Republicans love to talk about freedom, but that's all it is – talk. When it comes to people actually exercising freedom, especially the freedom of speech, many Republicans are vigorously opposed to it.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, this has been a more severe problem, as has been noted in many places. The Bush administration sets the bad example by calling dissent over the Iraq war unpatriotic and worse, as comforting our enemies, which is a pejorative short of calling it treason. Bush leaves that to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
The latest incarnation comes at the University of Colorado, where Department of Ethnic Studies Chairman Ward Churchill was forced to resign
because of a 2001 essay he wrote titled "Some People Push Back
." The essay explored the connections between US foreign policies and the root causes of anti-US terror attacks.
Having read the essay, I couldn't agree more. His argument is simple – as long as the US commits war crimes and atrocities against civilians through over and covert operations, we can expect to be the target of attacks.
I am not sure what is controversial about that statement, and from reading the arguments of those calling for his resignation, I see no attempt to prove him wrong.
Instead, the UC College Republicans and the GOP members of the state board overseeing the university claim he is "supporting the terrorists." Others have said
he "grossly defames those who were murdered in the attack on the World Trade Center" and that he called "for the murder of innocent people."
Which of course is nonsense. Read his essay and see for yourself. In his resignation letter
, Churchill wrote: "I am not a 'defender' of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy."
People who advocate against US aggression are often challenged this way. Noam Chomsky, who has been arguing against US imperialism for decades, often finds himself charged with helping the evil-doers, and his response I think says it best. From a recent interview with Z Magazine
in which he was asked about this, he said: "We happen to be particularly responsible for our own actions. That is a moral truism. If you want to blame someone else for what they do, that's okay, but there is nothing moral about that. Our actions happen to be severe and we can change them."
I was victim of such an attack last year when I wrote a letter to The Gainesville Sun
arguing that our mayor should have arrested President Bush when he visited Gainesville in October and charged him with committing war crimes. Someone later wrote a letter
, not responding to any of my points, but instead accusing me of "demeaning American casualties" and of being "typically liberal" and an "exquisite example of the moral and social bankruptcy that soaks the political left".
Luckily, I don't work for a public institution and can speak my mind more freely, apparently, than even a tenured professor. Speaking of which, Churchill only resigned his chair position, not his faculty position, but the GOP is not satisified with that: "I think our actions helped lead to his resignation, and I hope our actions help lead to his termination," said Isaiah Lechowit.
Yes, I learned that lesson a decade ago when I did work for a public institution – the City of Gainesville. I was publishing a local magazine on the side, and when my boss' boss found out I had implied a local developer had significant influence on the city commission, he had me fired, even though my boss said I did a great job and wanted to keep me. I was unprotected and had to take my lump, but I decided then to shouter louder than ever, rather than let the system silence me.
Let's hope Ward Churchill does the same.