Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Solidarity With Churchill

My little contribution to voicing support for Ward Churchill on this little site doesn't mean much in the large scheme of things, but I want to do it anyway. I think it's important to avoid doing what some liberals are doing, and joining the condemnation, and what some progressives are doing, and taking a very abstract "defense of his right to speak even though I disagree with what he says" kind of stance.

For those who don't know, he is a radical activist in the struggle for Aboriginal rights and against U.S. imperialism, and an academic in Colorado. He is being attacked in the U.S. mainstream media and by politicians for an essay he wrote shortly after 9/11. In it, there are a few things that he says that I don't agree with, but his basic analysis that violent oppression of others will make them respond with violence is a fairly obvious and sound one. For a more thorough analysis of the essay and the backlash against it based in solidarity with Churchill, agreement with his overall analysis, and critical but supportive engagement with certain details and rhetoric, see writings by Robert Jensen, Michael Albert, Paul Street, and Alex Cockburn. I can't say anything more or better than they have said it.

The only thing I can add is how it makes me think of the attacks on Sunera Thobani in Canada in the months after 9/11. For those who don't know the story, Thobani is a former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, the coalition that represents Canada's women's liberation movement at the national level, and the first woman of colour to hold that position. At a women's movement conference in the months after 9/11 she made a speech in which she said things that to me seemed even to be very self-evident, the gist of which were very similar to Churchill's overall analysis: The U.S. state has a legacy of genocide, imperial intervention, war crimes, and mass murder, so it should hardly be surprising when the anger created among the victims of those crimes leads to violence against the U.S. state and people who live in it. Of course the 9/11 attacks should be condemned, but with an understanding of world history the fact that they happened should hardly be surprising.

Thobani was vilified in Canada's right-wing daily, the National Post, and they managed to create a propaganda storm of sufficient proportions that she was condemned by many politicians (including, shamefully, members of English Canada's left-wing party, the NDP) and she was subsequently investigated for possibly having committed a hate crime by the RCMP for having made that speech, even though it was she that was being targeted by all sorts of reactionary and white-supremacist vigiliantes with nasty telephone calls and letters and so on.

She was a useful target because she was a prominent member of the women's movement in Canada, a grouping that the right was interested in attacking, and also because she is a woman of colour and therefore an easier target in Canada's racist media and cultural environment. It hit home particularly poignantly for me because the same week that was happening I was listening to words spoken by Johann Galtung, a world renowned academic, founder of the discipline of peace studies, and a white man who was saying pretty much the same thing at the university in the city in which I was living. He was not a target that was politically useful or as easy to otherize so his words were ignored rather than used as fodder for villification.

1 comment:

Timmer said...


(also posted above)

I don't have anything much against Canada - beautiful country with generally nice and easy-going people. I don't necessarily agree with their recent policies vis-a-vis the United States (e.g. harboring our deserters), but that's okay. You can marry up all the gay people you want - knock yourself out. I don't involve myself with Canadian internal affairs.

It would be nice if you did likewise, my friend. Although you have recently relocated to LA with your family, you also point out that it is temporary - meaning you are a visitor and still a foreigner here.

As a foreigner, you are going to further anger people down here who are already steamed enough to drag this pseudo-native psychotic (Churchill) up over the border to "expose" him on a CANADIAN hillside.

If you really feel compelled to stick your nose into this (do you have nothing better to do in L.A. while your "partner" does her post-doctoral work?), why not instead start a campaign to allow this idiot to immigrate to your increasingly anti-American country? He would fit in real nice up there, and together you could all root for another attack on the American "Eichmanns."