I saw the short video of the Covington Catholic School student face to face with the drumming Indigenous Elder. I believed what I was told, and watched as it echoed around my social media chamber, read the comments as they piled up, agreed that it was reprehensible. I listened to what the Elder said he felt in those minutes of his song.
Later I read the student’s statement and watched a longer video with more angles and discovered there was a bigger story. As counter-claims emerged I sensed embarrassment settle over the viral landscape. Clearly there’d been a rush to judgment. My first reaction was relief that I hadn’t re-tweeted or shared the video, that apart from a single “like” to someone’s comment I’d kept quiet. But then I remembered that I’d believed everything I was told and was plenty disgusted at those boys with their MAGA hats.
I also remembered that watching the first video I’d wondered about the student’s face. I was puzzled by his strange smile which didn’t actually seem jeering, though it did seem nervous and stubborn and maybe uncomprehending. As that video panned to students behind the Elder, I thought they seemed unsure what was going on, laughing uneasily like adolescents caught in something stupid. I remembered these tiny doubts about what I saw but I’d kept quiet about them too, because I was afraid if I voiced them I would be shouted down by the Comments crowd, and that just makes me more unsure of myself. Besides, by then I’d abandoned all doubt as I rushed off to absolute judgment.
Maybe the speed of viral is simply too fast. Too dangerous.
Is there room for judgment here? Of course. But oh that it could be slow and measured. Weighed. Maybe the speed of viral is simply too fast. Too dangerous. Some of the people I follow and most trust and respect are acknowledging their own rush to judgment and asking good questions. Some media are attempting to investigate further and thus add nuance. But it’s still pretty loud and lively out there.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not re-parsing this situation or rushing to some illusory other side, or even saying my doubts were right. Just that they were there, which might have been a signal to me to pause and wait! I’ve now seen both ugliness and dignity in this scenario, but I honestly do not know what happened. I’ve realized again how quickly I join the rush and wish I’d hung on to the “benefit” of doubt a while longer.
I, too, had reservations when watching the video clip, Dora. The elder’s demeanour impressed me. It’s good that the school is doing follow-up. Appreciate your final sentence re the “benefit” of doubt.
Is the ability to wisely reserve judgment something that becomes easier with age (as we gain wisdom or experience) or more difficult (as we perhaps become cynical or jaded)… or is reflexively making a judgment call a simply a part of human nature that rears its head at any age?
Good question, Kevin. I hope it gets easier with age, and in fact, I think it does. But all of us, whatever our age, are living in different times now, with a great deal coming at us through many kinds of media, and short of tuning out completely (which might be a viable option) we feel the heat of it, the wind it makes, and get easily caught up. What do you think?
Thanks for your response! It is a different age indeed. Part of the difference is that (as you observed) we have so many available platforms from which to pontificate: twitter, facebook, instagram (and blogs!). There was a time when our opinions were shaped a great deal more by face-to-face reactions. The dinner table, where a knowing family member can call us on our BS, or the comforting agreement of coffee row… and I feel we were slower to react, given that we always had an immediate audience that would be judging our judgements, in a sense. We are, it seems, collectively caught up in the midst of individual isolation, and it’s lead to what feels like a more visceral age. Like most things, I hope with you, that our experience will make us wise, but our world, it seems, is most hostile to that than ever. A welcome reminder to slow down, certainly, thanks again for sharing!
I think your observation is spot on, Kevin. Thank you.
Thanks for this, Dora. I listened to a discussion about this on The Current on my way in to work this morning.
In my view, they could have dug in on some of the really hard questions, but I suppose there’s only so much you can do in twenty minutes.