Hearing Our Own Voices
“During the period of the drumming, a member of the protestor’s entourage began yelling at a fellow student that we “stole our land” and that we should “go back to Europe.” I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions,” Sandmann said. “I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protestor. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.”
The above words are those of Nick Sandmann that he states a day after the viral video of him facing Nathan Phillips. Many opinions have been written about the hostility displayed by three groups on the steps, of all places, the Lincoln Memorial.
First, I am doubtful of young Sandmann’s statement. It reads much too mature to have been written by a high school student. Having taught high school English, I am familiar with the writing of youngsters, and few, if any high schoolers use phrases such as “…I was still in the mindset….” Why did it take a day for him and even his mother to explain his actions?
Second, the very small group of black Israelites were shouting slurs of all types to Sandmann’s school group. That is wrong. But they also can be heard saying “See, they [students] are mocking him [Phillips].”
Third, Phillips walks to the student group along with others of his group. He has explained his action as an attempt to calm the situation and has stated that he put himself in what he now sees as a dangerous position.
All three points above are open to interpretation as the videos are viewed. We will be offered different opinions, such as the one in National Review stressing that the media was fooled by Phillips. I understand and am grateful that we can discuss our views. However, what I cannot understand is why a chaperone, when asked by a student if the boys could chant school cheers, gave permission.
Teenagers! Not always the best thinkers. Sometimes they don’t even think fully. Add that the group was all male and examine that potential. As a parent and educator, I have witnessed the harm they can do to themselves and others. But what I can’t comprehend is the adult’s reasoning when he or she allowed the boys to chant anything, even school cheers. What type of role modeling is that? Does the adult who approved the chants and the other chaperones who allowed the chanting and jumping to continue, approve of mob action? They must, because they allowed the boys, their young charges, to become a yelling mob, an army without a leader, to paraphrase Mark Twain. And, it is a bit ironic that the yelling and screaming took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just prior to the Martin L. King, Jr. Holiday.
Whatever your views of the situation, and there is potential for several, it is obviously another example showing how low our culture has fallen. As Yeats wrote, “…the falcone cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;…” We shout. We jump. We hear only our voice or ones like it. We say we are Christian as young Sandmann does, but we act worldly.
Young Sandmann and his classmates should hear the words spoken by the President in whose shadow that yelled, jumped, and screamed, even when allowed to by an adult. “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend,” are words spoken by President Lincoln as he worked to unite our country after the Civil War.
Our country was molded by debate and no Signer got everything he wanted. It is said that Franklin, when asked by the wife of Philadelphia’s mayor, what the Founding Fathers had “given us”, responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”