So has everyone spent the weekend absorbing all the conflicting reports of what happened at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC between a group of Catholic high school students and the Native American protesters?
If you were like me and saw the initial, brief clips of an elderly Native American man, banging his drum and singing, as a teen boy in a red “Make America Great Again” cap stood inches away, smiling, you probably jumped to conclusions.
I was wrong.
The facts are, looking at that crowd of boisterous youth, many who were wearing MAGA gear, it immediately conjured up the worst possible impression, based on what we’ve already seen and know about those who promote the Trumpian MAGA philosophy. They tend to follow the lead of their master and behave horribly.
The furor surrounding that clip only heightened when the identity of the elderly Native American was revealed. He was Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam vet.
Phillips gave a tearful interview, in which he mourned discourse in the United States, when young people could act as the young man in the video clip with him had acted.
I was really feeling this guy’s pain.
But then something happened.
Conflicting reports began to emerge.
While the young man’s school, Covington Catholic High School, issued an apology for the behavior of their students and promised to further examine the incident and punish students appropriately, the young man in the video spoke up. His family spoke up. Others present spoke up.
The brief clips were misleading.
The young man’s name is Nick Sandmann. Besides being a misguided MAGAdook, he’s a junior at Covington Catholic, apparently with aspirations of becoming a chef.
Sandmann wrote a letter to CNN, which Jake Tapper revealed on Sunday.
“I am providing this factual account of what happened on Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial to correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me,” Sandmann wrote in the letter.
And facts are what we need. Not hyperbole. Not rushes to point out “bad guys,” based on our politics.
Sandmann in the letter wrote that he was “singled out” and approached by the Native American man, who has been identified as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder.
“The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him,” Sandmann wrote. “I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face.”
“I never interacted with this protester,” he continued. “I did not speak to him. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors.”
I think the problem was with Sandmann’s goofy, unflinching grin. Given what we were being told about that brief clip, the fact that he stood there and kept staring, as his classmates kept cheering, really made it appear he was the aggressor.
Just in: Statement of Nick Sandmann, Covington Catholic High School junior, about the event at the Lincoln Memorial: pic.twitter.com/PkuMh2cVZM
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 20, 2019
So here’s the real problem: There were three, separate groups that came together at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.
One group was the class from Covington Catholic, there to participate in the March for Life event.
The second was the Indigenous Peoples March, which Phillips, an Omaha elder, was part of.
The third, and most noxious, was a small group that calls themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites.
For those that have had any experience with, seen footage of, or read anything regarding this fringe hate group, you know they like to bill themselves as the true Israelites, as a pretense for their anti-Semitism, and speak of “Yahweh” while spewing the kind of hate you can imagine coming from the true seeds of Satan.
It’s not overselling it to say that when you hear the term, “Black Hebrew Israelites,” you’d be well within your rights to immediately think: DEMONIC.Now, as I said, I saw the initial clips and my first response was to condemn the behavior of the kids. What I saw looked bad, and a lot of others agreed.
In fact, as is the way these days, people immediately went after the school, the kids, and in particular, Sandmann, tracking him down, contacting the school, as well as his chosen college, and demanding they condemn him.
They want this young man’s life and future destroyed because of a few seconds of a misleading clip.
In Sandmann’s letter, he explains how things began.
“When we arrived, we noticed four African-American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,” Sandmann wrote. “The protesters said hateful things. They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘faggots’ and ‘incest kids.'” He wrote that the students responded with a school chant of their own.
He was telling the truth.
In an hour long video, filmed by the Black Hebrew Israelites, apparently, you see it all. In fact, they begin the video screaming at the Native American protesters, as some approached and screamed back at them.
When the kids arrived and lined up on the steps, awaiting the bus that was to take them home, the group turned their ire and hate towards them, shouting out everything Sandmann said he heard, and a host of other racially divisive and vile things.
These were children these grown men were targeting!
The verbal abuse went on for some time, before the kids began to loudly sing and chant, to drown it out.
So how does Phillips and his Native American group come in?
Video footage shows them walk between the two groups, some of their members carrying cameras and filming, facing the students and advancing on them.
They walked directly into the group of children, and while Phillips only beat his drum and sang, other members of his group were not as calm. They directly addressed the kids, in a manner that suggested they were not there to calm things down, but to condemn them.
In the video from the Black Hebrew Israelites, you can hear them speak approvingly of the actions of the Native American group, who were, in their view, confronting the school kids, even protecting them (the BHI) from these kids, who were not the aggressors.
Phillips has mischaracterized the confrontation in the worst possible way.
“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips told the Washington Post. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”
But there were other ways around, rather than walking straight up to those kids, so why not lead your group around them, rather than through them?
The press, social media, and even some lawmakers have gotten it all wrong.
Rep. Haaland owes those kids an apology. They weren’t the ones displaying “blatant hate” or disrespect.
“I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this moblike character assassination of my family’s name,” Sandmann wrote.
As well you shouldn’t, but once a false narrative of this nature is made public, it really is hard to get to the truth, because the sad reality is, many don’t want the truth. They crave the chaos and the power they get from destroying someone’s life.
We can only hope some of the outlets that were so quick to jump on this story take the time to watch the full video and correct the record, before it’s too late.
As for me, this is my part. This is my effort to get the truth out there, and I pray the right people take heed.
I know it’s a long video, but if you value truth, it’s worth it.