You’ve seen the video; you’ve almost certainly seen several versions of the video.
And maybe you were outraged by the first version, and then outraged at the outrage when you saw the longer version and realized how the posters of the original video edited it to mislead the country.
Or maybe you “doubled down” on your original outrage.
Regardless, there’s a whole lot of outrage. A whole lot of outraged people being outraged. “Outrage” is one of our basic, inalienable rights. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of self-satisfaction via outrage.
Predictably, the outrage is followed by the “think pieces.” These offer to preserve and institutionalize the outrage by setting it in context. What context? Take your pick:
- America’s history of racism
- The liberal media’s lies (“Fake News!”)
- Donald Trump’s unfitness to be President
- Donald Trump’s perfect fitness to save America
- Anti-Catholic bigotry
- Catholic bigotry
- Or whatever.
(We should change our national nickname from “Land of the Free” to “Rorschach Blot Nation.”)
All of these think pieces claim to offer the true story, the larger lesson of Covington.
This (offering “larger lessons”) is a safe and predictable strategy for those whose original position gets called into question.
Th “offering larger lessons” strategy allows people to change the subject, instead of admitting that they were wrong. It lets them change the subject in a way that shows that they were right all the time, even if they were wrong in the particulars and facts of their original position.
Offering larger lessons is a way to insist that you were right all along, even when you weren’t.
And–of course–everyone is missing the true larger lesson of Covington. And–of course–I’m going to tell you what the true, larger lesson is. The difference is that I’m not telling you why I’m right. Not a word in my own defense will I offer.
The true, larger lesson is (like all important lessons) a theological lesson. It is:
- I am a sinner.
- My sin has distorted my heart, my thinking, and the way I perceive the world.
- Because of my distorted perceptions and sinful, selfish thinking, I respond to things that I perceive as threats in a selfish, destructive way.
- Because of my distorted perceptions and sinful, selfish thinking, I have a hard time admitting that I was wrong.
This is the “larger” lesson, because it is universal. It applies to everyone. Because–like I said–I am a sinner. And you’re a sinner, too.
My sin has distorted my heart, thinking, and perceptions. Your sin has likewise distorted your heart, thinking, and perceptions. That’s why we (you and I) tend to grab hold of narratives that fit our prejudices and confirm our biases. It’s our nature, and it sometimes leads us to very destructive actions.
That’s why we tend to believe the best of people that we perceive are “like us”, and distrust or despise people we perceive are “not like us.” That’s why we (you and I) are so outraged by the news and the things we see on social media. That’s why we’re so susceptible to the latest Two Minutes Hate. Everything is an existential crisis; it’s almost as if we’re being manipulated for clicks (or views, or money, or votes, or …)
We love those narratives. They tell us that we and people like us are right, and that people NOT like us are wrong. We’re the righteous, they’re the pagan horde. We’re the good people. We cherish these narratives, because they make us feel good about ourselves.
And that’s why we have a hard time letting go of those narratives, even when the underlying facts turn out to be different from what we’d originally thought. We’re showing our tribal solidarity with people like ourselves against people not like ourselves, and to heck with the facts. To heck with taking time to figure out what actually happened, and to heck with taking time to respond thoughtfully.
You’re a fool if you disagree with me. It’s a CRISIS, I tell you.