We live in a world right now where it ‘pays’ to be the first to get your opinion out on a particular issue; the more reactionary and strong that opinion is, the better. In the past, it has been considered unwise to be quick to judge with hair-trigger opinions, but things have changed. The payment for being quick to speak, quick to jump to conclusions and quick to put your thoughts out into the public is attention, publicity, likes, comments, and hearty agreement. It feels good to be part of a mob, especially when that mob has a particularly easy to hate target in its cross hairs. We love to join together with like-minded people and attack the intolerant, the unenlightened, and the people we see as deserving of our scorn. Our culture and opinions right now are largely dominated and formed by social media, and social media itself is mostly dominated by people who are quick to speak, slow to listen, and become angry at near warp-10 speeds. This is a problem, and I am afraid it is turning us into a nation of shallow fools, rather than thoughtful and measured people. Consider the following council from the Bible:
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.James 1:19-20
The first to state his case seems rightProverbs 18:17
until another comes and cross-examines him.
The intelligent person restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a man of understanding.Proverbs 17:27
The above verses are powerful and important truths. I imagine that there are many celebrities and professional ‘journalists,’ who are kicking themselves today because they did not heed such advice. Perhaps you’ve heard the story? A few days ago, a very short video was released and it quickly became viral (under suspicious circumstances, possibly shared and inflamed by a rogue Twitter account.***) In that video, a group of white teenagers, some of them wearing red MAGA caps, are seen along with a Native American man playing a drum. I watched that clip several times the first day it came out. In reading commentary about the clip, I was told that the teenagers, who come from a Catholic school in Kentucky, were bullying a peaceful Native American veteran of the Vietnam war. (Note: Mr. Phillips, despite his claims to the contrary, never fought in Vietnam.) Indeed, that veteran was interviewed, and he claimed (with tears) that some of the teenagers were being very rude to him, and shouting slogans such as “Trump in 2020!” And, “Build the Wall!” Many celebrities and professional journalists absolutely vilified the students from the Catholic school, expressing their wishes of bodily harm to come to those kids as well as failure in life, years of punishment, and worse. The kids were called foul and profane names, and seemingly everybody piled on until it became a foregone conclusion that they were horrible, entitled and backward people.
The trouble is – that even in the very short video that first went viral…I couldn’t see that the kids did anything definitively wrong! Yes, one or two of them may have had smug-looking grins, but that is hardly a cause for alarm, and who knows what is in the heart and mind of somebody who has a grin on their face? How many times have you or I had our facial expressions misjudged? How many times have we thought somebody was angry or upset with us, and it turned out that we were completely wrong? It happens all of the time – we are not mind-readers. But, that didn’t stop people who claim to be adults from commenting harshly on the video. Here are some examples:
Ms. Omar is a sitting member of the House of Representatives – a person in a very significant position of power, leadership and privilege. To use that position to spread unsubstantiated and bombastic claims is alarming, but that is exactly what she has done here. Thanks to our ‘video anything interesting’ society, there have been multiple videos (and video angles) released of the encounter between Nathan Phillips and the Covington school kids. One of the videos is over an hour long. In all of those videos that have been released, however, I have seen no evidence of a Covington kid using a racial slur or saying anything bombastic, and especially not YELLING something horrible like, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it.” (BUT, SEE BELOW!) We need leaders that have wisdom and self-control, not ones that engage in inflammatory “ultra-gossip” in public.
UPDATE: There is indeed a video that has surfaced of a teenage boy yelling “it’s not rape if you enjoy it.” That boy has been identified by some as going to a different high school than Covington, a public school nearby, but I have no way of confirming this. It is a reprehensible statement to make, and there is absolutely no excuse for it. That boy should be held accountable for such a statement, and there should be consequences. That said, it is no more a reflection on the other students in his high school anymore than one bully (or school shooter, or racist, or drug dealer) at a particular school means that everybody is a bully (or school shooter, or racist, or drug dealer.)
One (of many) Twitter users ‘doxxed,’ or revealed the identity of the boy in the MAGA hat. In doing so, she gave his name, and her wishes that he would have severe consequences and such. She even posted a picture, reproduced below (that purports to come from Occupy Democrats) that expressed a sideways desire that the boys in the video had been aborted. The trouble is…the boy she doxxed (or identified) was not the correct boy! She, and many others, absolutely misidentified the guy in question. Further, the boy in the video (even the extended version of the video) never does anything more than smile at the Native American drum player. Imagine an adult wishing such harm to a kid for that sort of behavior. And yet, I continue to see adults on ALL sides of the political spectrum behaving this way.
Another adult on social media (in London) wrote this, “Many were shouting abuse. What a depressing sight to see these hateful kids. They just shamed themselves, their school, their generation & the country. ‘Congrats’ to Trump,their families & peers for poisoning their young minds. They’re probably still laughing. ” The problem with her statement is that, despite multiple videos being made public of the event in question, many of which focus in on the group of kids from the Catholic high school – NONE OF THE VIDEOS SHOW THE KIDS SHOUTING ABUSE (or actually saying anything clearly untoward.) You might interpret the kids’ behavior as somehow disrespectful, but to do so, you’d have to be a mind-reader of sorts, because nothing said by that group has surfaced that would be offensive.
TheRoot.com writer Michael Harriot wrote the following tweet shortly after the first video of the Covington kids became viral:
In a follow up post that was released after the second, longer, video was released, Mr. Harriot offered the following ‘apology,’ in an article entitled, “An Open Apology to the Covington Catholic MAGA Hat Harassment Team” In the article, which is not an apology at all, Harriot puts forth the tongue in cheek and acerbic theory that the Covington kids were imitating (in an theater sort of way) white supremacists of the past who committed various horrendous and violent acts against people of color, before concluding his article with this:
Thank you, Covington Catholic.
Thank you for showing that any person of color in America who has ever protested has faced this kind of scorn. Thank you for showing that white boys intimidating others is a longstanding American tradition.
But most of all, thank you for reminding America that there is one untouchable, unassailable thing in this country — white boys. And whether it’s Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump or a bushel of high school Klansmen-in-training, if anyone ever makes the mistake of blaming them for their black-hearted hate, they will be forced to apologize. God bless the National Championship white supremacist squad from Covington Catholic High School for giving us this much-needed history lesson. And may God bless the still racist, always “great,” past, present, and future white boys of the United States of America.
I agree, and mourn, with Harriot about the shameful way that white people in this country have treated people of color in past history. I have not experienced much racial animus in my life, but if I had, chances are that I would be angry too. I agree that racism still goes on, and it is beyond deplorable when it happens. Where I suspect we’d disagree is that I don’t just assume that a group of white kids from the south are racists (or future Klansmen!) perpetrating racist actions and crimes that make them worthy of death, expulsion, scorn or ridicule just because they are wearing a MAGA hat. Consider this comment on the fuller video of the incident, which is worth watching HERE.
What speaks louder than words? Body language. So you show up at a native american rally with a MAGA hat on? Then you see a group of black “preachers” and you stand around sneering and mocking? Racism isn’t water hoses and dogs attacking kids. It evolves like everything else and the MAGA hat is the newest form. It’s given so many more power than the “N” word ever will. Look at the guy on the skateboard. What’s he doing there? The kid who walks right by in the american flag get-up.
Is that fair? Is it right to assume that kids wearing MAGA hats (or, riding skateboards with American flag shirts on) are not only racists, but antagonizing racists, who have shown up at an Indigenous people’s march to harass Native Americans? I don’t think so. Factually, those kids were there as a sort of staging area, waiting to be picked up by their bus, they just happened to be assembling near an area where a march was taking place. While waiting for the bus, the teens were subjected to repeated verbal harassment and taunts (caught on video and clearly seen at the Youtube link above) by a group of adults from a fringe religious group. An adult Indigenous marcher came over to the kids and played his drums close to them, so close that his drum actually touched the neck and chest of Nicholas Sandmann. He approached them…not vice versa. How did the kids react? HONESTLY, its tough to tell. One of them, Sandmann, just smiles the whole time. What was he thinking? Was he thinking racist, arrogant thoughts? WHO KNOWS?! Does he deserve violence, scorn and ridicule (as many celebrities, journalists and adults OPENLY and PUBLICLY wished for) just because he stood there and smiled at an Indigenous marcher? If your answer is yes, my question is WHY? Is it merely because he is wearing the hat? That doesn’t seem fair, and it is certainly divisive.
When the mom of one of the teenagers in question defended her son, The Root writer Jay Connor had this response:
Because bigots often prove themselves incapable of taking accountability for their behavior, it comes as no surprise that the mother of the offending party removed her Klan hood in order to come to her son’s defense.https://www.theroot.com/the-next-generation-of-maga-hat-wearing-bigots-besiege-1831894971
Again, I don’t think that is fair. Worse, I don’t think it is helpful. It contributes to racism and racial animus rather than helping. It adds to hatred rather than adding to peace. It makes the problem worse. Confront racism. Remove racists from power. Diligently pursue a society that is free from racism and arrogance and oppression. Yes, yes, and yes! BUT – in doing so, don’t kill the innocent along with the guilty. Don’t let the penalty exceed the offense – that is unjust. Did these Covington kids behave properly? Honestly? I don’t know. I’ve watched the videos again and again. Sometimes it looks like they are jeering. Sometimes it looks like they are bemused, and have no idea what to do. Sometimes it looks like they aren’t even paying attention to what is going on, but are just hamming it up for the cameras. If they are racists, I don’t see any evidence of it in the videos. If they are racists…I don’t hope for their destruction, but for their redemption. Full Stop.
Allow me to close with a meditation on peace. Once again, this article has not been about politics, but about the current bombastic culture of outrage that we are living in that seeks to annihilate the guilty on scant evidence and with no contemplation. Again- this is not about the Covington kids – this is about rushing to judgment and avoiding the toxic people who do so. (If you will see my earlier posts on racial issues, police brutality, etc, I think you will find that I try to avoid this, even if you don’t agree with me.)
‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,’ goes the old saying, which demonstrates the value of making good judgments that are not rash. Here is my appeal to you, patient reader: #1 Be a person of peace, no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on. #2 Flee from people of rash outrage and thoughtless condemnation NO MATTER WHICH SIDE OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM THEY ARE ON. Conservative or Liberal, Democrat or Republican: people who are rash, thoughtless and quick to fury are people who must be avoided. They may be right on some issues, but they are not driven by justice and wisdom, but by anger and malice. Avoid such people. Do not give them a platform or hearing.
Instead, seek peace and pursue it. Selah.
Jesus: Matthew 5:9
The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God.
1 Peter 3:10-12
For the one who wants to love life and to see good days
must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit,
and he must turn away from evil and do what is good.
He must seek peace and pursue it, 12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.
1For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.Luke 6:35
Postscript: As mentioned above, the purpose of this article is NOT to engage in politics, or to attack one political side or the other. I’m not writing here to slam liberals and praise conservatives. I’m writing to exhort ALL of us – liberal or conservative, to move beyond inflammatory, attacking, rush-to-judgment rhetoric. It’s literally killing this country as it divides our people. Perhaps it is worth pointing out here that interests outside the United States are actively spending money and working on advertising that seeks to do just that: divide us, sow hatred, and cause division. We don’t need to participate in that and glorify/follow people who promulgate such divisive tactics.
This article is also not meant to be a defense of Nicholas Sandmann and the Covington kids, but rather to use such a situation to point out the dangers of bombastic speech and rushing to judgment. That said, the more I watch video of this encounter, and the more I read of people in positions of power and privilege (celebrities, governmental people, prominent journalists) attacking these minor kids, the more I want to defend them.
I believe that this issue is indeed an issue of privilege, but I think the privileged ones are not the boys from Covington, but the blue check marks on Twitter and other social media platforms that wield enormous power and influence. Their attacks and hopes for bad things to happen to minors bothers me, and it should bother you too. I live within 100 yards of two private Catholic schools in Salinas, California. One is all male, and one is all female, and I frequently see students walking to school in the morning, and leaving in the afternoon. I imagine there are some kids with rich parents that attend those schools, but they don’t exude power and privilege. I don’t see a cavalcade of luxury cars taking those kids to school, but normal people driving normal cars. I suspect that Covington school is similar. There’s probably some rich kids there with powerful parents, but mostly just normal people. Many celebrities and the media have framed the Covington kids as archetypes of privilege and power, which seems quite unproven. Perhaps you see the irony there: powerful and privileged people (almost every blue check on Twitter, government official, celebrity and popular journalist is a person of privilege in terms of power and influence!) derisively wishing harm on minors that are themselves not powerful or privileged, and likely aren’t the children of powerful and privileged people. Two streams of evidence are worth mentioning here in favor of the Covington kids:
#1 In several different angles of video, it is quite clear that Nathan Phillips (who has quite definitively lied in the past about being a Vietnam Veteran) intentionally approaches the group of Covington kids and gets in the middle of them. Congresswoman Omar (and thousands of others…) claim that the Covington kids “surrounded” Mr. Phillips and began to taunt him with racial slurs. The video evidence clearly and decisively shows another story entirely. Mr. Phillips marches into frame, along with some other Indigenous people playing drums. Mr Phillips very intentionally walks over to the group of Covington kids (who are mugging for the camera) and inserts himself into the middle of them, where he and Nicholas Sandmann (15 or 16 years old – I’ve read both) have a bit of a stare-down. Sandmann smiles unwaveringly at Phillips and Phillips sings loudly at Sandmann while banging his drum. The only reason that Philips is ‘surrounded’ is because he has walked into the middle of a group of people. Think about that. Take the hats away. Take race away. Take location away. What has happened here is that an adult (stranger) walks into the middle of a group of teenagers that he does not know, and is playing music loudly in the middle of them. That is…odd. Abnormal. Strange, even. How would your kids act in such a situation? I’m honestly not sure how mine would. How would you react to a strange man walking down the road, seeing you, and coming straight up to you and playing his drum literally in your face while singing just inches away from you?! I imagine some people would be quite aggressive in such a situation, but there is NO evidence the Covington kids were. Look at the screen-cap below – Mr. Phillips’ drum is literally touching Sandmann around his face/neck area. That is NOT OK for a man who is a stranger to do such a thing to a teenager. I have taught high school, and if I had a group of kids on a field trip, and an adult man (or woman) whom we did not know walked loudly into a group of kids I was chaperoning, I would be quite concerned at such behavior.
#2 A group of adult males known as Black Hebrew Israelites (A.K.A. House of Israel – identified as a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center) engaged the Covington kids with shouts and such before Mr. Phillips and the Indigenous people march arrives on the scene. This group of people shouted profanities and slurs at the Covington kids, including one of the leaders calling them, “a bunch of f—-ts made out of incest.” Other slurs were used also, but there is little, if any, evidence that the Covington kids responded in kind.
Shortly after that, when Mr. Phillips walked into the middle of the Covington kids, he was apparently accompanied by another adult Native American man. That man engaged the Covington students loudly saying, “You want to make America great – You white people need to go back to Europe where you came from. This is not your land. You have been here two or three generations compared to us. We’ve been here a million f-ing years. So get the F out of my face with that S-t.” (taken from the video)
When one of the Covington boys tried to argue with the gentleman, Nicholas Sandmann tried to calm him down, and apparently told him not to argue. Immediately after that, a teacher/parent/chaperone intervened, and tried to get the boys to move away. As the second Native American gentleman leaves the scene, he apparently says, “I got him, man – we’re not alone! I got him, man!” Which, again, is a troubling thing for a grown man to say after he has provoked a confrontation with a group of minors.
Many, many people are demanding apologies from Sandmann and the Covington kids. While I agree that it would have been much better for them to have merely moved away from Phillips, I will point out again that it was Phillips and his accompaniment that moved into the middle of the Covington kids. The confrontation lasted only a short time – less than 5 minutes, and it could be argued that a group of 16 year old boys would have no idea how to properly handle such a situation. Saying the boys could have simply left is a little difficult, because it is likely that they were told to stand where they were standing.
I think it would be very wise for Sandmann and the Covington people to issue a sort of blanket but sincere apology along the lines of, “We are sorry that people were hurt by some of our actions on the day in question. We have great respect for Indigenous people’s and their cause….etc.) But to demand an apology out of this group, one has to clearly say what they did wrong. Should they apologize for wearing MAGA hats? That’s probably not realistic. I would say the same if they were a group of kids wearing #Resist2020 hats, and they had been in a confrontation with a different group of people. Some people have deeply held political views. While I don’t share those views, it seems unwise and divisive to vilify such people. I ask again: What did the kids do WRONG? If you have an answer for that, please leave it in the comments! (And I am aware of the video that purports to show the Covington kids catcalling a group of young ladies. Having watched that video a dozen times, I can say that it is very inconclusive at best as to who is doing the catcalling. Catcalling is offensive and wrong. I am also aware of the very grainy picture that shows two kids at a Covington game covered in some sort of dark, full body paint. Does that constitute blackface when the whole body if painted black? Maybe so, and if so, it is offensive. It is worth pointing out that the picture shows TWO kids painted. It isn’t right to identify a whole student body with the actions of two kids, is it?)
*** It should be noted and emphasized that this video became viral after it was shared by a Twitter account, since suspended, that claimed to the account of a teacher in California. As CNN Business reported, that account was inauthentic, and suspicious. More people should be investigating the source of that account and its purpose. Is this the work of an outside agency, trying to tear Americans apart? Is this the work of a spiritual agency, seeking to sow disunity? Both?