Americans Who Tell the Truth: Robert Jensen

Robert Jensen

Professor, Author: b. 1958

“This is the simple discovery which we must confront. We were given a place in the creation, with a beauty beyond telling, and we have failed to care for it. And as our collective contempt for the non-human world has intensified, so has our contempt for each other. We have failed to care for each other.”

Americans Who Tell the Truth
Portraits by Robert Shetterly

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Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Jensen is a prolific writer, speaker, and activist. His project is to engage people in critical analysis of the way in which we all live, while working toward a more humane and ecologically sustainable world. In his words, “… we know there can be no difference between how we treat those we love and those on the other side of the world whom we will never know and never touch…if by virtue of being human we have a claim to life and dignity in living –- then everyone must have that same claim.”

Jensen defines the leftist political position as “anti-capitalist and anti-empire”, and argues that as Americans make up a small percentage of the world’s population, yet consume about a fourth of the world’s energy, we are “living a life that is unsustainable, a life that would be impossible without the inequality produced by global capitalism and US imperial adventures.”

His ideas ask us, as “citizens of the empire”, to re-examine our sense of supremacy and entitlement and work to dismantle it. Jensen also engages the issues of race and inequality. He acknowledges that as a white man, he has benefited from some form of unearned white privilege in his life and achievements, and asserts that “the moral task of white America is to do something that doesn’t come naturally to people in positions of unearned power and privilege: Look in the mirror honestly and concede that we live in an unjust society and have no right to some of what we have.”

Jensen also challenges men to reject the typical concept of masculinity –- aggressive, competitive, looking to conquer and control –- as being destructive to both sexes and antithetical to creating a just world. His is a strong feminist voice against male dominance and cruelty toward women, and he is an activist against pornography.

Robert Jensen drew widespread attention and criticism for an article he wrote soon after the terrorist attack against the US on September 11, 2001, in which he asserted that this act was “no more despicable as the massive acts of terrorism – the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes – that the US government has committed during my lifetime.” His published books include The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White PrivilegeCitizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our HumanityWriting Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream; and Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, co-authored with Gail Dines and Ann Russo.

Robert Shetterly (born in 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is an American artist. Shetterly is best known for his portrait series, “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” a project begun in response to U.S. government actions following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Towers in New York City. Shetterly undertook the project as a way to deal with his own grief and anger by painting Americans who inspired him. He initially intended to paint only 50 portraits, but by 2013 more than 180 portraits were included in the series. Portions of the series tour widely across the United States, being shown in schools, museums, libraries, galleries and other public spaces. [Source: Wikipedia]

For more biographical information and awards:  TheArtist

One comment

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