I’m failing miserably. Actually, I posted it twenty-four hours ago, so I guess I’ve already failed. Miserably. Like everyone else in the United States, part of my past four days included thoughts about a certain Catholic high school boy and a soon-to-be-a-senior-citizen Native American. I’ve thought about them while driving home from work (because NPR was talking about them); I’ve thought about them first thing in the morning (because the first thing I do each day is read the news); and I’ve thought about them while trying to fall asleep at night (because I don’t really know what to think about them and they’re swirling around my brain.
I posted a mea culpa, a “my bad”, an apology on Facebook last night, and no one seemed to get the point. Hear’s what I posted, but please reserve judgement until I can write about the point.
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A few days ago, I shared on Facebook a photo of the apparent altercation between Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips–the Catholic high school student and the Native American veteran who jointly went viral over the weekend. Included with the photo was a well written paragraph about privilege and oppression in response to what the author believed he saw in the photo. Through my act of sharing, I tacitly agreed with the offenses ascribed to Sandmann. I’m not sure these are accurate.
After reading retractions from various news organizations offering conflicting accounts about what went down, I can see that my feelings were formed through bigotry and prejudice. I saw a MAGA hat and assumed the worst. That hat was all the proof I needed to join in on the accusations. When I see others making judgments of character based on superficial appearances, I’m quick to call them on it. Instead, I quickly jumped on the bandwagon with those speaking without knowledge. I intend to do better in the future.
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Like most things I put on Facebook, I expected this one to push a few buttons, maybe get a little good-natured conversation going. I expected “me too” and “same here” or “Jeff, I must be a better person than you because I didn’t think that at all.” When I sent out my original post, the one on privilege, I was smug. No, I didn’t write it, but by re-sharing it, I felt bold. I thought I helped to expand the conversation beyond just another Trumper behaving badly.
Later that night, I started hearing talk about the ‘rest of the video,’ the part that offers context and shows a different story than the one being memed around the internet. And then I began to feel sick. I started thinking about a sixteen year old with half the country pissed at him. I started thinking about myself in high school and how I could have easily gotten mixed up in an incident with no malice intended because I was immature, inexperienced and maybe a little afraid. I started thinking how this kid was being dragged through the muck and that I had a hand on the chain.
I didn’t write my Facebook post because I thought the kids were innocent, I didn’t even write it because I was possibly wrong. I wrote it because, in a flash, I realized that I like everyone else, I was choosing sides without any information.
The response on Facebook was disappointing. I got several comment, long comments, but they were all reaffirming that Sandmann was a cad, a heel, and the latest example of what’s wrong with America. Everyone stayed on their side. No one acknowledged the national rush to judgement.
So tonight, one day later, I’m trying again, this time on WordPress, where people are more thoughtful, less in a rush to make their point, to see what sort of response I get.
Any thoughts? Okay, let me have it.