Some People Push Back

This is the essay by Ward Churchill about Sept. 11th that caused him to resign under fire as chair of the department of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. It has been intolerable to the jingoists ever since Sept. 11th and clearly remains so to suggest what is self-evident — that terrorist attacks against the US have some relationship to our arrogant swagger on the world stage.

Churchill, a Native American with an acute sensitivity to historic abuses committed in the name of American values, was certainly tactless in using one form of hyperbole that is taboo in public discourse — likening US militarism against the third world to Nazi genocide. (It remains a virtually unquestioned kneejerk assertion that no other evil is commensurate with Nazi evil. This acts, conveniently, to place the demons outside ourselves and obviate the need to examine our own baser tendencies.)

But Churchill is not exactly, or not only, saying that the American regime is like the Nazis. I read his point as more profound, more disquieting and more accurate. Churchill asks Americans to see that, if we held the average German citizen accountable for going along with the tyranny of the Nazi regime, we must necessarily examine our own complicity in the crimes against humanity that continue to be committed by the Bush regime. It speaks to the parallels that Churchill is drawing that he apparently could not make this point any more freely in the U.S. than a critic of the Nazis could have in Germany of the 1930’s or 1940’s. At least we don’t use concentration camps yet.