America’s mainstream media was given an inch – and it took a mile. For years now the dominant left-wing cultural hegemony has reigned freely. From widespread social media bannings to promotion of blatant falsehoods by internet blogs, the mainstream has been quite successful in their actions. But in the case of Nick Sandmann and the Washington Post, this backfired.
Mark West | United States
Actress and activist Alyssa Milano’s tweet during the aftermath of the National Mall stare down has drawn fire from right-wing critics. She equivocated wearing red MAGA hats with wearing Klu Klux Klan hoods. As of yet, Milano has refused to apologize and instead doubled-down.
Her reasons for such are made clear in her Op-Ed titled, Red MAGA Hats Are The New White Hoods.
What did she tweet that gained so much attention?
The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.
Without white boys being able to empathize with other people, humanity will continue to destroy itself. #FirstThoughtsWhenIWakeUp
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) January 20, 2019
I felt her tweet went too far. My feelings haven’t changed, but I want to take a few minutes to give my own reasons. She almost drove me, a #neverTrump guy, to buying one of those ridiculous-looking hats.
Why? Because this tribal narrative, that the hats represent the KKK, is equally ridiculous.
I Do Agree With Alyssa
Before I move on, I do want to say that I agree with something Milano wrote in her Op-Ed. She wrote, “watching that video, each of us saw what we wanted to see.” I wrote a piece last week that essentially said the same thing. Our tribal nature is ripping us apart. We see everything the other tribes do as evil. We see our own tribes as the only ones doing right.
Unfortunately for Milano, she falls into similar group-think. She is being intentionally divisive. She is stirring the pot as much as she claims the Covington Catholic teens in DC were.
Milano’s words assume the worst about the teen boys, and the best about the indigenous peoples, while completely ignoring the actions of the Black Hebrew Israelites. Her Op-Ed protects her tribes while demonizing the teens. She creates an artificial division between Sandmann and Phillips that both have publicly stated doesn’t exist.
Both were engaged in a public misunderstanding. This misunderstanding was driven by the demagoguery hurled at the teens, and anyone else who disagreed with them, by the BHI group. Milano ignores the BHI group completely in her Op-Ed. She excuses them with her silence.
President Trump Is A Disaster
Milano and I do share a common view. We both believe that President Donald Trump is disastrous for our nation. My differences with our President stem from his authoritarian use of the office and with his politics of division. I plan to detail those differences in a mid-point “report card” following the State of the Union speech.
Well, that is if the SOTU really is back on.
She perceives President Trump’s threat to our nation on a vastly more bigoted, misogynistic level. Milano portrays the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” as being infested with racial tones. However, the phrase itself isn’t racist. Unless someone believes that President Bill Clinton was a racist. He used the slogan while running for office as well.
This tweet reveals the dangerous place we are in as a society. Purging forms of speech from our society for what WE feel they represent is a direct threat to the First Amendment. I’m curious as to how many MAGA hat bearers Milano has spoken to personally? I think it would be necessary, especially before dismissing all wearers of the hat as racists.
Understanding Is Essential
We can’t understand if we aren’t willing to listen. Milano’s Op-Ed displays a ton of opinion, but very little context. I would like to see her commentary from time spent in the trenches getting to know her opponents. Being from Arkansas I’ve spent a lot of time with the MAGA hat crowd and have gained a great deal of perspective. I think she might find some common ground if she were willing to make the effort.
Milano puts the blame entirely on the teens. She is upset that “white boys” can’t empathize. But her Op-Ed has a complete lack of empathy toward anyone not of her tribe. The real instigators that day were not “white boys” or “indigenous peoples” but a hateful and racist group of “black guys”. But “black guys” are one of the labels that belong to her tribe so she fails to mention them.
Maybe Milano can provide some context. How does she feel when white people claim that Black Lives Matter hats are racist? I know that the BLM hats aren’t racist. Racism is not in the goals of the movement. I took the time to get the context behind the hat. I encourage her to do the same.
We Must Find Common Ground
If we fail to have conversations about our differences, we will never see our similarities. I’ve found common ground with people of all political persuasions by simply having conversations. We must stop excusing our tribes. We must stop demonizing everyone from other tribes. The United States of America is too beautiful and grand for us to not try harder to understand each other.
Now, I don’t think Milano should apologize. She is firm in her beliefs, and coercing anyone to do anything against their will is wrong. Plus, I’m certain I’ll be in trouble for toxic masculinity in my perceived mansplaining in this column.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I do think that she is completely wrong to make a hat racist. Comparing folks wearing a MAGA hat in support of a Presidential candidate with those who used fear and intimidation to put down people of minority races is a stretch.
Even if some of the President’s policies seem overtly racist and xenophobic, we can confront those policies. It is unnecessary to paint well-intentioned people with such a divisively broad brush.
We can’t rob symbols of their context. But part of that context is understanding why someone would wear the symbol. We also can’t delude ourselves into believing that only our own context should matter when defining the views of others.
We can all do better. Our union deserves it.
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Mark West | United States
Last weekend was a bit of a blunder for me. I watched several viral videos surrounding what happened at the National Mall that spread on social media. Angered at what I perceived as disrespect, I made a snap judgment. I shared the first meme I noticed concerning the issue on Facebook. I had to partake in the political discussion on this controversy, right?
The narrative pitted the Covington Catholic High School students, many of which were white, male, and sporting MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats, against a group of Native Americans. The two groups had been involved in separate rallies on the National Mall that day. The Covington Catholic students were leaving a March for Life rally while the Native Americans had just finished an Indigenous Peoples March.
Both were about to intersect in a manner that would spark an unintentional national controversy.
A scene consisting of a what appeared to be a stare-down between Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips immediately split the national audience into regiments. The still shots from the video cast Sandmann in a negative light, with a smug, disrespectful smile on his face.
The Mainstream Media Story
We were incessantly informed by the mainstream media that Phillips heroically confronted the students as they chanted “Build That Wall” at the Native American protestors. An image serving to reinforce the narrative that racial motivations and anger are the motives for support of the southern border wall.
Erroneously, I believed the mainstream media reporting and shared the meme I mentioned previously. However, a close friend cared enough to hint that a full-version video was accessible on the internet. I found it, watched it, and I realized I was dreadfully wrong. Of course, I also deleted the meme I ignorantly shared.
The Hidden Story
Now, I’m not here to tell you what happened at the National Mall. Most of us have already decided our version of the timelines and our judgments of the intentions of the participants. What I am here to report is the hidden story of the MAGA hat kid.
The hidden story of the MAGA hat kid is the tribalism that drives each of us to ignore context while making snap judgments that fit our own narratives. I’ll pull a little gospel principle in by quoting D.A. Carson who said, “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”. In other words, if you ignore the context you will get the wrong message.
I got the wrong message, initially, because I was lacking the context to make sense of what was going on. There is an unfortunate occurrence in political conversation in our society. Far too often, we use pretexts and proof texts to reinforce our tribal view.
Our failure to contextualize is contributing to the erosion of political debate. We should thoroughly examine the context and all the information available to us. An opinion should be formed based on the previous. Instead, we almost always have our pre-disposed opinions. Consequently, we seek only the facts that offer support. The stare-down at the National Mall highlights just that.
I’ve witnessed the anti-Trump crowd attacking Sandmann and his school over racism, as well as doxxing he and his classmates. Simultaneously, the MAGA crowd is attacking Phillips’ character and motives. The tribes are at war even though I’m not convinced that the principles themselves ever were. Through all of the back-and-forth, the demagoguery hurled by the Black Hebrew Israelites, which served as the flashpoint that escalated the tense scenario, has been largely ignored.
My first exposure to the tribalism that dominates our political process came as I listened to President Obama’s supporters chanting, “Yes We Can”, at campaign rallies. I spent the next eight years trying to have reasonable policy conversations with people who could never hold the man they supported accountable. They had their pretexts and ignored any contexts.
During the 2016 campaign, I saw a new emergence on the other side. Watching President Trump’s campaign rallies filled with chants of, “Build That Wall”, and “Lock Her Up”, I realized that I would spend President Trump’s tenure trying desperately to have the same conversations with folks who are out to get the Democrats back for President Obama’s term. They also have their pretexts and ignore any contexts.
So, instead of discussing what really happened and using the lessons as instructive to the society around us, we’re instead hedging into our tribes. We are devoting our energy to ensuring that we prop up those in our tribe while viscerally attacking those of the other. The tribalism is driving the context out of the conversation.
I’m Just as Guilty as You Are
Disclaimer: I’m not speaking from an ivory tower. I’m not exempt in my own tendencies to fall into tribal politics as well, as noted earlier in this column. However, my goal is to objectively focus on facts in their appropriate context, as best I can.
If we are going to secure a society of liberty for future generations to enjoy it is vital that we restore contextual facts to the political debate. Our tribes are not always right, and the other tribes are not always wrong. Our tribes haven’t cornered the market on patriotic fervor any more than the other tribes have un-American sentiment.
The Dire Consequences
Now, tribalism itself isn’t the issue, that’s not the takeaway here. The problem is ignoring reality in order to preserve the ideals of our tribe. In a way, our tribes become more important to us than our nation. When we allow our national fabric to be ripped apart for the sake of our tribe winning, we all lose.
We are all people and we bring a variety of perspectives to the same set of facts. Hence the necessity that we appropriately contextualize the facts at hand. Otherwise, we just continue the evisceration of political dialogue in our nation and become further polarized against our neighbors. If we don’t improve talking through our differences, our differences will manifest into the very things that will threaten the future of liberty in our nation.
71 Republic is the Third Voice in media. We pride ourselves on distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!