All posts by Edward Curtin

The War Hoax Redux

The Trump administration has a problem: How to start another war – this time with Iran – without having a justifiable reason for one.  No doubt members of Trump’s team, led by the war-thirsty and perdurable John Bolton, are working hard to solve this urgent problem.  If they can’t find a justification, they may have to create one.  Or perhaps they will find what they have already created.  Whatever the solution, Americans should feel confident that their leaders, together with their Israeli and Saudi bedfellows, are not sitting on their hands.  Crazy people do crazy things.

After the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it slowly became apparent what alternative media and war critics had insisted was the case before and during these wars: That the U.S. government had achieved a propaganda coup by tightly controlling the media access to the truth and by getting the mainstream media (MSM) to do their bidding.  This ex post facto revelation was, of course, not prime time or front page news, but was reported bit-by-bit by critics or was buried deep within the news reports.  While some of the truth arrived, it did so obliquely, and corporate media devotees went back to their gullible and comforting sleep.

Yet once again Americans are being played for fools by the government and MSM.  The open secret, the insider’s fact, is that the U.S. plans to attack Iran if they can seduce enough Americans that they are threatened.  The Trump people know this, the corporate media shills know it, for the Bush-Clinton-Obama scenario, written years ago, is to act as if it weren’t so, to act as if a peaceful solution were being seriously considered. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. all learned better.  The U.S. never seeks a peaceful solution.

As in 1991 and 2003, the MSM play along with Trump, who repeatedly says, or has his spokespeople say, that the decision hasn’t been made and that the U.S. wants peace. Within a few hours this is contradicted and confusion and uncertainty reign, as planned. Chaos is the name of the game. But everyone in the know knows the decision to attack has been made at some level, especially once the propaganda dummies are all in place.  But they pretend, while the media wait with baited breath as they anticipate their countdown to the dramatic moment when they report the incident that will “compel” the U.S. to attack.

The corporate media, however, always avoid the key question: How will the U.S. justify its fait accompli and what is its goal?  This question is too disturbing to broach, for it suggests that the fix is in, the show is rigged, something is rotten in the symbiotic relationship between a government intent on war and a media in that government’s service.

What could, in the eyes of the American people, justify a war against Iran, assuming the Trump administration even cares about justification?   Will Iran attack Israel?  No. Will Iran attack the United States?  No.  Of course, not, not least because it can’t, even if it wished to do so, which it clearly doesn’t.  Any such Iranian attack – absurd as such a suggestion is – would give the Trump administration ample justification for a war.

So what is the administration to do now that the news from so many quarters – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – is so bad?  What, if they are intent on a war with Iran, are they going to do about the absence of a cause for war?  It seems that they are in a dilemma.

“Seem” is the key word.  Logically speaking, if there is a war plan, if there is a Bolton/Pompeo/Israeli scenario, then the gun on the wall in the first act of this deadly play, must go off in the final act, no matter how long it takes.  The audience is being primed by the administration and their media mouthpieces to expect a “smoking gun.”  But what might it be?

“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” George W. Bush said at a staged pseudo-event on October 7, 2002 as he set Americans up for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  It was all predictable,  blatant deception.  And the media played along with such an absurdity.  Iraq obviously had no nuclear weapons or the slightest capability to deliver even a firecracker on the U.S.

Now Iran is the Nuclear devil.  Now Iran must be stopped.  Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Iran has been and will be accused of developing nuclear weapons.  Saddam was said to have had them; Iran only developing them, yet both lies need no evidence, just rhetoric.

Nevertheless, it might be claimed that secret “evidence” must be withheld on “national security” grounds or for fear of endangering Iranian informers or their families.  Thus a preemptive attack could be justified on the grounds of preventing another “Ground Zero” (a misnomer when applied to the World Trade Center site, but conveniently evocative for stirring nuclear fears).

The American people, still severely shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001, would surely be alarmed by such a “threat,” especially if it were linked to terrorism (on the high seas? In the air?), which has been the modus operandi of one administration after another.  Aren’t we at war with terror?    But it is a strategy – linking nuclear fears with terrorist fears – that the Trump administration may be hoping will cover its lack of evidence with emotional blackmail.  But it is a strategy that may not work, since, for some very odd reason, people may prefer facts to fictions.  I emphasize “may.”

Perhaps Trump’s neo-con henchmen’s  best option, therefore, is to promote or create a Tonkin Gulf incident, “unprovoked aggression against American forces,” as Lyndon Johnson put it when he lied to the world in order to get the war he wanted after JFK had been disposed of by the CIA.  It worked in 1964, so it might work again, especially with the help of our special “ally” in the region – Israel.  And today’s attackers won’t be aggressors, they will be terrorists, which seals the deal.  Bombs away!

It’s hard to say with certainty what justification the Trump war-crazies will settle on, but time is running out for them.  The news is bad from every corner, so something must be done.

Many years of secret American/Israeli planning for an attack upon Iran can’t be wasted.

The stage is set.  The charade continues.  The MSM keep preparing us for the “smoking gun.”  Something’s got to give, and propaganda geniuses are working overtime on delivering us an Oscar-winning justification.

Don’t buy it.

Especially since you’ve heard this before, and I’ve written it.  With a few minor changes and the substitution of Iran for Iraq, this column was published on the morning before George W’s infamous  (the 16 words about uranium from Niger) State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003,  fifty-one days before the invasion of Iraq, and one week before Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations.

Shocked and surprised should be words eliminated from our vocabularies.

Once Upon a Time Never Comes Again

He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it.

— George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”, 1936

The lobby of the temple of time travel called the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts was suffused with a nostalgic vibe tinged with the whiff of encroaching death when I walked in for The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.  I had earlier asked the ticket girl if most of the tickets for the two sold-out preview shows were being purchased by old people; she told me no, that many younger people had also bought tickets. However, I didn’t see any.  All I saw were grey or white heads and beards, not with “Time Out of Mind,” as Dylan titled his 1997 album, but with time on their minds, as they shuffled into the dark to see where their time had gone and perhaps, if they were not mystified by their fetishistic worship of Dylan, to meditate on who they had become and where they and he were heading in the days to come.  I imagined most were aware that Dylan had said that he’s been singing about death since he was twelve, and that his music is haunted by images of love and time lost as bells toll for those traveling the road of life in search of forgiveness for their transgressions.

How, I wondered, would this Dylan documentary “story” fashioned by Martin Scorsese, whose own work is marked by themes of guilt and redemption, affect an audience that might never have taken the roads less traveled of their youthful dreams but “fell” into the conformist and oppressive American neo-liberal way of life?  Would this film, in Dylan’s words, get the audience wondering “if I ever became what you wanted me to be/Did I miss the mark or overstep the line/That only you could see?”  Would nostalgia for their youth be a liberating or mystifying force, now that forty plus years have transformed American society into a conservative, postmodern, shopper’s paradise where commodity capitalism has reified all aspects of life, including art objects and artists such a Dylan, imbuing them with magical powers to redeem those who buy their products, which include songs and celebrity “auras”?

I knew I was sitting among people who had fetishized Barack Obama as a savior even while he was waging endless wars and killing American citizens, bailing out his Wall St. and bank supporters, and jailing more whistleblowers than any American president in history, and that Dylan had accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from this icon of rectitude who had served to quell all thoughts of rebellion and whose war victims were not counted by those who bought his brand since God was on his side. Here in this darkened dream factory in a hyper-gentrified “liberal” town, my mind was knotted with thoughts and questions that perhaps the film would address.

The Man Who Isn’t

I knew that no one would answer my questions, but I asked myself anyway. Moreover, I knew there is no Bob Dylan.  He is a figment of the imagination – first his own and then the public’s.  Perhaps behind the character Bob Dylan there is a genuine actor, and I hoped to catch an unintended glimpse of him in the film, but I knew if he appeared it would be obliquely and through a gradual dazzling of truth, as Emily Dickinson would say.  An unconscious disclosure.  For if the real Bob Dylan took off his mask and stood up, his ardent fans would receive it as a slap in the face, and their illusions would transmogrify into delusions as the spell would be broken.  To tell the truth directly is a dangerous undertaking in a country of lies.

Dylan, the spellbinder, has, through his public personae, hypnotized his followers with his tantalizing and wonderful music.  “Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me,” wrote D.H. Lawrence in his poem, “Song of a Man Who Has Come Through.”  This sounds like Dylan’s artistic credo. His masks (personae = to sound through) have served as his medium of exchange.  He has been faithful to his tutelary spirit (if not to living people), what the Romans called one’s genius that is gifted to one at birth and is one’s personal spirit to which one must be faithful if one wishes to be born into true and creative life. If one sacrifices to one’s genius, one will in return become a vehicle for the fertile creativity that the genius can bestow.  A person is not a genius but a transmitter of its gifts.

Like Lawrence, Dylan has served as a vehicle for his genius. His many masks, unified by Bob Zimmerman under the pseudonym Bob Dylan, have served as ciphers for the transmission of his enigmatic and arresting art.  But while the music dazzles, the “real” man behind the name can’t stand up – or is it won’t? – because, as always, he’s “invisible now” and “not there,” as his songs have so long told us.

I wondered if my theater companions understood this, or perhaps didn’t want to.  Could that be because their own reality is problematic to them?  Do generations of his fans sense a vacancy at the heart of their self-identities – non-selves – as if they have been absent from their own lives while reveling in Dylan’s kaleidoscopic cast of characters?  Do Dylan’s lyrics – “People don’t live or die people just float” – resonate with them? Lacking Dylan’s artistry, are many reluctant to ask why they are so intrigued by the legerdemain of a man who insists he is absent?  Has a whole generation gone missing?

I am only familiar with the musician who acts upon a special social stage, and I love his creations.  Because Dylan, the performer, has the poet’s touch, a hyperbolic sense of the fantastic, he draws me into his magical web in the pursuit of deeper truths.  He is an artist at war with his art and perhaps his true self, and therefore forces me to venture into uncharted territory and ask uncomfortable questions.  His songs demand that the listener’s mind and spirit be moving as the spirit of creative inspiration moved him. A close listening to many of them will force one to jump from verse to verse – to shoot the gulf – since there are no bridges to cross, no connecting links.

A Magic Show

From the start, The Rolling Thunder Revue, a fused compilation of film from a tour throughout New England concocted by Dylan that took place in 1975-6 as a rollicking experiment in communal music making, announces that we are going to be played with and that Dylan and Scorsese are conjurers whose prestigitations are going to dazzle us, which they do.  The film is gripping and cinematically beautiful. The opening scene is taken from a very old film in which a woman is sitting in a chair and a man throws a cloth over her.  When he pulls the cloth away, the woman has disappeared.  Call it playful magic, call it fun, call it entertainment – we can’t say we haven’t been warned – but after decades of postmodern  gibberish with the blending of fact and fiction, fake news, endless propaganda, and the fiction-of-nonfiction, one might reasonably expect something more straightforward in 2019, but these guys get a kick out of magic tricks and conning people.

I could understand it if it served some larger purpose, but as the film shows, it doesn’t.  Later in the film, Dylan says, as if he needed to pound the point home, “If someone’s wearing a mask, he’s gonna tell you the truth.  If he’s not wearing a mask, it’s highly unlikely.”  This may be true for him, but as a general prescription for living, it is bullshit.  Of course, lies are commonplace, but isn’t it best to strive for truth, and doesn’t that involve shedding masks. Then again, what does he mean by a mask?

Society trains us all from an early age to lie and deceive and to be socially adjusted persons on the social stage, and since person means mask, do we need some white face paint to obviously mask ourselves to tell the truth?  Why can’t one take off the masks and be authentic?  Why can’t Dylan?  In an interview in 1997 with the music critic Jon Parles, Dylan said while he is mortified to be on stage, it’s the only place where he’s happy.  “It’s the only place you can be who you want to be.”  These are the sad words of a man living in a cage, and only he might know why. I am reminded of Kafka’s story of the caged Hunger Artist. Yet we are left to guess why Dylan is unhappy off stage, but such guessing is the other side of the social game where gossip and pseudo-psychoanalysis sickens us all as we try to decipher the personal lives of the celebrities we worship. Maybe we should examine our own looking-glass selves.

The Mask Falls

Despite being a masked man, there are times in this fascinating film when the lion in Dylan breaks out of the cage, and while the face paint and costume remain, one can see and hear a sense of short-lived liberation in his performances.  His performance of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is so true, so passionate, so real, so intense that his true face shines through in its genuine glory.  The same for his performance of “Hurricane” and a few others.  It’s all in his face and body, his articulation and energy, his fiery eyes.  The performances refute his claim that only a masked man can speak the truth.  As Joan Baez mordantly says, “Everything is forgiven when he sings.”

There is something elegiac about the film, for many of the people in it are now dead and their film presence – that eerie afterlife that technology confers – conveys the ephemerality of fame – and life.  Allen Ginsberg and Sam Shepard are dead, and many of the others are in their twilight years.  But to see them young and frisky and bouncing around on stage and off, giving off sexuality and joy in the music and the trip they’re on, one can’t help be gripped by the passing of time and the contrast between then and now when depression and its pharmaceutical fixes has so many in its grip.  Dylan’s craggy, lined face in interviews for the film belies the young man we see perform and laugh, and though he stills performs and is addicted to being on the road so often – quite a feat for a 78 year old – the juxtapositions of the images underscores the power of Dylan’s musical messages.  “Once upon a time,” Dylan croons these days, “somehow once upon a time/never comes again.”

When one puts the then and now into historical and social perspective – which is essential since works of art are rooted in time, place, economic and political realities – one is jolted further. It’s almost as if this Rolling Thunder Revue tour was the last gasp for a dying political and artistic culture that represented some hope for change, however small, while also being a symptom of the encroaching theatricality of American life, what Neal Gabler aptly calls, Life: the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.

The Triumph of Techno-Entertainment

Trace, if you will, the transformation of the United States from 1975-6 until today.  It’s as if the theatricality of the tour was announcing the end of straightforward dissent and the ushering in of endless postmodern gamesmanship that is still with us. Masks. Games. Generations disappearing into technological and consumer fantasies where making money, watching television, and entering the system that destroys one’s soul became the norm, as the American empire ravaged the world and Baby Boomers found life in their cell phones and on yoga mats, as Herbert Marcuse and his compatriots of the Frankfurt School warned. The culture industry absorbed dissent and spit it back out as entertainment in the service of the maintenance and consolidation of the power of the ruling class. How to transform a depraved society when the culture industry has corrupted so many people at their cores is where we’re at now.  “The carpet too is moving under you,” Dylan intoned in 1965, “It’s all over now, Baby Blue.”

I looked around the movie theater before the film began and the rows were lit up by old folks staring at their little lit-up rectangular talismans.  It was enough to bring me to despair. I was reminded of being in the circus in Madison Square Garden as a child where the kids were swinging sticks with cords attached with lights at the end that lit up the place.

They say the circuses are all closing, but I think not.  “It’s not dark yet/but it’s getting there.”

In an exchange between Dylan and Sam Shepard, who was on the tour as some sort of writer, Dylan asks Sam how he writes all those plays, and Sam says he does so by “communing with the dead.”  The Rolling Thunder Revue is like that, a medium between a time when passion still lived, and today when death, dying, and nostalgia are the norm for so many whose passion has fled into things.  Capitalism has conquered consciences with commodities.

Home Before Dark?

Dylan had his fallow period after the late seventies.  To his great credit, he found new life, starting in the late 1990s with his Time Out Of Mind album and continuing through his recordings of the great American songbook of love ballads, the terrain of Sinatra and Bennett.  Listening to him sing these great songs he did not write, I find his masks have fallen away and that a sad, lonely man emerges.  A man filled with regrets and melancholia.  An old man lamenting in a movingly raspy voice lost loves and haunted by what was and what might have been.  A death-haunted man voicing raw emotion that is palpable.  An uncaged man.

So much about Bob Dylan is paradoxical, or is it contradictory?  Hypocritical?

Friedrich Nietzsche, another man of many faces, who advised us to “become who you are,” once wrote, “There are unconscious actors among them and involuntary actors; the genuine are always rare, especially genuine actors.”  I don’t know if the man behind the name Bob Dylan is a “genuine actor” (genuine being cognate with genius, both suggesting the act of giving birth, creating), for I have never met him.  I hope he has met himself. He hints that someone is missing, whether that is the fictional actor or the genuine one, is difficult to discern.  Is he becoming who he is, or is he lost out on the road “with no direction home”?  He is always on the go, leaving, moving, restless, always seeking a way back home through song, even when, or perhaps because, there are no directions.

The Rolling Thunder Revue is a nostalgic trip.  No doubt, audiences of a certain age will experience it as such.  Such an aching for home comes with a cost: the acute awareness that you can’t go home again. When the nursing and funeral home beckon, however, one can perhaps take a chance on truth by examining one’s conscience to ask if and why one may have betrayed one’s better youthful self and settled for a life of comforting conformity and resigned acceptance of the “system” one once raged against.

Younger people, if they are patient and watch the entire film, will experience a profound aesthetic shock that may give them hope.  To see through the camera’s eye the youthful Dylan’s face as he gives some of the most passionate performances of his life will thrill them so that a shiver will go down their spines and their hair will stand on end.  “And this is what poetry does,” writes Roberto Calasso in Literature and the Gods, “it makes us see what otherwise we wouldn’t have seen, through a sound that was never heard before.”  To watch just a handful of these performances makes the film worthwhile.

Become Who You Are?

At one point, today’s Dylan says that he has always been “searching for the Holy Grail.”  I suppose one could interpret that as meaning eternal youth, happiness, redemption, or some sort of immortality.  He has surely created a capitalist’s corporate empire, though that doesn’t seem to satisfy him, as it never has genuine poets.  But maybe to become very, very rich and famous has always been his goal, his immortality project, as it is for other tycoons.  One can only guess.

I prefer not to.  But without question, Dylan has the poet’s touch, a hyperbolic sense of the fantastic that draws you into his magical web in the pursuit of deeper truth.  In ways, he’s like the Latin American magical realist writers who move from fact to dream to the fantastic in a puff of wind.

He is our Emerson.  His artistic philosophy has always been about movement in space and time through song.  “An artist has got to be careful never to arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere,” he’s said.  “You always have to realize that you are constantly in a state of becoming and as long as you can stay in that realm you’ll be alright.”

Sounds like living, right?

Sounds like Emerson, also.  “Life only avails, not the having lived.  Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim.  Thus one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes.”

Like Emerson, Dylan creates a sense of restlessness in the listener that forces one to ask: Who am I?  Am I?  He has said “that a song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true.”  In a similar way, Scorsese has created a dream with this film.  It takes us back and forth in time via an hallucinatory experience.  A sort of documentary with a wink.

It is quite a story, powerful enough to induce one to ask: Who are we becoming in this American Dream?  Will we keep sleeping through the nightmares we create and support, or will we return home with Dylan and embrace the radical truth he once gifted us with and dare to “tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it/And reflect from the mountains so all souls can see it” that our country continues to kill and oppress people all around the world as it did once upon a time very long ago?

Our chance won’t come again.

Speeding into the Void of Cyberspace as Designed

The internet was hardwired to be a surveillance tool from the start.  No matter what we use the network for today – dating, directions, encrypted chat, email, or just reading the news – it always had a dual-use nature rooted in intelligence gathering and war….[Surveillance Valley shows] the ongoing overlap between the Internet and the military-industrial complex that spawned it a half century ago, and the close ties that exist between the US intelligence agencies and the antigovernment privacy movement that has sprung up in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

– Yasha Levine, Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, February 6, 2018

My Dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.  If you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast as that.

– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, November 26, 1865

Speed and panic go hand-in-hand in today’s fabricated world of engineered emergencies and digital alerts.  “We have no time” is today’s mantra – “We are running out of time” – and because this mood of urgency has come to grip most people’s minds, deep thinking about why this is so and who benefits is in short supply. I believe most people sense this to be true but don’t know how to extract themselves from the addictive nature of speed long enough to grasp how deeply they have been propagandized, and why.

A key turning point in the creation of this mood of an ongoing emergency and tense urgency was the naming of the attacks of September 11, 2001 as “9/11.”  “Quick, call 911” permeated deep into popular consciousness. The so-called “security” it elicited became a cloaked form of interminable terror.  The future editor of The New York Times and Iraq war promoter, Bill Keller, introduced this emergency phone connection on the morning of September 12, 2001 in a New York Times op-ed piece, “America’s Emergency Line: 911.”  The linkage of the attacks to a permanent national emergency was thus subliminally introduced, as Keller mentioned Israel nine times and seven times compared the U.S. situation to that of Israel as a target for terrorists.  His first sentence reads: “An Israeli response to America’s aptly dated wake-up call might well be, ‘Now you know.’”

By referring to September 11 as 9/11, an endless national emergency became wedded to an endless war on terror aimed at preventing Hitler-like terrorists from obliterating us with nuclear weapons that could create another “ground zero” or holocaust.  Mentioning Israel (“America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world,” George W. Bush would tell the Israeli Knesset) so many times, Keller was not very subtly performing an act of legerdemain with multiple meanings.  By comparing the victims of the 11 September attacks to Israeli “victims,” he was implying, among other things, that the Israelis are innocent victims who are not involved in terrorism, but are terrorized by Palestinians, as Americans are terrorized by fanatical Muslims.  Palestinians/Al-Qaeda/Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan/Syria versus Israel/United States.  Explicit and implicit parallels of the guilty and the innocent.  Keller tells us who the real killers are, as if he knew who was guilty and who was innocent.

His use of the term 9/11 pushes all the right buttons, evoking unending social fear and anxiety.  It is language as sorcery. It is propaganda at its best. Even well respected critics of the U.S. government’s explanation use this term that has become a fixture of public consciousness through endless repetition.  As George W. Bush would later put it, as he connected Saddam Hussein to “9/11” and pushed for the Iraq war, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”  All the ingredients for a linguistic mind-control smoothie had been blended.  Under Obama, it was Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Russia, and now Trump touts Iran as the great threat.  So many emergencies following fast upon each other are enough to make your head spin.

This sense of ongoing urgency and dread was joined to the fast growing (and getting faster by the day) internet and cell phone world that has come to dominate contemporary life.  Permanent busyness and speed – a state of on-edge nervousness and panic with digital alerts – are today’s norms.  The majority of people live “on” their phones with their constant beeps, and the digital media have fragmented our sense of time into perpetual presents that create historical amnesia and digital dementia.  In a so-called progressive world of consumer capitalism, the era of what the astute sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has called “liquid modernity,” time itself has become an online transaction, a liquid commodity that flows away faster than a scrolling screen.

We live in a use-by-date digital world in a state of suspended animation where “time is short” and we must hustle before our use-by date is past. The pace of private and public life has outrun most people’s ability to slow down long enough to realize a hidden hustler has taken them for a ride to Wonderland where the only wonder is that more people have not gone insane as they slip and slide away on the superhighway to nowhere.

John Berger, as only a sage artist would, noted this essential truth in his 1972 novel G.:

Every ruling minority needs to numb and, if possible, to kill the time sense of those whom it exploits.  This is the authoritarian secret of all methods of imprisonment.

Today the vast majority of people, trapped by the manufactured illusion of speed, are in their cells, quickly texting and calling and checking to see if they’ve missed anything as time flies by.

Much is said about various types of environmental pollution, but the pollution of speed and its effects on mind and body are rarely mentioned, except to express gladness for more speed.  The rollout of 5G technology is a case in point. Mental and physical health concerns be damned.  Back in the 19th century, when space and time were being first “conquered” by the camera, telegraph, and telephone, these inventions were described as flying machines.  Time flew, voices flew, images flew.  Soon the phonograph and film would capture and preserve the “living” voices and the moving images of the living and the dead. It was scientific spiritualism at its birth. Today’s comical research into downloading “consciousness” to conquer death by becoming machines is its latest manifestation.

That the clowns behind this speed culture are growing rich on this research at our elite universities that are funded by the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies doesn’t make people howl with sardonic laughter puzzles me. Laughter’s good; it slows you down.  I just had a good laugh reading an article about scientists wondering why new research “suggests” that the universe may be a billion years younger than they thought.  I love their precision, don’t you?  My students, in their learned helplessness and desire to be told what to do, have often asked me how long their term papers should be, and when I tell them probably 37 1/2 words, they look at me with mouths agape.  What do you mean? one finally asks.  I tell them that writing 37 1/2 words is much faster than having to think slowly as you write, and when you have nothing left to say, to just stop.  A fast 37 1/2 words solves the thinking problem.  Maybe you can text me your paper, I often add, even though I don’t do texting.

On a more serious note, a lifelong student of speed (dromology), the brilliant French thinker Paul Virilio, has shown how speed and war have developed together and how totalitarianism is latent in technology.  Few listen, just as they did not listen to Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford, Neil Postman, and others who warned of the direction technology was taking us. Nuclear weapons are the supreme technological “achievement,” of course, devices that can eliminate all space and time in a flash. They work fast.  Virilio says,

The speed of the new optoelectronic and electroacoustic milieu becomes the final void (the void of the quick), a vacuum that no longer depends on the interval between places or things and so on the world’s very extension, but on the interface of an instantaneous transmission of remote appearances, on a geographic and geometric retention in which all volume, all relief vanish.

As I write, I look down at my wristwatch lying on the desk and laugh.  My sister gave it to me after her husband died.  He had won it as a member of the Villanova track team that won the 4 man, 2-mile relay at the famous Coliseum Relays in Los Angeles in near world record time.  Young men whose bodies were in motion to move across terra firma as fast as possible.  No drugs produced in a technological chemical factory to aid them. No gimmicks.  Just bodies in motion, unlike today.  It is an analog watch that must be wound every day when the sun rises.  But my brother-in-law never wound it because he never used it. He was saving it as a stashed-away memento in some sort of suspended time. I like it because it always runs a bit slow, unlike the Villanova flashes.  I like slow.

In a brilliant book written in 1999 before the hyper-speed era was fully underway – Speaking Into The Air: A History of the Idea of Communication – John Durham Peters, while not especially focusing on the issue of speed and technology as does Virilio, indirectly explores the fundamental issue that underlies technology and its control by the elites.  The problem with technology is that it is the use of a technique applied to physical things to control those who don’t control the machines. Today that is the Internet and digital technology, controlled by those Virilio calls “the global kinetic elites.” Many readers might remember the iconic line from the film Cool Hand Luke with Paul Newman: “What we have here is failure to communicate.”  That is our issue.  How to communicate, and to whom, and who controls our means and speed of communication.  Speed kills genuine communication, which may be its point.

Here’s what Peters has to say about the new media of the 19th century.

Media of transmission allow crosscuts through space, but recording media allow jump cuts through time.  The sentence for death for sound, image, and experience had been commuted.  Speech and action could live beyond their human origins.  In short, recording media made the afterlife of the dead possible in a new way.  As Scientific American put it of the phonograph in  1877: ‘Speech has become, as it were, immortal. That ‘as it were’ is the dwelling place of ghosts.

Despite our advanced technology today, we still die, but we live faster, which is not to say better.  We live faster until modern medicine makes our dying slower.  Speed grants us the illusion of control, an illusionary sense of stop-time in the midst of techno-time, digital time, pointillistic time where so much is happening simultaneously across the internet and we “have” it at our fingertips.  Awash in cultural nostalgia that gives us a frisson of false comfort, we scroll the past as fast as we can.  In the small town where I live, urbanites come in droves for nostalgia and create hyper-gentrification.  I see them rapidly walking the country roads talking from their cells as bird song, rustling leaves, and lapping water passes them by, the technology serving as a shield from reality itself.

To realize that the Internet was developed as a weapon and has killed our sense of flesh and blood natural time to exploit us through speed should be obvious, though I suspect it isn’t.  The invention and control of the Internet by the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, and their allies in Silicon Valley, as Yasha Levine chronicles in Surveillance Valley, is a fundamental problem that deserves focused attention.  However, who can slow down enough to focus?  As he says, “American military interests continue to dominate all parts of the network, even those that supposedly stand in opposition.”  This includes Tor and Signal, two encrypted mobile phone and internet services highly touted by journalists, political activists, and dissidents for their ability to make it impossible for governments to monitor communication.  Levine writes:

While Internet billionaires like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg slam government surveillance, talk up freedom, and embrace Snowden and crypto privacy culture, their companies still cut deals with the Pentagon, work with the NSA and CIA, and continue to track and profile people for profit.  It is the same old split-screen marketing trick: the public branding and the behind-the-scenes reality.

The Internet is, as he argues, an “old cybernetic dream of a world where everyone is watched, predicted, and control.”  It is also where you are reading this, another article that will fast disappear from your mind as a stream of more urgent articles rush into print to push it aside.

We are homeless modern minds now, exiled from earth time, and if we don’t rediscover our way back to a slow contemplation of our fate and the ontological reality of human being itself, I’m afraid we are speeding into the void.

Answering the Mysterious Call of An Artist’s Spiritual Vocation

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

— Kabir, “To Be a Slave of Intensity”

Strange how a man
Can enter your life
Just like that: a knock
Out of nowhere
And you’ve slipped away
To a rendezvous with destiny
That always awaited you.

— EJC, “The Birth and Death of Trauma”

Myths and popular tales, like life, are replete with accounts of those not answering the call, of locking the door to their hearts and shutting themselves up in sterile and safe lives where the rest of the world is not even an afterthought, where others suffer and die because of one’s indifference.  Answering can be very dangerous, for it can take you on a journey from which you may never return, surely, at least, as the same person.  Only the courageous heed the call.

When Carolyn Forché, a twenty-seven year old naïve academic poet living in the San Diego area, miraculously answered the call of a Salvadorian stranger named Leonel Gómez Vides, who showed up at her door out of the blue, to go to El Salvador, a country she knew very little about but to which he said war was coming and her poet’s eye was needed, she acted intuitively and bravely from her deep soul’s murmurings and said yes, not knowing why or where she was heading except into the unknown.

This memoir, a souvenir of hope and terror and a call to resistance, a poet’s lucid dreaming between childhood and an adult awakening, invites the reader to examine one’s life and conscience through language that emulates our living experience as it strains toward meaning through a wandering dialectical consciousness that weaves the past present with the present past and lucid dreaming with the waking state. One experiences this book as one does life, not, as the French existentialist Gabriel Marcel, has said, “as a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.”  It is impossible to adequately “review” a book that breathes.  One can only conspire with it to uncover the conspiracy of silence that is American government propaganda.

For at the heart of this mystery are facts, which Forché describes in graphic detail, the truth of how the United States government has long been doing the devil’s murderous work in El Salvador, throughout Latin America and the world, as current events confirm.  Forché asks us to enter into her memories not to wax nostalgic, but to wake to the truth of today.  The truth that little has changed and the past was prologue.  The U.S. is still “Murder Incorporated,” and Americans must see this clearly, and resist.

Carolyn’s “Yes” to the enigmatic stranger Leonel, so I sense from her reveries, was the fruit of a seed of faith planted when she was a child of ten or so in Michigan.

The girl I once was, who had been a Catholic, woke for the bells of the Angelus at six in the morning, Angelus Domini.  I sang to myself as I walked to morning Mass under a canopy of maples, through a wetland of swamp cabbage and red-winged blackbirds, the quiet, low Mass where it was possible to pray in peace, with the Latin liturgy a murmur in the air….I felt at peace in the church, on the padded kneeler near the stained-glass windows depicting the seven sorrows along the west wall, the seven joys along the east….When I knelt beside them, the floor, the pews, and my own body were quilted in colored light.

But she tells Leonel that she has “fallen” because she no longer attends Mass.

Leonel, a “non-believer” who says “I believe with my life, how I live,” tells her about Padre Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest who was murdered with an old man and a boy by the U.S. trained and supported Salvadorian death-squads.  “God that Padre Grande taught was not up in the sky lying in some damn cloud hammock.  This was a God who expected us to be brothers and sisters and to make of earth a just place.”

This was her introduction to a new theology, a way of connecting her spiritual core from a conservative Catholic childhood piety to the liberation theology that created Christian base communities of the poor and persecuted in El Salvador and other Latin American countries.  Dissident Christianity. True Christianity. When she went to El Salvador soon thereafter, not only did the poet leave the quiet of her study where her work might have revolved around herself, but the little girl left the church building to discover, as a changed woman, Christ among the poor and persecuted in the living world.

One night she meets a man in the shadows of such a Christian base community where a few of its members had been killed and dismembered by the government death squads.  His pseudonym is Inocencio.  “You can say Chencho,” he tells her.  At first he thinks she is a nun, (“although,“ as a girl, “I considered that vocation.”) because she smokes, and some of the foreign nuns smoke and don’t dress in traditional habits.  He asks her why she is there and she says, “You know, I’m not sure.”  She then explains how an unnamed person invited her to come to see the truth for herself because war was coming, and when she returned to the United States to “explain the reasons for the war to the North Americans, because my friend tells me that this will be important, that the real reasons be known, so that the people of the United States understand.”

Chencho is a catechist who secretly moves under darkness of night from one small Christian base community to another, encouraging the campesinos to keep the faith because God is with them, la gente, los pobres, the people, the poor.  He says to Carolyn:

Listen to me, hermana.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and Christ is moving through the world now, through us.  He is acting through us in the struggle against injustice, poverty, and oppression.  To be with God now is to choose the fate of the poor, to be with them, to see through their eyes and feel through their hearts, and if this means torture and death, we accept.  We are already in the grave.

Later, Leonel takes her to visit a friend who is in a prison from hell where men are tortured in padlocked wooden boxes the size of washing machines.  Afterwards she vomits. Then they go to visit a dirt poor young mother give birth in a casita in which there was nothing, “really nothing: a candle, a plastic basin, a ladle hanging against the wall, and, in the candlelight, the shadow of a wooden chair dancing on the wall.”

I followed him [Leonel] through the darkness into a passage, then through a door lit by a candle and, by the light of it, saw people gathered and one of them, someone, took me by the hand and drew me into the circle surrounding a young woman who was lying on her side on a blanket on the floor, her head propped in her hand.  There was a cardboard box beside her, and in the box, a newborn girl with her hair still wet, lying in a towel.  Leonel was looking at me from across the room.  ‘She was born about a half hour ago,’ a young man beside me whispered.  ‘She’s early.  We’re going to name her Alma. Bellisima!’

Then it is on through night to meet with four young impoverished men who read their “political” poems for her, written under pseudonyms for fear for their lives, poems they hope might stir the hearts of people in the United States.

That night I knew something had changed for me, and that I wasn’t going to get tired or need a shower or want to call something off so I could rest, and I hoped that if I forgot this I would somehow remember Alma in the cardboard box in the barrio, and the mimeographed poems….The woman who went into the prison in Ahuachapán left herself behind in a barrio called La Fosa, the grave.

The naïve young poet is buried and the political poet of witness is born.  It is impossible not to be deeply moved and nourished by such a birth.  Who, I wonder, are the “fallen” ones?  What is writing for?  What good are poets?  Why say yes to a stranger’s request when it is so much easier to not answer the knock on the door?  So much easier to barricade ourselves behind walls of denial and say “me first.”  So much easier to ignore the truth that this book reveals: that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world and our society rests on keeping the poor poor and under the vicious thumbs of the rich.

The world is filled with writers who witness only to their imprisonment in their own egos.  When Carolyn Forché said yes to Leonel and then returned from El Salvador to write “political” poems such as “The Colonel,” she was attacked by writers wishing a poet would stay in her box and not disturb their universe.  That she was not like them angered them, J. Alfred Prufrocks who were not going to come back from the dead to tell us all as she has, poets who had time on their hands to neurotically contemplate their navels with their fellow Americans:

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Having heard Leonel’s descriptions of “the silence of misery endured” and the American supported death-squads massacring impoverished Salvadorians, she tells us:

I knew that if I didn’t accept his invitation, I could never live as if I would have been willing to do something, should an opportunity have presented itself.  I could never say to myself: If only I’d had the chance.  This was, I knew, my chance.

Wasn’t such a daring decision by this “fallen” poet the quintessence of the creative act, exactly what inspired artists do when they see the act of writing as an adventure into the unknown where startling truths wait to reveal themselves to the unsuspecting author?  A journey fraught with danger and delight, perhaps delightful danger or dangerous delight, but always ready to surprise with hidden truths that might unlock the prison gates that enclose the world in suffering and pain? Does not the artist proceed into this alien territory armed only with a fierce faith in the power of truth to reveal its face and so strengthen us through disarmament?  Doesn’t a poet trust in a power greater than herself and know what she wishes to say only in the act of saying it?  Isn’t real writing a transmission between the creative spirit and the world of flesh and blood, the living and the dead, a visionary opening into the future where freedom beckons?

Carolyn somehow knew this then and now, and her memoir is the result, a haunting trip into the past to liberate the present.  “The strange, mysterious, perhaps dangerous, perhaps redeeming comfort that there is in writing,” wrote Kafka in his diary.  Perhaps there are certain writings that cannot be adequately reviewed but must be experienced. As I said, I think What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance is such a book.  How do you review a prayer and a mystery?  You must enter them if you are willing.

Carolyn, drawing on the uncanny spirit of her mystical, Gypsy-spirited Czechoslavian grandmother Anna (“I will get Anna out of you if it’s the last thing I do” her mother told her, to no avail), chose to develop her “legitimate strangeness,” as the French poet René Char urged, heeding his words that “what comes into the world to disturb nothing merits neither attention or patience.”  Disturbed and perplexed by the stranger’s tales and her former husband’s experiences in Vietnam and the United Sates’ savage war there, as well as by her mystical Catholic childhood’s faith and its tug of conscience, she joins the mysterious Leonel in El Salvador.

To those ensconced in instrumental rationality, her decision seems insane. However, instrumental rationality is insane, and it has taken us to the brink of nuclear extinction.  It is to the poet’s truth we should turn.  The data-driven instrumental rationalists have given us WW I, II, Auschwitz, Vietnam, the CIA, death squads, Iraq, Syria, etc. – should I give you numbers, list it all, do the logic?  When has such logic convinced the disbelievers?  Logicians don’t trust the soul’s promptings and, like Carolyn, take a chance, take a leap of faith.  They do calculations, follow computer models, and dare not enter the world outside if they are told there is a 60% chance of rain.  And if they are told the sun will shine and all will be well with the world, but a hard rain does fall and the poet shouts there is blood on our hands, they act shocked.  Always shocked at the truth that was there from the start.  If only we had known.

Is it any wonder so many Americans are depressed?

For Carolyn, the child of Czechoslovakian ancestry, the German holocaust atrocities haunted her, and she grew up suffering from periodic depressions that would lift once she felt the urge to do something about the injustices she saw. The urge to act for others freed her from wallowing in depression.  Rather than becoming a nun, she became a poet, and when Leonel told her that an American poet was needed to witness the truth of the American supported atrocities in El Salvador, she trusted the spirit to lead her on, not knowing why this might be so.  What use are poets, she wondered, in the U.S. poetry “doesn’t matter.”  She would soon help change that.

There is an old Catholic prayer that goes like this: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

Might such words have bubbled up from her unconscious?  I have long felt it was a prayer for poets as well as the religiously faithful – are not all inspired together?  Is there a difference?  “I believe in the magic and authority of words,” said Char, the French resistance fighter.  Witness and resistance.  Words.  Poetry.  Prayers.

It is best that I not tell you too much about Leonel.  You will wonder about him, and you will wonder with Carolyn what her relationship with him is all about.  You will discover his essence in the reading. You will learn that he once said to Carolyn that “it isn’t the risk of death and fear of danger that prevent people from rising up, it is numbness, acquiescence, and the defeat of the mind.  Resistance to oppression begins when people realize deeply within themselves that something better is possible.”  You might, like me, question whether this is true only for the most oppressed, or whether it applies to Americans whose lives depend on the subjugation of others in foreign lands.

You will be terrified to learn of the death squads, the brutality and cold-bloodedness of their murders, and Forché’s close escapes as they hunted her.  You will feel her fear.

You will learn of the courageous women who befriend her, her meeting with Archbishop Oscar Romero the week before he is assassinated while saying Mass and Carolyn has left the country at his urging, and you too will be lost in reveries as you travel between worlds of night and day, wealth and poverty, life and death, now and then.

If you are like me, you will be inspired by what the poet Char called “wisdom with tear-filled eyes.”  This book is just that.  It is a call to Americans to face the truth and resist.

Looking Through the Screen at the World’s Suffering

If you are really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. as quoted by Andrew Young in the documentary King in the Wilderness

Most people on this earth live on the edge of an abyss.  Life is a daily struggle to stay alive, to acquire enough to eat and drink, rudimentary health care, housing, and protection from murderous government forces, their various death-squads, and their economic vultures.  The gap between the rich and poor, while always great, has grown even more obscenely vast, and lies at the core of what so many face daily.  Their perilous conditions are sustained by imperial nations, led by the United States, who, together with its minions, buy and bribe and butcher overtly and covertly all around the world.  The love of wealth and the fear of death drive these power-mad marauders and divert the gazes of their citizens from the slaughter.  It’s an old story.

If you are reading this, I am probably not telling you anything new.  You know this, as do I, as I sit safely behind a screened-in table on a beautiful spring day in the hills of western Massachusetts.  I have had some soup and bread for lunch and there are no bombers overhead or death-squads cruising the roads here.  While my family and I live a simple life, compared to the world’s poor and persecuted, we are privileged.  One does not have to be rich to be privileged.  The advantages granted to those like me who can securely sit and pen words about the fate of the poor and persecuted victims of my country’s endless violence weighs heavy on my conscience, as they have done since I was young.

I am ashamed to say that in the early morning of May 1, as I lay in bed musing, I thought I would like to stay in bed all day, a depressed feeling that I had never had before.  Discouragement enveloped me: I was being forced out of my teaching job; I felt that my dissident writing and teaching made no difference in a world where injustice and violence are endemic and without end; and the forces of evil seemed to be triumphing everywhere.  Self-pity mixed with an angry sadness that disgusted me. I disgusted myself.  So I jumped out of bed and prepared to go and teach some of my last classes.  But I was lost in gloom as I drove along the winding roads.

When I arrived at the college and checked my mail, there was a package waiting for me.  It was a review copy of the poet Carolyn Forché’s startling new memoir (What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance) about her youthful transformative experiences in El Salvador in the late 1970s as U.S. trained and supported death-squads brutally murdered poor peasants and priests, and guerrilla resistance was growing prior to the outbreak of civil war.  I opened the book to the epigraph, which reads:

Hope also nourishes us.  Not the hope of fools.  The other kind.  Hope, when everything is clear.
Awareness.

The quotation is from the Salvadorian writer Manlio Argueta, whose deeply moving novel, One Day of Life (1980), banned by the Salvadorian government, takes the reader through one terrifying and bloodstained day in the life of peasants struggling to stay alive as they are tortured and slaughtered with impunity.  We hear the voices of the poor tell a story of the growth of conscience (“God is conscience.  And conscience is we, the ones forgotten now, the poor.”), the discovery of rights, and the awareness of exploitation.  Despite the terrifying evil that pervades this book – now considered one of the greatest Latin American novels of the 20th century – there is a luminous spirit of hope and resistance that miraculously prevails that is passed on from person to person despite death, torture, and immense suffering.  Argueta fulfills the words of the tortured Jose to Lupe: “Don’t worry, if those of us with understanding failed to act, we would all be in real trouble.”

I remembered that I had reviewed this book in the early 1980s at a time when 100 or more very poor campesinos were being murdered every week, a few years after Archbishop Oscar Romero, the courageous defender of the poor who spoke out against the killers, had been gunned down while saying Mass.  The Roman Catholic Church has subsequently declared him a saint.

Yet decades later, despite the extraordinary efforts of awakened souls like Carolyn Forché, it still seems true that Americans can’t visualize, no less believe in or care about, the death and suffering their government is inflicting on innocent people all around the world.  Today’s screen culture – I Phone therefore I Am – while seemingly allowing for the visualization of the suffering of the world’s poor, has rendered all reality more abstract and unreal, while inducing a collective hallucination sustained by media and machines that divorces us from flesh and blood, our own and others.  All the disembodied data that is daily disgorged through these screens seems to me to have rendered the world disincarnate through the metastasizing of a digital dementia tied to death denial.

I think of Galway Kinnell’s poem, “The Fundamental Project of Technology”:

To de-animalize human mentality, to purge it of obsolete,
Evolutionary characteristics, in particular of death,
Which foreknowledge terrorizes the content of skulls with,
Is the fundamental project of technology; however,
pseudologica fantastica’s mechanisms require:
to establish deathlessness it is necessary to eliminate those who die;
a task attempted when a white light flashed.

Awareness?  I sit here looking through the screen that encloses the little porch where my table rests.  MLK’s words reverberate in my mind as I watch a grey fox slink across the grass in search of prey.  What is it about the love of money and the fear of death that so cripples people’s care and compassion?  I know I don’t want to see that fox seize a screaming rabbit and worry (to kill by biting and shaking the throat; strangle) it to death.  Unlike Forché, I have not physically seen the dead and mutilated bodies of Salvadorian victims of death squads, nor been threatened by them, as she was.  Nevertheless, thanks to her and others like Manlio Argueta, I have seen them in my imagination and heard the screams, and they have haunted me.  Ghosts.

But why are some so haunted and others not?

The foreknowledge that terrorizes the contents of skulls, as Kinnell puts it – our ultimate powerlessness – overwhelms humans from childhood unless they can find a way forward that discovers power in powerlessness.  When one’s “well-being” is dependent on the death of others, as is the case for most Americans and others in the so-called first world, people tend to repress the terror of death by building various types of culturally-induced defenses that allow them to shakily believe they are in control of life and death.  One’s natural impotence is then hidden within what Ernest Becker called “the vital lie of character,” and in what, by extension, is the lie of American character that rests on money and military might.

One lives within the manageable cultural world that helps blot out existential awareness by offering various social games, agreed forms of “madness” that narcotize.  One learns to adjust, to use all sorts of techniques to blot out the awareness that each of us is essentially exposed and mortal, flesh and blood.  The aim is clearly to cut life down to manageable proportions, domesticate terror, and learn to think we are captains of our fate.  Inevitably, however, not all these social “tricks” work equally well.  Life’s terrors have a way of breaking through to dim awareness, and therefore more drastic measures are needed.  So after having lived the cultural lie uncritically, one tries to blot out awareness itself.  If shopping to forget doesn’t work, if obsessive work doesn’t do it, one turns to drugs or drink, anything to forget, anything to assuage our fears, anything to deny our need for courage.  Anything to help us refuse the truth that our lives are built on the blood of others.

The ineluctable reality of uncertainty is our fate. I have always known that, but I forget.  I have also long known that we live by faith of one kind or another, and whatever name we give it, it is by faith we enter into the holy mystery of existence.  We are carried forward by the spirit that binds us in solidarity to all human struggles for freedom and dignity, for bread and justice. The day I wished to stay in bed and wallow in self-pity and depression came as a shock to me.  It revealed to me my hubris, my sense of self-importance, as if my efforts were not just a drop in the sea, seeds scattered that may or may not take root.  I was afraid to accept possible defeat, despite my best efforts.  I was afraid of death and lacked courage.  Like those I criticize for turning their faces away from the suffering faces of America’s victims, I lost my courage that morning in bed.  And hope.

But later that day I would awaken and see through the screen of my self-importance when I leafed through Carolyn Forché’s book and chanced upon her quoting Fr. Romero’s words: “We must hope without hoping.  We must hope when we have no hope.”

Then her poem “Ourselves or Nothing” bubbled up in memory:

There is a cyclone fence between
Ourselves and the slaughter and behind it
We hover in a calm protected world like
Netted fish, exactly like netted fish.
It is either the beginning or the end
Of the world, and the choice is ourselves or nothing.

Priest and poet reminding us to fight lucidly on.  Hope when everything is clear.  Awareness.

Between Yes and No, Heaven and Earth with Albert Camus on a Spring Morning

To give up beauty and the sensual happiness that comes with it and devote one’s self exclusively to unhappiness requires a nobility I lack. However, after all, nothing is true that compels us to make it exclusive.  Isolated beauty ends in grimaces, solitary justice in oppression.  Anyone who seeks to serve the one to the exclusion of the other serves no one, not even himself, and in the end is doubly the servant of injustice.  A day comes when, because we have been inflexible, nothing amazes us anymore, everything is known, and our life is spent in starting again.  It is a time of exile, dry lives, dead souls.  To come back to life, we need grace, a homeland, or to forget ourselves.  On certain mornings, as we turn a corner, an exquisite dew falls on our heart and then vanishes.  But the freshness lingers, and this, always, is what the heart needs.  I had to come back once again.

— Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa, 1954

For a writer to fight injustice to the exclusion of creating beauty and living passionately contradicts the deepest desires of the human heart.  Albert Camus taught us this.  The love of life must inform the rebel’s resistance to injustice.  “It seems to me that the writer must be fully aware of the dramas of his time,” he writes, “and that he must take sides every time he can and knows how to do so.”  But his refusal, his no, does not imply a renunciation but an affirmation, a yes, to the joy and grandeur of life that is everyone’s birthright.

This is the difficult way of true art – the rebel writer’s way – the tension that the writer must live with as he shuttles back and forth between one’s heart’s desires and his commitment to resist evil.  What is the point of fighting for a better world if one does not live as if that world were here now, and one’s living and writing were the revelation of that reality.  Camus somewhere said something to the effect that it is not your writings that I like, it is your writing.  He knew that we are always on the way, and our wayfaring should prefigure the enigma of our arrivals.

It is spring as I write and I am thinking of Camus when that exquisite dew fell on his heart that early morning. No doubt Albert felt a bit of heaven.  I’m feeling it now.  Spring, the time of the resurrection of the living dead.  All around new life bursts and blooms in wild array. A mountain stream races down the hillside, shouting its joy that the earth’s new warmth has freed it at last from its frozen sleep.  In the trees all around the birds have returned and sing exultantly of their homecoming.  Almost before our eyes the flowers push their way up to the light.  They have had enough of the underground, hungrily seeking the sun.  It is a beautiful dawn, and I can smell it.  I feel as though I have awoken from a long and deep sleep.  The morning star welcomed me. The sun rose majestically. And across my window three early flies jitterbug in the first light.  The whole earth is conspiring to explode with life and it is asking for our assent.

But dare the living-dead awaken?  Shall we say yes to this paradise?

“This day you will be with me in paradise.”  That’s what a man, convicted of crimes against the state and dying fast, once said.  Like most memorable statements, it is open to various interpretations.  But suppose, instead of offering one, we assume the existence of paradise, and ask a question that lurks unspoken and forbidden in every heart.

For there are some questions so obvious that we refuse to ask them for fear of having to answer.  To be asked such questions seems an impertinence, an insult to our intelligence, and an assault on our integrity.   Don’t be ridiculous, we think, though we don’t laugh.  Isn’t it obvious, we vaguely mutter, secretly knowing it is nothing of the sort.  We are caught off-guard, something we don’t do to ourselves.  Even our dreams escape us.  We prefer to live in the clouds.

But let’s be daring for once.  Let’s put aside all our usual lies and evasions and not be afraid of the truth.  Let’s ask ourselves a few very simple and annoying questions, the kind children ask their tongue-tied parents, and let’s not squirm away from answering.

What images of death do we live with?

Or, to put it another way, if you believe in life after death, what image of heaven do you entertain?  Not what do you think heaven is, but what do you desire it to be?  If you object and say you don’t believe in life after death, the question is still valid.  For we are, of course , here playing a game of the imagination.  You need only make believe, for the hell of it, that there is life after death. Or life before.

What would you like it to be?  Imagine.  What would you like this life to be?  Maybe that’s the real question.

The trouble with being born, of course, is that we are guaranteed to die and be aware of it most of our lives.  When it comes to dying, we have no choice; death is our fate and against it freedom is a meaningless word.  Living is another matter, though it is not something we generally give much thought, for we can choose not to live when breath is still ours.  We are free to wait lovingly for annihilation by patiently enduring our lives, or we can commit quick suicide.

We don’t have to live, but we must die.  In our bitterness we may curse the fact that we find ourselves alive in the world; we didn’t ask for it.  This is obviously true and equally meaningless. Once we find ourselves alive, death is our destiny, like it or not.  Whether life is a living hell for us or just a dull plod through the years – a “hanging in there,” in those unconsciously evocative words – we hold in our hearts, however buried, images of what we would like life to be like if it were eternal.

That is, we all live with images of paradise, no matter how beclouded or unarticulated they may be.

Now, as I wander out in the early morning lulled by birdsong, I wonder what these images consist of.  What, in our hearts’ desires, do we yearn to become?  What heavens do we wish to inhabit?

For we are now in the school of imagination, what John Keats called the vale of soul-making, and must, like children everywhere, answer the following: Imagine paradise, on earth or in heaven, and describe it in as few or as many words as you wish.  For future reference, learn your answer by heart.

Camus wrote:

Yes, nothing prevents me from dreaming, in the very hour of exile, since at least I know this, with sure and certain knowledge: a man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the details of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

Yes, to open our hearts.  It is naïve, but not stupid.  It is disturbing.  It is surely easy to hide behind the word mystery, or cynically to reply that the world is what it is, a far cry from paradise, nor will it ever be, here or in some supposed hereafter, any different.  The former is the believer’s dodge, the latter the skeptical “realist’s” way of begging the question.  Both are phony.

Only as we become as little children can we enter into the kingdom of heavenly imagination, and it is the fear of ridicule, our own and others,’ that bars the gate.  It is obvious that what happens after death is a mystery.  Why we come and why we go is something that we’ll never know, all beliefs to the contrary.  We live by pure faith, though, as Thoreau noted, we are determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it.  Which we can’t, ultimately.  Knowledge fails.  And anyway, what we know and what we want are not the same thing.  The images of paradise we hold don’t illuminate death in the slightest; they do, however, enlighten our lives.  After all, it is living that is within our power.  We live in possibility.  If we wish to pursue the ideal images of our heart’s desires, we must first make manifest what they are.

What do you want?  I know it is not easy living with a deep but dark longing.  Perhaps it is the fear of disappointment that keeps us in the dark.  Why, when the whole earth rises toward the light, do we shrink back in fear?  Does beauty crush us?

I remember leaving my mother’s house to go to the hospital where my dear father had just died. It was 5:30 AM on the first of May. Stepping outside, the birdsong and flowering bushes illuminated by the rising sun staggered me. How could this be: life and death in one hour, one moment.  Where now was my father as his son walked through a garden of delight?  Where was that man whom I had kissed a few hours before?

What do I want?

Albert, you wondered too when you created your alter-ego Jacques Cormery in your novel, The First Man, and placed him at his father’s grave site.  It was just a novel, as they say, but you were there and said:

All that was left was this anguished heart, eager to live, rebelling against the deadly order of the world that had been with him for forty years, and still struggling against the wall that separated him from the secret of all life, wanting to go farther, to go beyond, and to discover, discover before dying, discover at last in order to be, just once to be, for a single second, but forever.

Just once and one time only.  Isn’t that it?  No reruns.  No playbacks.  One life.  Eternal.

Then what?

Perhaps our greatest fear is to passionately want something from life and death, “to go beyond” with Albert, to ask for something independent of society’s and others’ wishes, and to dare intuit it into existence.  Society drones: Don’t dare feel it, don’t dare say it, don’t ask for too much.  Narrow it all down, life is much too much, narrow it all down.

Sometimes I think that because so many people have meekly accepted this dictum that they are unconsciously in love with death, assuming that all their problems and the anguish of being placed between yes and no, heaven and earth will then cease.  Oftentimes I think that we are living in the age of nihilism that Nietzsche predicted long ago, a time in which the will to nothingness is most clearly expressed in the sterile pursuit and embrace of things, a “paradise” of consumer goods at the expense of livingness.

“I cling like a miser to the freedom that disappears as soon as there is an excess of things,” writes Camus, grasping in a few words a key link between a just and unjust world where most people are subjected to violence and degradation at the hands of the wealthy and powerful who seek to devour the earth.

Ah, but here we are walking in the spring sunshine, the time for resurrection and for truth.  The whole earth is rising beneath our feet. We can feel it.  The trees are budding forth and leaving toward the stars.  We can see them. We can smell the earth warming in the rising sun.  Perhaps like Camus, the spring smells seize us by the throat, and we find ourselves delirious with love and desire as “the gods speak in the sun and the scent of absinthe leaves,” as we wander through a reborn world.

So why don’t we say what we truly want?  Can we even imagine it?  Or is what we want so pathetic – more things, more money, anything to boost our egos and impress others, improve our appearances, elevate our social standing – that to admit it reveals the hollowness of our lives?  Are our desires so vague and culturally constricted that they must be repressed lest they make us realize how spiritually dead we are when all around us resurrection calls us to awaken to new life?

Suppose rather than hiding behind the lies and evasions that we use to divorce ourselves from the tree of life, we dare to speak from the indivisible root of truth and desire, or true desire, the eternal tree.  For to live truly and to die is to create out of that planting a full flowering, an exposed existence rooted in the earth and reaching to the stars.  Then, heaven will be our destiny, for it will proceed from our passions and usher in a glorious spring.

And yet, as Camus knew, our little imaginary heavens can lull us to sleep when world events call to us to rise up and say no.  Yes, but no, too.  Desire needs will to renew the world.  The lover who luxuriates in the spring sap rising must be a rebel.  “But the true life is present in the heart of this dichotomy….Life is this dichotomy itself,” he tells us.

To live authentically is to live between yes and no.

Dostoevsky, who shared with Camus the belief that we must rebel to save the world, had Karamazov rightly say that if all are not saved, what good is the salvation of only one?

To which he added: “Life is a paradise and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it.”

So it seems on this morning in spring as resurrection fills the air.  And even though this feeling will fade, Camus is right that its freshness will linger, an exquisite reminder of why we must rebel joyously.

You are right, Albert, “We must simultaneously serve suffering and beauty.”

A Marriage of Conscience: Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning

“About suffering they were never wrong,” wrote W. H. Auden in the poem “Musée Des Beaux Arts.”

These lines occurred to me last week when all eyes were focused on the brutal British seizure of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

No one should have been surprised by this despicable spectacle carried out in the noonday light for all to see, for the British government has not served as America’s jailer for the past seven years for no reason.  It doesn’t take x-ray eyes to see that the British and the Moreno government in Ecuador are twin poodles on the American leash.  After a phony display of judicial fairness, the British, as required by their American bosses, will dispatch Assange to the United States so he can be further punished for the crime of doing journalism and exposing war crimes.

Assange has suffered mightily for American sins.  The Anglo-American torturers know how to squeeze their victims to make old men out of the young.  Abu Ghraib was no aberration.  The overt is often covert; just a thin skin separates the sadists’ varied methods, but their message is obvious.  No one who saw Assange dragged to prison could fail to see what the war-mongers, who hate freedom of the press when it exposes their criminal activities, can do to a man.  Nor, however, could one fail to see the spirit of defiance that animates Assange, a man of courageous conscience cowards can’t begin to comprehend.

Bought and sold, compromised and corrupted to their depths, the American, British, and Ecuadorian governments and their media sycophants have no shame or allegiance to law or God, and have never learned that you can imprison, torture, and even kill a person of conscience, but that doing so is a risky business.  For even the corpses of those who say “No” keep whispering “No” forevermore.

While the media spotlight was on central London, Auden’s lines kept running through my mind:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters, how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
Walking dully along

His words transported me from London to a lonely jail cell in Virginia where Chelsea Manning sat brooding.  Chelsea hearing the news about Assange.  Chelsea realizing that now the screws would be further tightened and her ordeal as a prisoner of conscience would be extended indefinitely.  Chelsea summoning all her extraordinary courage to go on saying “No,” “No,” “No.”  Chelsea refusing the 30 pieces of silver that will be continually offered to her, as they have been for almost a decade, and that she has refused in her emphatic refusal to give the Judas kiss to Julian, to whom she is wed in this non-violent campaign to expose the truth about the war criminals.

Auden’s words reminded me not to turn away, to pay attention, to not walk dully along and ignore the lonely suffering of truth-tellers.  How can anyone who claims to oppose the American wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc., turn away from defending Manning and Assange, two brave souls who have already spent nearly 15 years combined imprisoned for exposing the war crimes of the American and British governments, crimes committed in our name and therefore our crimes.

Who will have the bad faith to buy the torrent of lies that the propagandists will spew forth about Assange as they wage a media blitz to kill his reputation on the way to disposing of him?

The jackals in government and media, so-called liberals and conservatives, will be sadistically calling for blood as they count their blood money and wipe their lips.  Only cowards will join this bleating crowd and refuse to go to that lonely, empty place – that cell of conscience – where the truth resides.

All should remember that Chelsea Manning spent more than seven years in prison under the Obama administration for revealing a video about George W. Bush’s war crimes in Iraq; that Assange had to escape the Obama administration’s clutches by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy; and that now that Trump is in office, the reimprisonment of Manning and arrest of Assange are perfectly in accord with the evil deeds of his predecessors.  These men are titular heads of the warfare state.  They follow orders.

Who can sail calmly on and pretend they don’t see the gift of truth and hear the forsaken cries of two lonely caged heroes falling into the sea?  Who can fail to defend such voices of freedom?

An Open Letter to Chelsea Manning: A Free Woman in An American Prison

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.

— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam.” Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

Dear Chelsea,

Do not lose heart, for as a prisoner of conscience, your inspirational witness sustains so many of your less free brothers and sisters on the outside.  Our hearts and hands reach out to you with love and thanksgiving.  Your courage is contagious, or so I hope, for it resonates in the soul of every person who senses the meaning of the power of individual conscience to oppose state violence and the beauty of those who will not betray a comrade, who will not deliver the Judas kiss demanded by the killers, as you will not betray your brave brother, Julian Assange, also held under lock and key for the “crime” of revealing the truth.

You remind me of another young woman from long ago and far away whose bravery in the face of radical evil is celebrated today as a sign of hope in dark times.  She is Sophie Scholl, the young German college student who, like you, was arrested for releasing documents exposing state atrocities, who, like you, was prompted by a higher power, by her conscience, who, like you, was arrested for releasing documents exposing such crimes against humanity, in her case those of Hitler.

Little seems to change over the years, doesn’t it?  The killers go on killing, from Golgotha in ancient Jerusalem to Hitler’s Germany to Vietnam and Iraq and on to Palestine and Syria today.  Why bother with the list.  History is a litany of bloodbaths.  Where does it all go, this blood?  Does the good earth soak it up?

But in all the darkness, certain lonely voices of resistance have kept the lighted chain of faith alive.  You stand in that line, a living embodiment of a faithful non-violent warrior.  So does Julian.

I am writing this epistle to you on 4 April, the day in 1967 that our brother Dr. Martin Luther King stood tall in the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City and followed his conscience by breaking with those who urged him to ignore the truth eating at his soul.  The truth that he must not remain silent about the U.S. obscene war against Vietnam.  “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” he said.  Then he added:

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world… This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers…. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring…. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

Chelsea, you have heeded Dr. King’s message and you have put to shame those of us who profess faith in “the living God” that informed Martin’s call for a non-violent revolution.

You, like Sophie and Julian, have released documents that tell the truth about the savage actions of our government.

You have suffered for us many times over.  You have stood strong and tall, like Jesus in front of Pilate, and you have shown the road we must all travel out of the darkness that threatens to consume us.

You have shown us by your actions “that silence is betrayal” when it comes to one’s government’s immoral and illegal actions.

And you have shown us by your sacred silence in Caesar’s court that is a U.S. grand jury, that your conscience will never allow you to betray another truth-teller.

You are, Chelsea, the embodiment of faith, hope, and courage.

You are America’s conscience.

While you are in prison, none of us is free.

We demand your freedom and that of brother Assange.

Here is a song of love to boost your spirits.  I hope you can hear it.  Maybe I send it to boost my own,  to help me carry on as you have done.  Maybe it will help us all.

You keep teaching us what it means to be free and walk in faith.

Blessings for carrying it on.

The CIA Takeover of America in the 1960s is the Story of Our Times

‘We’re all puppets,’ the suspect [Sirhan Sirhan] replied, with more truth than he could have understood at that moment.

— Lisa Pease, quoting from the LAPD questioning of Sirhan

When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968, the American public fell into a hypnotic trance in which they have remained ever since. The overwhelming majority accepted what was presented by government authorities as an open and shut case that a young Palestinian American, Sirhan Sirhan, had murdered RFK because of his support for Israel, a false accusation whose ramifications echo down the years. That this was patently untrue and was contradicted by overwhelming evidence made no difference.

Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy, yet he remains in jail to this very day.  Robert Kennedy, Jr., who was 14 years old at the time of his father’s death, has visited Sirhan in prison, claims he is innocent, and believes there was another gunman.  Paul Schrade, an aide to the senator and the first person shot that night, also says Sirhan didn’t do it. Both have plenty of evidence.  And they are not alone.

There is a vast body of documented evidence to prove this, an indisputably logical case marshalled by serious writers and researchers.  Lisa Pease is the latest.  It is a reason why a group of 60 prominent Americans has recently called for a reopening of, not just this case, but those of JFK, MLK, and Malcom X.  The blood of these men cries out for the revelation of the truth that the United States national security state and its media accomplices have fought so mightily to keep hidden for so many years.

That they have worked so hard at this reveals how dangerous the truth about these assassinations still is to this secret government that wages propaganda war against the American people and real wars around the world.  It is a government of Democrats, Republicans, and their intelligence allies working together today to confuse the American people and provoke Russia in a most dangerous game that could lead to nuclear war, a possibility that so frightened JFK and RFK after the Cuban Missile Crisis that they devoted themselves to ending the Cold War, reconciling with the Soviet Union, abolishing nuclear weapons, reining in of the power of the CIA, and withdrawing from Vietnam. That is why they were killed.

The web of deceit surrounding the now officially debunked Democratic led Russia-gate propaganda operation that has strengthened Trump to double-down on his anti-Russia operations (a Democratic goal) is an example of the perfidious and sophisticated mutuality of this game of mass mind-control.

The killing of the Kennedys and today’s new Cold War and war against terror are two ends of a linked intelligence operation.

Moreover, more than any other assassination of the 1960s, it is the killing of Bobby Kennedy that has remained shrouded in the most ignorance.

It is one of the greatest propaganda success stories of American history.

In her exhaustive new examination of the case, A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease puts it succinctly at the conclusion of her unravelling of the official lies that have mesmerized the public:

The assassination of the top four leaders of the political left in the five year period – President John Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 – represented nothing less than a slow-motion coup on the political scene.

If anyone wishes to understand what has happened to the United States since this coup, and thus to its countless victims at home and throughout the world, one must understand these assassinations and how the alleged assassins were manipulated by the coup organizers and how the public was hoodwinked in a mind-control operation on a vast scale.  It is not ancient history, for the forces that killed these leaders rule the U.S. today, and their ruthlessness has subsequently informed the actions of almost all political leaders in the years since.  A bullet to the head when you seriously talk about peace and justice is a not so gentle reminder to toe the line or else.

“But the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time,” writes Pease, “and too few recognize this.  We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.”  Nothing could be truer.

Lisa Pease has long recognized the problem, and for the past twenty-five years, she has devoted herself to shedding light on the CIA’s culpability, particularly in the Robert Kennedy case. Few people possess the grit and grace to spend so much of their lives walking this path of truth. The extent of her research is dazzling, so dazzling in its voluminous detail that a reviewer can only touch on it here and there. She has written a book that is daunting in its comprehensiveness.  It demands focused attention and perseverance, for it runs to over 500 pages with more than 800 footnotes. This book will remain a touchstone for future research on the RFK assassination, whether one agrees or disagrees with all of her detailed findings and speculations.  For this book is so vast and meticulous in its examination of all aspects of the case that one can surely find areas that one might question or disagree with.

Nevertheless, Pease fundamentally proves that Sirhan did not shoot RFK and that there was a conspiracy organized and carried out by shadowy intelligence forces that did so. These same forces worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, federal, state, and judicial elements to make sure Sirhan was quickly accused of being the lone assassin and dispatched to prison after a show trial.  And the mass media carried out its assigned role of affirming the government’s case to shield the real killers and to make sure the cover-up was successful.

No doubt others will investigate this case further. Yet I think no more research is really needed, for as with these other assassinations, additional analyses will only result in pseudo-debates about minutiae.  Such debates will only serve to prolong the hallucinatory grip the perpetrators of these crimes have on a day of reckoning, suggesting as they would that we do not really know what happened. This is an old tactic meant to delay forevermore such a day of reckoning.

The facts are clear for all to see if they have the will to truth. All that is now needed is a public tribunal, which is planned for later this year, in which the fundamental, clear-cut facts of these cases are presented to the American public.  In the case of Robert Kennedy’s assassination as with the others, a little knowledge goes a long way, and only those who are closed to basic logic and evidence will refuse to see that government forces conspired to kill these men and did so because all were seeking peace and justice that was then, and is now, a threat to the war-making forces of wealth and power that control the American government.

Pease writes:

Anyone who has looked closely and honestly at the evidence has realized that more than one person was involved in Robert Kennedy’s death.  So why can’t reporters see this?  Why can’t the media explain this?  Because the media and the government are two sides of the same coin, and those who challenge the government’s version of history, as numerous reporters have found out, all too often lose status and sometimes whole careers.  Kristina Borjesson published an anthology of such stories in her book Into the Buzzsaw, in which journalists describe how they lost their careers when of them expressed a truth that the government did not want exposed.

Lisa Pease discloses such truths.  I am reporting on her work.  Therefore, the mainstream media, except for an extraordinary reporter or two, such as Tom Jackman of The Washington Post, will likely ignore both of us, but the publication where you are reading this is on the side of truth, and in the disclosure of truth lies our hope.

Since more than one person was involved in the killing of RFK, there was – ipso facto – a conspiracy.  This is not theory but fact.  The fact of a conspiracy.  For more than fifty years, mainstream reporters have been cowed by this word “conspiracy,” thanks to the CIA.  Many others have been intelligence assets posing as journalists, regurgitating the lies. This is a fact.

The official story is that after giving his victory speech for winning the 1968 Democratic California Primary, Kennedy, as he was walking through a crowded hotel pantry, was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, who was standing to his left between 3-6 feet away.  Sirhan’s revolver held eight bullets, and as he was shooting, he was tackled by a group of large men who subdued him.  All witnesses place Sirhan in front of Kennedy and all claim he was firing a gun.

Fact: As the autopsy definitively showed, RFK was shot from the rear at point blank range, three bullets entering his body, with the fatal head shot coming upward at a 45-degree angle from 1-3 inches behind his right ear. Not one bullet from Sirhan’s gun hit the Senator.  In addition, an audio recording shows that many more bullets than the eight in Sirhan’s gun were fired in the hotel pantry that night. It was impossible for Sirhan to have killed RFK.

Let me repeat: More than one gunman, contrary to the government’s claims, equals a conspiracy.  So why lie about that?

What is amazing is that the obvious conclusion to such simple syllogistic logic (Sirhan in front, bullets in the back, therefore…) that a child could understand has been dismissed by the authorities for fifty-one years.  The fact that the government authorities – the LAPD, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney, federal and state government officials, the FBI, the CIA – have from the start so assiduously done all in their power to pin the blame on “a lone assassin,” Sirhan, proves they are part of a coordinated cover-up, which in turn suggests their involvement in the crime.

The fact that Robert Kennedy was shot from the back and not the front where Sirhan was standing immediately brings to mind the Zapruder film that shows that JFK was killed from the front right and not from the 6th floor rear where Oswald was allegedly shooting from.  That unexpected film evidence was hidden from the public for many years, but when it was finally seen, the case for a government conspiracy was solidified.

While no such video evidence has surfaced in the RFK case, the LAPD made sure that no photographic evidence contradicting the official lies would be seen.  As Lisa Pease writes:

Less than two months after the assassination, the LAPD took the extraordinary step of burning some 2,400 photos from the case in Los Angeles County General’s medical waste incinerator.  Why destroy thousands of photos in an incinerator if there was nothing to hide?  The LAPD kept hundreds of innocuous crowd scene photos that showed no girl in a polka dot dress or no suspicious activities or individuals.  Why were those photos preserved?  Perhaps because those photos had nothing in them that warranted their destruction.

While “perhaps” is a mild word, the cover-up of “the girl in the polka dot dress” needs no perhaps.  Dozens of people reported seeing a suspicious, curvaceous girl in a white dress with black polka dots with Sirhan in the pantry and other places. She was seen with various other men as well. The evidence for her involvement in the assassination is overwhelming, and yet the LAPD did all in its power to deny this by browbeating witnesses and by allowing her to escape.

Sandra Serrano, a Kennedy campaign worker and a courageous witness, was bullied by the CIA-connected police interrogator Sergeant Enrique “Hank” Hernandez.  She had been sitting outside on a metal fire escape getting some air when the polka dot dress girl, accompanied by a man, ran out and down the stairs, shouting, “We’ve shot him, we’ve shot him.”  When Serrano asked whom did they shoot, the girl replied, “We’ve shot Senator Kennedy.”  Then she and her companion, both of whom Serrano had earlier seen ascending the stairs with Sirhan, disappeared into the night. A little over an hour after the shooting Serrano was interviewed on live television by NBC’s Sander Vanocur where she recounted this.  And there were others who saw and heard this girl say the same thing as she and her companion fled the crime scene.  Nevertheless, the LAPD, led by Lieutenant Manuel Pena, also CIA affiliated, who was brought out of retirement to run the investigation dubbed “Special Unit Senator,” worked with Hernandez and others to dismiss the girl as of no consequence.

Lisa Pease covers all this and much more.  She shows how Sirhan was obviously hypnotized, how the trial was a farce, how the police destroyed evidence from the door frames in the pantry that proved more than the eight bullets in Sirhan’s gun were fired, how Officer DeWayne Wolfer manipulated the ballistic evidence, etc.  Through years of digging into court records, archives, transcripts, the public library, and doing countless interviews, she proves without a doubt that Sirhan did not kill Kennedy and that the assassination and the cover-up were part of a very sophisticated intelligence operation involving many parts and players.  She shows how no matter what route Kennedy took in the hotel that night, the killers had all exits covered and that he would not be allowed to leave alive.

While some of her more speculative points – e.g. that Robert Maheu (Howard Hughes/CIA) was “the most credible high-level suspect for the planner of Robert Kennedy’s assassination,” that Kennedy was shot twice in the head from behind, etc. are open to debate, they do not detract from her fundamentally powerful case that RFK, like his brother John, was assassinated by a CIA-run operation intended to silence their voices of courageous resistance to an expanding secret government dedicated to war, murder, and human exploitation.  The U.S. government of today.

When Bobby Kennedy was entering the kitchen pantry, he was escorted by a security guard named Thane Eugene Cesar, a man long suspected of being the assassin.  Cesar was carrying a gun that he drew but denied firing, despite witnesses’ claims to the contrary. Conveniently, the police never examined the gun.  He has long been suspected of being CIA affiliated, and now Pease says she has found evidence to confirm that.  She writes, “It’s hard to overstate the significance of finding a current or future CIA contract agent holding Kennedy’s right arm at the moment of the shooting.”

Yes, it is.  As she rightly claims, the CIA takeover of America in the 1960s is the story of our time.  And our time is now.  None of this is ancient history.  That is so crucial to grasp.  For those who think that learning the truth about the 1960s assassinations is an exercise in futility reserved for those who are living in the past, they need to think again.  Our descent into endless war and massive media propaganda to support it is part of a long-term project that began with the elimination of JFK, Malcom X, MLK, and Robert Kennedy.  They were killed for reasons, and those reasons still exist, even if they don’t physically, but only in spirit.  Their killers roam the land because they have become far more deeply part of the institutional structure of government and the media.

Pease says:

It was horrible that Robert Kennedy was taken from us far too soon.  It is horrible that one man has borne the guilt for an operation he neither planned nor willingly participated in.  It’s horrible the conspiracy was so obvious that bullets had to be lost and switched to hide it.  And it’s horrible that the mainstream media has never dared to tell the people of this country that the government lied to us about what they really found when they looked into this case.  Until the media can deal with the truth of the Robert Kennedy assassination, and until the people can be made aware of the CIA’s role in slanting the truth on topics of great importance, America’s very survival is in jeopardy….We’ve come perilously close to losing democracy itself because of fake, CIA-sponsored stories about our history.  Should America ever become a dictatorship, the epitaph of our democracy must include the role the mainstream media, by bowing to the National Security state, played in killing it.

By writing A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease has done her valiant part in refuting the lie that is now failing.  Now it is up to all of us to spread the word of truth by focusing on the fundamental facts so we can finally take back our country from the CIA.

Then we can say with RFK and his favorite poet Aeschylus:

And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

A Conspiracy Theorist Confesses to his Petty Crimes

Our research has shown for the first time the role that conspiracy theories can play in determining an individual’s attitude to everyday crime.  It demonstrates that people subscribing to the view that others have conspired might be more inclined toward unethical actions.

— Professor Karen Douglas, University of Kent press release for the research, entitled “Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Intentions to Engage in Everyday Crime,” in the British Journal of Social Psychology

Let me be perfectly clear from the outset.

I am not referring to the conspiracy theories of George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump and other luminaries concerning events such as the attack of September 11, 2011, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the ongoing war on terror, Julian Assange’s alleged ties to Russia, etc.  These people’s conspiracy theories have nothing to do with petty crime, for their handiwork is grand indeed. They are big people. In any case, I don’t know what small stuff they might be up to when not killing so many people all around the world.

I got to thinking about my petty crimes after reading a profound article in The New York Post how the aforementioned Professor Douglas and her comrades at two English research universities have proven – “backed up by science” as the Post’s Rob Bailey-Milado says – that little people like me who have concluded that the U.S. national security state conspired to kill President Kennedy, to take one example, are inclined to take to the dark side and pilfer M&Ms from the candy counter and stuff like that.

“Sure,” Bailey-Milado writes in his elegant style, “we’ve been saying this about our wack-job uncle for years.”  Such a nut case might be a “9/11 denier” or believe “the ancient pyramids were built by aliens” or believe “myths surrounding the Mueller report to the chilling ‘secret’ behind Disney’s ‘Frozen’.”

As we all know, all these nutty beliefs are of equal value and validity, and to even harbor the thought that Bailey-Milado might have the CIA’s 1967 secret Dispatch – Doc 1035-960, showing how to counter and discredit the claims of conspiracy theorists – pinned over his desk or in his mind is to risk further accusations of being wacked-out and in need of examining one’s proclivity toward everyday crimes.  So I won’t go there.  I’m guilty enough.

So bless me, folks, for I have sinned.  Let me confess.

Last week, after reading the Post article and the study itself, I found myself in my local co-op market.  You might wonder where I had been looking for myself when I found myself there, staring into bins of dried fruit, but let’s just say I had been around.  When you’re lost and wacked-out, you never know where you are or why you believe what you believe.

I was trying to decide whether to get the dried pineapple, mango, or figs.  It was a tough choice, sort of like staring at forty different tubes of toothpaste on the store shelf and wondering which to buy or if the one advertised as specially for women would work for a man since men must have different teeth.  The comparison is not exactly apt, I guess, for you can’t test the toothpastes there, but the fruit looked so edible.  So, when no one was looking, I first tried the pineapple, then the mango, and finally the figs.  I thought I saw the store manager see me when I took the fig because I was so enjoying the fruits of my crime that I let my guard down.

When I was leaving the store, I had the odd thought that the cop car in the parking lot was there for me, so I turned and went out via the sidewalk, sighing in relief as I did.  As I was walking home, I thought of my narrow escape and the brilliance of the study that connected my conspiratorial thinking to my criminal activity with the fruit.  I also couldn’t help thinking how the figs had reminded me of my latest conspiracy theory, but one supported by sources as confidential as those referenced by The New York Times or The Washington Post.  In addition, like those devotees of truth and confidentiality, I will never reveal my sources.

Legend has it that Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity while sitting in a garden, watching apples fall perpendicularly to the ground.  However, this is not true. I have learned from my confidential sources that his nickname was Isaac “Fig” Newton and that those who claim the Fig Newton cookie was named after Newton, Massachusetts are involved in a great cover-up.

My sources tell me that when Isaac was a child, he was so fond of figs that his mother had to warn him against eating too many, for as you probably know, figs, like prunes, are filled with fiber and possess a laxative quality.  Isaac was defecating so much and so often that his mother was alarmed.  But a mother’s panic at a child’s toilet habits can be a source of insight years later.

So it was that years later it was Isaac’s experience on the potty that gave him his great insight into gravity.  Reflecting back on his childhood, he realized that shit always went down, never up (there were no electric fans in those days, so no one would say that it went up when “shit hit the fan”). He remembered his mother’s loving words when as a boy he would tell his mom he had to “take a shit,” she would remind him that it was always better to give than take, so he should “give a shit.”

Also, it was Isaac’s chore to take the family potty out behind the house where it was emptied down into a deep hole about six feet under.  Thus, the adult Isaac came to call his discovery gravity, after the grave.  He scientifically proved what everyone already knew: that everything and everyone goes down, eventually.  Not the most uplifting news, I grant you, but I have sources for that also.

So I readily admit I am guilty of this inclination toward low-level “crime,” as Douglas and her colleagues explicate so brilliantly.  No doubt, it is connected to my conspiratorial mindset.  I hope that much is clear.  Sometimes I just can’t resist the forbidden fruit.  Although not an apple, it seems to give me insight into the knowledge of good and evil.

For some reason, I suspect Douglas will not be studying the elite criminals who conspire to invade countries, kill millions, and blame it on others.  Those are crimes against humanity, and are beyond the purview of research aimed at showing how sick everyday people are who suspect that their leaders are big-time criminals.