We’ll Always Have Berkeley

by Mark Chmiel

Letter/3 (Dissidents/4)
The Book of Mev

In August 1995 as Mev and I were getting settled in our new home in St. Louis, we learned that Steve Kelly had been arrested for a Plowshares action in California on the anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Steve and his friend Susan Crane went to the Lockheed-Martin Corporation in Sunnyvale, California and, inspired by the biblical call to “beat swords into plowshares,” used a hammer to beat on missiles; they also poured blood on them. They and their partners on the East Coast issued a statement, which read, in part, as follows: “The period of August 6 through 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. . . Since August 1945 the entire world, led by the U.S. has been held hostage by nuclearism and the exponential rise of military violence. This violence permeates every level of society … Disarmament is the necessary first step to Christ’s Jubilee. We refuse to see violence as inevitable, injustice as the order of the day, and death dealing as the only way of life. Join us in this declaration for disarmament to announce the jubilee for the poor, relief for the children, and peace for us all.”

August 25, 1995
The day of your sentencing

Dear Steve,
What? No book? Are you meshugah? No way — Mev and I have already pledged that we will edit your letters and postcards, and have contacted Robert Ellsberg at Orbis for a deluxe edition. Mev’s going through her negatives of you for the appropriate cover shot.

I miss you, Steve. So you were preparing us for the big civil disobedience action by driving us over to Lockheed in San Jose — I shoulda known better with a resister like you/that I would love every action that you do/and I do, and I do, hey hey hey.

Is it at all likely that if he gets busted again, the hardest working man in show business, James Brown, will be your cell-mate? “I feel good…” Yeah, but it isn’t that easy to feel good in jail, is it James, unless you have a schlemiel around to make the hours seem like eternity.

You are a brave man. I don’t mean this action of civil disobedience, I mean going to the GTU library to read and research — what rough terrain for one such as you who so easily sees the shining idol of academics who’d rather read about evil than confront it— at Lockheed, at shopping mall, at our major Jesuit universities.

I bet Max is pleasantly envious of your action. We will honor you — “blessed be his memory” — when we sup with Dan Berrigan and Jim Reale in a couple weeks at Apartment 11-L in NYC.

Then Mev and I go to Block Island, and I plan on having a perfectly miserable time there. How can I enjoy myself there when you are baking away in jail, with the TV on 24 hours a day, the smoke, the blabbering (verisimilitude details, stolen from John Dear’s prison journal, Peace Behind Bars)?

My beloved is slowly losing her gifted speech pizzazz. There are few things imaginably sadder than this — to be with the Mevster as she struggles to say what she knows she wants to say but can’t find the words. I know you share in this agony.

I turned 35 this week and flatter myself by aspiring to be 1/10th of the mensch you are. I know you despise me, Steve, but it’s for this reason that I trust you and want to tell you about certain letters of transit that may be of interest to you. They cannot be rescinded, even by the Jesuit Provincial, something even our friend Bob Lassalle-Klein himself has never seen. Maybe one day you will be impressed with me.

I love you and wish I could hang out with you. Maybe I’ll see you in October. Please let me know if you need anything (re: books). I showed John Kavanaugh the photo of you when you were a young Abraham Joshua Heschel-looking scholastic. He liked it.

Yesh Gvul!

Shimmel

Photo above: Mev made Steve laugh, and took this photo.
_______________________

I hear it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions,
But really I am neither for nor against institutions,
(What indeed have I in common with them? or what with the destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every city of these States inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little or large that dents the water,
Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.
–Walt Whitman

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