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Patricia Calhoun replies: To read Westword's coverage of Ward Churchill, start with "Civil Wars," a February 1994 cover story available in our online archives at www.westword.com. As for "revisionist history," I was referring to Churchill's own shifting history rather than his academic works.
Free to be you and me: I don't understand tomes such as Adam Cayton-Holland's February 10 What's So Funny that invoke the First Amendment with regard to Ward Churchill (and his situation isn't remotely comparable to the one in Norwood). The First Amendment has been upheld in this case: Churchill has not been arrested, nor has any lawsuit been upheld against him.
That's the First Amendment: It protects individuals against government reprisals and legal action. It does not protect someone from having others use their same rights to express their displeasure, nor does it protect anyone from having personal appearances canceled. Churchill's essay has been published in several places (including a book whose sales I'm sure will benefit from the controversy) and is readily available on the web, so the canceled appearance hasn't silenced him. As far as the University of Colorado firing him, there are precedents for this, already pointed out by several pundits. What he wrote can be challenged academically and can be viewed as hate speech.
The reality, folks, is that the First Amendment protects us from the government, but it doesn't protect us from others exercising their right of free speech and it doesn't guarantee our right to public appearances, nor does it guarantee any career/economic rights.
War of the words: Adam managed to say exactly what was circling around in my head these last couple of weeks about the Churchill hoopla! Thanks for the words.
The price of free speech: I read Adam Cayton-Holland's rant on freedom of speech. I believe, as apparently he does, that this freedom is close to an absolute, if not 100 percent an absolute. Nevertheless, when we "speak" (by whatever mode we choose), we have to realize that our speech has consequences. Always ask yourself, when there is a reaction (of whatever nature) to your speech, "What did you expect?"
After all, no one stopped anyone from expressing their opinions in the examples cited in What's So Funny. But actions do have consequences. I think the "speakers" involved were naive if they expected any reaction other than what they got. Freedom of speech does necessarily include the consequence of being called an idiot and being treated like a jerk if that's what your speech engenders.
Park Ridge, Illinois
With reservations: I agree with Cayton-Holland's piece, but we taxpayers shouldn't have to shell out $100,000 a year for Churchill. He can say whatever he wants to, but we don't have to pay him. He ought to move up to the Rosebud with Means and beat his drum up there with the rest of the "wronged" Indians.
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A chance for change: What to say about Cayton-Holland's What's So Funny that might begin to change our nation? This total state of ridiculousness -- this neo-McCarthy era, as he calls it -- is even more unreal because of the voices that are speaking against it and the total lack of listening to what people are saying. With our current fascist-behaving government, voicing our opinions doesn't count for a damn thing. Are we really doomed to repeat the mistakes of the '40s? "It soytanly appears that way, Ollie." Forget that forced silence -- let's be the change. Thank you, and continue using your voice, Adam.
Ruth Suli Urman
Mission aborted: A toast to Westword, Ms. Calhoun and Kenny Be for exercising the First Amendment and free thinking with the January 27 Worst-Case Scenario, "EmbryObituaries & Immemorials." If Dubya's evangelicals and the Catholic Church pulled their heads out of their archaic assholes and preached safe sex instead of abstinence, there would be a greatly reduced need for abortion. Furthermore, the tight-assed right wing should be concerned about their precious tax dollars going to support unwanted and undesirable people throughout their unwanted lives.
Snip snip: Like last week's letter writer Marc Halpern, I have fond memories of the now-defunct barbershop into which the Cherry Cricket has expanded. Napoleon's was a colorful place -- a real old-time barbershop -- right there in slick Cherry Creek. Halpern said that the barbers were John and John, and that one of the Johns was from Morocco. I got the last haircut at Napoleon's before its Waterloo last June 30, and I continue to get haircuts from its longtime owner, Michael Madsen.