Saturday, December 6, 2014

CRAIG EDWARD KELSO, Happy Birthday Noam Chomsky

He is one of the bravest intellectuals in American history.

Completely unafraid.

Completely lucid.

He and I disagree on economics, and government power in general, but his analysis is always worth considering (though his assumptions firmly place him as a man of the paleo-Left).

I first encountered him at an underground punk show. Some band I’ve long forgotten included his lecture as a b-side to their 45. Here was an aggressive band screaming and shouting on one side of the vinyl, and an old professor lecturing about American foreign policy on the other. Again, the band was forgettable, but Chomsky was not.

Avram Noam Chomsky was born shortly before the Great Depression, and he grew up in fairly observant Jewish family on the East Coast. His early life was spent in devouring books, especially those on language. Linguistics would prove to be his great love, and he’d revolutionize the field with what is known as the Chomskian Revolution. He’s won nearly every significant scientific accolade in the world for his efforts.

The American foray into Vietnam brought Chomsky out to speak in public, as a dashing young professor helping to galvanize student protests. He gave the otherwise clunky protesters their intellectual backing, and he provided much needed moral support. His work got him named on Nixon’s enemy list. From the Vietnam era on, Chomsky wrote and researched about American foreign policy, exposing basic truths about state power. He is always worth reading. 

What immediately struck me about him then when I first heard him, and still today, is how calm he comes across … and yet how passionate he is when he speaks. Nothing sexy. No toothy-smiles. No slick suits. No cussing. No shouting. Just a steady barrage of facts as he sees them.

I remember thinking, here was someone from whom I could really learn. Somehow I found he taught at MIT in Boston, so I called over there. HE PICKED UP THE PHONE. He laughed at how excited I was to speak with him, and asked if I really wanted to have a dialog that I write him a letter (this was before the internet). Boy, did I. I hit him with every question I could muster. HE ANSWERED, and he answered in depth. His letters were beyond generous, and they expanded on subjects so as to help me further my own education. He was BOSS. A legitimate badass.

After 9-11, Chomsky was one of the only prominent Americans to speak out against what he could clearly see coming: a march to war, and the perennial excuse for states of the world to expand their power. He was so right it’s almost a textbook example of clairvoyance.

Of course, he was vilified by other American intellectuals and the mainstream press. And even though he was already a marginalized thinker, they pushed him even further to the edge of our collective consciousness. For a little while, Chomsky could not get on the air or in the press at all.   

I too had run-ins with colleagues and others who were bent on flag waving and patriot displays, though to a much smaller degree. It was hard for me because EVERYONE wanted war, and they’d become very upset with me that I didn’t want war. EVERYONE. Kids I’d taught were joining the military, drunk off of killing the towel-heads mentality so prevalent at the time, and I wasn’t shy about warning them: I don’t want to hear your whine when you return, broken (now, of course, these same veterans want free everything for their “sacrifice,” including medical care and tuition – FUCK YOU). Chomsky dealt considerably more with straight attacks on his person for daring to suggest the United States was responsible for stirring up hatred around the world, and THIS was why it was now being attacked.

All along, Chomsky has steadfastly been there to offer sober, plain analysis of the choices the United States government makes in our name. And though the Occupy movements claim Noam as their father, and no doubt he’d defend all their goofy ideas, I still love Noam.

The United States needs Chomsky.

So do I.

And I mean it.
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children. 

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