FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Banning Ward Churchill in Oregon

I never met Oregon’s gadfly senator of the mid-20th century, Wayne Morse. I’m told he never squirmed. But today he might be squirming in his grave.

In some ways, were Morse with us, he would be having a field day. He’d be his old self, angry and outspoken about what is happening in Washington, D.C., and Iraq. But something in his old back yard of Eugene would stir in him an emotion foreign to his lifetime: embarrassment. How, he would ask, could the center bearing his name at the University of Oregon Law School turn away an invited speaker, depriving him of something always vital to Morse: freedom of expression?

That’s what has happened at the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics. It has disinvited Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor at the center of a national controversy. Churchill was to share with his wife, Colorado professor Natsu Taylor Saito, a luncheon address at a conference co-sponsored by the Morse Center.

Churchill, an ethnic studies professor, is controversial because of an essay he wrote in 2001 suggesting there was some justification for the 9/11 attacks. The UO decision to remove him from the Morse program followed action by Hamilton College of New York to cancel his appearance there.

There is irony in the announcement of Churchill being dropped from a UO event coming a month to the day before scheduled reopening of the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza at the Lane County building in downtown Eugene. On March 15, the remodeled plaza will be opened with the unveiling of a life-size statue of Oregon’s most famous senator.

As a board member of the Morse Corp., I’ve seen the statue. It has the senator in a typical pose, gesturing vigorously with a forefinger. From what I know of the man, today he would be pointing that finger directly at the center that bears his name.

Many were the times citizens — including those in his home state — did not want to hear what Morse had to say. But he had the courage and freedom to say it. Prime example is his early opposition to the war in Vietnam, as one of only two U.S. senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that illegally expanded the war.

Churchill’s essay — written more than three decades and three wars later — used extreme language. He described some victims in the World Trade Center as “technocrats” and “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official who executed Hitler’s plan to exterminate Jews during World War II. True or not, his words stirred a lot of anger, just like Morse’s statements that went counter to government policy.

Margaret Hallock, director of the Morse Center, said she believes that in the aftermath of the controversy growing around Churchill, his presentation with his wife would “overshadow two days’ worth of other presentations.” What would add to Morse’s anger is the assumption that the center agrees with Colorado’s governor, who said Churchill holds “pro-terrorist views.”

At issue is Churchill’s written statement: “On the morning of 9/11, a few more chickens — along with some half-million dead Iraqi children — came home to roost in a big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.”

In response, Churchill has said: “I am not a defender of the 9/11 attacks, but simply pointed out if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned.”

Morse might have used different words. But his willingness to speak the unpopular when it needed to be heard would have resulted in his saying the same thing. Were he to disagree with Churchill, Morse still would insist on the man’s right to express his views.

If Churchill ever does make it to Eugene, there’s at least one venue where he could freely speak: The Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza.

GEORGE BERES is a board member of the Wayne Morse Corp. The views expressed here are his own.

More articles by:
August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail