One Mall, Three Groups: Who’s to Blame?

So who is to blame for the raucous, divisive incident at the National Mall involving three very different groups: white, male Covington Catholic High School students, members of the radical Black Hebrew group, and/or the Indigenous Peoples, who were present to march for world peace? The media and commentators have been all over this story, which is, unfortunately, emblematic of the disunity and dissention in the United States today, and which tragically occurred the very weekend before we reverently remembered the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

First off, let me say unequivocally that no matter who “started it,” the very adult Black Hebrews ought to be held accountable for their incendiary, vulgar shouts and taunts at the high schools students, and should even be held legally accountable for any and all threats made against those boys, (and we are, after all, talking about minors.) There is simply no excuse for calling high school boys “incest babies” and other gross names, and threatening to “harvest the organs” of an African American student. And, by the way, where is the outrage over this?

Second, though, the chaperones of the Covington Catholic High School boys are culpable in all this if for no other reason than the fact that they failed to move the students away from the situation, that is, away from the Black Hebrews. Where were they, anyway, and what were they thinking? Mature, levelheaded adults would have removed the boys some reasonable distance from the vulgar, incendiary group and then surrounded them as a kind of protective barrier. This is, after all, the sort of thing chaperones are supposed to do, yet these boys were left to basically choose their own course.

Third, where the students themselves are concerned, instead of backing away from the Black Hebrews, they formed a semi-circle around them, began chanting “school spirit” chants (ostensibly, at least), hooping and hollering and jumping up and down… One young man even ripped off his shirt and started doing a kind-of-sort-of-whatever “dance,” much to the amusement of his classmates. None of this served to diffuse the situation at all, and even the junior, Nick Sandmann, whose image we see smiling, or smirking, at Mr. Phillips said as much in his interview on the Today Show. 

Fourth, when Mr. Phillips and the other Indigenous Peoples entered between the two groups ~ the Black Hebrews and Covington Catholic High ~ Sandmann and his classmates should have simply turned and walked away some distance. Again, even Sandmann now says as much … but they didn’t do this. Instead, the junior stood his ground in order to show Mr. Phillips that he was not going to be, in his words, “provoked” or “intimidated.” What??? No viewing of any of the video footage would lead anyone to believe that Mr. Phillips was attempting to provoke or intimidate.

Besides, when did it become appropriate for some young, wet-behind-the-ears, whipper-snapper to stand his adolescent ground in front of an adult, Marine veteran? No “if, ands or buts” about it, this was just plain disrespectful, but again, where were the chaperones? Yes, these students had been subjected to an hour-long (at least) barrage of insults from the Black Hebrews, but when Mr. Phillips intervened they had yet another opportunity to back off to some safer place. Instead they directed their hooping and hollering, now with offensive tomahawk chops, toward the Indigenous Peoples. Wow … Just wow!

Finally, who in the world was stupid enough to allow students to wear any political clothing or paraphernalia to a Right to Life march? Of all the important issues in the world, one would think the Sanctity of Life is one that does not need to be politicized … at least not more than it already has been. Aside from the fact that many, many people consider MAGA hats (and shirts and whatever) to be offensive for a variety of reasons, why would any religious school allow its students to display/advertise politics on or at the school and school functions? Just enforce a non-descript, uniform dress code!

Well, I will say at least one more thing about all this, which is a broader point and, perhaps, a take-away lesson, and that is: Perhaps young people should not be carted to state capitals and D. C. for marches and demonstrations. Yes, it’s important for high school students to learn about civics, history, the political process, etc. but maybe they’re not quite mentally and emotionally developed enough to actually be directly involved? Or at least if they are, then they really should be held to the same standards as adult participants… No pass for the stupidity of youth!

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