With several Sam Adams’ in my belly Saturday evening I cruised the interwebs with college basketball on in the background. Catching my eye on the computer screen was a vidcap showing a smirking teen boy standing inches from the face of an Indian elder who was beating a drum. I was told that this took place late Friday adjacent to where the March for Life had taken place in Washington D.C.
A click unveiled more information. The Indian was one of a group of several who were at the Lincoln Memorial as part of a much larger ceremony they hold to honor their tribesmen who fought in American wars. The accompanying one-minute video showed an extreme close-up of the young man smirking in the face of the elder while he (reportedly) played their tribal song. It had all of the elements required to generate outrage on the left. A white Catholic School teen wearing a MAGA hat getting in the face of a member of a marginalized race, apparently mocking him while the Indian was peacefully playing a song.
The thing was, this pissed off a LOT of people on the right as well. Further information revealed the Indian was Nathan Phillips—a Vietnam War Veteran. A tearful subsequent interview from Phillips had him wishing the teens “would use their energy in a more positive way.”
I was pissed. I was livid. A lot of this owed to an upbringing where I was expected as a teen to show GREAT deference to my elders. If I had gotten into the face of an older man and mocked him, my Dad would have ended me. That policy still stands for my children. As Dad used to say to me, “When you get some hair on your balls, THEN you can get away with something like that.”
But it turns out that’s not *really* what happened. As the onion got peeled back on this entire affair, longer videos emerged. Videos that showed the kids from the Kentucky Catholic School didn’t really approach the Native Americans. Indeed, it appears to have been exactly the opposite. We also learned that Phillips has a history of left-wing activism, including manufacturing claims of racial harassment. Suddenly, the sullen Indian tearing up in the video was looking less sacred.
As is almost always the case in these situations, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. And because we’re dealing with multiple moving parts and several personal perspectives here, we will NEVER know the exact motivations of everyone involved. But the evidence now STRONGLY suggests that the kids were not in the wrong here. Unfortunately, the genie is about of the bottle.
Looking back, it is easy to see how this went viral in about the same amount of time is takes me to finish a beer. It had all of the elements. Trump supporters, racism, generation gap, Christians behaving badly, “white privilege.” It was a witches brew of tropes that people couldn’t ignore. And it was deliberately packaged at the beginning to elicit the maximum emotional response from people. And it worked splendidly. Several celebrities on Twitter posted the telephone addresses of the student’s school. One country music star asked people in Kentucky to identify in the children in the picture. Even deeper down the rabbit hole, Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky…the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, said:
“I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats until we can figure out what is going on. They seem to be poisoning young minds. The conduct we saw in this video is beyond appalling, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. This is a direct result of the racist hatred displayed daily by the President of the United States who, sadly, some mistake for a role model.”
I have railed against people who see what they want to see…against people who jump to conclusion before all of the evidence has been collected…against people who “react” rather than “respond.” Yesterday, I joined their ranks. I let the worst angels of my nature take over. I never went so far as to call for doxing the teens or their school…but I *AM* guilty of passing judgment based on emotion rather than reason. I was an unthinking asshole. And for that, I apologize.
I will make every effort to make sure the NEXT time I am an asshole, it will be for an entirely different reason.