And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2:4
On September 9, 1980, the Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Philip, and six others, the “Plowshares Eight”, began the Plowshares Movement under the premise of beating swords to ploughshares. They trespassed onto the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, PA, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files, as a protest against United States nuclear weapons policy. One of the other six was Molly Rush, a Pittsburgh housewife. “Molly’s Hammer” tells her story surrounding these events.
Saturday afternoon, Anne and I attended the third and final ‘Ignite!’ reading for this year. “Molly’s Hammer” is a play written by Tammy Ryan and is based upon the book, “The Hammer of Justice”, by Lianne Ellison Norman. The play was read by two actors; Nancy Bell read the part of Molly Rush and Dan McCarthy read the part of her husband, Bill Rush and every other character in the play. The play covers the time leading up to the action in King of Prussia, the event and the subsequent legal proceedings. I found the play to be very moving and it will cause me much personal soul-searching in the future.
Molly is a person driven to do what she believes is right, no matter the cost. McCarthy as Dan and all of her other relatives and friends try to talk her out of doing what she is planning, but she will not be dissuaded. After the action, the Plowshares Eight surrender peaceably and go to jail, awaiting trial, where they remain until just before trial, when they finally accept bond. At trial, Molly is looking at sentences of from thirty to sixty years if convicted. Still standing on principle, Molly refuses to adopt a defense that would offer a greater chance of acquittal. Instead, she chooses to put the military-industrial complex on trial, infuriating the judge (McCarthy) and leading to her conviction. In the end though, Bill, her husband, who has fought her every step of the way, stands with her and likewise turns his back to the judge. After ten years of appeals, while still out on bond, the government capitulates and resentenced the Plowshares Eight to probation and time served.
After the reading there is always a Q&A. Seth Gordon always asks two questions: “What do you remember most about the play?” and “What do you think that the play is about?” In the past, even though he says that there are no wrong answers, I have always seemed to have found one. Now I just sit on my hands now and wait for this part to be over and for the wine and cheese to be served. I would say that the most novel answer that I have ever heard in any of these Q&A sessions was one voiced by a mother for her teenage son, “What my son remembers most about the play is when his Uncle Dan said he was pregnant.” McCarthy was portraying Molly’s daughter at the time.
After the Q&A I got to speak with Ryan, the playwright, and for once I asked an intelligent question, “Why did you write this play?” She is also from Pittsburgh and was approached by the author, Norman, to write the play. She interviewed both Molly and Dan Rush, who are both still together and living in Pittsburgh. They are in their eighties now. Molly is still active in the movement, but has never gone to jail again.