American Culture

To the kid in the MAGA cap

magakidDear Kid,

Yes, you. You know exactly who you are. So do your friends, teachers, and parents.

Maybe this morning you still think that’s cool. Maybe you’re waiting for the interview requests to roll in. Are your Instagram followers mushrooming? This is what Andy Warhol called your “15 minutes of fame” (I put a link to Wikipedia to save you the trouble).

I taught in Catholic and Episcopal schools for many years, but I don’t anymore. So I can write a few things that your teachers can’t.

Kid, you screwed up. Bigly. There will be consequences for what you did. More than you think.

Someone claiming to be your mom defended your actions on “Black Muslims.” Now, maybe that person was really your mom and maybe not. Maybe your parents will defend your disrespectful defiance with every fiber of their being. Maybe they’ll get invited to interviews with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. I’d like to think “that’s not how your parents raised you.” But maybe they did. I’ve know quite a few parents who raised their kids in their own rude, self-centered image. Or, as one teacher put it, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Assholes breed assholes.”

Oh, that teacher? She taught theology (that’s religion, in case you don’t know the big word.).

But I’m really hoping that your parents are like most of the private school parents that I knew: really busy, reasonably successful, and hoping to provide a good education for their kids. Some of them actually cared about values and morals. Those are the sorts of parents who were always appalled when their kids screwed up: got caught with cigarettes or drugs, drunk at prom, cheated on a big assignment. Sometimes they were so embarrassed at the actions of their offspring that they called in to say they were withdrawing their child from school and the whole family sort of disappeared. The really brave ones showed up in person to apologize, sometimes dragging a tearful son or daughter along on whom the seriousness of the mistake had been impressed.

Because here’s the thing: your parents may have to face consequences for your actions. Maybe all their friends, co-workers, and employers will also support your ignorant action–but I doubt it. My guess is that there will be people who recognized you and will now be figuring out how to get as far away from your parents as possible.

Ditto for your extended family.

There will also be consequences for your teachers and other adults at Covington Catholic High School. My guess, based on my experience, is that your behavior did not come as a surprise to many of them. Some of those adults may now be considering other career choices for themselves. Some of the adults may be trying to figure out who should be blamed for your behavior on the “field trip.”

I noticed in the video that there were not any adults in sight. So where were they? Why were you not supervised when almost 500 miles from home? Who was supposed to be keeping an eye on you and where were they? Those adults will probably find themselves unemployed in the very near future. Their names will probably make the news and they may have a hard time finding another job. Kid, I’m not blaming you completely for that, they chose to let you run wild, that choice is on them.

Was your principal on the trip? Assistant principal? School chaplain? Yeah? Say goodbye to them, too. Heads will roll. They’ll have to. You created a public relations nightmare, the adults will have to clean it up. The communications director posted that “Message from the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School” to buy some time:

We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.

The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion. We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.

The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School

Before the adults at your school who are deemed responsible (or irresponsible, as the case may be) get fired, resign, or take whatever punishment that is meted out to them, they’ll have to figure out what to do with you.

Now, Kid, I know you were not the only one in that crowd. The others will probably be identified and various levels of punishment doled out. Undoubtedly some of the young men in the video will be withdrawn from school by their horrified parents. At least I hope some of the parents fall into that category. There are always parents who are left mystified and appalled by the behavior of their kids: the shy girl who ends up pregnant, the studious boy who cheated on his final exam and got caught. Some parents really try hard to raise good kids and the kids, it turns out, are not all right.

Kid, if you have not already been expelled, or counseled to withdraw, you will be. You and your parents could fight the punishment–I’ve seen that happen (successfully, actually). But I’m guessing you won’t be at school on Tuesday.

Your parents will have to find a new school for you. Maybe they’ll consider “punishing” you by sending you to public school. I hope not. Not for your sake, but for the sake of the public school that would have to figure out what to do with you. More likely, your parents will try to find another private school in the area that will take you. If your family has enough money for full tuition or you’re a talented enough athlete, that might happen. But my guess is that it’s going to be more difficult. You may be just the latest kid shipped off to a remote boarding or military school that specializes in working with “troubled young men.”

Kid, I’m guessing that you’re a sophomore. You might be a freshman, but they don’t usually have enough guts for that sort of stunt (fortunately). Most of the kids I’ve seen get in real trouble do it when they are sophomores. And most are male. A woman I taught with called it “testosterone poisoning.” She came up with the theory based on the behavior of her two sons (who eventually turned out OK). Roughly, the theory holds that stupidity is geometric and multiplied by the number of males present. One young male by himself is least likely to do something stupid. Add in his best friend and double the likelihood. Put them in the car with two other guys, kiss all reason goodbye. Kid, you were surrounded by cheering, smirking, chanting classmates. It was a stupidity-rich environment and you thrived in it.

But underclassmen? They don’t usually stop to think about the consequences of their actions. You know who does, Kid? College admissions people. Maybe you weren’t planning on going to college–but I’m betting you were (that’s why your parents were forking over the $8 grand a year in tuition). Every admissions person in the country has seen your grinning face. I’m not using your name here, but it will hit the news. And some admissions people will file away your name and picture in their “Be on the Lookout” file in their bottom drawer.

Which brings me to Led Zeppelin. Kid, in the immortal words of Robert Plant, “there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” That’s “Stairway to Heaven,” in case you don’t recognize it.

First off, you can try to brave it out and do your best to become the poster boy for the next generation of the Alt-Right. Even if that is not what you choose, they will use your image for their own purposes for a very long time. It’s important that you understand that. Maybe you like that idea, maybe that was your goal. I’m guessing that you never considered it.

The second option is that you could wake up this week, or maybe you already have, and realize that you screwed up and you could try to work to make amends. That doesn’t happen often. I taught at one school where we called the last resort meeting with a student and his/her parents the “Come to Jesus Meeting.” The meetings didn’t often result in the student making a big change. But sometimes it happened.

Even if you recognize what you did right now and start trying to make amends this week, there will still be consequences. Part of making amends will involve accepting them and moving forward. Kid, are you willing to apologize, publicly and sincerely, for what you did? Are you willing to apologize to your classmates, teachers, and everyone at your school? Are you willing to apologize to Nathan Phillips? Apologies would be a good start.

Kid, I imagine that you know what the words “Vietnam Veteran” and “Native American” mean. Maybe you didn’t know the phrase “Indigenous People.” I’m hoping you know what all of those things mean now. If not, find out. Make understanding why what you did was so offensive and wrong and resolve to not make that mistake again.

If you take the second path and are successful and actually learn from this and turn over the proverbial leaf, it might make a convincing and successful college admissions essay.

Something tells me that I am wrong about the possibility of the second path. In fact, experience tells me that the second path is just about impossible for you. But I will still hold on to a tiny hope that I am wrong.

Here’s the thing, Kid. Teachers see a lot of kids with patterns of Bad Behavior excused and passed on. It doesn’t just happen at private schools, but some private schools are more motivated to keep kids around even when their behavior does not warrant it. And seeing that Special Treatment can be demoralizing for faculty and staff. My guess is that you don’t care about that–you may even find it funny that you could flaunt your transgressions in your teachers’ faces with impunity.

The fact that you caused such a public problem for your private school will probably result in your being removed. Some of the adults who remain will breathe a sigh of relief. They will all have to come to grips with what what you did and what role they might have played in allowing your behavior to escalate to the point that it did.

But you, Kid? Your time for wrestling with your flagrant disrespect is just beginning. I hope you are strong enough to get through this and become a better human being.

Experience tells me that growth of that sort is highly unlikely for you. But I will still hold on to a tiny hope that I am wrong.

10 replies »

  1. Thank You Cat….I will continue calling the school….this hate filled discriminatory behavior and language must stop!!! Thanks again!!! My name is Beth.

  2. After reading this post (which I’m still behind 100%), I watched and let the news simmer. I’ve been burned too many times by the flash weekend story that becomes the 24/7 rage before more facts come out.

    I watched the tinfoil crowd come out of the woodworks. Here’s proof that Phillips approached Smirky McSmirkface! *watch the start of the video* “But, the video of your “proof” starts with them already standing toe to toe, motionless. I thought you had proof of something.” *crickets*

    Then the only ones calling for more context were the oppo whackadoodles, until it wasn’t just them. Next thing I know I’m seeing “Fake crisis! Paid actors! Look at the footage, nothing’s right! Staged! Look at how staged, the blocking (positioning of actors) is just like it’s directed!” It’s almost like people with cameras in public never move around to get a good shot. How odd. I got waylaid by a friend of a friend for calling out their tinfoil. Their defense, “I’ll have you know, I voted for Obama twice!” Ah, on my team, are you? No response after I pointed out that when I was in DC post 9/11 and marching in the streets, Alex Jones was a ready hit with our own left-fringe elements who drank the 9/11 truther tea. I suggested they look into how to avoid non sequitur in aid of improving the persuasive power of his arguments. *crickets*

    I finally saw an hour and a half+ video at Fox of all places, not exactly a bastion of balance, but I saw it there before I saw it elsewhere. I didn’t have 1:45:00 to waste, so I grabbed the slider and skimmed through it. Even with sound off, it was at least clear that the whole mess was just a hair more complicated than the initial virality would indicate. But I didn’t see a thing that made Cat mistaken even a little.

    Were the Black Hebrew Israelites the real instigators? Beside the point.
    Was Philips a bit odd, perhaps, by ending up toe to toe with the kid gently beating his drum? I don’t know, because I don’t personally know Philips. I have frame drums. Pounded on, they can roar. Lightly struck as it appeared Philips was doing? Totally different effect. I had a flirtation with neo-shamanism at one point. Eclectic that I am, I took what worked for me and moved on. I still have the frame drums because of that. Given Philips’ ethnicity, culture, and history, I’ve no doubt that he was earnestly doing his method for trying to bring the temperature of the conflict down with a steady, heart-rate changing beat. That he was probably trying to dispense Medicine (however reckoned in his culture) will be missed entirely by the oppo team and, if I’m correct, by about 98% of our own. If I’m right, it was noble. Maybe even effective. But the point of it will have been lost in the media circus.

    None of it changes the thrust of Cat’s points at all.

    The kid is now speaking for himself. Won’t stand for the character assassination, a sweaty little dandruff flake off the mom’s shoulder. And maybe, just maybe, he was partially right. I’m not psychic. I don’t know his motives. Did he initially start out thinking if he just stood his ground calmly he’d be doing his bit to bring the temperature down in his own way? Maybe. He loses me the moment he elides the facts surrounding his buddies, the tomahawk chops, the taunts.

    And the adults…where the hell were the adults?

    I think Cat’s words stand, as is. It could even be that the kid is as much victim as problem here. But for the adults’ absence, maybe none of this would have gone down this way. For that matter, absent chaperones, where were the police? If the oppo team were to reflect on that, maybe they’d direct their ire at the cops who weren’t there to protect precious white boy bodily fluids or something. Or maybe the chaperones would have poured gas on the fire, considering what they were failing to chaperone to begin with.

    No matter what, I think the Kid has a bumpy ride ahead of him. He jumped up and down on his own bed with muddy feet, now he has to lie in it. If that is what keeps him from the full measure of his success, I hope he gets more of his mom than she intends. With any luck, he’ll look back and find some way to hold the failed chaperones accountable for his teen mistakes and the damages to his prospects because, but for their neglect, he’d have been a model American. I don’t buy it for a moment, but it would be fun to watch.

  3. Cat, I think you got this one wrong. Watch the two hour video and then if you want to stand by your column, do it. The kids have been defamed and the media was wrong to jump to the conclusions it did. The kids are the victims here, not the other way around.

  4. I did. If the kid was your teenage son in that situation, how do you think you would feel if the world was hammering on him? Do you remember when they were hammering on David Hogg? Everything he did and said wasn’t so correct, but for Heaven’s sake give the kid a break. If the kid was a different color, did not have the MAGA hat on, and had actually done something wrong, everyone would be defending him. There is a complete double standard in the media today and it is wrong. Let’s just be up front about why this is taking place. It is a true example of political correctness and the media jumped on it because it fit their narrative. Some had the guts to retract what they said, but others didn’t. Let’s be really clear about what this is about.

    • Okay…as to the kids being the victims, I partially agree. Unless something calamitous happened in their young lives previously that upended everything about how they were raised and changed that 180 degrees, here’s what I surmise.

      These kids go to a pricey private Catholic school. They probably weren’t raised poor.
      They come from an area (unless they moved into it) that’s extra super white.
      They were probably brought up in the family religion.

      I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any one of those points.What would you say the odds are that these kids (who chanted “build a wall” at a Native American) at any point, received anything in their educations at home or in school that suggests, “challenge what you think?” How much critical thinking instruction do you think these kids get? How likely is their religiously-based education going to push a “think for yourself” ethos?

      Do you honestly suppose for a moment these kids get a well-rounded diet of reliable news with time out for opinion and analysis from hard right to hard left so they can learn to weigh ideas for themselves?

      I trust you’re not a dolt, so, of course not.

      And isn’t it just amazing that this flock of pure, innocent sacks of precious white bodily fluids all have *vigorous* opinions about the national security of a nation whose history there just ain’t no way in hell they actually know anything serious about. Imagine all the context they bring to the table, having been born after 9/11, never having lived a life in an American before the Patriot Act and the AUMF and the GWoT instigated on bad intel propagated by the mainstream, MSNBC, & the right. And somehow, Trump is their guy.

      I felt bad by people who were taken in by Rush back in the Clinton years, partly because I *was* one. Notice he doesn’t say “character matters” now? Now? Hannity! What a joke of a human.

      Damned straight these kids are victims. But you know what? If you have a neighbor that trains their dog to be aggressive so it guards the back yard better, you stay away because that dog will bite. These teenage sacks of testosterone and angst haven’t just now been told that the world is against them. They’ve been raised like that probably their whole damned lives. And we’re guilty for noticing?

      You bring up David Hogg and probably don’t realize just how apples to oranges of a comparison you’ve made. Whatever else can be said for or against Mr. Hogg, he experienced a thing up close and personally, and it gave him some pretty damned strong opinions about how things should be different.

      These twerps? They are the face of every jock asshole bully I ever hated in high school. Screw sympathy because of their age. There’s no slapping lipstick on these pigs, I don’t care how old they are. Their lived experience in Whitest Whitey McWhiteville, America? Show me the racial tensions they lived through before this. In an era where we’re supposed to be worried “about his swimming career,” and where we quibble over whether nor not dry humping (or worse) a passed out chick by a dumpster should be treated like a severe crime or an impediment to his future, show me the troubles they’re having with all those oppressive women in their daily grind. They’re at that age all teenage boys go through, just about no matter how they’re raised. Oppression by females is being told no before you start spreading rumors about what whores they are.

      Until DC, these precancerous American minors only ever experienced having other people tell them what to think, and like good little bootlickers in training, they suck it right up. Just look at all those MAGA hats. What, no dissent in the ranks? Groupthink is suddenly good?

      Damned straight they’re victims.

      So now you’ll tell me that because they’re the victims, what, they’re not responsible for their own agency? When is that supposed to start?

      Yeah, the Black Israelites were wrong. Where were the kids’ chaperones? The kids were literally neglected and the neglect could have turned physically injurious in a heartbeat. That’s on the adults who are making excuses for the kids but not taking responsibility for themselves. That’s a load of crap is what that is.

      Along comes Philips. This is where, if you’re going to correct me, this is your free zinger. Was Philips lying or what he not lying (or severely mistaken) when he said MAGA Jr. there blocked his progress through the crowd. What kind of exercise of agency was that?

      Who outnumbered whom, there? Who really had call to feel threatened? Maybe you just haven’t been threatened by enough teenage boys in your life to appreciate the situation. I hope not. But it just takes a teeny weeny bit of empathy to see where Mr. Philips was standing, and it was not in a good place.

      No accountability for the teenage boys for their hostile posturing?

      None for tomahawk chops? I don’t care what they were taught. What does that bearing on their moral compass read? Now tell me it isn’t broken.

      None for “build a wall” at a Native American?

      Shame on you for defending them. They’re old enough to know better but they don’t because they were pretty much poisoned from birth. That doesn’t make a guard dog bite less. You don’t reward that. You observe it. You give it wide berth. You pass out warnings to avoid the dogs.

      Maybe, as an afterthought, then you say, “yeah, but I don’t blame the dog. He was trained that way.”

  5. Let’s look at the behavior of the adults in this situation and place the responsibility exactly where it belongs. No one is talking about the adults, the vicious things that were said to the kids or how they were treated. Look at the adults, not the kids and hold the adults accountable, not a bunch on kids or especially one kid who just stood his ground.

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