Covington Catholic High School — MAGA — Martin v. Malcom

I have seen it written: Smart people learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.  Wise people learn from the mistakes of others so as to never make them in the first place.

Over the past few weeks we have all had the opportunity to learn a lot from the mistakes of others.

Until a few weeks ago, I knew nothing about Covington Catholic High School in Covington, KY.  Then, all of sudden, social media, print media, television was filled with images and commentary about the students of CCHS — following an incident in Washington, DC following the annual Pro-Life March.

Then, for the world to see, there were young (mostly) white young men —-some smiling, some chanting, some making a tomahawk motion —and an old-native-American man beating on a drum.  Many of the students were wearing “Make America Great Again” caps.

Then —- there was more video — giving a “bigger picture” of what happened.  There was more information about Mr. Phillips.  There was information about the “Black Israelites”.  Students involved in the incident — and their parents — spoke to national media.

In the midst of it all — was the annual holiday remembering Dr. Martin Luther King and his fight against injustice.  I attended a debate conducted by young men —- about the philosophy of Dr. King v. the philosophy of Malcom X.  Dr. King espoused peaceful resistance and peaceful confrontation —Malcom X proposed more radical confrontation — even allowing for violent protest.  Who had the right approach?  Martin or Malcom?

Then came the alleged attack against actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago.  He was brought to a hospital with serious injuries — following an attack that he said included physical beating, racist and homophobic slurs, the pouring of some liquid [bleach?] on him, and a rope around his neck.  Reportedly, the attackers yelled, “this is MAGA country.”

So, what have I learned?

  1. Be slow to pass judgment – we know this – but at the same time we need to be reminded over and over — even if there is “A” video — it may not tell the entire story. A picture may be worth a 1,000 words — but there is always the 1,001st word.  The initial images from DC seemed to show young white men blocking the way of a [what was reported] a elderly Native American man — who had served in Vietnam.  There seemed to be a sassy-smirk on the face of one particular student.  The wearing of MAGA hats — in my mind, made things seem worse — here were Trump supporters confronting an innocent man.

Then, there were videos of the Black Israelites yelling racist and sexual slurs at the students.  There was a video of the native American man walking into the midst of the students.  There was news that Mr. Phillips and about 50 of his followers attempted — a few days before the confrontation — to enter a Catholic Church and to disrupt mass.

The picture was no longer clear.  Questions were being asked:  what really happened.  Be slow to judge.

2.  Like it or not–the MAGA CAP is a divisive symbol.  When someone puts on the hat, s/he has to know it is divisive and must ask:  why am I wearing this cap in this situation?

I was recently in Cuba — I bought a couple t-shirts with CUBA on the front of the shirt.  But, I chose NOT to buy t-shirts with Fidel Castro’s picture or the picture of Che Guevara. As much as I support “liberation theology” and the ideals of revolution, I would not wear the t-shirts in public because I KNOW IT WOULD STIR TROUBLE at the gym, along the street, in stores.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, KY has stated this week that the MAGA cap is not a pro-life symbol because President Trump’s pro-life stance is limited to abortion — that his stance against immigrants, about health care for poor children, and about capital punishment are all in conflict with the stance of the RC Church.

Yes — as individuals — the students have a right to wear the cap.  But — because religious institutions are prohibited from supporting a particular candidate — to have a group of students from a school wearing the MAGA cap — clearly associated with President Trump — is a violation of the IRS’ code for non-profit agencies.  Wear the cap — pay the tax.

I question why teenagers chose — or were allowed — to wear MAGA hats in DC at a time when multiple groups were marching.  

3.  Where were the chaperones?  I have chaperoned many school trips — including a trip to DC.  Teenagers are not adults — they make good decisions, and sometimes they don’t make good decisions.  Adults must be near by — to watch, guide, to correct, to lead.  That many young men should never have been, in my opinion, on their own.  Someone “should have said”, — come on over here — let’s wait for the bus over here.

I would hope that …..

  1. School officials continue to “peel away the onion” to see what happened on that day in DC.  I would hope that school officials make sure that students understand that being pro-life means more than being against abortion —– it means taking care of the poor, it means true respect for women, it means being for the underdog, etc.

I would hope that school officials examine diversity on the school staff and diversity in the student body —- if students can go to DC — then the school ought to be able to give scholarships to minority students who can’t afford tuition.

I would hope that an all-male Catholic School would talk about white-male-privilege in 2019.  Haughty and arrogant students might just well become haughty and arrogant adults unless there is some intervention.

2. We as a nation realize how polarized we are — and that the situation is NOT GETTING BETTER.  We cannot be pro-life while being unconcerned when gay, lesbian, and transgender rights are being rolled back and people are physically assaulted while walking along the street.

We cannot be pro-life and anti-immigrant when we understand that we are all immigrants — except for native Americans who are so impoverished today.  [Almost daily I pass a renovation project at our local Cathedral —— and I see people who appear to be Hispanic doing much of the work.  It cannot be ok to welcome the laborer while rejecting those who want to move here permanently.

3. I would hope that, instead of finding fault, it is seen as more important to ask:  what have we learned?  what could have been done to have a better result?  what behavior made the situation worse?  how do we really diffuse a situation?

This weekend’s scripture shares the poetic words of St. Paul to the Corinthians —“if I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Love is not pompous or inflated.

Because Jesus “called out” those whose faith wasn’t made visible in love, the crowd was ready to run him out of town.

What does it mean  to me to be pro-life?  If there was a video of my life, what would people see and say? What does it mean to me that “before I was formed in the womb, God knew me and before I was born, God dedicated me, and appointed me a prophet?” what do I teach through my actions to those around me, especially the youth?




About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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