From My Perspective...cont.

Previous "From My Perspective's"

10/29/02...What are we to think?

12/11/01...How did I get this Way?

1/19/02...The American Flag

10/29/01...What are we to think?

So, what are we to think? Clearly, according to some, we’re to think nothing at all, save...except, what our national ideology demands. But that’s not thinking...that’s just repeating...masked as thinking. If you’re an academic these days...and I am...the chill is on (as I’ve said before in other essays) and we’re in danger of being told to go along or shut up. Of course, I haven’t and I won’t...why should I...I’m only a part timer anyway. What are they going to do to me?

What a time period to be alive, huh? Planes slamming into skyscrapers...into military headquarters of the most powerful arsenal on earth...bombs being dropped on a hapless nation...leaders telling us to watch what we say...creation of an federal office with the god-awful name...”homeland security”...a biochemical being mailed to people around the country...flags displayed everywhere you go...DAMN, its a madness that not many of us could have imagined just a month and a half ago. But, its all here, its all real, and its all frightening. It’s all anger generating, too.

I and others are being told we’re not allowed to consider the historical context and process which led to the events of, we’re to consider it a unique event, an event isolated from any other events preceding it. Those of us who are sociologically inclined...that is to say...inclined to look for and critically examine, we’re told to shut up and be “patriotic”...just go along with the flow of slogan saying and “support.” We’re suppose to “follow the leader” and trust him...along with all those working with him, for him, because of him, and, of course, under him. We’re suppose to believe that this man who less than a year ago was a governor without much knowledge or understanding of the intricacies of foreign policy and non-american realities (except, of course, those having to do with oil), is now an expert and capable judge of how best to interact with the our name and in our interest. Go Figure.

Without a shred of real evidence presented to us, we’re to believe that this guy, bin Laden...a rich kid turned rebel...masterminded the events of 911 and must be hunted down in order to “end terrorism” in the world. We’re told to believe he and he alone is responsible for these sheep we’re expected to believe it on faith...that all will be okay once we “get” him. The “deflection game” is in full swing...keep their attention on what we want them to...and we can do the hell whatever we want...hell, they’ll believe it. After all, we WERE attacked...there IS an enemy...the military IS taking action...anyone not going along WILL BE labeled and isolated as “anti-american”...isn’t that what Goering told us at the Nuremberg trials? Isn’t that what Orwell told us, fictionally, in 1984? Just get the people to follow and, just get them to LOVE Big Brother and all will be fine...and they’ll accept war just fine.

Well, this is one individual who DOES NOT, WILL NOT, AND CANNOT love BB...or should I say, GB? I don’t trust him nor anyone else in this government one iota, period. They wouldn’t know my “interest” if it hit them in the face...and you know what...they don’t care, either. If distrusting these thugs, these bald-face idiots in charge, these traitors to humanity, these false-prophets of democracy and freedom...well, I guess I’ll just have to accept that I’m un- or anti-american. If being a “good american” means going along with them, I guess I’ll have to practice at being a “bad american” in order to be a really good human being, huh?

And...what’s this “american” crap, anyway? My mom and dad fucked in this country...that makes me obligated to be an “american”? Really? I’m suppose to genuflect to a flag, a nation, a leader, a bunch of laws, and an “ideal” so upside-down that bottom looks like up...JUST BECAUSE I WAS BORN HERE? Give me a break. My loyalty isn’t to some fabricated reality called loyalty is to me, myself, and I...and those I share my immediate life with...get it GB? Get it Ashcroft? Fuck both of you and the bullshit patriotism wagon you rode in on. I’ll “love” my country if and when I want to...and in the manner I choose...not on cue and not with a rote and monotone voice. My loyalty is to the human species and its progressive development away from the hierarchical arrangements its suffered under for centuries.

Ok, glad I got that off my I can return to a more measured approach in this essay...thanks for putting up with that little tirade. I feel better now.

These days I do a lot of listening, a lot of reading of news items and posts on a couple of listservs I subscribe to. I don’t pay any attention to the mainstream and right-wing media...I already know what they’re saying...hell, I once said it all myself. I hear and read claims of all sorts about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what we should be doing instead. I hear people justifying this “war”...actually a criminal activity...we’re trying to do. I hear critics of the United States fall in line behind this so-called president we have. I understand that well-meaning people feel frustrated about all of it. I take it all in and I think a lot about it. I know what I think...but it sometimes feels like a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts...with a few “beliefs” sprinkled in for good measure. So, let me conclude this “From My Perspective” by saying a few things straight out (AS IF I haven’t been doing that already, huh?)

I do not and will not support and agree with what our federal government is doing through our military. I do not and will not agree to be quiet. I believe “America” is hypocritical about itself and is dominated by less than adequate thinking abilities. In fact, the word that best describes this country...although not everyone in HYPOCRISY. Not only that, but we, as a people, are “chicken-shits” (sorry, I can’t think of a more precise and accurate way than that) to admit the first truth about itself and its history. We’re so damn afraid to admit our sins, its reeks of not only hypocrisy, but of the worse self-righteousness this side of Israel. Yet, there ARE many of us in this country who aren’t hypocritical about our nation. But many are afraid to speak up...for really good reasons in some instances. But...many aren’t afraid and these voices are just has to seek them out and listen carefully.

The “truth” is a slippery thing, for sure. But damnest thing is...when one hears knows it...sort of. Knowwhatimean, Ernst? I’ve never claimed to anyone, anywhere that I know the “truth”...but those who have listened to me and read some of my thoughts...know I TRY to speak it...always ready to amend it when warranted. I’m trying to do that now...we’re in big trouble (dah) and its going to get worse. NOW is the time, as one writer told me, to speak the truth, as best we know it and to do it LOUDLY. So here it is in a nutshell:


Thanks for reading and thinking along with me. Can we agree to disagree, if necessary? Can we talk?

From My Perspective

David H. Kessel

12/11/01...How did I get this Way?

As I ride around I read the I watch I shop...and as I do just about anything these days, I'm constantly the flags, the stories, the everything...just how differently I think from the mainstream "patriotism" going on. Now, of course, I've known for some time...about a lot of things in this country...that I'm different from a large majority of people...of Americans. I've been so for quite some years by now...this isn't a bulletin to myself or anyone who has known me to some degree or other. But these days...its different...there's that "chill" in the air I've spoken about in other From My Perspective's...there's the overt words about the loyalty of those like myself who don't support Bush, don't support the criminal activities of this country disguised as "war," don't support the erosion of civil liberties for those merely accused of abetting a terrorist, and don't support the flaming of the coals of ethnocentric loyalty in the masses of people in this country. That chill extends to the brazen words from the right wing about doing something about the liberals, progressives, and "leftists" in general. Then there's the chill issued by the so-called guardians of academic correctness...singling out individual teachers for speaking their minds and in essence, also indicting academia as a whole for disloyal and just this side of treasonous speech and activities. Teachers...mainly on college campuses...everywhere are being accused of bending the minds of their students toward the "left" if at least some of these students can't think for themselves and are susceptible to the whims and fancies of their teachers. My goodness, things are very very different right now...and so am I. I feel it acutely and it has given me reason to consider myself, my views, and just why and how I got this way. I'd like to think out loud about this...if for no other reason, than to help myself understand myself...that would be sufficient for me. But if there's anyone reading this who doesn't agree with some or most of my perspectives, I hope you will try to ... and succeed in...understanding one of "us" who don't think like you. That would be progress, to me.

While you don't have to believe me, I am in reality a very thoughtful who considers not only my own perspective, but the perspectives of others as well. I have an abiding respect for others...although "respect" for others doesn't mean, for me, that I agree with them or that I won't critique their positions. Respect, to me, means understanding the conditions and reasons why people think what they do and an attempt to reason with them about it. It means acknowledging their right to think whatever they want and for whatever reasons...but it doesn't mean accepting what they say as truth, right, proper, or any other word you want to use...just because they think it or have the right to think it. Having the right to hold whatever views one wants is not the same as saying it is sacred and unavailable for comment by me or anyone else. Do you understand that? Merely having a perspective or opinion doesn't say anything about its accuracy or fullness. Hiding behind merely thinking something...based on a right to do so...and concluding that this right and the exercise of it somehow guarantees its correctness...doesn't impress me, nor does it quarantine those views from critique. What I'm trying to get at here is...I respect the right of those who are flying the flags, etc. to hold their views...I respect their expression as an indicator of their thoughts...I do NOT think they are stupid or dumb people...nor do I believe that their flag-flying is representative of who they are in their totality. I may thoroughly disagree with their purposes and I may just as thoroughly find their exhibitions of mindless patriotism and nationalism as disgusting and myopic, but I don't chalk them off as dumbos incapable of more progressive thoughts and actions. Now granted, some of the more chilling expressions of intolerance to those who don't support the actions of this country before or after 9/11 are hard to stomach for me. That's especially true when there is an implied or even overt expression of disdain for the likes of me..not to mention open or veiled threats to our safety. Yet even in these instances I try to understand where they are coming from and why. But I'm careful, too...believe me, I'm careful...and I'm paying attention.

With this said, I'll return to my main purpose here...just how and why did I get to be who I am...a critical and radical opponent of most of what this country has done and is continuing to do ... in relation to the rest of the relation to its own citizens...and in relation to the type of political economy which dominates this society and gives rise to the plutocratic realities paraded at us as "freedom" and "democracy." I mean, do/did I just simply "decide" to think this way? I mean, do I like to go against the grain so much that I'll think, believe, and say anything just to be different? Or, am I a hypocrite who thinks and says one thing but who really lives another way? How did a moderate conservative boy from northeast Ohio...a very religious boy who spent four years in a Lutheran seminary...a very accepting boy who listened to his elders and teachers and who tried his damnest to fit in and be a good civic-minded patriot and who believed in the ideals and values he was told were the basis and reasons for the founding of this country...a hard-working boy who grew up believing that the capitalistic way was the best way for people to improve their lives...JUST HOW did this boy turn out to be a man who critiques each and every one of these things?

Well, without making this a mini-autobiography covering every single event in my life, I'll try to explain what happened...generalizing about realities that transcend different and varying aspects of my life. In short, I'll try to reveal what "changing your mind" was all about for me and try to relate it to my life today. I should add that I'm not doing this to gain "acceptance" from anyone...acceptance is nice, yes...but the price tag for that these days is too costly for me...I gave up on that a long time ago. No, I guess I'm doing it to be understood...understood as someone who hasn't and still doesn't take lightly the kind of perspective I have in the context in which I have it. Yet, a big part of this for me is to kind of "model" for others just how this works and maybe, maybe to help them come to terms with their own "different" thoughts...many of which they don't express to others. Beyond these reasons, I'll leave it up to any readers to psychoanalyze me to their heart's content...

The short answer to all of this is...I noticed the difference between what I was told (and thought and believed) was going on in this country and...what was actually going on. Actually, I should say I progressively noticed differences...slowly but surely. One vehicle for noticing was the thoughts and words of authors who portrayed life in the United States very differently than I thought it was. One such book at a young age was BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin. However, it was far more than books that led me to own ability to think and my increasingly diverse experiences as I turned 20 and beyond were instrumental. As I started to travel in this I started to see more of the realities of everyday life...and as I met more and more and more different people, I started noticing things. This was and still is a process that awakens more and more within me...I don't think it will ever end; at least I don't expect it to end.

From politics, to religion, to economics, to social interactions, to personal relationships...I began to realize that I had been lied to...intentionally and unintentionally. As my awareness of things my ignoring of things diminished, I began to realize also that I the things I had been taught and told to merely "believe" in...were in fact told to me for reasons (and interests) other than my own growth and maturity. I began to realize that I had "become" someone who served the interests of others ... rather than myself. The truth is...I discovered I didn't know who I was...I had no "self" other than that supplied to be by others. I was a creation of schools, parents, sisters, friends, ministers, name it...they were my creators. I didn't have the one thing I longed for the most...without even realizing it for a long true/authentic self. Once I discovered this...I never gave up the quest to find that self...and haven't yet, to this day.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that this process was an evenhanded one...progressing nicely and logically from step to step without breaks, pauses, and setbacks. I can only wish that it had been that way, but that's not even a realistic hindsight wish. No, it was far more excruciating than happened in way-round-the-curve side short, it was dialectical, conflictual, and full of angst and self (so to speak)-doubt. Some day, when I write my autobiography (for the 1 or 2 people who might be interested in it!), I'll write about as many of these things as I can remember. But for now, the overall reality which encompasses it all is...whenever I stepped out of the ignorance...out of the little safe caves I lived in...out of the "normal" ways of thinking...I kept thinking it was ME...something was wrong with ME. For instance, when I first really began doubting the existence of a Supreme Being...I retreated into the pat answers for that doubt (from within believing) and blamed myself for being "weak." When I really started to progressively understand what capitalism opposed to what it said it did...I rationalized my doubt and awareness by saying it was my fault for not seeing its "full" picture...again, it was ME, not the realities I was observing. When I started to go from one capitalist job to, sales, and the was ME who was lacking...I couldn't do it right..I was the failure. This went on and on for some time...until I realized that even with all my faults...even with all my couldn't be me EVERY TIME...about EVERYTHING! And when, as I said above, I finally realized that I was everything that others wanted me to be...that I didn't know or have my-self...and when I started to construct that self who was me, I started to trust myself...I started to learn how to think...for myself and about the realities around me. I came to conclusions I didn't want to come to...I began thinking thoughts I had avoided and short, I became honest.

The area in which all this hit the hardest was my personal life with family. I won't go into the details; just suffice it to say that this was the hardest part of it all...especially in relation to my mother. She and I hit rock bottom and then built up a more honest relationship with each other. Yet, even this more honest interaction...between humans, who yes...were still mother and son, didn't translate into a more honest one with the rest of my family...sisters, brother-in-laws, nephews, and nieces. All the while I was growing and changing...they wouldn't let me...and I wouldn't try to be who I had become when around least, not very much. However, that is over now...with my mother's death a few years ago, I simply left the area they live in and disappeared...there's nothing to resolve, they are who they are and I am be it. If they know where I am they've never tried to contact me. If they don't, I don't care. The reason for even mentioning this is because it was a necessary step to become who am I today...and that's the subject here, right?

So, do I wish I could go back and think and believe many of the discarded illusions? Do I wish I could wave that flag and feel all tingly and "united" in defense of America? Did I consciously change my mind or did my mind change in response to using my very mind? Or, am I just a turncoat, a to speak, who just can't suck it in and get along? Is it "sour-grapes" of some sort? Should I forget everything I've learned and relearn all that which I have unlearned? Should I just go-along to get-along? Is all I "know" these days just my opinion...worth no more or less than anyone else's opinion?

Well, on a certain level, yes, I WISH I could just drop on my knees and pray to god for forgiveness and ask and plead for his help and blessing on America. On that same level...I wish I could "believe" in America again...the defender of freedom and spreader of democracy. I wish I could join in with the crowd and sway in unison to God Bless America...I wish, I wish, I wish.

However, I can't do any of those things...and I know it. See, I found out who I am...and to go back to who I was would mean abandoning my "self" of today. In short, I know too much to go back. In certain aspects of my development I DID consciously change my mind...I had to decide if I was going to live with illusions or with honest appraisal of realities. I chose honesty. Yet, in other ways, my mind changed in response to what I learned...I think its called integrity. When I maintained all these illusions...thinking they were all true...I was being merely ideological. But when I learned they WERE illusions...maintaining them in the face of that knowledge would have made me a liar, plain and simple. I could not and will not do that. I'm not perfect by any means, but consciously telling a lie about matters like these is something my self is not capable of...period.

So, do I know the "truth" I know everything there is to I have the corner on I always right about everything? Hardly...but I DO know the difference between what I can believe and what exists to believe in. I know that this country's history can be viewed from very different interpretive points and that some of them cancel out the other. I especially know that merely believing something doesn't make it matter how passionate that belief is and how many other people believe it too. As Erich Fromm once said...having a million people believe a vice is a virtue doesn't make it a virtue. Or as Orwell pointed can be a minority of one and still be sane. I am sane and will not be "insane" in order to fit in.

In conclusion, I don't know what I've accomplished by writing this...but I'd like to think that someone reading it will be affected by it to the extent that a bit more honesty will creep into their own lives...somehow. I am not trying to be different just to be different...I'm trying to be me...and to contribute to my society and my world the best I can. My abilities lend themselves to speaking the truth when the truth is plain to see...after peeling away all the layers of illusion and deceit. But above all...I didn't write this in order to encourage you to be like of me is quite enough, as many people will be quick to tell you. No, I want people to be like who they are...their true/core/authentic quit playing the roles assigned to you by the powerful people and institutional grooves socialization processes force us into from the moment of birth. I will continue being critical of every illusion (and lie) this country (its population and its leaders) has about itself...what else can I do...and still be who I've become and am becoming? You tell me.

From My Perspective...

David H. Kessel

1/19/02...The American Flag

So just what DOES our flag stand for...historically and currently? Does it stand for "ideals" once and currently held dear? I mean, come on...lets get down to specifics...accurate ones, hopefully. Back "then," when the landowners and salivating manufacturers living in the Colonies were hoping for "liberty" to do their thing independent of the Monarchy in England, when they marshaled support from other colonists and actually took up arms to militarily and violently get that liberty, were there really ideals at stake...or was it more like material benefits being desired? Was it really "self-rule" of a democratic nature they sought...or was it the "rule of the self" as defined by their interests and desires to make profit? Did they really want to forge out a new nation for the benefit of all people...or one which embodied and reflected and protected the "differing abilities in acquiring property"...OF CERTAIN Madison said in the Federalist #10? I know I'm suppose to get the warm fuzzies about all of least in the terms presented to me, which are quite different from what I've asked about here...and you know what? I did get those warm fuzzies at one time, but not anymore...not since I've learned that the dominate "ideals" of that day were just a tad baser than "liberty and justice for all." All whom? Liberty to do what? Justice for whom and about what? We now know the answers to these and similar questions and we've found out that these high-minded statesmen were not always so high-minded nor were they nation-builders for the benefit of all. In fact, despite the genius of men like Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, and especially Madison, we now know they had in mind putting their grubby little hands in anyone's pocket they could get near. These kind of realities hardly generate warm fuzzies within me...rather, they generate a lot of ah-ha's within me and the wondering of just why we've bought into all this upside-down ideological claptrap.

So, this flag...which supposedly symbolizes all that can possibly be good about humans..."represents" these ideals of freedom and liberty and justice and independence? HA...I say, HA HA...the joke's on me...and you. But because we narrowly and selectively view our past and swallow whole hog this ideology, we are to revere a piece of cloth? Give me the proverbial break, please.

Then, of course, there's all the battles this flag has hovered over...battles in the name of freedom and liberation, of helping others and saving them from torrents of pain inflicted by their selfish rulers, dictators, presidents, and of course, Kings and Queens. The flag that has covered countless bodies of American citizens foolish (bravely in many instances, yes) enough to lay down their lives for "ideals" which never were taken very seriously be those who founded this least not taken seriously in their fullness, but rather, narrowly conceived to cover up the greedy and self-interested lining of their own pockets...this flag is sacred and above all criticism or nowadays, even comment?

Have you ever look around at the almost limitless use of this so-called sacred symbol in our own day...really take a look? It's on almost anything conceivable...including our asses. It's tatooed everywhere, its used to sell...well, you name it and it's used to sell it. Hey, the bottom-line truth is...we even have to PAY for it...itself...not many people give them away...ever notice that? The very symbol which gets blood boiling so quickly when someone puts a match to it...or now, merely hints that it represents something other than what our ideals say it represents...this very symbol COSTS MONEY to possess. The flag is a profit maker, pure and simple...there are companies depending on our gullibility. No wonder some of us get so upset when others have the temerity to allude to the baser things it really (also?) represents...just who wants to fly or genuflect to a symbol of exploitation? Who will spend good money for that kind of representation?

Now as to what this flag may mean and represent to others besides good ole patriotic Americans...just what DOES it mean to THEM? Who am I talking about, you may rightfully ask? Oh, millions upon millions of people all over the globe, past and current, who saw it coming at them with guns firing at the same time, that's who. Some people, although liberated in certain ways when it first appeared, soon learned that it would be followed by capitalist vultures ready to take their freedom FROM them in different ways. How about the countless millions who saw this flag flying beside the flag of their own nation and the dictatorial and brutal leaders who ran their nations? These are the people who knew that the presence of the American flag didn't mean self-determination but rather, meant more of the same control they really wished to escape, but which was now supported and funded by the people who brought the flag with them...Americans.

But lets get back to the USA for a minute. What does the flag represent to the people in THIS country who saw it flying or saw it patched on to a uniform...a uniform occupied by a human being about to bash in their head for oh...being a "wrong" color...or for exercising their rights of protest, free speech, voluntary assembly...etc.? What did it represent to them...when they saw it hanging in a courtroom in which they were about to feel and experience the supposed "blindness" of American justice?

See, this whole issue of the flag and what it represents isn't so simple as many would have us believe. Yes, it HAS, now and then, represented some very good things...I have in mind (as I alluded to above) the liberation of people and countries occupied by Nazi Germany...France comes to mind first. I imagine that as American soldiers came into previously occupied towns...ridding its occupants of the German soldiers and administrators...and the Gestapo...that our flag looked truly "glorious" at that moment. I imagine that people here and there in the world...and even in our own country...felt something good about the flag as it appeared on the trucks carrying food and medical supplies, etc. etc. a dire time of need. See, again, I'm not a complete blockhead about all this...but is this really the point? Do these kinds of instances "balance" out all the other representations it has embodied to countless millions? But even more to the point...and this is truly where the simplicity of the issue fades into oblivion...does and did our flag EVER represent the ideals we think it did and believe with fervor that it still does? This is the issue and I think I've addressed it above already...and the answer is, sadly even for me, NO.

So, now that I've tried to reason with you about the flag and the history of the behavior of this nation it "represents"...its time to get a grip's time for me to let it all out...and here's apparently a bulletin for some of you...the American Flag, Old Glory itself, has never, never, never, and still doesn't, meant just ONE SINGULAR AND EXCLUSIVE thing. It all depends on whom you talk to, the conditions in which it has appeared, and who is doing the flying. Get over it, will you? Brace yourself for the reality that this piece of cloth, plastic, name it...means nothing...if it means everything. To some Americans and many non-Americans, it DOES INDEED mean hatred, violence, domination, ugliness, fear, and above all...hypocrisy. Deal with it. Don't just throw your ideological spears at in the real world of politics, wars, exploitation, domination, occupation...and of course, money. Ideals? What ones? Whose? It's a symbol and it just isn't so simple to say just what it symbolizes, is it? Don't threaten me...don't you dare...cause after all, its MY flag too...and I, like millions before me and current, can see what we want to see when its waved in front of our noses...even if you don’t agree or like it. Do I want to burn it? No, what a waste of matches that would be. It doesn't mean enough of anything to me to actually take the time to put a match to it. Besides, why destroy the perfectly good work of a Chinese worker who made it?

If I have offended you, tough luck. If I've made you want to seek me out and kill me, then here I am. If I've ruined your day, there'll be another day tomorrow...go to bed and it will be here before you know it. But when you awaken tomorrow, just keep in mind that the American Flag will still be as iffy a symbol as it is today. Does all this make me un-American? Some will think so, but thinking that doesn't make it so. See, for those of you whose blood is boiling...for those of you who think I should just up and leave the U.S....for those of you who think I've said something treasonous...let me clue you in on the contradiction of your stance...the very thing you want to protect, the very meaning you think I've violated by my reasoning and my passion...that very thing is what allows me to say what I've just said. To deny that is to deny your own stance...and you wouldn't want to do that, would you? Better yet, I KNOW you CAN'T do that. If this precious thing called "the flag" is what you say it is, then you're compelled to not only allow me my point of view and knowledge, but demands that you protect my right to have my point of view. For if you want to rid the earth of the "likes" of me, then you will confirm the very point and observations I've just made...that the flag means different things to different people under different conditions. It would confirm that the flag is a definition, not a ontological (internal) reality. The meaning of the flag isn’t “in” the flag...its in the process of meaning-making that goes on ABOUT the flag...and we have actual historical experience to refer to about that, not just “ideals.” My fellow Americans, you can't, don’t, and won’t have it both ways....again, deal with it, please?

From my perspective...
David H. Kessel

As always, response is invited...I'll even post it if its coherent