September 11, 2010

Tim Wise on Ward Churchill

Author Tim Wise's take on Ward Churchill's infamous 9/11 essay:

Reflections on Empire and Uppity Indians

By Tim WiseWhile Churchill’s essay was indelicate in places, it paled in comparison to the truly bloodthirsty things being 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 naivete, 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.”
And:Dead people of color, the world over, or right here in the U.S., whose ashes they step over every time they walk out the door of their homes, mean nothing to them. Their deaths are cause for no tears, no contrition, no recompense, and certainly have never served to disqualify those responsible (or those who applaud the carnage) from positions of authority, in colleges, or government. Nor will schools now move to block dear Madame Albright from speaking on their campuses, as happened to Ward; nor will Ann Coulter find herself a pariah for fantasizing about the incineration of folks whose only crime was to be born North Korean.

But Ward Churchill, who has merely laid out the facts about America’s murderous ways around the globe is to be silenced. Those who do the deed are cheered, re-elected and get buildings named after them. Those who merely tell of their exploits and suggest that perhaps there may be consequences, get crushed.

This is what happens, in a nation built on lies from the beginning; whose empire has been constructed on the sands of self-delusion; whose inability to tell the truth about itself has now become the stuff of farce. Our lack of self-awareness, not to mention the way in which Americans pride ourselves on how little we know about the world, and how reflexively patriotic we can be, would all be funny were it not so miserably pathetic, and ultimately so dangerous.
Comment:  Wise notes the basic hypocrisy of many Americans. If Ward Churchill was wrong to call the 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns" who deserved what they got, why were right-wing pundits cheered for wanting to destroy entire (Muslim) nations? Why haven't we shamed and shunned these maniacs the way we did Churchill? How is it that advocates for Nazi-style genocide--the real little Eichmanns--still walk among us untainted?

Moreover, our hypocrisy about Muslims is tied to our hypocrisy about Indians. Countless Americans think Indians deserved what they got because they were primitive savages akin to rabid dogs. We had to clear the native flora and fauna (including Indians) out of the way before we could settle and civilize the land.

We hear this constantly. If you claim Americans killed Indians, you can practically guarantee how many Americans will respond. "The Indians killed each other before the Europeans arrived. They scalped, tortured, and mutilated people. We had to treat them like the animals they were."

Which is basically what we've said about Muslims the last few years. "They're savage, barbaric, evil. They have no sense of decency or humanity. They want only to conquer, kill, and destroy us."

Which is why it's fair to say many Americans are little Eichmanns. They don't mind that we killed most of the Indians. And they wouldn't mind if we killed most of the Muslims. As long as white Christian Americans remain at the center of the universe, everyone else can die.

For more on Ward Churchill, see ACLU Backs Ward Churchill and Churchill's Role in Native Studies. For more on the similarities between Indians and Muslims, see Muslim "Tribes" = Indian Tribes?! and Yesterday's Cherokees = Today's Muslims. For some typical defenses of America's genocide against Indians, see:

Were Indians "colonists" too?
Educating Tony about genocide
Europeans taught Natives "discipline, order"?
Europeans and Indians equally evil?
"Something you never hear" about Indians?