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Ward Churchill and White America


“It is not enough for us to merely dumbly intone that Churchill has a right to write what he does. No. We must do more. We must insist that Churchill is right, and no one, not some rabid talk show parrot, nor a political whore like Governor Bill Owens, has a right to demand what is wrong Churchill is right. From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu Jamal.”

It’s the frontline of a war. Those of us who have not seen our colleagues or mentors purged from the academy can grasp neither the pain of it nor the stakes. Those who are purged are those who dream, for all of us, of a more natural condition, those who have not partaken in the great forgetting of their humanity that characterizes pre-fascist America.

But those of us who have seen it firsthand know the venal face of what America is becoming. I have often joked that those who have never been to jail have no education, no true sense of the meaning of the violence that permeates this culture, like blood seeps through the bandage covering the wound of an Iraqi child.

I am no one in particular, no one famous whose name you would recognize. But I have been on the frontline of the culture wars, and this is my dispatch.

I want to speak to you in your isolation, I want you to be in touch with your despair as I speak. I want you to remember what you already know — the Earth is dying; oil is running out; Iraq is only the first in what will be a series of resource wars, as the impacts of global warming and peak oil cause the infrastructure we call globalization to collapse.

I want you to remember that George Bush and 59% of all Americans believe in Armageddon, just the way that we believe in Justice. I want you to remember that there is no time. It may already be too late. I want you to remember these things because it is only at the bottom of our despair it is only by touching that bottom that we can find its exit and emerge again into the possibility of enlightened, meaningful, even spiritual, action.

I want you to remember that America kills everyone who could lead it ­ who threatens to lead it – out of its bloodlust, the sleepless remembrances of its genocides and Columbines, its My Lais and Sand Creeks, its Wounded Knees, Fallujahs and Alamos.

I want you to remember that for Europe, fascism, colonization and conquest are not the exception, they are the rule. They only appear to be an exception to white America, just as the death camps appeared to be an exception to good Germans. It was not the way they lived. It only affected others.

And if you are a white American, I want to remind you that you have no real idea why a Black poet like Michael Datcher would write a poem after 9-1-1 entitled “I blow myself up on you.” You have no education. No, you cannot imagine it. But as I stood in the convenience store, exhausted from a sleepless night, I heard voices chattering and clamoring on a radio that normally played only bad pop music. They were clamoring in outrage about an airplane striking a building in New York. I laughed. Although it had not yet been written, I understood the poem.

I didn’t think about “little Eichmans,” and no one called on me to write an essay. I am nobody. Oh yes, of course, when I got home and turned on the TV, and the second building was struck and collapsed, the horror registered itself in me. It’s a trivial story, that horror ­ trivial. Completely. Because it is no different than the banal horrors that register themselves every day under the heading “News.” That is, if they make the news at all. But that laughter never died. And I have no regrets.

I blow myself up on you. There is no other way to release the grief. It is as if the mouth had been filled with hundreds of tiny balls of cotton, as if there were a garrote around my throat, as if the “news” were not a source of information, but a straitjacket painting my arms to my sides. Perhaps you have no regrets, no more regrets than Bush, Clinton, Albright or Gore. Be that as it may; then we are equal, are we not?

Equality is a word that America hates, so let me say it again — I am your equal, and I have no regrets. I blow myself up on you.

This is the shadow in the mirror. This is the ghost of missiles screaming in the darkened sky of Baghdad. This is your inner demon. Look at it. In the mirror. The events of 9-1-1 are America’s mirror. This is what it means to be bombed, in the Sudan, in Bethlehem and Belgrade. Horror.

One shows an implacable face to the enemy. This is the way of war. They never had any regrets and we, the Mexicans, we, the Palestinians, we, the Afghanis, Iraqis and Iranians, we the Black, we the Red, are the enemy.

Read Stannard’s American Holocaust. Hitler was a piker, a Johnny-Come-Lately, a zero. Spain and Britain slaughtered 120 million of my ancestors before Hitler ever hit the scene. He learned from them, from you. Lebensraum was a new way of saying Manifest Destiny, Concentration Camp was a new way of saying Reservation, the Final Solution was only a new way of saying the only good Indian

Look in the mirror. The fascism that so many fear from Bush is nothing foreign. It is your own. The ecological horror that awaits us is nothing foreign. It is your own. The weapons of mass destruction, the nuclear tipped missiles, the hydrogen bombs, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, your own. Look in the mirror with me.

You know. You know why they are framing Lynne Stewart, why they hounded Amiri Baraka, why they painted a swastika on Ward Churchill’s car, and promised him death. Like you, they don’t want to look. Everything they’ve built their lives on tells them not to look, Little Eichmanns.

But in America one dare not call a Nazi a Nazi.

The truth is that food grows on trees, as Ramona Africa says. The power of truth is final. That’s what John Africa said, before white America burned him alive in the same conflagration that seared Ramona’s flesh. Ward Churchill is right, that’s what Mumia Abu Jamal said. Mumia Abu-Jamal is on death row.

It’s not the sacred memory of the people who died in the Twin Towers that’s got them so upset. What’s got them so upset is that someone called them what they are, what they cannot face. Eichmann. A man who was perfectly normal. The state psychiatrists declared it. Like you. Normal. Doing a job. Nothing more.

And it’s that “nothing more” that is killing the Earth, that allows the US, which is not yet a fascist state, to have the highest incarceration rate in the world ­ America incarcerates its enemies, Red and Black, just as Hitler incarcerated his enemies, the Jews. It persecutes its writers who speak with the voice of the subjugated peoples ­ the enemies ­ within.

Like Baraka, like Churchill. Like my mentor in ethnic studies, who was harassed from his tenured position after standing up against a white racist, a (later convicted) terrorist who spoke on his campus.

Bill O’Reilly never said a word. There are terrorists and there are terrorists.

And you, you can cower like a German after the Reichstag fire, or you can act. Before it’s too late. Before fascism is reality for white America, too.

As you sleep, there are people staying up all night. They are pounding keyboards and clicking mice. They are spreading word of a petition defending Ward Churchill and academic freedom. These are people in the battles Counterpunch calls “The wars of the laptop bombers.” Oh, it’s a small thing, but we are only people, not grandiose figures in a Wagnerian opera. We are just people. But we can do something. We simply must do something.

RAFAEL RENTERIA is a former program director and news director at KPFT in Houston. He can be reached at:

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