Justice and Health – Where are we going wrong?
January 25, 2019
Growing terrific tomatoes
January 26, 2019

The pulse of a nation – uncensored

Students from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky., stand in front of Native American Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips Jan. 18 near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in this still image from video. An exchange between the students and Phillips Jan. 18 was vilified on social media the following day, but the immediate accusations the students showed racist behavior were stepped back as more details of the entire situation emerged. (CNS photo/Kaya Taitano, social media via Reuters) See MARCH-TEENS-REACTION Jan. 21, 2019.

By Simone Delochan, sdelochan.camsel@rcpos.org

The image of a young white man smirking at an elderly Native American gentleman as he beat his peace drum inundated social media last weekend. And social media platforms erupted in outrage: the MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat which is now perceived as the modern take on the KKK white hood; the poor old indigenous man haplessly beating his drum as the schoolboy stared him down; the faces of wild glee of other schoolboys surrounding the pair.

I was angry. This is what Trump’s America has turned into, division and disrespect. Then I saw the headline in the Daily Express, January 19, ‘Trinis are enslaving us– Venezuelans, Cubans appeal for help’ and what unfolded were stories of horrific treatment.

And as usual social media, Facebook my choice of disease, was aflame with comment (I’m mixing metaphors, I know). I was relieved to see that there were expressions of empathy but then there were comments along these lines:

“I doubt Trinidad is the only place in the world that ya’ll can go….
You don’t like it GET MOVING…
The treatment is not going to change no time soon…
There are no laws in place that are for ya’ll benefit…
Do the best thing & move along…
Nothing to see here…
Trinidad is no longer a paradise, not even 4 us trinis… So who tf is allyuh??”

And there were a few who echoed the sentiments. Fortunately, there were balanced answers to posts i.e. the above: a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-themed approach.

There were similar noxious statements about the students from the Covington Catholic High School, who allegedly had the showdown with the elderly gentlemen at the Lincoln Memorial Park.

Of course, as more videos emerged, the entire impression of prejudiced little boys was thrown into question as the degree of media manipulation was identified. The tenuous nature of social relations, and hate in the US were laid bare.

I read comments avidly on threads because one can get the pulse of a nation—how people feel in a raw and uncensored manner, emphasis on uncensored. I saw similarities in the kinds of emotions which emerged in the post on the refugees here in Trinidad and the Covington affair: intolerance, immense anger, indifference to larger contexts or rationally thinking of a way forward.

Strong negative emotions shutter rational thought, especially when there is a lack of empathy. In my anger I wondered at the adults who allowed some of the students to attend the pro-life walk in politically themed hats. The equivalent would be representing your church community but walking with a balisier or rising sun flag when there are evident tensions.

Worrisome to me is intolerance appears to be growing worldwide, coupled with economic inequity and more severe class divisions and often I feel helpless in the face of it.

What is to be done then? The little good that we can do within our sphere of control: educate where necessary, be respectful in all interactions, be careful of what you express at home with regard to other groups (social, ethnic, religious) as careless words repeated frequently enough can become ideology, and most importantly, understand your own biases and deal with them. Religiosity can often mask a hateful heart.

In my reading of thought pieces coming out of the social media furor, most admittedly on the ease with which social media ‘mob’ behaviour is shaped, one obviously secular writer had this to say, in his article ‘Twitter is the platform but we are the problem’: “There was one other piece of advice I particularly liked, and it came, from all places, the Bible, a book I’ve never found useful for anything but storing drugs: ‘Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger’.” (www.TheStranger.com).

This is from James 1:19 and is a practical piece of advice.
Especially in these times.