Monday, August 29, 2011

Letter to EWTN re: Doug Barry's "savages" comment on international television

August 22, 2011

Doug Keck

Executive Vice President

EWTN

5817 Old Leeds Rd.

Irondale, Al. 35210-2164


Dear Mr. Keck,

On August 18th, EWTN’s Doug Barry made an impassioned and inflammatory statement about the targets of roman catholic evangelism on the live “Life On the Rock” broadcast from Spain, referring to these targets of missionary work as “savages”. Only seconds before this antiquated, reprehensible and patently racist statement, Barry rhetorically queried a guest on the World Youth Day show, “We have a whole world to conquer for Christ. Don’t we?”. This sort of language is clearly a throwback to the pathologically criminal acts of Christopher Columbus’ 1492, not that of an enlightened and professionally informed and progressive 2011.

Barry’s statement, though brief, was highly insulting and unbecoming of a supposedly educated and responsible telecaster. It was immature at best. One could expect nothing less than a formal apology and public retraction for daring to utter such a horrific statement about non-roman catholic peoples in a world still struggling for pluralism, tolerance, justice, understanding and compassion.

In 2010, a report was made to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues concerning the christian “Doctrine of Discovery” that validated the voyages and crimes of Columbus and other conquerors and their historical and current repercussions. That indigenous peoples were the object of those crimes brings clarity to the insensitivity and arrogance of Barry’s comments of August 18th. His statements come out of a history of oppression, privilege and violent coercion that are appalling and repulsive to an enlightened mind and loving and compassionate heart. His words are even more horrendous as they were uttered in front of thousands of young people, let alone the whole EWTN audience at that time. Because of the presence of the pope, the eyes and ears of the world were upon Madrid and sadly, possibly more so on your cable channel.

What is said in the confines of your rectories, churches, sacristies and board rooms is one thing, but the blatant disrespect and disparaging of huge swaths of humanity in front of EWTN’s audience is quite another.

Doug Barry’s comments are highly unethical, immoral and carry the verbal resonance of historical crimes against humanity. Clearly this is exactly the language that accompanied some of the most heinous of these kinds of crimes, many initiated by the works and likes of Christopher Columbus.

I am calling for a public and mediated apology for and retraction of his comments. Considering the deep insensitivity and lack of professionalism magnified by the international reach of EWTN’s broadcast, anything less would simply add modern insult to historical insult to colonial injury. If the vatican is to be considered a respectable member of the United Nations, its official and unofficial communicative functionaries must treat their international colleagues and other world citizens as though they are also due a substantive level of respect and consideration.

Additionally, the “Doctrine of Discovery”, from which Barry’s comments find firm foundation must be illuminated, engaged in media discourse and beyond and must be recanted and brought to reconciliation as was respectfully asked for by the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers in 2008 (who were, by the way, summarily dismissed by the same papal office from which EWTN implicitly derives its ideological, theological and moral mandate).

Women and men of deep, functional religious virtue and insight should normally need no external barometer outside of their connection to their own spiritual source and community to inform them of the error of their own ways. This letter is to serve as a reminder of the transgression that Doug Barry, the “Life On the Rock” production crew and EWTN already know was committed. Righteousness cannot be claimed where empathy and compassion and the possibility of genuine acts of contrition are not in evidence.

I look forward to your timely reply given the grave nature of the offense and to the quick and substantive engagement and resolution of these clear areas of conflict. Thank you for your time and principled consideration.

Yours in the quest for justice,

Ukumbwa Sauti, M.Ed.

Adjunct Professor, Cultural Media Studies

Initiated Dagara Elder

ukumbwa@gmail.com


cc:

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1 comment:

Lisa Grenn said...

I'm reading your opinions well after their initial genesis, but I do agree with your philosophy. I consider myself a secular humanist and shun the whole idea of mass conversion!