Still Here, Still Alive, and Still Writing

Jose Vilson Jose

Rodolfo Walsh

I‘ve had Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine on my bookshelf since Rachel Maddow recommended it about a year ago, but at the pace I read (and buy) books, I don’t get to many of them unless a divine spirit intervenes. Something did, and I pushed it up to the top of my list, fortunately. I haven’t finished it, but what an appropriate book for these times of deceit and corporatism (I know, I repeated myself).

I’m usually not a fan of taking entire chunks of books and giving them out to the public without prior consent (-wink wink-), but this whole excerpt inspired me so much, I’ve decided to share it with the rest of you. Please go buy the book in whichever form you choose. (Amazon)

To be a leftist in those years was to be hunted. Those who did not escape to exile were in a minute-by-minute struggle to stay one step ahead of the secret police – an existence of safe houses, phone codes, and false identities. One of those people living that life in Argentina was the country’s legendary investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh. A gregarious Renaissance man, a writer of crime fiction and award-winning short stories, Walsh was also a super sleuth able to crack military codes and spy on the spies. His greatest investigative triumph took place when he was working as a journalist in Cuba, where he managed to intercept and decode a CIA telex that blew the cover of the Bay of Pigs invasion. That information is what allowed Castro to prepare for and defend against the invasion.

When Argentina’s previous military junta had banned Peronism and strangled democracy, Walsh decided to join the armed Montonero movement as their intelligence expert. That put him at the very top of the generals’ Most Wanted list, with every new disappearance bringing fresh fears that information extracted by the picana would lead the police to the safe house he had secured with his partner, Lilia Ferreyra, in a small village outside Buenos Aires.

From his vast network of sources, Walsh had been trying to track the junta’s many crimes. He compiled lists of the dead and disappeared, the locations of mass graves and of secret torture centers. He prided himself on his knowledge of the enemy, but in 1977 even he was stunned by the furious brutality that the Argentine junta had unleashed on its own people. In the first year of military rule, dozens of his close friends and colleagues had disappeared in the death camps, and his twenty-six-year-old daughter, Vicki, was also dead, driving Walsh mad with grief.

But with Ford Falcons circling, a life of quiet mourning was not available to him. Knowing his time was limited, Walsh made a decision about how he would mark the upcoming one-year anniversary of junta rule with the official papers lavishing praise on the generals for having saved the country, he would write his own, uncensored, version of the depravity into which his country had descended. It would be titled, “Am Open Letter From a Writer to the Military Junta,” and it was composed, Walsh wrote, “without hope of being listened to, with the certainty of being persecuted, true to the commitment I took up a long time ago, to bear witness in difficult times.”

The letter would be the decisive condemnation of both the methods of state terror and the economic system they served. Walsh planned to circulate his “Open Letter” the way he had distributed previous communiques from the underground: by making ten copies, then posting them from different mailboxes to select contacts who would distribute them further. “I want to let those fuckers know that I’m still here, still alive, and still writing,” he told Lilia as he sat down at his Olympia typewriter.

(emphases mine)

The rest of the chapter outlines the letter’s gory and truly shocking details about the junta’s inhumane war methods. Plus, we find out what eventually comes of this great writer, who sounds less like the hermit sitting on his cherry oak desk sipping on tea and more like the action heroes we fawn over as a culture. In this day and age, people too often take the written word lightly, as if everyone who comes across a keyboard can communicate in this form in a way that expresses urgency and impetus.

In the case of Rodolfo Walsh, his life is the energy behind his writing, and the more pure the writing, the more we can inject his writing into our veins. Naomi’s writing made me feel like I was observing at the same time she was, through the life of a man on the run trying to find global justice. Everyday for him was an opportunity to open someone else’s eyes to what he was living through, providing evidence for us that he lived and was never dead in the process.

With writing like that, he’s still here, still alive, and still writing.