Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Ward Churchill, context of argument, and the First Amendment

The AP is reporting that Ward Churchill's appearance at Hamilton College has been canceled. Supposedly the event was cancelled due to death threats though it seems likely that it could also be a desire by the college to avoid further controversy. Regardless, it's quite sad that Americans are unable or unwilling to respect their own First Amendment. It's sad that they are unable or unwilling to rationally engage thoughtful critiques such as the one put forth by Churchill. Instead, they fail to investigate the full context of the arguments which leads to a rushed judgment which is not fully informed. Is that the best way to learn about the world we live in?

The governor of Colorado even went so far as to call for Churchill's resignation from his faculty position at a college in that state. What!? That is ridiculous. What is going on in this country? Are we that afraid of unfamiliar ideas or ideas that we disagree with?

You can get the full text of Churchill's response to read for yourself. Here's an excerpt:

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.

* The piece circulating on the internet was developed into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. Most of the book is a detailed chronology of U.S. military interventions since 1776 and U.S. violations of international law since World War II. My point is that we cannot allow the U.S. government, acting in our name, to engage in massive violations of international law and fundamental human rights and not expect to reap the consequences.

* I am not a "defender"of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable."

* This is not to say that I advocate violence; as a U.S. soldier in Vietnam I witnessed and participated in more violence than I ever wish to see. What I am saying is that if we want an end to violence, especially that perpetrated against civilians, we must take the responsibility for halting the slaughter perpetrated by the United States around the world.


Found via this post at Green Ink.

Also, the original essay is available: Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens

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