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Heavy Heart

On my decision not to teach in America.

I dread letters that begin with the cautionary, “It is with heavy heart...”, and yet it is with just such a heart that I find myself writing this note.

You are my friends, my students and my colleagues. Amazingly, we have managed to remain, for the most part, free of conflict, intrigue or quarrel. Many of you I respect as much as I do the people dearest to me in my life, my family, my teachers and close friends. It is very hard for me to write this letter and to make this decision. But here it is. I no longer feel I can teach in America.

It’s funny what sometimes triggers a decision finally. Many of you know my feelings on the state of the world since we collectively fell prey to Bush & Co. There is no need to rehash anything, I’ve taken enough valuable class time railing on about the issues and I doubt many of you disagree substantially with any of my views. The latest confluence of hypocrisies however has really pushed it over the edge for me. In wake of the ‘response’ to Katrina, the U.S. officialdom has conferred preferred status on the homocide-tolerant Pat Robertson’s sham ‘relief agency’ Operation Blessing, an agency Robertson regularly misuses for direct personal profit. This and the Pentagon’s so called ‘America Supports You Freedom Walk’ (sponsored by Lockheed Martin) have, in my view, taken America into a level of surreality somehow evocative of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1934 Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will.

Though these issues are neither the largest nor most outrageous of the Bush Jr. era, they have been, for me personally, the catalysts in making a decision that I have contemplated for many years. In my opinion, America, with its $8 trillion deficit, is now firmly in the grips of a corporate dictatorship and minor victories (such as Bush’s plunging popularity) aside, I sense things are about to get much worse. The long and short of it is, I, like many Canadians, no longer feel safe crossing the border. Given that ‘suspected terrorists’ have been detained without charge for two years by the U.S government in the Guantanamo concentration camps, and that now, virtually anything can be defined as a 'terrorist threat' to 'national security', the idea of teaching esoteric Baguazhang forms or Yin-Yang theory is an unnerving proposition.

Recently Cheney was here meeting with the premiers of B.C. and Alberta about opening up protected coastal waters to oil drilling and expanding production in general. Our premier, Gordon Campbell, a bought and paid for man, has now turned over administration of our precious Medicare system to a private American corporation who is obliged under the Patriot Act to turn over all confidential records of it’s clients if requested. This means that here in British Columbia we are potentially under direct scrutiny and investigation of the Department of Homeland Security. I doubt many Americans even know what or where ‘Alberta’ or ‘British Columbia’ are.

Do I think the situation is hopeless? No I don’t. I believe that we must continue in the important personal and social work that we do to counteract these devil-in-disguise forces. I believe in fact, that there have never been, in the known history of the world, people so knowledgeable and capable for this task as many Americans of today. I support and applaud all efforts you can muster in bringing this ‘administration’ and what it stands for, down.

I realize what a crummy thing this is for all of us. I love teaching my art more than anything I’ve done in this life. It sickens me to think of abandoning my friends, the very best of Americans, in this way. They are in fact, the best of what I believe that country to be. They are kind, inquiring, generous, modest and friendly and wherever my path takes me I will continue to speak of the best Americans regardless of the inanities which continue to plague their nation.

To my American friends, you are always welcome in my classes wherever they may be and I would consider it a tragedy to lose contact with any of you. I am truly sorry about this.

With heavy heart,