Amplifications: A picture is worth a thousand wordsMore Info
Words used to dominate. The oral tradition led to the printing press. Radio broadcasts became televised news coverage, which brought pictures into our lives. And now we seem, as a collective, to have focused our attention on imagery alone.
It can be a powerful tool. Consider the black-and-white snapshots of Kent State, or the Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960. Those images of Tiananmen Square will never leave us. And now we have the Catholic kid in the MAGA hat.
Even if smirking Nick Sandmann hadn’t tried to intimidate Native American vet Nathan Phillips, his MAGA hat said everything we need to know about him: He is a white male who thinks that his very essence makes him a superior being.
What it does make him is ignorant and, to some extent, a pawn. At 16 he knew what he was doing, but where were the adults who put kids on a bus and sent them to a rally intended to take away women’s rights? Who taught them to bully and sneer and frighten people? These are Catholic schoolboys, are they not?
It is this connection between religion and righteous hatred that makes my blood run cold. Not that the connection between religion and subjugation is anything new; our country was founded on it. History is rife with religious persecution, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem Witch trials to the Muslim zealots who weaponize their bodies against infidels. And now we have MAGA zombies blindly following Dear Leader without, I am sure, even understanding their uncomprehending fealty. I can’t believe, not for a minute, that all of those boys from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School fully understand what the rest of the world sees when they don their hats.
Anyone with a modicum of education can draw a straight line from the white hoods of the KKK to the angry red of a MAGA cap. The KKK first arose after the Civil War when white men fought against inevitable change. The organization was rooted in white Christianity then, and again when it saw a resurgence in the 1920s when jobs were scarce and white folk used hatred and violence to scare off workers. As civil rights movements gained momentum in the 1960s, we saw their return and now, even scarier, we see their beliefs politicized.
Sandmann’s family knew to immediately hire a publicist. They whitewashed his nasty behavior and Trump’s mouthpiece, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said she had “never seen people so happy to destroy a kid’s life.”
Can you imagine how Tamara Rice’s family felt when reading those words? Or Michael Brown’s family? Imagine knowing police killed your unarmed child and never, ever hearing the president speak out about racial profiling but hear him and his minions defend the intimidating tactics of a well-heeled white boy? Now imagine knowing that these people think they are Christians.
In the case of the Covington schoolboys, it is probably not a far leap to assume they were indoctrinated to hate the proponents of free choice for women. The religious right, as a whole, will do anything to stop a woman’s ability to choose her own health care. The logic always makes me cringe, because teaching our youth to protect an unviable embryo but not caring for the woman carrying it makes little sense. Teach kindness. Educate these kids on sexuality. Show them tolerance.
And there is the other aspect of the MAGA issue. The boys surrounding Phillips were chanting, “Build the wall.” It was, of course, a monumentally stupid phrase to be shouting at a man who belongs to the only group of people who actually come from this country. The intention, however, was clear: We are white, we belong. You don’t.
I hope the teachers at Covington were filled with shame when they saw their students’ actions. I hope their parents asked forgiveness from their god and from their children for doing them the disservice of teaching hatred. And everyday I utter the same prayer about the man who so emboldens them: May Trump get what he deserves.