March 2005


Ward Churchill is a Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, or at least he is for now. Two talk radio hosts, and now Bill O'Reilly, have taken exception to some of his stated opinions on US foreign policy. The statements, when taken out of context, are made for the kind of polarized audience these pundits perform for. But now the public furor has gotten the Governor of Colorado in on the act, and he's calling on the Board of Regents of the University to fire the professor.

Oh for the by-gone days of lofty, ivy-covered academia. The time when you could hear just about every kind of political opinion on a good campus -- and not just from the students either. Professors spoke out on all kinds of topics, taking all kinds of different sides on every issue, especially those that were totally separated from their academic discipline. Professors are supposed to be smart, and smart people are supposed to have opinions. Nobody generally cared what they said, except their student disciples, who naturally thought them incapable of error.

Of course, during some periods in our past, various political opportunists have sought to better their position (or their ratings) by inflaming the public about some issues -- McCarthyism is an excellent example of this kind of witch hunt. The trumpets blare, people lose their jobs and most folks shut up for a while (you know, like we assumed you had to keep your opinions to yourself if you lived under Stalin or Hitler). In hindsight, these are not the times that reflect best on our nation. Most thinking people are rather ashamed that our government acted with such flagrant and criminal disregard of our Constitution.

Yet, here we go again. Two prominent Colorado talk radio personalities have created quite a stir about Ward Churchill, a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder. They say he's unamerican and must be fired by the university before the poison of his opinions contaminates our young and impressionable students. Professor Churchill gave them plenty of grist to grind by discussing sensitive topics like 9/11, the Iraq War and US foreign policy very directly and simply. Quoted out of context, these radio hucksters had a field day. Of course, unless you're a politician who is schooled in deliberately saying nothing, if you do speak your mind at all, you're bound to say something that could be turned into poison for young minds by talk radio. Then, Bill O"Reilly jumped on the bandwagon and dragged the whole affair onto the national stage.

What did the good professor say? He basically suggested that we ought to follow the golden rule -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Of course, then he went further and said that when you do horrible things to other people, you should probably expect those people to at least want to do them back to you, and you should probably not be surprised when they actually succeed, i.e. 9/11 should have come as no surprise to anyone. He also said that the people who attacked on 9/11 were mad at what they believed was the political/economic oppression of their people by mostly US led trans-national corporations... and who had their offices in the World Trade Center? If (and it is a big if) you believe that the terrorists were justified in their anger, then the people who died were not all innocent victims, but mostly complicit in the crimes against the people the terrorists were "supporting." This is not poison for young minds. This is a logical argument. Contrary to O'Reilly and Fox, just because something is logical does not mean it is true and just because you present one logical argument does not mean you agree with it or condone its being put into practice.

You have to remember that Professor Churchill is a specialist in Ethnic Studies - the main focus of his scholarly work has been the atrocities committed by the US government and people against Native Americans. He is used to cutting through the veil of comfortable lies to see the actual facts of things. When he argues that the US is guilty of war crimes in Iraq, it's not because he hates America, but because we did actually commit war crimes in Iraq. When he says that there is no extenuating circumstance that excuses war crimes, he's not being mean to Mr. Bush or Ms. Rice, he's stating a fact. And our nation has come to a really low place if the accurate statement of fact is sufficient to cause the governor of your state to call for your removal from the faculty of your college.

Remember, he has committed no crime, nor has he been accused of any legal misconduct. His detractors, including Governor Bill Owens, are calling for his removal because he disagrees with them. The very same people are the first to jump up to the pulpit, wave a big flag and shout about how free we are and how wonderful American liberty is. Anybody who cries liberty and urges censorship is a liar. Anybody who champions the US Constitution but denies the validity of the First Amendment is no kind of patriot.

If the actual purpose of higher education was to teach young people to think, then we'd want all kinds and conditions of opinion in those institutions so that people could learn how to make up their own minds. Unfortunately, our current crop of government sees higher education as the last and best place to indoctrinate people and limit their ability to think for themselves. That is why they're attacking a professor who teaches his students, by his own example, to make up their own minds.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.