Most of the titles of these essays, as they appear in their publications, were selected by the editors and are not my own. These titles were attached to my writing without my consent. In many cases the titles coercively impose a meaning on my writing that is not present in the content of the essays themselves. I would find out the title selected by the editor only after the essay was published. There were cases in which my editors selected titles in order to project a divisive or polemical tone deliberately. This tone, it was sometimes explicitly explained to me, was chosen to provoke engagement from prospective readers. Nevertheless, this is never my intention and so, in many cases, I have attempted to force editors to amend their selected titles so as to highlight the content of my written work rather than corrupt the meaning of the work.
In my confronting them over this misrepresentation of my work, editors have provided me with several “rationalizations” for why they insist on this practice. These have included written correspondence in which they have explicitly stated political or financial motivation for their behavior.
While some of my attempts to amend these unilateral editorial decisions have been successful, most have not. The content of the essays remains wholly my own and I therefore encourage readers to disregard the titles entirely.
Those editors who have stated that (and therefore have) been motivated by the need to satisfy a particular political end have also blocked my essays from publication when they have deemed those essays as unhelpful towards their goals. To be clear, this has included refusal to publish essays in which I have provided researched and documented corrections to explicit untruths that appear in their publications as well as writings that tend toward analyses and opinion. These editors persisted in this practice even in cases where strong professional relationships were established and even as they continued to publish my work when it satisfied their needs. You will find hearty critiques of practices that have taken and take place in many different circles and forums of leadership. For the sake of clarity, my critiques include both major political parties in the United States and political entities throughout the regions of the world that I engage with. My writing also includes the necessary points of light that need to be shed on the many positive practices that must define the bulk of humanity.
With all editors, I have had to speak my truth in different publications depending on such factors as which political party or government I happened to have been engaging or critiquing. And essays that seek to highlight positive happenings in the world today are usually disregarded by editors altogether.
I have made a conscious decision to continue publishing the writing that certain editors have accepted as long as the content itself (beyond the title) remained uncorrupted. I have found that this involves that truths – from simple universals (the artist’s main concern) to researched and sourced facts – could be interpreted as a “useful truth” to, say, NPR, while an equally valid, researched or sourced truth would need to be placed in On Being or The New York Times (and so on) depending on whether the editors deem them to be “useful truths.” I have also found that this editorial flexibility now applies to ethics.
In a 2013 article for the Huffington Post, I wrote about the value of artistic criticism whether in symphonic or essayistic form. I was describing my Fourth Symphony; a work that concerns itself with one of my two countries (the United States):
“Art Speigelman first characterized my symphony as “scary, sober and seriously silly.” While In the Shadow of No Towers has its comic, cartoonish moments, it is unmistakably one of my most socially critical musical works. Just like in Art’s book, this criticism comes from the perspective of a sympathetic artist aiming to work for the betterment of society rather than alienate audiences with arbitrarily scathing criticism. “If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society,” says Kennedy, “it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our nation falls short of its highest potential.”
In June 2017 the same publication used stolen information from the Ambassador to the US from my other country (the United Arab Emirates). I wrote the following in the pages of Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper:
“I’ve written for Huffington Post for years and that is why I recently wrote an email to the new editor, Lydia Polgreen, expressing my concern at the repeated publication of articles over the last week citing documents that were stolen from Mr Al Otaiba. I explained to her that this was a violation of my own national sovereignty and expressed my regret that, despite my studious work for the publication she now stewards, this was a violation of my will as a citizen of a sovereign nation. I also pointed out the process that I go through every time I write an essay for the Huffington Post or any other publication. I cited the use of stolen material as journalistically unsound.”
This caused me to end my relationship with the Huffington Post as I will draw lines on where my essays can be published based on issues pertaining to basic decency.
But I have persisted in the cases of having to deal with lesser editorial malpractices if it has meant being able to reach readers with word of the many affirmations that many journalistic enterprises are happy to disregard on a daily basis. In 2013, I wrote:
“All of this shifts the focus away from the emphasis on advancements in the humanities, the sciences and the arts that we desperately need. This may sound like hopeless optimism but I do know there’s a vast universe that we need to continue exploring (in fact it’s likely to be vital to our future). There are human bodies that need to be cured through advancements in medical research and whole human beings that need to be inspired by a new poem, sculpture or piece of music.”
I have found the experience of navigating the unnecessary intellectual and moral labyrinth unnerving but I have proceeded with a view to my conviction that publishing the truth half the time is better than not speaking and publishing the truth at all.
I therefore hope that the reader will consider the essays collected here (ranging from 2013 to the present) with these thoughts in mind and while feeling free to disregard the titles provided entirely.