|Public Theology||About Organize Theology Church Philosophy Ethics Politics Planning Society Economy Creation Peace Preach Media TheoEd Contact Home Subscribe||
Get Our Newsletter
Telling Truth about Violence and Responsibility
Ward Churchill, an Indian activist and professor at University of Colorado, is being attacked by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, supported by Kurt Nimmo and others.
Since writing the piece below there has been much more in the media about the Ward Churchill controversy. Kurt Nimmo writes an excellent article in CounterPunch, where he writes that the Ward Churchill affair reminds him "... of a scene in Fred Zinnemann's Julia, a horrific scene where Nazi brownshirts invade a university, beat up professors, and cheerily throw them from high balconies, presumably to their deaths. Of course, we are a long way from that sort of behavior in America ... or are we?"
Editors of my local paper, the Tacoma News Tribune say on 2/8/05: "Like a lot of people who think in crude generalizations, his first reflex is to compare people he criticizes to Nazis. That’s why those who died in the twin towers were “little Eichmanns.” Ironically, Churchill is a fervent believer in collective guilt – something the Nazis were also big on. Some notions are so hateful, so idiotic and so divorced from reality that they can be taken seriously only on the campus of an American university." They completely miss the point of what Churchill is trying to say and claim he is just a hater of America.
The same paper then a couple days later publishes an opinion piece by Edward Alexander, professor emeritus of English at the University of Washington in Seattle, which claims "Extremism is the order of the day on campus," one of the most "extremist" statements I have read in a long time. He then says Churchill and others on campus willing to criticize American foreign policy are all "uniform" in their thinking, it is all "anti-Americanism" charactized as "hysteria, bordering on mental imbalance."
This is the kind of talk that represents the mentality that, indeed, undergirded Hitler's brownshirts. Anybody who doesn't think so should read Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, a straight, unbiased account of Hitler's Germany.
What Churchill is trying to say is that violence begets violence. This is a simple truth affirmed by anybody who thinks just a bit about human relations. But when applied to the United States it means this: if we as a country use violence in either its military or economic forms around the world we should not be surprised if violence is returned to us such as happened in 9/11. Churchill does not justify the violence but he wants us to deeply understand it. His use of polemic to make his point does not deny the basic truth of what he is saying.
Many Americans, of course, are not fully aware of the degree to which violence has been used by this country around the world. We prefer to think of ourselves as a benevolent and caring country. To face the facts I recommend a recent book by Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim - Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. The book demonstrates how the foreign policies of this country and the CIA over the past thirty years created the conditions which made terrorism possible as a political movement of Middle East radicals. Terrorism, in its current form was literally the creation of the CIA as it tried to put down nationalist movements during the Cold War especially in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden was trained to lead the uprising against Russia.
Churchill's book, On The Justice of Roosting Chickens, is a history of how the United States has used violence to get its way in the world. Thoughtful and caring people will want to face the truth about violence if we want to be able to think and imagine a future of peace and justice.
Conservative television host Bill O'Reilly has begun a campaign to get the University of Colorado to fire professor Ward Churchill for comments related to a book of his. It is outrageous in the first place that a television host should feel it within his power to decide what is appropriate to be taught a a public university. In the second place O'Reilly has not in the least attempted to grasp the significance of what Professor Churchill is saying concerning the history of this country in relation to other countries in the world.
At the heart of the controversy is an essay by Churchill called Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. At that website is much further information, including support letters and most recent news.
The essay is a very strong indictment of American use of military force and an in depth critique of America's economic power symbolized by the World Trade Towers. Written shortly after 9/11 before there was much information available Churchill's analysis is brilliant and chillingly on target in terms of the moral context of the attacks. It is hard for most Americans to read about their complicity in the death and destruction of others; few have the courage to tell the truth in this way. The truth of the history of American violence must especially be faced now that this country is more and more developing and using weapons of mass destruction.
Below is a statement of Ward Churchill about this whole affair:
January 31, 2005
Ward Churchill's statement
The following is a statement from Ward Churchill:
In the last few days there has been widespread and grossly inaccurate media coverage concerning my analysis of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, coverage that has resulted in defamation of my character and threats against my life. What I actually said has been lost, indeed turned into the opposite of itself, and I hope the following facts will be reported at least to the same extent that the fabrications have been.
January 31, 2005
Sponsored by the