The controversy surrounding the Covington Catholic High School boys’ trip to Washington continues to rage on throughout the nation and has only grown more heated with each passing day. Initial responses to the incident, which seemingly depicted a group of MAGA hat-wearing boys “intimidating” a Native American Vietnam Veteran by the name of Nathan Phillips, primarily consisted of scorn and outright vitriol towards the boys in question from every blue check-marked journalist and self-identifying activist on Twitter, Facebook, and every other depraved social media husk this side of Silicon Valley. Basically, everyone whose political persuasion lies one scintilla to the left of Ronald Reagan immediately cried foul over this mess. This is rather odd, but in equal parts amusing, when juxtaposed with the previous world-ending controversy that rocked the nation’s social conscience; yes, I am talking about that awful Gillette advertisement. Conservatives and even more libertarian-minded folk were lambasted for what the left considered to be gross overreactions to the ad in question and further professed that said reactions only served to highlight the supposed patriarchal superstructure that exists at the foundation of Western culture. But a line of thinking that profoundly stupid is far too extensive a subject to cover here, so I digress.
Anyway, everyone seemed to jump to conclusions once the news had gotten out of this incident between Phillips and the high school boys. It seemed as though the mainstream media, as well as numerous independent voices of “journalism” on platforms like Twitter, had already made up their minds regarding the incident despite the glaring lack of context present in the initial reporting. And yet lo and behold, we found out, through the blessing of the aforementioned “context” I described as lacking, that the media managed to shine a light on only a mere few minutes of the confrontation between Phillips and the boys. And if you are hesitant in believing that fact, I implore you to check out the following link from Reason.com, embedded within which is a link to a YouTube video that runs nearly two hours in total and captures everything leading to the conflict in question as well as the resolution:
We now know that the MAGA boys were initially confronted by the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group of what most consider to be black nationalists who believe themselves to be the descendants of ancient Israelites. They have been active since the late half of the 19th Century and are known to be quite vulgar whenever they engage in some form of public protest. Their rhetoric tends to target whites, women, gays, and even other Jews, but this all varies depending on which sects of the group are directly involved. Based on the footage provided, as well as the personal testimony of one of the Convington boys, we know the men began to throw vile, bigoted terms towards the group including, but not limited to, the following: faggots, crackers, pedophiles, inbred, etc. One of the high school boys, who happened to be black, was actually called the n-word by one of the men according to the aforementioned testimony. It is perfectly clear that the men were looking to agitate the boys, perhaps with the hope of starting some form of conflict. But the group did not give in, instead opting to perform their school’s own sports cheers to drown out the verbal onslaught. It is at this point that Mr. Phillips, who was supposedly attending a nearby peace rally for indigenous peoples, decided to intervene under the supposition that the kids, whom he referred to as “beasts”, were harassing the black men whom he dubbed “their prey.” Phillips also had this to say:
Do you think Cubans are fighting for healthcare or freedom from Communism?
“There was that moment when I realized I’ve put myself between beast and prey,” Phillips said. “These young men were beastly and these old black individuals were their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.”
So naturally, one could simply chalk it up to Phillips misreading the situation. Even if that were true, it doesn’t explain the interviews he proceeded to give to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other outlets that painted him as a hero who stood up in the face of oppression. Hell, it doesn’t even jive with this quote.
On an almost hourly basis, the narrative promulgated by the media has begun to fall apart. Many blue checkmarks are erasing their initial remarks on Twitter, walking their statements back to the land of rationality, or publicly retracting their stories. Much of this is due to the collapsing credibility of Mr. Phillips, whose claims regarding his own intentions are so numerous that nearly every publication he has given an interview has cited completely different reasons for his being there.
But one of those claims struck me on a profound level and is what ultimately prompted me to write this piece. The Washington Post wrote that Phillips was in the general area because he wanted to reach the top of the Lincoln Memorial to rendezvous with his friends, but that his efforts were halted because of the Covington boys. Phillips claims that the boys were blocking his path, but this runs contrary to the ample supply of video evidence that is now available. Nevertheless, Phillips had this to say on the matter in his interview with the Post:
It was after reading this piece of the story, even though it no longer holds up to scrutiny, that my suspicions about what is fundamentally wrong with American politics finally solidified themselves. It feels as though America is no longer a nation of common values. It is no longer a nation of virtue shared across the country’s many cultures. The only thing that seems to matter now, above all else, is what we can superficially observe about someone through their appearance and the judgments we can make about them thereof. On the day that is dedicated to remembering the great Martin Luther King, Jr., reading remarks like this just did not sit well with me.
Let’s say that despite the incoming evidence that seems to vindicate the Covington boys, you are still uncomfortable with their display and find yourself supporting the efforts of Phillips, whatever they may have been. How is this statement useful in any capacity whatsoever to the quelling of partisanship that has intensified following the electoral upset in 2016? The argument falls apart for a very specific reason: I wasn’t there for the Trail of Tears. I wasn’t there for Jim Crow and the tyranny exercised over black people for two hundred years in the United States. So to assume that, by virtue of my skin color, I, or any other white person for that matter, would undoubtedly support the genocide of Native Americans or the enslavement of black people is deeply insulting and yes, racist.
I have no love for racism. I have no love for sexism. I have no love for homophobia. I have no love for religious bigotry of any kind. However, I do have a love for liberty; liberty for all who decide to pledge themselves whole-heartedly to the creed that is America. So yes, Mr. Phillips, I do see you as a human being. Far be it from me, or even the government for that matter, to determine who is and isn’t worthy of having humanity conferred upon them. But as the landscape becomes increasingly polarized along partisan lines, I worry that this basic vision of America, a free land for all those who decide to embrace it as such (much like the late Dr. King did), is starting to whittle away. I can’t shake the feeling that all too often, individuals are becoming obsessed with emphasizing how different we are from one another instead of recognizing how much we have in common. And conversely, there is nothing wrong with disparities. So long as one has the capacity to live their own life free from the shackles of tyranny, from both the state and those around him/her, then I do continue to believe in America. But that also means choosing to see the best in people. It means not allowing yourself to become entrenched in tribalism. In the words of the Reverend himself, it means judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I know none of this amounts to anything. And truthfully, I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said by many before myself. But I felt it needed to be said because of how the tides have seemed to change so dramatically and I believe it is important to at least think about it. One person sharing their perspective is not enough to enact meaningful change, and the type of change required here is one of mindset as opposed to something that can be solved through legislation. But if anyone reading this got some sort of value out of my rambling, then I consider that a victory. In the smallest capacity, of course, but a victory nonetheless.
Or, maybe you just didn’t read it at all for reasons regarding length. More power to you; this is America, after all.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.