In response to the latest news that Ward Churchill has been recommended for firing, the following article was written on February 11th when Churchill first was recognized for his poor taste...
Do you get it now, Ward?
"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
A phrase typically attributed to Voltaire, the French author and philosopher, although it was actually paraphrased from his works. A phrase that is reborn with regularity whenever there is a strong disagreement with someone’s opinion. A phrase which has been uttered with regularity in regards to the recent publicity surrounding the comments of one Ward Churchill.
Churchill, as most know by now, compared the victims of September 11th to Nazis, and made the implication that they deserved their fate. He also wrote that the terrorists were justified in their actions. He later clarified in his press conference that his reference to the workers in those towers as “little Eichmann’s” was not directed at the janitors, children, and firemen who were killed. Thanks for clearing that up Ward. By saying the hijackers were justified in what they did, he is essentially saying that they were right in killing these same innocent people. So it is of little relief that he clarifies that they were not similar to the Nazis. It is also irrelevant, as there is no justification in saying the people who have decided to become stockbrokers, or insurance salesman, or further the cause of capitalism, are the equivalent of a Nazi, and were rightfully executed on September 11th.
The cries are the same as they always are however, for those who support this man. These are the same people who spew pseudo-intellectual garbage on a regular basis, and then hide behind their First Amendment rights. People have been saying inane things in public forums for years in this country (see PETA, flag burners, or any Hollywood actor with a microphone). Nobody questions the fact that all Americans have the right to an opinion, and the right to express that opinion. But if you’re going to make a statement which encourages terrorism, then you have to face any punishment that is delivered. It is treason. Churchill should be held accountable. The First Amendment should not be used as some sort of immunity cloak for deranged viewpoints. Churchill works for the University of Colorado, and is therefore paid his six figure salary by the students, and parents of students, who attend the University. If this man wants to preach his viewpoints from the summit of the Colorado Rockies, that is his right. But he represents the University which employs him, and they have every right to call for his resignation. Just as other universities should, and have the right to cancel his speaking engagements.
Why would the firing of Churchill be justified? His essays lump the victims of the attacks on America into a group. He has made a generalization. Generalizations and stereotypes are the foundations of such things as racism, and an endorsement of extremism. Had Churchill made similar comments about African-Americans, is there any doubt he would have been fired before he even published his work? No, and rightfully so. It is lunacy and paranoia which he has passed off as wisdom. Rather than analogize, let’s just reverse his statements a bit and say that he made the declaration that civilian Muslims who are killed in Iraq had it coming. Where would his supporters be then? Remember, he called the terrorists “desperate” men whose “gallant sacrifices” reflected the “courage of their convictions.” Then remember how you felt that terrible day, when you watched thousands of people die on your television sets. Was anyone other than a terrorist thinking of the word ‘courageous?’
There are many people who support Churchill. They audaciously cheer as Churchill taunts the Governor of Colorado with ‘Do you get it now, Bill Owens?’ They distort the truth to fit their own opinions. This man, these misguided Americans, have some Constitutional protections, it is true. Loyal Americans may not be able to quash their overused First Amendment argument, but we have an obligation to confront their irrational viewpoints in a public forum. Viewpoints which seem to emulate that of France more than that of the United States. Perhaps Churchill should take his essays, and take his public appearances over to that country, where his anti-American ravings will be warmly received. He defiantly claims that he will not back down, and at the same time has resigned from his post. He has already surrendered his credibility. He surrendered quicker than a Frenchman at war. The University should not surrender, they should exercise their authority. His firing may make him a martyr to some. But only to the malcontents who already agree with his rants. And the University’s tenure policies are just that, policies, not law. They do indeed have the right to terminate him. I look forward to the day that he becomes an unemployed martyr, a day when we can borrow one of Churchill’s own statements and say, ‘Do you get it now, Ward Churchill?’