If you were to ask me what the first thing is that pops into my head when you say “Ward Churchill,” I’d honestly have to answer with “pedophiles.” Word association can be a mysterious thing indeed.

But not this time.

No, I don’t have any secret information about the man, now recently fired from the University of Colorado. I didn’t conduct a sting or catch him chatting up teenagers on MySpace. Nor have I heard about any sort of illicit fetish, save for his propensity to pretend to be Native American—though I can’t fathom what guise that takes in his bedroom.

Most don’t consider his masquerade to be a serious offense. Not even the Board of Regents that booted him out gave a damn about that. No, they were concerned about the white-rules he broke: a disjointed mishmash of banal administrative errors and exposing—if only by accident and incompetence—the cracks in the lofty mythology that academia holds for those who want to stand on the shoulders of its giants.

It would take a very brave white man, one with a large audience who isn’t afraid to say unpopular things, to even have a chance at making the rest of white society respect tribal citizenship. You know, someone just like Ward Churchill, except—my, now isn’t that a Catch 22?

But it’s not that fetish (or even the silly conceit that not getting a haircut makes him look less like a white guy) that connects him in my mind to pedophiles.

His lawyer helped me with that. David Lane, a self-professed 1rst Amendment guru, made the cable-news rounds last night in order to drum up even more attention for his client. He informed me that Ward Churchill was only around other people who plagiarized. He said that Churchill’s “smallpox blankets” were from oral traditions that he was recording for the sake of posterity. And he said that even though Churchill can demolish every single complaint against him on a point for point basis (“HULK SMASH!!!”), the real issue is the witch hunt that was obviously started over the “nine-eleven” remarks.

In short: if Churchill loses his job it will have a chilling effect on the human race’s ability to generate new knowledge.

Wouldn’t it be grand to be that important? And know it?

Just imagine being able to say, without bursting out into laughter, “the fate of the Free World rests in my pension plan!”

This is a guy who reportedly said “new game, new game” as he vowed to sue his former employer: one might expect that from some troglodyte bragging about killing prostitutes on his PlayStation, not the scholar who is supposed to stand between us and the return of the Dark Ages.

The last time I encountered someone thusly important was in an article at Counter-Punch, a Leftist magazine that likes native people—or so I hear—especially when they’re white like Churchill.

It was about “Sexual Fascism in Progressive America,” in the words of its author, a real charmer calling himself “Pariah.”

The article is one of those sixth-grade concoctions where the writer is utterly convinced that he’s the very first to construct the sentence “the last safe minority to oppress in America is…”

Well, in this case, it’s pedophiles. (President Bush hates them so they must be a bunch of stand-up fellows; it’s only logical, after all.) The author uses other people, equally anonymous, to make his points:

http://www.counterpunch.org/pariah03042006.html

“Most sex offenders, says one therapist who works with sex offenders in a state prison system, are ‘Gentle grandfathers who made one mistake in judgment years ago and fondled their grandchild. Or lonely, geeky gay men—teenagers some of them—who sought mutual sexual release with adolescent boys. Or young female teachers who succumbed to the wiles of handsome adolescent boys or girls. Or young men who got drunk and pushed their girlfriends over a line that is now called date rape.’”

Real progressives, “Pariah” argues, should be about abolishing such lines. Viva la Revolucion and kill all the frumpy puritans while we’re at it! Thankfully, the author has the geniuses at Counter-Punch to help him get that message out.

It’s this writer that sprang to mind when I found out exactly how important Ward Churchill is—and has to be—to the rest of us plain folk.

Indeed, Pariah too, is that important. As the Counter-Punch editors explain:

“The writer remains anonymous because he writes and is politically active in several completely unrelated social justice movements. He fears that the shunning and marginalization he describes for those who write about this topic could compromise (unfairly) his other work.”

Without the valiant efforts of this one Pariah, we might not have anyone to save the whales.

Unions would continue to die out.

Illegal wiretapping will go unabated.

Imagine being so important. And not just in that John Lennon way, I mean really imagine it: we’re not talking about heaven and hell. This is something that you can witness in the here and now in the cases of Churchill and Pariah.

Imagine being so vital to the fate of all the little people out there—so much so that a respected progressive journal will protect your identity as you write a manifesto in defense of date rapists, just in case you manage to singlehandedly stop global warming someday.

Similarly, imagine that people who claim to be all about Indigenous Rights will champion you, even after you make a mockery out of tribal authority, just because you can shout “Little Eichmanns” to get a rise out of Bill O’Reilly.

Now that’s power.

It’s also why I’ll always think of pedophiles whenever I hear the name Ward Churchill. Fair? Perhaps not.

Of course, no one can prove that he didn’t write that article at Counter-Punch, either.