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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Didn't we get rid of these people years ago?"

Last night a couple of us listened to one of the rabid, redfaced, rightwingers wring his hands about the Ward's speech last night. He didn't address any of Ward's main arguments but chose to spend his time complaining about the drumming and complaining that he is a victim at the hands of Indigenous Peoples who commit the crime of recounting history accurately. Apparently, these right wingers don't like what they see when the mirror is held in front of them.

This column appeared in Today's edition of Counterpunch

"Didn't We Get Rid of Those People Years Ago?"
Reflections on Empire and Uppity Indians

I should have known better than to listen in to the conversation immediately to my left, sitting as I was in the Northwest Airlines World Club, in Detroit. Unlike most of the folks who have paid their $450 for an annual membership--which entitles one to little more than some free booze, cheese, crackers and coffee, along with a comfy chair between flights--I am hardly, after all, the typical "business traveler." I usually spend my time in such places, hastily composing one or another radical screed (like this one), while waiting to fly somewhere to deliver a speech that will, in some small way, move forward the cause of social transformation.

This is not the purpose for which the guy talking about mutual funds in the cubicle next to me, is here.

But this time, I couldn't avoid hearing the discussion between the two men, appropriately white and with matching blue suits and red power ties, whose familiarity with a bottle of scotch had apparently reached intimate proportions.

They were ruminating on the recent goings on at the University of Colorado, where Ethnic Studies professor, Ward Churchill is under siege for an article he composed back in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; an essay in which Churchill sought to explain that a nation really ought not be surprised when its policies abroad--which have resulted in the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians--cause some in those nations to "push back" and seek to exact a similar collective death upon the people of that first country.

While Churchill's essay was indelicate in places, it was hardly more so than any of the bloodthirsty things said by representatives of the state or the denizens of talk radio around that same time--folks who were itching to level Afghanistan, turn the Arab world into a parking lot, or, as Bill O'Reilly put it, put a bullet to the heads of any Afghans who weren't sufficiently supportive of our ousting the Taliban for them.

I remember reading Ward's missive at the time, and being bothered by the "little Eichmanns" reference (for those who worked in the World Trade Center), not because I thought Churchill actually believed these folks deserved to die, but because I knew the statement would be taken out of context and used to smear not only him, but the larger left of which we are both a part. In other words, Ward was perhaps guilty of naiveté, assuming that people are far more capable of discerning nuance and irony than they really are.

But to the two men in the World Club, he was guilty of a lot more than that. To them, Churchill's most egregious crime was not having died, "like all the other Indians."

I shit you not. One of the men, fuming about the article that now has Ward facing down the barrel of a Board of Trustees looking for any reason to fire him, despite tenure, turned to the other and said: "Just when you thought we'd killed all the Indians, one pops up talkin' some shit like this, and reminds you that we didn't finish the job after all."

White guy number two laughs, in fact, damn near spits Dewar's and soda all over the leather barca lounger he's plopped down in, finding this affable romanticizing of genocide to be the funniest fucking thing he has apparently had the luxury of hearing, at least since the last time he and his buddies sat around in a sports bar, farting, and trading jokes about fags, or some such thing.
Full Column


At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Churchill's talk last night night was a wonderful event for the university and the students who attended. I arrived early to get a seat and was surrounded by students engaged in deep, intelligent discussions about First Amendment rights and academic freedom. I spoke with them and found that while many cannot agree with all his comments (nor can I), they were thinking for the first time about some very serious issues. For many of them, I think this was the first time they had ever considered the grossly immoral history of United States policy, its consequences, and the complicity we all have. They got hear his more inflammatory comments in the context of where they come from: a passionate, deeply honest, righteous anger over the harm these policies inflict throughout the world. One of the students before the talk told me he was there because he was assigned to write a paper on the talk, and he said that he thought Ward should resign because free speech has consequences. By the end of the talk, this guy was on his feet clapping along with everyone else. I teach at CU ( I don't know Churchill personally) and have come to believe that much of the student body is materialistic, shallow, and willfully ignorant about U.S. policy and its consequences. So I was very heartened to hear these conversations. Engaging students In these issues is exactly what education is all about. Ward must be an incredibly gifted teacher. The positive spirit in the room was overwhelming, and the music from the Pine Ridge group was wonderful. Ward, I and a lot of the university community may once have wished that your remarks were less incendiary ( though I agree with about 90 percent of what you say), but now I see the results. You have done a wonderful thing by engaging us all in a conversation we badly need to have.

At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didnt the teacher lie about being a Native American? He was hired because of the fact. (He is lacking a PHD which is required for most to teach at college)

At 12:19 PM, Blogger traumfalter said...

I just read the article about badjacketing somewhere else on the coaim pages and I am amazed how quickly I see this technique demonstrated.


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