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A Reply to a Character Assassination

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This is my original unabridged response to the editors of the Burlington, VT-based news publication Seven Days, concerning their article written on me andpublished online and in print  on October 3, 2018,  with the unfortunate headline, “From Burlington With Love: Vermonter Writes for Russian News Website With Shady Ties”. I will begin by stating we live in suchextreme times, a dangerous period in world history which affects all human beings regardless of their social class or ethnicity. However, there are moments when one has the right to be understood for who they are, and not what others or someone else wants us to be in their imagination.  A Vermont lawyer friend  said to me after reading the article in question, “It seems the reporter tried to say something about you that was actual, that was real, but she could never quite go there with a balanced view of you as who you are.” While I would say there is great truth to the lawyer's comment, I think  his conclusion does not go far enough.

The article's headline ends with the phrase “News Website With Shady Ties”—a phrase in itself sensational, inflammatory, incendiary, or demeaning at best -- and does it not imply I am actually a part of the “Shady Ties” and have criminal intent? In the first part of the story, the reporter draws an almost immediate conclusion that I have been writing essays for a news website called USA Really that could be used for intelligence gathering by Russian security forces.  The reporter then alludes to the notion the Russian news website is a cover. Then the reporter states  it “might be part of the latest – and most overt – Russian tactics to manipulate U. S. elections”. However, what the reporter does not have is actual evidence that corroborates her claim, even as she quotes a Russian language professor at UVM and Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos. They each  spout their own speculative theories of what is intelligence interference in U.S. elections, yet neither offers explicit proof USA Really is a front for Russian intelligence gathering. Here I will state emphatically, a reporter should not imply that any organization is an intelligence network or that someone, like myself, is being duped by writing for a Russian news website online. I am a free-lance writer, but first and foremost, I am a historian and scholar influenced by the French historian Alexis De Tocqueville and the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who have taught me to seek out truth in my observations about the body politic wherever that body politic may be in the world. 

Another lack of balance in the story is, in the words of a Vermont artist who wrote in  a comment to me, “I felt like the reporter missed so much about you, i.e. how your father died when you were nine and the fact that you danced in the kitchen as a boy with your mother and more about your essays, your running and your photography and your recent Paris photos collections. How could she write [what she did] about you? “ I choose a way of life that is solitary, part of the life of any serious writer.  What I found in the story was that the reporter saw in me a Sturm and Drang life that in reality is not the case.  I live quietly and rather modestly. If I am sentimental in my writing of poetry, I am more disciplined and more creative in the way I write my prose which I feel is the best of my writing.

If I call myself a Marxist intellectual, it is also the way I lead my life. I do not see myself “left on the margins” as the reporter implied, nor do I see myself as an outcast or outsider as she romantically implied in her short, but limited history of my life. I, like thousands of human beings, have known adversity and personal tragedy, but I do not see that as the summation of my life. However, I did send her a comment that I asked her to include in the story which she did not include, and I now offer in this revised form:  "Football saved my life.  It was Football, not writing, painting or taking photographs in Paris that helped me to overcome the trauma of running my first marathon to qualify for the Olympic trials when I was young. Football became the very struggle for life or death.  Football, meaning soccer, became a footnote to that of being a Football Coach, Football teaching me that it is the most courageous of all games, and a game that gave me life.” The term “Football” is what is known as soccer in America.  What is sadly pathetic was the reporter was more interested in how I made my livingfinancially, as if being a poet, a painter, a photographer, let alone a Football (soccer) coach was in itself problematic.  Success does not mean a 9 to 5 job, and it does not mean bourgeois success, in the way ‘success’ is gauged in America. 

Finally, when it comes to being a citizen in Vermont,someone who resides here, the reporter quotes the UVM language professor about a writer like me supposedly writing “an account about chaos, confusion, malfeasance, complaints, inequalities, written by a local Burlingtonian instead of someone from Moscow or St. Petersburg – that is infinitely more effective.” Obviously he's never read a word I've written. I write about Vermont as I see the people and the state, coming to the writing table, paper and pen or computer with my own biases and insights and analysis which is natural for all writers of any worth. I leave to the reader to make a judgment of my observations.  If I remember correctly, Nathaniel Hawthorne was very critical of the social and moral values in New England, and many of his best short stories are about the disquieting social behavior in Vermont.  When I write about my life in Paris, I write with the same vigor and critical eye as I would write about living in Vermont.  I must admit what I found amusing, if not bizarre, wasthe reporter referring to me as a “Vermonter”, when I told her emphatically that my real 'home' in terms of cultural empathy and feeling of being accepted in a community was in Québec City and Paris.  Why did Hemingway love and prefer to live in Cuba over America?  We know why.  There is no “From Burlington With Love” from me, there is only the need to continue with my craft as a writer, to be devoted to football and referee soccer matches as the occasion arises.  This is my long but hopefully modest reply to the character assassination that was part of the story written and published about me in Seven Days.

Author: Luis Lázaro Tijerina