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A smirking Nick Sandmann stares down Nathan Phillips January 18 during the Indigenous People's March in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Reuters

Amplifications: A picture is worth a thousand words

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By Tuesday, Jan 29, 2019 Viewpoints 14

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.

It doesn’t.

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.

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14 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Donagh says:

    Bigots gotta bigot.

  2. Lucinda Shmulsky says:

    “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:” might be perceived as a bit of an insult to those who know history, as the only thing getting in the way of the statement: is historical fact.

    “At the time of Ulysses S. Grant’s election to the presidency, white supremacists were conducting a reign of terror throughout the South. In outright defiance of the Republican-led federal government, Southern Democrats formed organizations that violently intimidated blacks and Republicans who tried to win political power.

    The most prominent of these, the Ku Klux Klan, was formed in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865. Originally founded as a social club for former Confederate soldiers, the Klan evolved into a terrorist organization. It would be responsible for thousands of deaths, and would help to weaken the political power of Southern blacks and Republicans.”


    Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general during the Civil War (1861-65) and most remembered for his controversial involvement in the Battle of Fort Pillow in April 1864, when his troops massacred black soldiers. In the late 1860s Forrest began an association with the newly formed Ku Klux Klan, a secret society that terrorized blacks and opposed Reconstruction efforts and Forrest served as the Klan’s first grand wizard.

    1. Charles Flynn says:

      Lucinda, excellent response to this letter and I agree as to what you provided as it is actually fact based. Thank you. My response offers some criticisms to the letter’s author’s use of the Alinsky approach, non factual dissertation with personal attack. The author proposes and advocates for tolerance yet offers a viewpoint of intolerance with the first eight paragraphs of her letter. Where is the middle ground? Does the author of this viewpoint define the middle ground or is it negotiated through debate.

      1. Brian Tobin says:

        Linda’s “facts” have been amply disproven.

    2. Brian Tobin says:

      Fact: A Republican, Ronald Reagan, flipped the entire South with his state’s rights speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1980. He adopted racial segregationist speech to get the rural south to vote Republican. It worked. It happened in Neshoba County, 7 miles from the site where 3 young civil rights activists were murdered by the KKK. You would have us believe that the southern Democrats of the mid 19th century were the same as present day Democrats, but you’re wrong. You’ve proven that Trump supporters don’t care about facts, because they invent their own. You’re going down, big time.

      1. Charles Flynn says:

        Brian, I always enjoy it when I see liberal progressives or Trump haters, try to fit republicans or conservative Americans into a little box or define them with one speech. That kind of rhetoric is what really is dividing our country. When liberal progressives or Trump haters accuse non liberals of something it is usually because the liberal progressives are already doing that something and are just trying to find someone else to blame. Case in point: It was the democratic party colluding with Russia, not President Trump and the Republicans. What happened in Washington between the Covington High School students and the American Indian was again grossly misreported by the very dishonest liberal progressive press. Again, the liberal progressive press chose to offer fiction instead of the news.

  3. Shaun Tighe says:

    A picture IS worth a thousand words AND the full video has many pictures.

  4. Tom S says:

    Did the writer of this viewpoint actually watch the full video of this situation?
    Please do, you may actually change your mind about your conclusions regarding this/these young men.

  5. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

    I did see some of this before. It does not change my mind. I think those boys behave appallingly. It does not mean I approve of the behavior of the Black Hebrew protestors. But those boys were yelling horrid things at women prior to harassing the Native Americans.

    1. Tom S says:

      What exactly did you hear these boys say?
      I heard nothing I would characterize as appalling.
      And why did your article exclude the Black Hebrew’s behavior?

      1. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

        Tom, they taunted women who were there for the women’s march. It has been documented that they shouted things like, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it.” And I did not write about the Black Hebrew protestors because they were not the focus of my essay.

  6. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

    Tom, they taunted women who were there for the women’s march. It has been documented that they shouted things like, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it.” And I did not write about the Black Hebrew protestors because they were not the focus of my essay.

    1. Tom S says:

      I viewed no evidence of this shouting to women (and I watch 2hrs of the video). Additionally, your writing speaks about racial overtones (KKK to MAGA hat) rather than to this alleged taunting these boys did of women. The March for Life has been celebrated for years, and from what I recall relatively peaceful and non-violent. This incident you write about simply shows your bias: MAGA hat speaks deeply to you, as it does to these boys (and many others in our country); that should not allow you (or I) to paint the wearer of the hat w/ our biases. Sometimes a hat is just a hat?

      This is the struggle our country faces (one of many). Too many view people thinking they have bad intentions. For example, I believe the March for Life indeed is protected free speech AND it is to protect the sanctity of life that lives within a woman’s womb. You think it as taking away choice or healthcare to women. Neither of us is technically wrong.

      I believe we should look at all people (especially our youth) with best intentions. Even if these boys were wrong, this should be an opportunity to learn, not punish.

      And is it really appropriate for the 69yo Native American man to beat his drum in the face of a teen? The teachable moment, this older man was intending to inject, was, unfortunately, a possible instigator to the press (and now your) narrative about looking at the worst in people.

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