Considerazioni inattuali n.82

 

LUCIO MANISCO ON LIZ FINK

 

The text was read by Francesca Manisco at the memorial held in the Union Theological Seminary in New York on November 7th 2015.

 

I owe quite a lot to the United States of America because the United States of America made a communist out of me.

I owe quite a lot to Elizabeth Fink because Elizabeth Fink showed me how injustice is a fondamental institution of the United States of America.

Elizabeth Fink was not a communist. Yes, she was a red diaper baby. Yes, her wonderful mother Sylvia did join the American Communist Party. Yes, she defended a few acolytes of Gus Hall, but she was not a communist and she never claimed to be one.

It also must be said she did more than any communist could do in the United States of America and in my own country, Italy, to denounce and successfully fight in the courts of law the crimes perpetrated by the Great  Western Empire against the poor, the emarginated, the afro-americans, the prisoners in jail.

Was not insane the right wing proseguter in the Osama Awadallah case which Elizabeth Fink won, who accused her of “jeopardizing the Republic”. Liz comment: “The best compliment I have ever received, jeopardizing the Republic! I think I’d like that on my tombstone”.
Elizabeth Fink of course was not alone in such grand endeavor. She was part of those few, happy few, of that band of brothers who joined the battle against injustice, racism and social inequality in the USA. I am proud of having been befriended and in a few occurrences, thanks to Liz, to have worked with the like of Bill Kunstler, his wife Margie Ratner, his daughter Sarah, Leonard Boudin, just to mention few. All of them were enthusiastic about the legal work of Elizabeth Fink, then a young lawyer, her courage and defiance of bias judges on the case of the Attica massacre. In the house of Bill Kunstler on West 14th street I met her in the late seventies. It was the beginning af a friendship that grew stronger and stronger through years of close cooperation on the case of Silvia Baraldini.

I believe that if Liz triumphal victory in the final trial of Attica made her famous in the United States it was the Baraldini case which gained her not only fame but ever lasting popularity in Italy. The evidence in the public reactions to an article celebrating her achievements published by the Italian daily il Fatto Quotidiano of September 29th, a week after her death. I received from unknown people more letters, e-mails and telephone calls mourning  her departure than I have ever got in my long career as journalist and parliamentarian. All this ten years after Silvia was returned to Italy and freed from a jail in Rome thanks to the two decades battle engaged by an American lawyer in her defense in the United States and in my own country she visited a dozen times. My role was a limited one, that of promoter, guide and interpreter in her multiple meetings with members of different governments and in public rallies. Memorable one of these rallies in the park surrounding Castel Sant’Angelo crowded, in the police estimate, by 2.500-3.000 people: they loved and cheered her fiery battle cry to mobilize, even before I finished translating her words. She whispered in my ear: “If I could rally so many people in my own country I could, God forbid,  run for president of the United States”.

She was at the same time very blunt and direct in meetings with top Government officials challenging their indolence masqueraded with diplomatic expressions of interest in the Baraldini’s case. After one of this meetings the Minister of Justice Giovanni Conso took me aside and commented: “Right Honorable Manisco, I never experienced such bruising, irresistible force blowing into my office”. My reply: “If you believe to be the unmovable object, prepare to crumble when confronted again by Ms. Fink”.

I never saw Liz so happy as in Rome, Florence and some of the 100 small and large towns that had granted honorary citizenships to Silvia Baraldini. Liz loved of course the monuments and the museums, the food, the sights and the sea – I took her on a shaky boat named “Sandino” in the waters of Argentario during weekends sacred to absentee government officials. She looked delighted when she saw things moving, demonstrations in front of the US Embassy, posters of “Free Silvia” on the walls, and she heard songs asking for her liberation from the american dungeons. She was even more delighted when she learned of my questioning President George H.W. Bush about “2his italian prisoner” during a press conference held in Rome.

And more than anything else she liked to meet people, common people and famous ones.

At the beginning of the campaign I was convinced of the necessity to involve intellectuals and journalists, american and italian. I and Liz invited to a cocktail party in the beautiful studio of Donald Stewart Junior in Via Margutta twentytwo of the famous and less famous: Gore Vidal, Milton Gendel, Alexander Cockburn, Istvan Meszaros, Alberto Abrasino, Alberto Moravia and half a dozen of discombombulated american journalists in Rome. My introductory remarks were greeted by a mixed response, applause and no action – only three signed initially an appeal to the US President – and also some ironic remarks of Gore Vidal who with his usual sarcasm compared my speech to the Gettysburg address. Elizabeth Fink, who at the beginning of the meeting had enjoyed the company, delivered an indignant and very eloquent reply, something between Henry the Fifth Saint Crispin Day at Agincourt and “I hate indifference” by Antonio Gramsci.

The audience was shaken. Five more signed the petition. What a speech ! What a woman!

This extraordinary woman left us on September 22nd. I do not know, to quote Dylan Thomas, if she went gentle into that good night, I do know she did not rage, rage against the dying of the light, I do know she closed her eyes with the serene awareness of having fought a good fight, of having followed her course, of having kept her faith.

Friends, brothers and sisters, members of the Family of Man.

I hope you all will join me on a heartfelt valedictory note:

LET THE WORD GO FORTH, HERE AND NOW, THAT AFTER HALF A CENTURY OF VALIANT  STRUGGLE ELIZABETH MARCIA FINK, THE FREEDOM FIGHTER, IS ALIVE, DEEP IN OUR HEARTS AND ALONG WITH US FIGHTING LIKE HELL!

THANK YOU.

Lucio Manisco

www.luciomanisco.eu