Why the issue with Covington high school compelled me to express my thoughts on politics
I don't have to explain what is going on in the American political climate. Ever since Donald Trump became president, the country took a split right down the middle, forcing friends and even some families to separate from each other because of political beliefs. We currently live in a hostile and poisonous climate that, as Kanye West would say, programs your mind to feel one way.
That way, is to funnel your support under one party, or at the very least finding the lesser of two evils, much like 2016. And in my opinion, the incident with the Covington Catholic high school students was a great example of that. Take it from me, I used to be an ignorant, MAGA hat wearing, catholic high school student.
Had it been two years earlier, I could have very easily been that kid in the picture, who has become the focus of both support and death threats simply because of his smirk. Simply because of his Trump hat, because his is just another white boy who will become a trash white man. Am I right?
No? Well maybe it's because he and his friends were being loud, rowdy, and probably a little ignorant in the face of a complete stranger approaching them with a drum. The stranger, who claimed to be offering himself up in defense of the people the boys were heckling, which if I am to understand correctly, was "a group of African-American Hebrew Israelites", who were apparently shouting racial slurs at the boys to begin with.
Disagree with how I have outlined this story? Guess what, so does everyone else. There is no clear image of what happened because each side of the aisle, each party, is looking to put a spin on this, either to protect young boys or put an end to the destruction of morals by Trump's America. Here's the one side that I have yet to see anyone acknowledge.
Am I being a little generalized about why there are racial issues in this country, yes. It's not just about being white, but to a young high school student, like myself, it would seem that way. To a young student facing an angry crowd and cameras around him, the fear of who he was probably terrified him. And I know personally.
I was a Catholic high school student, looking at twitter, and hearing how every group I had any ties to was awful. Catholics were protecting child molesters, Republicans were nominating Trump, white people... well, white people right? I mean every time I looked on twitter, it was another story about how awful everything I might identify with was awful. Again, that is a generalized idea of the issues with these groups.
While I didn't start as an immediately outspoken, MAGA hat wearing student, my forays into the world of ignorance and disobedience in the face of authority started with wearing colored socks and sweaters at school. It was really a form of finding comfort in being who I was, really a natural step for any high school student. But what I found was that it seemed no matter what I did, I would probably always be seen as a problem by society.
I grew up through high school as twitter really found it's stride, and so the first really nasty side of me that I ever felt I really showed was ignorant comments on twitter directed at fellow classmates. But in many cases, I felt like these were self defense, preemptive strikes against the world I was growing into. I was a young man who was not willing to be told what to do, or listen to reason in any form at times, and so I was willing to take my actions to extremes in some cases.
And I do not regret going through this faze, although I could certainly say there are plenty of classmates I wish I could apologize to. The point is, I grew up, I learned, I found enough humility to understand the world through someone else's eyes. I understood that the world was not just black and white, even if Republicans and Democrats so often paint it that way.
I went through a life experience at the time, where I was allowed to speak my mind in an effort to show that my opinion would not go unnoticed even if it was unpopular. I leaned in to the role as evil villain in a sense, and figured I would make the most of what I had. I could have just as easily been that kid, maybe even worse than that, because I was not willing to listen to someone tell me that what I believed was irrelevant on the basis that I was either A) Catholic B) White C) A male D) worst of all, a Trump supporter.
I continue to emphasize this to anyone who talks to me in an effort to convince me that my support of Trump at the time was wrong or misguided, because I probably fit in to that group of overlooked America. Ya, I am actually one of those people you hear Trump talk about. We aren't just called midwesterners, we have names. Hi, I'm Collin, and since high school, a lot has changed.
Unfortunately, for the students in the videos and pictures surrounding this event, they may never be able to experience the growth I found. They are now, from what I can gather, fighting for the safety and sanity, facing death threats and constant bombardment about how terrible they are to society. I can't imagine who I would have turned in to if I had been placed in a situation like that in high school, but I can probably bet the result wouldn't have been good for anyone.
And with this situation, as with any political conversation in America, there are two sides telling you why they're right. While this may be standard procedure in any argument, maybe consider who continues to pull the strings on this puppet show. Unbiased news media died, most notably in the last 3 years. The country we live in tells you that it is now paramount to choose a side, rather than what is best for the country.
And now they are telling you how to look at these kids. Take it from me, they are not that bad. You may be reading this now and thinking I haven't seen the videos, but I have. I am a communications major, I see the video edits, the awkward cuts which exclude crucial parts of what happened there, and the truth is, there aren't TWO sides. There is not one clear group to be held at fault or innocent.
Take the man with the drum, Mr. Phillips. High school me is looking at this man, and blatantly thinking, "what the hell do you want", with every intent to defend myself, knowing full well where I was and what I was wearing. I was willing to go down with my beliefs, if it meant I had been heard and understood by people in some way. Here he comes, interjecting himself into the picture as a savior, but to these boys who were already being harassed, they were being faced head on by an adversary.
Didn't we learn stranger danger in grade school? Sure, now after the fact we know all the information about him, Vietnam veteran, the whole nine. I get it, he has been a great man for America, and I will not try and take that away from him. But why would an adult find it reasonable to approach a group of young boys beating a drum, which to the best of my knowledge as much meant war to the Indians as it did anything peaceful.
Call it ignorance, call it a lack of education, I would have found myself ready for a war with him, more in self defense than in an attempt to push my views. Yet, he is the hero, because some snotty rich white boy wearing a Trump hat could not possibly be a good human being. Say what you want, tell me that isn't how everyone thinks, I'll give you a million reasons why it is, test me. My DM's, email, phone whatever, I'll send you plenty to prove my point.
But they aren't innocent. If I was those kids, I would have been as much to blame for carrying on like they were around the young man, inexplicably yelling, jumping, dancing around the man with the drum. It wouldn't make sense, it would seem like disrespect, and it shows immaturity from these young men. I was the same way.
Who's to say there isn't more to come from this story. Who's to say there isn't more these boys were doing before the videos.
I think we can all agree, the true picture of what happened here will never be found, because both sides of the aisle have slapped their grimy paws on it and turned it into a national debate, with very real consequences for these young men, men who like me, probably need to learn some humility.
One of the greatest things I have had in my life was a love for music, because it exposed me to Chancelor Bennet, known Chance the Rapper. For anyone who knows me, I made being a Trump supporter and a Chance fan simultaneously part of who I was. Internally, I was faced with a real dilemma: here was an idol of mine, supporting people who openly went against what I believed and supported in politics at the time. He exposed something to me that probably should have been obvious, but took maturity, and again humility, to accept.
Sometimes, there isn't one way. Sometimes there isn't one party who is right.
It makes me laugh when people say that they want change, not because I disagree, but because they believe change lies within their own party. Look around you. Most of what we have here, from the physical things all the way right up to the political unrest we face has been created by the two parties who have held control of America for hundreds of years. The same two parties who contribute millions in advertising campaigns and endorsements to control the government from the Oval Office.
On the one hand, you have the idealized Democrats, who's ideas always seem to make great sense, "Healthcare for all", "Free College", you get my point, who would complain about those things. And yet they never seem to quite workout, they never truly explain the inner workings of these deals. Looking at the way college costs are increasing, I would love to know how free college for everyone makes any sense.
On the other side, you have the Republicans, the stingy money men, who come up with generally responsible fiscal plans, but who seem to ignore some basic human rights, and fail to in any way empathize with anyone but people who have money. And while I understand, if you have money, you want to keep it, play it safe. Why wouldn't you?
Yet, neither party ever seems to get anything done, and it seems like it may be time to officially declare that congress, or any semblance of bipartisan working has totally collapsed, not because of Trump, but because clicks sell, and the idea of the boxer reigns supreme. It is the red corner versus the blue corner, neither side willing to cave in for fear of looking weak or like cowards.
Cowardice is hiding behind a wall to explain why you have allowed people to go without work, and why you continue to offer a middle finger rather than an olive branch to fix this problem. Cowardice is hiding behind the American worker rather than offering any real solution to the issue of illegal immigration in an effort to maintain the status quo. Being an American leader requires you to sit down in front of the American people and actually listen to what they want, what they care about, and increasingly, it doesn't align with either side fully.
As I have matured, I have shed the desire to be the ignorant, MAGA hat wearing high schooler I once was. I have chosen to humble and educate myself, rather than blindly supporting the same people who continue to run this country into the ground.
For anyone that knows me personally, I think it is safe to say I'm not a bad person, and the simple fact that I wore a MAGA hat was not an indicator of the character I possessed. Demonizing young white people might seem like retribution, because it was the same for young African American people, and because those same white people are probably "racist" Trump supporters. News flash: I wasn't and I am still not.
Maybe take a second to talk to those kids, inform them, offer them a point of view. Am I a rare find in the area of politics, sure maybe. A young person with an ability to see some level of reason, even though he falls into Trump's corner might sound outlandish, and maybe be hard to find in other young people, but these Covington kids are much like me, because I was not willing to listen to reason in high school, and probably very well came off the same way.
And much like me, they have the potential to turn out quite alright, contributing members of society, who are willing to hear both sides of the aisle, understanding the political games that are being played.
We are a country at odds with social issues, and gravely in debt. Its time for the people charge to find a way to work together, and it started long before Trump. Say what you will, but looking back, the figureheads leading political issues now are many of the same people who've been life time government members: Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell, nothing has changed.
While I understand it is hard to force two parties with the financial backing of republicans and democrats to change drastically like that, I think it can start by changing your perceptions, in particularly how you are looking at these Covington students.
Are they totally innocent? Not a chance in hell. Much like me, they probably poked the bear in some way, wanting to look for opportunities to express their true feelings, trying to show people they weren't afraid to say what they believed. Are they bad kids, racist even? Not likely. While time will tell if there was more to this event, from what I have gathered, it wouldn't seem like they were being outwardly racist at the time.
You could probably understand what really happened if you stopped trying to force this story to go one of two ways. See it for what it is, not for what the media wants. It isn't a story of bravery, it isn't a story of racism, it is a story of bad timing, and young kids trying to find themselves in one of the more difficult political climates this country has faced.