Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ward Churchill: The Man, The Myth

This Ward Churchill situation is a big mess. I support his right to free speech, but I'm not so enthused about the advocating of violence in some of his writings and speeches, one of which I heard personally during a fall engagement he had at the University of Colorado at Denver. Churchill advocated action against the U.S. in saying that the young people being addressed needed to, "kick the legs out from under the United States" by engaging it in an indirect, i.e., not head on manner, in order to accomplish this. Several young anarchists were in attendance on this particular evening, and I believe that it was to this group that Churchill was making his provacative comments. To me, he seems to be quite bright, but at the same time also kind of a '60's relic, with his anachronistic, confrontational, street theater stylings, something that comes across as a kind of pathetic, crowd-stirring attempt to arouse the true believers, yet with no real, substantive, thought-out approach to the issues other than whipping up some smoke, furor, commotion, and controversy.

This being the case, in my opinion, I am concerned especially that some young person or people will take him up on his provocations, at which time they will be subsequently crushed by the government in one form or another, with nothing being changed in the long run, and that young person or persons becoming encarcerated as a result of such delusional folly. This is not to say that things should not be changed. They should. As a pragmatist, I would advocate change based upon approaches that have a chance of being successful, today or in the future, and not upon approaches that amount to no more than spitting in the wind, with the spitter being trotted off to jail shortly thereafterward, and people possibly being hurt. Violence can seem romantic, especially to the irrational lover in the form of revolutionary, however it is very rare that such delusions have ever affected the monstrosity of The Machine of which they purport to oppose. Witness the Weathermen, or on the other side, Tim McVeigh. In the long run what did these folks change, or improve for the better. Nothing. Just some people who talked themselves right up to the edge of insanity, and then proceeded to throw themselves over that same edge. One should use the heart to drive you, but really and truly, at the same time use the mind to find the ways to make change, in a manner in which both heart and mind can still both coexist with the results of such changes.

That being said, I also have issues with Churchill's supposed "indigeneity". By the loosest standards one could possibly apply to this particular situation, Churchill does not seem to come even close to being an Indian. He provides no proof, cloaking himself in the veil of "racism" against himself and all Native Americans if ever asked to provide such evidence. This is very convenient, particularly if you happen not to be Native American, but enjoy playing the part. Churchill can speak very eloquently on the historical and ongoing plight of the American Indian, and his work raises the issue to the level where it can gain much needed attention. You don't have to be an Indian to do this, however, or especially, even pretend to be one. In my view, it's just one more abuse of the Native American, a way to take the last thing an Indian man or woman can still possess which has not already yet been stolen or revamped for personal gain, namely their very identity itself.