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What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Our Democratic Society

Let's talk about Ward Churchill.

In case you haven't been watching Fox News or listening to conservative talk radio, you may not know who Ward Churchill is or why conservative talk radio is interested in him.

Churchill is a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. He wrote an essay about the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 the day of the attack. It's a lengthy essay, but the part that fueled the ire of conservatives was this line in the essay, regarding the victims of 9/11:

"If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."

The current controversy erupted following a Jan. 28, 2005 segment on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor about Churchill. Before you could say "freedom of speech" conservatives were calling for Churchill's resignation.

However, this being the United States of America, people should be free to say what they like without being punished for it. Sometimes free speech is ugly, often outrageous and offensive. You don't have to agree with it.

There are situations where there are consequences for certain kids of speech. You cannot threaten the President of the United States. Your employer may impose restrictions on certain kinds of speech. Beyond those exceptions, people should be free to say whatever they like, and Churchill shouldn't lose his job because of his remarks.

Does this mean I agree with Churchill's Sept. 11 essay? I do not. But I support his right to express himself, even if what he says is offensive. Supporting our freedoms means we're not always going to agree with the free exercise of those freedoms. That's our system. This is not Saudi Arabia, where the exercise of free speech can land you in jail. This is America.

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