Salvador Allende’s last words as the CIA coup stormed the presidential palace 46 years ago:
Surely this will be the last opportunity for me to address you. The Air Force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporación.
My words do not have bitterness but disappointment. May they be a moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath: soldiers of Chile, titular commanders in chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself commander of the Navy, and Mr Mendoza, the despicable general who only yesterday pledged his fidelity and loyalty to the government, and who also has appointed himself chief of the Carabineros [national police].
Given these facts, the only thing left for me is to say to workers: I am not going to resign!
Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seed which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever. They have strength and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested neither by crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history.
Workers of my country: I want to thank you for the loyalty that you always had, the confidence that you deposited in a man who was only an interpreter of great yearnings for justice, who gave his word that he would respect the constitution and the law and did just that. At this definitive moment, the last moment when I can address you, I wish you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the climate in which the armed forces broke their tradition, the tradition taught by General Schneider and reaffirmed by Commander Araya, victims of the same social sector which will today be in their homes hoping, with foreign assistance, to retake power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.
I address, above all, the modest woman of our land, the campesina who believed in us, the worker who labored more, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address professionals of Chile, patriotic professionals, those who days ago continued working against the sedition sponsored by professional associations, class-based associations that also defended the advantages which a capitalist society grants to a few.
I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours — in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to protect them. They were committed. History will judge them.
Surely Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal instrument of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to the workers.
The people must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves. The people must not let themselves be destroyed or riddled with bullets, but they cannot be humiliated either.
Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society.
Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!
These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.
[Salvador Allende (1908–1973) was the president of Chile from 1970 to 1973.]
From Susie Day, a woman I know and admire greatly, to another woman we all know— and admire:
Dear Yoko Ono,
Years, years, and years ago, in 1980, a pathetically deranged man murdered the love of your life. You were walking home, into the Manhattan building where you lived, and suddenly this man, seeking the world’s adoration, gunned down your husband, John Lennon. Mark Chapman was given a 20-to-life sentence. After almost four decades, he remains in prison. You want to keep him there for the rest of his life.
One year before John Lennon died, across the river in Brooklyn, a 21-year-old woman and her teenage friend broke into an apartment and killed the elderly couple who lived there, stabbing them 70 times when they refused to hand over money for drugs. Valerie Gaiter was given a 50-to-life sentence. She entered prison forty years ago and died this August in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility of untreated esophageal cancer, having been told for months that the pain in her throat was just acid reflux.
That’s what sending someone to prison for the rest of their life means. Aging into sickness and death in a place where the food is bad and healthcare barely exists. Because, gratifying as it may feel to see people sent off to rot behind walls, there are two unseen realities in play: (1) People who want someone to die in prison usually have no idea of what prison is like; and (2) Bad as prison can be, people inside can and do change.
Since 2000, when Chapman became eligible for parole, you, Yoko Ono, have written letters to the NY Parole Board asking that he be denied, saying Chapman’s release would “bring back the nightmare, the chaos and confusion”; that for the safety of your family, and his own safety, Chapman should remain locked up. In later years, you’ve relied on your attorney to convey the message: “Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono has consistently opposed release.”
Out here in the world, we, who also miss John Lennon, take little notice. Like you, we’ve gone on to weather AIDS, 9/11, an exploding prison population, and so much more.
Back in 1979, Amber Grumet, the daughter of the couple Val Gaiter helped kill, couldn’t bring herself to attend her parents’ murder trial. She still has trouble holding herself together. Last year, she told City Limits that she didn’t know if she wanted Val Gaiter released. But Amber Grumet did think prison sentences seemed too long; that more emphasis should be placed on rehabilitation. “I’m very torn between my own individual situation and my politics and philosophy,” she said. “I tried to bring myself together into one human being. I finally gave up. That’s the way I exist.”
That’s pretty much how we all exist, Yoko Ono.
Remember, when so many of us – activists, students, artists – were trying to keep the 1960s together? When we either were following Che and creating “Two, Three, Many Vietnams” or imploring the world to “Give Peace a Chance”? To paraphrase another John Lennon song, whether or not we wanted full-on revolution, we all did want to change the world.
Remember those photos of peaceniks confronting stalwart American GIs with flowers? They seem unbearably quaint now. We smile wistfully at the memory of you and John in 1969, protesting the Vietnam War by spending a highly publicized week of your honeymoon in an Amsterdam bed, promoting “bed-ins for world peace.” The Peace Movement you endorsed welcomed home U.S. soldiers, as long as they decried the war crimes this country had sent them to carry out. These were often men who killed or tortured hundreds of Vietnamese. No prison time for them.
Then Victory – the war ended! But, as the peace movement disbanded, new, stealthier wars commenced. Today, we can’t name all the countries where the U.S. has sent its military; we can’t count the deaths for which this country is responsible.
Back in 1980, as the U.S. government began sending aid to the Contras, Valerie Gaiter was beginning her prison sentence. When she died, forty years and many proxy wars later, Gaiter still had ten years to go before she would be eligible for parole.
At Bedford prison, everyone who knew Val Gaiter attested to how she had changed over decades. She worked training dogs for veterans with PTSD. She jumped at every opportunity for education or personal growth the prison could offer. In 2012, despite 20 letters from the prison staff, Governor Cuomo denied her petition for clemency. A few months before she died, Val wrote in a letter, “The impact of what I did and the pain I have caused … will live with me for the rest of my life and forever be a reminder of what I was and how I can never be again…. For that I am totally remorseful.”
Mark Chapman, with a clean prison record since 1994 and designated “low risk” of recidivism, will probably go before the NY Parole Board again in 2020. He’s said he feels “more and more shame” every year for what he did; that he knows the pain he caused will linger “even after I die.”
My letter to you isn’t only about Mark Chapman. It isn’t only about the thousands of people aging in U.S. prisons, who express profound remorse yet are too often refused by parole boards that won’t look beyond “the nature of the crime.” It isn’t even about the restorative justice projects now beginning to offer some hope. It’s a question I want to ask you, Yoko Ono.
What has Mark Chapman being in prison all these years done to heal your loss? Or ours, for that matter?
I would never dare ask you to forgive. Yet who is not worthy of being mourned? When and how should mourning determine Justice?
Your answer, Yoko Ono, will help us to see, if it was ever, ever possible to Give Peace a Chance.
Monday Sept 16 @ 6pm
at Chop Shop 2033 W. North Ave
featuring a whole crew of talented artists
a FREE pair of Stance socks for all in attendance
sounds by DJ Ca$hera
& a reading from KC’s new book
Everything Must Go: The Life & Death of an American Neighborhood
A vibrant yet solemn portrait of Chicago’s Wicker Park in the 90s, this collection examines gentrification and commemorates what gets lost in the process.~~~Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2019
Chicago, in all its breaking and rebuilding, is portrayed honestly here, and with a touch of hope.
~~~America Library Association Booklist Starred Review
Kevin Coval is an architect of ghosts. His poems salvage, memorialize, and rectify the body of a city. A must read for anyone sitting in the present, having recently escaped the mouth of the past. ~~~Kara Jackson, National Youth Poet Laureate & author of Bloodstone Cowboy
Everything Must Go is a requiem, a novel in verse, a history of a neighborhood, and a city, that time has put through a fun-house mirror. It is powered by the love and friction of people building lives that fill out the shape of a neighborhood—and the loss they feel when the neighborhood’s new shape no longer fits them.~~~Daniel Kay Hertz author of The Battle of Lincoln Park: Urban Renewal and Gentrification in Chicago
Coval’s new collection–slash–graphic novel, Everything Must Go, celebrates the unsung heroes of pre-gentrified Wicker Park”. ~~~Chicago Magazine