An Open Letter to Ward Churchill: My Brother, the ‘Eichmann’
An open letter to Ward Churchill: My brother Chris was a 1985 graduate of the University of Colorado, the father of three young children and a compassionate, respectful and generous man. He stood in defense of our environment, volunteered his time and money in support of human rights, and gave unselfishly to help disadvantaged, vulnerable members of our society. He spoke openly against unjust government policies, and followed a private ethic of compassion. Chris was also a U.S. government Treasury bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, and therefore by your definition was a “little Eichmann.” At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, you claim that my beautiful brother Chris, a “technocrat” in your words, received his “befitting penalty.” While Chris rarely used a cell phone in his work (much less self-importantly brayed into one), he did make one call that fateful day. At about 8:30 that morning, Chris bantered back and forth with his 4-year-old daughter to get her to say that she loved him — she was the last of his family to talk with him. Mr. Churchill, what I want you to see is the human face behind the rhetoric. Human beings are not symbols, and your essay’s dehumanization of the victims of 9/11 reduces them to mere symbols — drones in a capitalist machine. In this way, you are guilty of what you claim to condemn, that is the dehumanization of individuals. It is the inability to see the human face of “the other” that allows the horrible violence in this world to continue. From what I understand after reading your essay, you wish to give the American people a view of the suffering of the Iraqi and the Palestinian peoples, and provide insight into why the attacks of 9/11 may have occurred. This is noble and legitimate. We do need to see and understand the consequences of the actions of our government and the exportation of our culture, and also do what we can to right the wrongs that have been committed. But to make this point is it necessary to forget the individual humanity of those who died in the attacks and reduce them to mere stereotypes? Recently, our family has been discussing what would be a befitting, honorable tribute to his life. Ironically, your essay arrived with its own recognition of Chris’s memory — as a faceless technocrat who deserved to die. Chris’s wife now lives in the Boulder area and continues to raise his children based on the creed he followed throughout his life: respect, appreciation, honesty, benevolence and love. So the media coverage of you and your writings resonates loudly with our family, and clarification of your writings is critical to us. Mr. Churchill, we have the right to ask you, in fact, we are obligated to ask you publicly. And you, sir, we feel, are obligated to answer us publicly and unequivocally. In your view, was my brother’s death justified? Yes or no? Did it right any wrongs that have been committed in this world? Whether you answer, and how you answer, I believe is critical to the greater message I believe you seek to espouse. Behind the painful rhetoric you use, I sense a nobler goal, the desire to tell the American people that we must be aware of ourselves in the world, take responsibility and work to understand and change the wrongs that have been committed. If this is your greater message, my brother Chris would have agreed with you whole-heartedly. And if this is your message, please state it clearly, and abandon the dehumanizing rhetoric and the pathetic metaphors. If you cannot make your point this way, it is you who is “braying,” playing the role of provocateur and not speaking from any coherent moral conviction. Regrettably, you, like many of those who are zealously attacking you — political leaders, talk-show hosts, those who profess their views around the office water cooler — disgracefully use the victims of 9/11 to advance your own cause. In the view of this family, your grossly inappropriate characterization of Chris and the other 9/11 victims has been surpassed in vulgarity only by the misinformed advocates of aggression who used those beautiful innocents who perished on 9/11 as propaganda for immediate and misguided violence and destruction. Our family is seeking to steer a course through these two extremes to find some truth in our brother’s death. We are concerned that the majority of the public discussion has moved away from the message you are trying to convey, to attacks on your pedigree, your integrity, your scholarship and your right to speak. We believe in free speech, but also know the truth of the phrase “with great freedom, comes great responsibility.” Shame on the University of Colorado, certain political leaders and others who attack you personally, while side-stepping a deeper understanding of the views that you appear to be raising. We would like you to use your right to speak and your privileged position to be clear on our brother’s death so that we can better understand your message. Are you capable of rejecting the language of hate and engaging in real constructive dialog to explore realistic solutions to our real world problems, without pitting one group of victims against another? Mr. Churchill, my family is not ensconced in an ivory tower. We do not have the luxury that you have of pontificating at arm’s length on the causes behind the events of 9/11. The reality of that day has been cemented in my family’s life forever. Was our loss justified? Did it right any wrongs that have been committed in this world? We await your clarification.
Michael Faughnan of Denver wrote this on behalf of the family of Christopher Faughnan.