Tuesday, January 22, 2019

On MAGA Hats and the (Ongoing) Rush to Judgment

What you see in the picture to the left of the text is probably a Rorschach test reflecting your political views.

When the story of Covington Catholic broke, people immediately formed reactions. In my case, I first thought “set up!” When the diocese issued an apology and promised an investigation, I thought there might be something to the charges. 

Mea culpa. I was wrong both times. Once I realized that, I decided to step back and wait, deleting some of my commentary on my blog’s Facebook page that was based on those early reports.

I’m glad I did that [#] because, when people started taking a deeper look, it was plain that different factions focused on parts of the video that fit their preconceived notions while others (like me) assumed due diligence had been performed. In other words, everyone who formed an opinion thought (and many still do think) that what they knew was all they needed to know. 

Unfortunately, much of that “thought” was caused by what people think of the MAGA hat. Some people who support Trump focused on the MAGA hats and saw allies under fire. Some who oppose Trump focused on the hats and saw thugs bullying a Native American veteran. Either way, it was a view of “100% of the blame goes to your faction, 0% goes to mine!”

As more is known about the story, it’s clear that three [§] parties were involved and it’s possible that some members of both the Covington Catholic students and the Native American group responded in unacceptable ways. Unfortunately, the partisans won’t step back. They scour the video for minute clues that they claim exonerates their position and refuse to consider that some of the actions on “their” side may have been wrong.

Not only are they refusing to consider that, they’re expanding their targets. Now some are blasting the diocese and the school for initially announcing an investigation (with potentially dire consequences) and apologizing to the Native Americans. Never mind the fact that they’ll still need to investigate whether the students violated the code of conduct expected of them. Others are blasting the media (in general) for the initial reporting. No doubt there were errors in judgment based on the assumption that all the facts were out. But the partisans are still doing what they accused others of. They’re assuming their knee-jerk reactions were true and act as if they’re looking for vindication, not truth.

This has to stop. 

It’s one thing to be mistaken. It’s quite another to obstinately refuse to consider the possibility that things are different than your first impression led you to believe. Assuming that those you mistrust must be guilty and those who you agree with must be innocent is rash judgment. As the Catechism teaches:

There’s time for all of us to step back, calm down, and wait for the facts to emerge—recognizing that our biases may be distorting our views. But if we will not do that, we’re just as guilty as the “other side” we blame.


[#] I’m especially glad that I didn’t write a blog post based on my first impressions. That would have been even more embarrassing to retract.

[§] I find it interesting that the group identified as the “Black Israelites,” which seem to have instigated the incident, are the group that seems to be ignored by both sides in this faction war. They do seem to be the necessary and sufficient cause that caused the incident. However, that doesn’t excuse any subsequent wrongdoing by members of the other two groups.

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