this extreme position by degrees, having resigned as editor of a trade paper in New York City before going to Paris. The Spanish consul told Francisco that we all believed in God but that we should give to Caesar what was Caesar's. Francisco replied: "Here is my passport; you have it; it is Caesar's; keep it."
The Immigration Office, as reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES, said that they had done all that they could do in meeting Francisco's renunciation of citizenship and that they had allowed him to be free until they would call him for deportation to Spain. They had asked him to sign parole papers but he refused to do so as he had compromised enough before in signing such papers. So they marked the parole sheet "Refused to sign" and he is free for the time being. Sympathetic legal-minded friends have sought to prevent the deportation of Francisco according to Section 243 (L) which states that no one should be sent to a country where he would suffer because of his religious or political beliefs.
Francisco feels that inasmuch as he does not recognize governments he will not appeal to them for special favors. And as the U.S. is on friendly terms with dictators Tito, Chiang and Franco there is no reason why anarchists should be protected by the government. There is this straight out issue which Francisco has drawn and which he must in all conscience now live up to. He did run away from military service and if deported will take whatever punishment is given to him. There are too few Spaniards opposing Franco in Spain today. We will be sorry to lose our faithful comrade and I will picket the Immigration office if and when Francisco is deported, calling attention to my solidarity with him rather than with the two governments who unite in imprisoning one who seeks to follow God rather than man.
Here where the first issue of THE CATHOLIC WORKER was distributed on May Day, 1933, we three sell CWs from 14th Street and Broadway east a block. At times others help us there Thursdays nights. The other Saturday we went up there for two hours in the afternoon as we had missed the Thursday as we were all mailing CWs at the office that night.
"Take this dollar and shut up," said an inebriated man who had heard me for some minutes as he leaned against the candy store window fifteen feet away. It was 4:28 and I had decided to go home at 4:30 but I gave back the dollar and told the man that I wouldn't shut up. I offered him a copy and he replied that he "wouldn't read the damn paper," and stumbled away muttering to himself.
Here the sidewalk is extra wide and throngs of people hurry by. I have to shout to let them know I am there. I do well if I sell sixty papers in two hours. Several Catholics want to be sure that it is not a Communist paper. One such man said that any paper that had the name "Worker" had to be a Communist paper. I told him not to be foolish but to look in the library and he would find many union and other papers with the word "Worker" as part of their titles. I advised him to ask his priest about the CW. Another man scrutinized and myself carefully and said he would read the CW and talk to his priest and if we were Communists he would come back and make a lot of trouble.
A policeman good natured-ly wanted to know if we had the imprimatur. I told him that only diocese or (religious) Order publications had the imprimatur, that we were a lay group supported by lay people (and also individually by many priest and nuns). He wanted to know if we were like INTEGRITY (magazine). I told him that we were a lot worse or a lot better, which ever direction from center he happened to be. When I explained that I had been in jail recently for selling the CW and gave him the basic pacifist-anarchist philosophy of the CW he smiled and said that I must have a bad opinion of him as a cop. I said that I didn't need a cop to make me behave and if other people thought they did I wasn't going to quarrel with them about it, that there were good cops and bad cops just as among the rest of us. He wondered how I could accept the authority of the Church and not the authority of the State. I have just had an article on that subject published in a local atheistic anarchist paper and will give it to the cop if I see him again.
Peter Maurin wrote about the scholar being a worker and the worker being a scholar. There is a discussion year round (at the Catholic Worker) between those who stress academic and theological learning and those who shy away from books. I have read books and written them but I do not consider myself an intellectual. I have been a white collar worker, a migrant worker, a social worker and now I am more active than at any time of my life in varied office work, speaking and in the street apostolate.
"You say this to me now and you will tell it to God when you die," said one of the few young non-intellectuals around here who is also one of the best workers, to the seminarian who had argued with us here in the office after a Friday night meeting for hours to the effect that he could kill a man in war and love him at the same time. This intuition penetrated the fog of intellectualism that many try to use as a cover-up for a lack of responsibility to face the reality of a world armed for war.
One of our friends dissuaded a man who thought we were a Communist front from buying all of our papers and tearing them up. One lady from out of town did buy fifty to take to her priest, an often office workers buy five or ten to give away in their offices.
Today several people stopped and cheerfully bought a paper saying that they were glad to hear the name "Catholic" shouted approvingly on the streets, for right down there on Wall St. were two ex-Catholics damning the Church. I told them I would be there in all good time in good weather to answer them. Meanwhile we were reaching 300 people every week with the CW message proving that the Church was alive and meeting the problems of the day. Soon the ex-Catholic speaker came up and interrogated each one of us about the deficiencies of the Catholic Church and the merits of being "saved by faith." He was not vituperative, and I suppose, had a certain respect for us as fellow evangelists.
When I came to sell the paper at my corner I noticed after a bit that everyone kicked a stray newspaper to and fro as they walked by. I was busy selling my papers but I finally stopped long enough to pick it up and put it in the trash can nearby. As in Arizona, when I picked up the nails, dead cats, etc. along the road that Democrats and Republicans refused to pick up, so here in New York City it seems it takes an anarchist to be responsible enough to act in the public good.
Going east on Third St. after 7 o'clock Mass these mornings the sun appears like a massive orange filling up the view for those few minutes at the end of the street. I walk this way to buy the (NEW YORK) TIMES. Here in the caverns of New York City the same sun that my Hopi friends in Arizona witness from the top of the Mesa; the same sun that the Zuni sing their sunrise song to; the same sun that the Taos Indians in New Mexico welcome, starts the day for me. In the parable of the Sun and the Wind it is the blustering, vengeful Wind which seeks by force to remove the coat from the traveler. It is the warm rays of the Sun which persuades the Traveler that the coat should be removed. Now as of old it is Love and not Violence which is the Way. ---from the February, 1955 issue of THE CATHOLIC WORKER.