About Me, Bruce Kuznicki

Work in Progress

I am nearly forty years old, white, straight, and male. I bring these factors up because this blog is going to deal with many questions of race and the current social climate in the United States. I used to believe I was able to evaluate situations coolly and from a non racial, non male, non straight perspective-- essentially, this was a way of believing I could see things as they truly are, not colored by perspective or anything that would limit my perceptions of things to a point of view from which to see it. I don't think this  anymore. For this reason, I want to make the reader understand  some of who I am.

I was born in New England and my family went down to Bucks County, Pennsylvania when I was about five years old. I lived in our home in Doylestown, PA, until I was about twenty one, at which time I went to Bard College in upstate New York, where I studied literature and political  science. Maybe six months after I graduated I left PA for Los Angeles, where I hoped to pursue a career in screenwriting.

Alas, I came sort of close a few times but never broke in there. I met the woman who two years later became my wife-- Noemi Mejia-- a few months after arriving in L.A. She was an immigrant from El Salvador and from a different culture than my own-- but this was never much of an issue for us and our relationship developed pretty much the way all my previous relationships  with girls and women had.

One of the first things I learned from her, though, was a different understanding of the Cold War than  I'd always taken for granted. The Cold War had  been a focus of my study at Bard and I'd learned the basic liberal critique of the time period-- I believed it, in fact, but years later, I realized I hadn't really learned as much as I'd thought I had. I remember explaining to Noemi and a Salvadoran friend the mentality of the United States during the post war years, when fear of Communism, however irrational we now understand it to have been, had dominated the thinking of our government and society. I remember being a child in the seventies and eighties and understanding that we had an  enormous enemy in the Soviet Union, and that while we would probably never fight them, the risk was ever present and if  war broke out between us, it would probably mean the end of the world. El Salvador and its problems, then, were a thing no  one in the U.S. could devote even a moment's consideration to-- the fact was that if communism appeared to be breaking out in Central America, we could see it in only one way-- as another front in the Moscow directed war against all that we believed in and cared for.

I had a good relationship with my wife and our friend, and they were surprisingly willing to consider this point of view. I think I'd done a good job explaining how totally the fear of  a global Communist  menace had overtaken our view of everything, and that it had been so for so many decades that Americans knew of no other way to see the world.

What changed for me was getting to know my wife over the years and getting to know my family in El Salvador. One of the first things I learned was how irrelevant the American forces were to anything most of the poor in El Salvador-- which is to say, most of the people-- recognized as a part of their lives. Communism versus capitalism,  like in Vietnam, was not a thing the Salvadorans  were thinking about-- they wanted a chance at better lives, and amid the corruption  in their society which had been controlled by the same people for the entire twentieth century, that wouldn't change without change in government. Government wouldn't change without war.

America was  dead set on having  its war in El Salvador, and for twelve long years, it  raged. I'm not sure when I began understanding what that meant-- I think it was the slow experience of hearing Salvadorans, my wife, but also many others, talking about their experiences during the war. Eventually, I began to develop a deep appreciation  for just how much  suffering the people of El Salvador had experienced during the 1980's. Slowly, I began to reject my previous understanding of America's essential innocence-- its good intentions  no longer seemed to me to be any sort of explanation, let alone excuse.

I'd been working as a teacher for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and one of  my most important positions was  teaching in the Central Juvenile Hall. There's much I'd have to write to explain how formative an experience that was, but the relevant point here was the  manner in which getting  to know  my students and even some of the staff I worked around altered my understanding of human experience in the United States.