This encounter between Nathan Phillips and Nick Sandmann on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr Day is so symmetrical and so recorded that it will be analyzed for many years. Everyone will see it from a slightly different angle, partly because of expectations and partly because of the ranging camera finders in the hands of multiple people.
This is what I saw: a smart aleck ignorant kid and an old Lakota/Omaha man who is singing with a hand drum heartbeat. Beside him was a second tribal man who didn't fit the stereotype so well, but was also drumming and singing. Other indigenous people had been drifting around but weren't close. Instead crowded kids of various ages, almost all white boys, with an assortment of expressions on their face. The littler ones tended to be caught up the excited grinning and bouncing, poking the closest other boys to share and get reassurance. Some of the older boys looked troubled, maybe divided about whether to stay or leave. A small blonde girl was mock-dancing in the second tier of kids. (We only saw a glimpse.) A younger boy with African American features was pushed up towards the front. My guess is he was adopted by rich whites and just beginning to figure out what that meant.
My guess is that Sandmann interpreted Nathan as a poor, defeated figure from the past who was safe for him to use to do his little standoff playing Kevin Costner. He badly misread Nathan who is an experienced, eloquent man -- Sandman just made him famous. The Lakota have been protesting and walking against pipelines, those iron snakes, for years now. They've been jailed, gassed, damaged by various "non-lethal" means like water cannons and rubber bullets, which only made them more determined. They are very sophisticated. And more united than ever. I expect Sandmann would not have confronted Russell Means, who was much bigger and fiercer.
from TWITTER: Emily L. Hauser, A Chicago writer specializing in the Middle East
"A big part of toxic masculinity is teaching boys to bond over the shared humiliation of people they perceive to be vulnerable."
The most useful observation came from a body language expert looking at vids, offering interpretation by each second of the vid. He noted the tongues sticking out, the eyes shifting focus, etc and concluded that Sandmann was conflicted about what he was doing. I wish I could find that info online again.
As new vids get posted, the four hairy and haranguing black men assume more importance -- they were armed with long sticks as well as their "visual aids." Their accusations were violent. At one point as the boys began to chant their game "rahrah", one boy began to strip but didn't go all the way. There was no sign of law enforcement or chaperones.
This was the twitter comment that rocked me, and I know it is valid:
Linda LaPointe, A Canadian legislator
"FWIW, had #NathanPhilips NOT maintained his dignity and grace in the face of white supremacy and violence, he would be in jail now, or dead. Even yelling back would have earned him a police interaction. This is what ws [white supremacy] looks like- white kids can do this (and they do it often)."
Another twitter factoid from Rob Major
"I found out that the Covington Arch-Diocese, as of 2009, had paid $80 Million to 235 victims of 35 of their pedophile priests. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools. Priests are the leaders, they set the tone. Kids know when their role models are frauds. We sure did."
The boys themselves, as interviewed, begin to show contempt for Sandmann. One noted that he had paid an online academic service to write his essays for him. It would be interesting to see his school files.
The school itself is built like a fortress. I don't like the looks of that principal. The administrators I've had who were the worst came out of the athletic programs. This guy was supposed to have traveled with the boys, but I don't see any sign of him. Must've had his own agenda.
The boy's mother works for a big financial institution; his father seems to be invisible or nonexistent. Nick did a good job of punishing "mom" with this stunt -- she'll be lucky to keep her job. Knowing the dynamics of single-mom families, there is a lot of potential for a boy to both yearn for a father and hate him. They are vulnerable to the attractions of a non-typical father figure like Nathan. If I wrote about it, that's where I'd go with the plot.
Many movies and books will come out of this.
Much of what I read is looking for analytical theories with real grip and usefulness. One person I don't read -- because I watch the vids on YouTube -- is Sam Vaknin, who has developed greatly since his early curmudgeonly baiting and defiance. Now I'm working my way through the YouTube series, THE SAM VAKNIN INTERVIEWS in which his foil is Richard Grannon, Spartan Life Coach. It's all a bit "cute" and not always useful, but occasionally really insightful. Especially considering how often I cross trails with male narcissists who fit Vaknin's pattern. Most of them never achieve the humour and forgiveness of the present Vaknin.
He has a new theory now. Remarking on how difficult it is for a therapist to "help" a narcissist as opposed to a trauma victim or a borderline personality, it dawns on him that narcissism develops as a self-defense against abuse, which includes actually being damaged, or being put down and insulted, or even being oppressed by people trying to control everything. This, he claims, causes the person to stop developing on the one hand and remain a child, while splitting off a protective identity of importance and defence in a kind of binary split-person dissociation. The therapist must activate the child and treat that aspect until it can feel safe and begin to develop.
The other line of thought I'm following is that of Lakoff and Johnson, which is the intelligence of "feeling" and symbolism. The payoff here is in thinking about Nathan Phillips, who is aware of what an "Indian" stands for in the American mind. I'm not quite sure that he grasps what looking poor conveys to a moneyed and entitled American -- both a threat and a permission to attack, because of the conviction that wealth equals virtue but poverty means failure. This not-quite-hidden assumption is what leads to violence, historically and today in a public square. Whoever did a "cleanup" of his image, has made Americans able to approve of him. Now he's safer.