My Bad

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.

~ ~ ~

magaA 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.

~ ~ ~

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.

21 thoughts on “My Bad

  1. Hear hear Jeff.

    I understand that people don’t like trump, but I don’t get the reaction to a ballcap. And I certainly don’t get people agitating for high school kids to be expelled, rejected from colleges, or their parents’ businesses threatened over this nonviolent disagreement.

    I sometimes get angry about stuff politicians do. But when regular people get caught up in political fights I try to remember they’re regular people. Just like me.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Susan heard a discussion on the radio yesterday where a woman of color (who felt this incident was a huge overreaction) likened white people in Trump hats to African American kids in hoodies. She was pointing out how certain segments of the population are immediately distrustful of these groups. I’m definitely like that with the Trump hat. I know kids are a little more worldly now than when we were young, but being from a Catholic school in the middle of Kentucky, I’m sure these are some pretty sheltered kids. Yes they are ridiculously privileged, but so are many of the people pointing at them, Hopefully people use this as an opportunity to talk with their kids a bit on these topics. We’ve started.


  2. We have the opportunity for a collective moment of deep breathing exercises here. As a writer I love, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, said in a TED talk about storytelling—there is always more than one story.
    It’s so so easy to believe things we see at face value. The loudest voice, or the one we most recently heard, or the one we hear more often than others win. And it’s because our brains are hardwired (according to scientists like Daniel Kahneman) to conserve energy. If we can make a snap judgment and get on with our lives then we do. It’s as simple as that. Blame brain biology and cognition.
    I believe we are on a collision course with Destiny. We’ll either have a moment of awakening that this yelling louder and louder and constant state of outrage is no more beneficial than raising your voice when you speak to a person who doesn’t speak the same language, or we won’t. And if we don’t stop ourselves something we really don’t like will stop us. That’s just the laws of nature, right? Like war or other disasters.
    In my view, there might be another way—and that’s the way of individuals just like you and me questioning ourselves. Turning back from the brink and hoping to bring others with us. We might not be able to change the whole world, but we can at least be the one’s counseling deep breaths and rational thinking when the fear and anger threatens.
    You are not alone in your outrage—I feel it too. And like you, I must struggle and stumble. Fall and get back up again.
    That’s my two cents.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You listen to a lot of TED talks. Back when I was Christian, I liked to go to progressive churches for the sermon. I guess I’m starting to think about TED talks as a secular sermon. The other day, I was toying with the idea of setting aside some Sunday morning time to listen to a talk. I agree, it’s likely that this will all come to a head eventually. The vitriol around this incident is scary. I read an opinion piece today that spoke about these kids in ways that fueled by hate. HATE. This middle of the road stance is something I’m unlikely to write about any time soon. Too tense.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you. I like TED talks very much–even more I like the TED Radio Hour on NPR that pulls together a few talks into a theme. That’s an hour of good listening.
        You don’t like the middle of the road stance? I’m confused. Does that mean because you were more neutral more people were mean? That’s just plain lame. I guess in some ways people don’t like not knowing what side you’re on. Again I go back to our dumb brains. We can be better than this! But maybe only in fits and spurts.
        Just so you don’t think I’m all TED-talky and cognitive science-nerdy let me know tell you that one of my favorite quotes is from Agent K in Men in Black. Will Smith says, “Why not just tell people (about the aliens) People are smart.” and then Agent K says, “A PERSON is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals.”
        I remember that moment when I watched the movie and thought, “hmm. I get that.” When we get into our groups we can sometimes lose the very thing that gives us an evolutionary advantage–our ability to think outside of our base instincts.
        Thanks for letting me just go on and one. I think this is an interesting topic. I do hope you continue to write from your heart–it’s a good one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The two time (ever) I’ve gone middle of the road, people have lashed out at me. The last time, I wrote a piece giving Trump a pass when he said something insensitive to a military wife. A political website picked it up and the comments were all just a lot of people yelling at each other–and me. I’m truly distraught about the state of our country, but as you suggested, I don’t really see a way out of the mess we’ve made.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I also saw the additional footage.

    I don’t see how there’s more to the story, and I don’t understand why people are giving this kid a pass or why anyone feels the need to re-evaluate what they thought they saw.

    Yes, he’s a kid. A kid old enough to know better but still felt safe enough to stand in front of an elder who was acting in peace, and to smirk at him. After all, this elder’s customs are strange and antiquated, and truly as a superior being surrounded by like-minded superior beings, it is within his right to disrespect a culture and a people native to this land.

    But perhaps I’m missing something. Perhaps this young man is not a product of confident supremacy that is so overwhelming that dismissing others is easy to do. Perhaps this young man did not feel that he was standing up to otherness but was, instead, enjoying, absorbing, learning something meaningful about those who are Not Like Him. Perhaps he was not, in some small way, hoping for an altercation to prove that American obviously needs making great again in the face of savages and scoundrels and people who dare to think that they, too, should breathe free and freely.

    On fifteenth thought, no. I did not miss anything. What we all saw is a symptom of a centuries-old disease. Perhaps it’s time to find a cure.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi liz n, While I agree with a lot of what you wrote, I don’t agree with all of it. At first I wanted to respond a bit but I’m not sure there would be much point other than me wanting to make my own opinions heard… again. But I didn’t want to just hit “Like” because you stopped by and wrote a thoughtful (and well-written) comment and I truly appreciate that. I fully agree that those kids’ behavior is a symptom of disease, as is the polarizing discussion that followed. A cure? No time soon, I bet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I watched the video of the kids mocking the chanting and came up with my opinion then . The MAGA hat just sealed the deal for me. I think that the justifying of these kids’ behavior is victim shaming. It is along the lines, in my opinion, of people saying someone “was asking for it “ when a rape happens because the victim was dressed “seductively “ or was drinking. I think the appropriate response in this instance would be for the parents to have said , “ We apologize for the immature and thoughtless behavior of our children ( because I think all of them should be held accountable). Please know that this will be dealt with and we will do all we can to educate our children in what is the correct, mature way to act in public and with others.” I sat in the square of our small town and was mocked by a group of young boys on bikes and the support that this boy is getting is exactly why I didn’t share the story publicly. This is racism in action. Period.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So clearly, I should watch the video, but I won’t because I’d need to watch it on my computer with headphones and my hearing aids don’t really work with headphones. My thoughts on this subject truly aren’t about what happened, but how I arrived at my decision about what happened. Possibly I’m the only one who made an uninformed decision, but I doubt it. Moving forward, my plan is to slow down and get the facts before I speak, which is what I should have done in the first place. If I don’t, am I really different from the trumpers who say all Mexicans are bad? I’ve heard your story about the racist kids before. It’s criminal that they act like that, but most likely it’s a direct reflection of the household where they were raised. Hopefully, as they mature, their P.O.V. will change as I know (based on a long staff meeting discussion we had at the Y) it has for other people I know and respect. Possibly the same is true for Sandmann and his friends. I agree that the parents should raise their hand and vow to do a better job with their kids, but the parents are the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t really have any thoughts about the story or video itself, but apparently you’re not the only one having this reaction about your initial reaction. I linked an NYT opinion piece on this same subject (with a Twitter bent specifically). My bad if you’ve already seen it:

    I’m honestly just glad to see you and others acknowledging some of the pitfalls of news via social media and the fact that no story is black and white as it seems. An important thing for me to remember.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the article. I got to read it as NYT was telling me that I used my last free view for the month. I hate twitter. I want to participate, but it just seems like yelling in the wind. I only follow about 15 people and even then it’s hard to keep up with the number of posts.This is one of the few times I’ve used social media (facebook) as my news source, and I truly regret it. I’m not sure I would have been drawn in to the degree if I got the story from NPR.


  6. I didn’t watch the video. I got a new laptop that I have connected to a large computer screen so I can see better and – it sounds silly – but I haven’t figured out how to turn the volume up on it. Although I am not sure I would have watched it. I saw the hat and was surprised initially that a kid was wearing it to support Trump – THAT made me sad and I guess I too accepted he was in the wrong. Based solely on that stupid hat. I agree that taking the extra effort to hear the whole story before making judgment is important – cause who knows what this kid is going through right now for all those that didn’t take the time to hear or listen to the whole story.
    What I really want to get my sound fixed for is so I can watch the video of the two teenagers trying to make a call on a rotary phone. Now THAT looks entertaining.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s hard for me to not be empathetic to the kid even though he was apparently acting like a jerk. This is going to be with him the rest of his life. We used it as a bit of a teaching moment with our kids. You never know when a camera is on you. What may seem as no big deal might go viral. I haven’t seen the rotary phone meme. To this day, I have a recurring dream where I’m trying to place a call and my finger keeps slipping out of the hole on the last digit.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I imagine you will have a better reaction in terms of open dialogue here on WordPress – my comment included! I did something very similar to you. When the story first broke, I immediately jumped to conclusions that this kid must be a privileged punk who was harassing an elderly Native American and showing all the worst sides of Trump’s supporters. I didn’t say anything along those lines on social media (or share any stories that did), but only because I have a strict no-politics policy on my personal social media accounts, not because I didn’t want to share such sentiments. A friend of mine did share something like what you initially shared. Then, a day or two later, she came back and apologized publicly. She admitted that she was making judgments off of a limited POV, and that once she had watched the whole video, she felt like her initial judgments were made in hasty indiscretion.

    This whole situation has absolutely challenged my perspective, particularly over how certain demographic groups are portrayed in journalism. I also have to challenge myself to answer this question: If some of the roles were reversed, would I have jumped to the same judgmental conclusions? By that I mean, most of the accounts of this story I have read state that Sandmann was getting all up in Phillips’s face, which they claim amounts to harassing him. Yet they don’t use the same sort of language when saying that Phillips was playing the drums in Sandmann’s face. What if Sandmann had been the one playing an instrument? What if Phillips had stood there, silent yet smiling? Would we not then still be accusing Sandmann of harassment and praising Phillips for standing his ground? What was described on Sandmann as a pretentious, bigoted smirk would likely be described on Phillips as stoic pride.

    Thank you for posting this and sparking an excellent dialogue, Jeff.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Charlotte, this is a brilliant comment. Susan and I were just discussing it. You’re absolutely right if the roles were reversed, people may have drawn the exact same conclusions. I thought I was a little late to the game with my blog post, but judging from the number of people who stopped by to read it today, people still have very strong opinions on the topic.This incident has definitely turned up the heat a bit.


  9. We’ve become a fast food, digital world. The adage goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but is it really? An image captures a moment and can evoke emotion, but a thousand words captures a context. It’s a survival mechanism in human nature to utilize an ‘Us Vs. Them’ mentality and snap judgements based on our personal prejudices are an essential cog in that mechanism. I personally have a very visceral response to MAGA hats. It’s up to our higher reasoning to jam that cog and employ a little empathy. If more people were able to do that, as you did here, perhaps the world would be a little less shouty and angry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. It’s like we spent the whole afternoon together. I was getting worried that you bailed on WordPress, glad to see you. It’s easy for me to have empathy for teenagers. I was so unimpressive when I was that age that I have low expectations. I think that period just before the end of the shutdown was a low point for our society. It feels like things have bounced back a little.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love how social media allows us to interact with people we wouldn’t normally interact with — & that in a way it makes us more honest — when I began, only a few years ago, I feared that folks would be abusidive. instead I see that it’s a gift that people even talk here. we get a chance to interact, to think, & then it do it all over again…

    Liked by 1 person

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