Until recently we’d never heard of Covington Catholic High School, nor the town of Park Hills, Kentucky, but at the moment they are both unavoidably famous.
One of those “viral videos” that frequently infect the internet showed some Covington students wearing “Make America Great Again” ball caps in a tense encounter with a Native American drummer on Saturday at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the aftermath of an anti-abortion rally, which by Sunday led to all sorts of outraged coverage from left-leaning media about arrogant white youth menacing a an aged minority group member in the age of the President Trump. On Monday another longer video of the same incident from a literally different perspective was released which showed the Covington students had been harassed by some nearby members of a black religious cult known for its hatred of white people, which led to all the right-leaning media grousing about the “fake news” vilifying Trump-supporting white folk. On Tuesday both sides and the Native American drummer in the literal middle of it were all still arguing about what happened.
On the one hand it was no big deal, as no one was injured and such racially and politically charged unpleasantness goes on everyday outside of cell phone camera range, but on the inevitable other hand we can’t blame either side for trying to make a big deal of it.
The original video showed a young MAGA-cap-wearing fellow staring at the Native American drummer with what can reasonably be described as a sneering smirk, and some of his classmates are doing the “tomahawk chop” gesture and shouting something or other that didn’t sound at all friendly, and given that it came at the end of anti-abortion rally it did seem a nicely succinct summation of the liberal narrative about the age of Trump. The Native American drummer they were clearly mocking is elderly and a respected tribal leader and decorated war veteran, too, and the short video looked undeniably bad from its certain perspective.
The libertarian-leaning Reason magazine then came up that longer video from a different perspective, however, and it clearly showed that while awaiting a school bus to bring them home the students had peacefully endured the profane and racially charged insults of a nearby group of “Hebrew Israelites,” a weird cult that preaches black people are the true Jews of the Old Testament and everyone else is damned to hell, and that the Native American drummer, who happened to be there because he’d been involved in an indigenous people’s rally had placed himself between the two groups in an apparent attempt to calm the situation. He chose to direct his drumming at the white students, who might or might have understood his intentions, and although they were arguably disrespectful they were non-violent and didn’t do anything that can be construed as threatening. The “Hebrew Israelites” had been taunting the white students with anti-homosexual slurs, too, and are well-known for their anti-Jewish sentiments and general hatefulness, and it was so hard for the left-leaning meaning media to explain that many were in retreat on Tuesday.
The right-leaning media went on the offensive, plausibly arguing it was an example of the “fake news” rushing to judgment about Trump supporters. Trump himself weighed in via “Twitter,” and is reportedly planning a meeting with his disparaged fans. We can hardly blame them for making the best of the opportunity.
Some of the the left-leaning media are admitting the situation was more complicated than they’d supposed, but still think that a smirking bunch of MAGA cap-wearing and “tomahawk-chopping” white boys at a rally against reproductive rights deserve whatever opprobrium they get, so the debate will probably last through today. No one’s likely to get the best of it, however, and we expect the incident will be long forgotten by all but those were personally involved.
All sides are looking for heroes, but they’re not likely to find any that will last past the next news cycle. Those obnoxious “Hebrew Israelites” are clearly villains from any side’s perspective, but they’re such an ineffectual fringe cult that the right can’t make them much of a bogeyman and the left needn’t muster any defense for them. That Native American drummer might have had the best intentions in inserting himself into the confrontation, and despite his war heroes we can hardly blame him at his advanced age for addressing his drumming to to the skinny white Catholic school kids rather than the burly black power street activists who’d been taunting them, and he strikes us as neither heroic nor villainous. The Covington kids were clearly nonviolent and blameless of any misdemeanor, and it’s worth noting they are after high school-aged boys, so worse could have been excepted, but that one did have what can reasonably be interpreted as a self-entitled smirk and one of his classmates was pulling his shirt off in the cold in a provocative way and they were doing that “tomahawk chop” thing that Native Americans reasonably find offensive, and even as dumb high school kids they could have acted better.
Looking at it from all the cell phone camera-recorded perspectives, it strikes us as just another example of the unpleasantness that all too frequently occurs in our politically polarized society, which we frequently witness even here in Wichita but never bother to record on our old-fashioned flip phone. We blame human nature and Trump and his equally crazed enemies, and the more impulsive right-leaning and left-leaning media, and the occasional Native American drummer who ill-advisedly walks into the middle of it, and all of us on the sidelines who wonder what to do about it and the worse that’s sure to come.
— Bud Norman