If he was just a high school kid who had come face-to-face with an elderly man chanting and banging on a drum, maybe I see confusion, nervousness, and teen awkwardness.
As a member of an all-male, overwhelmingly-white group of teenaged boys on a school-sanctioned field trip to protest women’s right to choose, I start seeing a mix of testosterone, adolescent bravado, and toxic masculinity.
But the red MAGA hat the boy has chosen to wear signals a more troubling image…a terrifying amalgam of xenophobia, racism, anger, male privilege, and white supremacy.
I have no interest in ruining this kid’s life over a mistake made as a child, but this young man is a cautionary tale for what happens to a society when our elected officials govern by stoking fear and mistrust of the “other”…demonizing and dehumanizing people from “other” countries, who speak “other” languages, or have “other” belief systems.
These are, of course, irrational fears. Immigrants to this country commit less crime than natural born citizens, pay taxes, and make enormous and valuable contributions to our culture, communities, and economy. Our country’s strength has always been its diversity–it’s what distinguishes us from most other nations, and makes America a beacon of hope for so many. But we are led by an irrational man, and these are irrational times.
The ultimate irony here, of course, is that the smirking, MAGA-hat-wearing boy is the “other” in this scenario–a child of immigrants to this country, seeking a better life for their progeny. And his target; a Native American, and Vietnam veteran.
So look closely at this young man’s face, because if we don’t wake up soon we are going to see a lot more faces like his, and his irrational hatred for the “other” won’t be dampened by a demerit or detention.