An Open Letter to my English Professor

You Are Not AloneHi Professor,

Let me preface this by saying that I do agree with many of the points you brought up — I agree that the United States has not experienced invasion in the same way as other countries have and I agree that our country does implement propaganda in order to gloss over horrific events and civil laws.  

Historically, we are a nation that has committed tremendous injustices and atrocities against our citizens and other nations.  I recognize that, and I understand that you were ranting against the government and not its soldiers.

However, thats not the way your perspective came across, because you failed to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice of our soldiers and citizens and the pain our nation has experienced.  In doing so, you devalued and defamed our veterans, past and present, including myself.  

More than that, your tone took on a Vietnam-era vehemence that has alienated and even killed many of our service men and women while on the home front.  Your words felt like a personal attack, not only against me, but also against every fellow veteran who has ever served.  

I almost walked out of the class.  

EMP TYI have lost friends to war.  I have friends who are so messed up by PTSD that they can’t sleep at night.  I’ve had a small taste of what it’s like — and to sit in a classroom where I’m supposed to learn about American fiction and listen to a professor, who is emotionally far removed from everything I have experienced, rant against the actions that I have lived through was a psychological knife through the heart.  

You made me relive emotions that I would rather forget about and leave in the past.

I was offended and hurt.  

Further, you implied that the 9/11 attacks were blown out of proportion and that the nation responded irrationally.  Tell that to the 343 firefighters who perished under rubble with sweat pouring down their faces and the blood of fellow citizens on their hands, or to the children whose parents leapt to their deaths from the one hundredth floor — who might be silently sitting in your classrooms, afraid to speak up.

tumblr_ms6sfiJgmo1s6oir6o1_540We responded out of pain — pain which you did not acknowledge.  

Not only am I a veteran, I am also a firefighter who knows what it feels like to be powerless and in a dark room, blind and facing down death.  I have some semblance of an idea of what those men and women went through in the moments before their death.

It’s a terrible feeling.  

Just because you, and some in our nation, have not experienced the same amount of pain as other people and nations have, does not make the pain they have suffered any less.  It does not take away what some of us have lost.

In the future, I beg of you to consider the background of the students in your classroom, before you broach potentially painful subjects with such a determined stance.

Thanks for reading,

Senior Airman Andrew Castillo.  USAF Firefighter, 104th Fighter Wing

*The images contained in this post were taken by me during deployment, and represent the pain caused by depression and suicide in the Military.




Andy Christian CastilloAndy Christian Castillo is the Founder of Ver・ism(s).  He is a military veteran and student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, pursuing a degree in English.  In his free time, he plays music, writes poetry, gallivants around the world, climbs mountains and runs through the pouring rain.


4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to my English Professor

  1. Pain, or pain begetting pain, seems to be the real topic of this short letter. I remember after 9/11 feeling psychologically distraught for a number of months, and I wasn’t even directly affected. However, I can imagine that folks in Iraq, who had nothing to do with our pain, experienced busload after busload of their own thanks to poor policies that were put into action quite easily, all because of our pain.I can also imagine all of the pain that US veterans face every day because of these poor policies–and pain that turns to hopelessness when they see all of their work was for naught as the pain in Iraq not only intensifies, but moves outwards to infect other nation states.

    I also imagine that this professor rants as he does because he too is in pain, and his pain manifests as a kind of impotent anger–even though the facts may all be on his side, he looks at the headlines day after day and realizes that no one is listening. He rants. He wants to move his students to action, but his ranting causes even more pain to those already in its grip.

    Pain does funny things to us: it alienates us; it hollows us out; it moves us to strike out, blindly. I’m not suggesting that your letter is striking out blindly, after all, the professor’s actions are its target; however, it’s working at a very emotional level and in this way, unintentionally I assume, it is giving a free pass to all the unrighteous acts made on behalf of concepts like freedom and liberty and justice (those acts that I imagine your professor was attempting to excoriate when instead you felt the blast of his anger) that have been carried out in the name of this pain. The letter stops short of looking back at the cause of all of this pain and maybe that wasn’t it’s point, but perhaps it should be. As I hesitate with by cursor over the comment button, I wonder if this response will invariably just cause more pain, or if it will be seen as I meant it to be seen: as a thoughtful response to a very emotional topic. Pain. I wonder where it all will end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your point is a good one. One which I do not disagree with. My aim in this note is to shed light on the fact that soldiers are not the enemies. The child soldier who is given a gun is in just as much pain as the father he kills. We must acknowledge both sides, and approach painful issues with universal compassion. We must stop in the middle of our sermons and acknowledge those weeping in the audience. That is my point. Yes, looking back is good — and looking forward after looking back is better, but at the same time, we must realize the effects of the past, on those who are around us in the present. Otherwise, we will only cause more pain.


      1. Point taken, Andy. I’d add one more thing: we should also acknowledge that while there are sides, there is no “outside.” Ecological writer and OOO enthusiast, Tim Morton dedicated a chapter in one of his recent books to what he calls the BSS, or Beautiful Soul Syndrome. While the BSS was geared towards those who see themselves on the side of Nature in our current ecological crisis–it was pointed at folks who are keen to draw up sides and who see themselves (because of their Vegan lifestyle, or Buddhist sensibilities, whatever) on Nature’s side ( a capital “N” nature is also another one of their problems, but that’s maybe for another time). Morton argues that those who have swallowed the BSS kool-aid have committed two sins: First, they see Nature as “over there” and bad humans as “over here” ( they set up a dichotomy of sorts where no such dichotomy exists–except in their heads, obviously (Romantic Emerson rings a bell here). Secondly (and this is because of the first move) they see themselves as on Nature’s side and therefore, because of their right actions, they stand blameless ( there’s Emerson, again!).
        What does this have to do with your post? Well, your professor seemed to be acting under a BSS umbrella because he–at least from what you conveyed–drew up sides where no side exists (the Gulf War is far too complex to reduce to simple poor planning because our geo-political interests and national security, corporate-driven MIC, market-driven economy,together with a nationalistic mindset all drove us in this direction (Did I miss anything? I’m sure I did and somewhere something will stick to that professor and pull him right back into the mix)). The second sin is the one that set you off–the professor saw himself as blameless and everyone else on the other side of his made-up line was as guilty as hell.
        I like your statement about universal compassion. I think that we should have such compassion because we are all universally complicit, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Matt, I couldn’t have said it better. Beautifully articulated.

        And I don’t think my professor intended to alienate one side or the other — rather, it was a by-product of the intense vilification of leaders. Everyone else was lumped in because she did not distinguish or clarify anything. I think she got so focused on her anger towards the issue, that she developed tunnel vision, and lost herself in the argument. I don’t know if that makes sense.

        Anyways, I think Morton’s deduction applies to all of humanity — and not just war. Every problem that arises in the world stems from the positioning, either intentional or unintentional, of one side against another. Husbands against wives; Red Sox vs Yankees; Trump vs Clinton; etc, etc. Life is easier to ingest in black and white, but that is certainly not reality. And when it comes to touchy subjects like war or conflict, stating the terms in black and white is never the right approach.

        Thanks for your input!


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