For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
March 3, 2005 - Ward Churchill
I realize my stance on this isn't especially popular, but I find myself very disturbed by the continuing circus around Ward Churchill. I've talked to some usually very bright people who go on at length about Churchill's ethnicity, his tenure process, and so on.
That is, of course, smokescreen and ad hominem attacks masquerading as argument. The problem is not Churchill's past. it is his unswerving contention that the United States is not a "good guy." Let's talk about the core issue, shall we?
It took the cake for me when Douglas County State Senators Ted Harvey and Tom Wiens sponsored House joint Resolution 05-1011 to "shame" Ward Churchill, and thereby "comfort" 9/11 victims.
Why? Because shaming the devil and comforting the emotionally aggrieved isn't actually part of the Legislative job description. Nor are legislators charged to "repudiate" the words of anybody.
Upholding the Constitution, however, IS their job, and in fact their primary responsibility. That would include the First Amendment.
The widely quoted offending passage in Churchill's essay (now a part of his book, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens") stated that many of the people who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack were "little Eichmanns."
What did Churchill mean by that? In his book, Churchill describes Eichmann as "a mere mid-level officer in the SS, by all accounts a good husband and devoted father, apparently quite mild-mannered, and never accused of having personally murdered anyone at all. His crime was to have sat at several steps remove from the holocaustal blood and gore, behind a desk, in the sterility of an office building, organizing the logistics -- train and "cargo" schedules, mainly -- without which the 'industrial killing' aspect of the nazi Judeocide could not have occurred. His most striking characteristic, if it may be called that, was his sheer 'unexceptionality' (that is, the extent to which he had to be seen as 'everyman': an 'ordinary,' 'average' or 'normal' member of his society."
To Churchill, this describes many of the people -- not all of them, as he has repeatedly stated -- who worked in the Twin Towers. Churchill's view of the American business/military complex is not a happy one. His book contains two comprehensive chronologies of U.S. military actions at home and abroad from 1776 to 2003 and of U.S. "obstructions, subversions, violations and refusals of international legality since World War II."
Fundamentally, Churchill believes that just as many Germans professed ignorance or lack of responsibility for the great evil being committed by their government, so too do American citizens seek to dodge responsibility for what Churchill documents as one appalling international crime after another.
Such crimes, in his view, continue. As Faith Attaguile for LiP magazine wrote, "During the Fall 2001 controversy over Churchill's first [essay, "The Ghosts of 9-1-1]," the US undertook a bombing campaign in Afghanistan that killed some 3,500 innocent civilians. These people were not Al Quaeda. They were not the Taliban or its soldiers. These people were, by all estimates, innocent Afghan men, women and children, torn to shreds when US bombs destroyed their homes and villages in the nightmare called the 'war on terror.'"
It was heinous when the Nazis did it. It was heinous when Al Qaeda did it.
Is it heinous when we do it? Is it treason to ask?
Churchill's point is that there is a context to international terrorism. He believes that many Americans are complicit in the deeds of our government, whether through willful ignorance, or through cynical protestations of innocence. And our actions have consequences.
That's not much comfort to anybody. But it isn't intended to be. It's an argument, presented with a lot of backup evidence. The appropriate response to it is contrary argument, with better evidence.
I don't find Churchill's arguments threatening. Nor do I agree with all of them. But I think he raises some mighty important issues.
I do find deeply threatening the hypocrisy and misuse of public position to smear, seek to strip from employment, and otherwise punish the man who merely dared to suggest that our nation has earned some of our enemies.