From my perspective, the greatness of his unfettered conscience rivals his visual prodigy. If a brilliant artist without an ethical edge asked me to participate in a project, I would be happy about it, but somewhat reserved. But Cole is more than a mere Picasso. Cole has the added and heart-soaring trait of moral courage.
If you read over my blog, it is unavoidable, sooner rather than later, that you will learn something stubborn about me. I am an inveterate foot-stamper and lambaster when it comes to serious injustice, one of my greatest sore points being this: denial and willful ignorance in matters political and global. I embrace Noam Chomsky’s statement, “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies." Furthermore I extend this exhortion to artists and poets as well. Let me just quote Chomsky right out:
Intellectuals [I would add poets and artists] are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the "responsibility of people," given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.
The US empire has overthrown elected leaders to install tyrants; it abetted the murder of tens of thousands of people through such coups and strategems; it initiated horrifically wrong and dysfuctional wars; and of course the genocide of the native Americans. The Phillipine War is an outstanding example of a little-known atrocious brutality. (See the book Killing Hope for the scores of US invasions, coup attempts, and so on). Most recently we have the Afghanistan War, still ongoing, and the longest in US history. No one knows what the hell we are doing there, besides seeking a claim on vast mineral deposits. Parallels between the Afghanistan War and the Vietnam War are striking. The CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam was a mass murder, concentration camp mill. Also recent is the Iraq War, another long crazy debacle that fed the guts of giant corporations while brutalizing an entire country for over a decade. Our accomplishment? Removing Saddam Hussein, who was an ally before we decided to attack him. We even supplied him with chemical weapons while he used them to gas his own people.
All the above is just the tip of the infernal iceberg. So, there are a lot of cover-ups and lies to expose, as Chomsky would say, and there are a lot of truths to be told. Kenny Cole is doing it. His art screams accusation and does it through fantastic beautiful dark tempestous canvases. Additionally, the man is humble, kind, down-to-earth and just all-around unpretentious. This is the essence of a true champion.
I don’t know what to say (though I have tried) to properly thank him. I never can. He didn’t need to choose me or anyone else to write a poem for Parabellum. I have argued, in fact, that Cole is so permeable in his dimensional shifts that he is as much a poet as an artist. He doesn’t need another wordsmith because he is a consummate one.
These are unstable times and speaking out in our partisan country can be highly uncomfortable or even deleterious to personal security. But, like Chomsky and surely Cole, I feel it is a responsibility. Let art and philosophy and poetry stand together to lead us out of the barbarity of militarism and into a future of hope.
PS: to visit the Parabellum website or my review of Cole: