From LA to DC
My wife took me to a Lakers game for my birthday. I’m not a big Lakers fan, but I’m a big LeBron fan. I’ve never seen him in person. I was beyond excited. He didn’t play due to injury. That was disappointing. It wasn’t the worst part.
I sat next to a drunk person. It happens. Loud. Aggressive. A better player than those on the court. A better coach than the one on the sidelines. Always has the answer followed by another complaint. We’ve all sat next to them. I rolled my eyes. I whispered to my wife. No big thing. He and his friends got up a lot. Every few minutes. Drinks. Food. Restrooms. Weed. Who knows. We were up and down a lot. It was annoying. I probably rolled my eyes once or twice. Never said a word.
Toward the end when it was obvious that this Lebron-less Lakers team had no shot to win, the crowd started to thin. The drunk stood up. I saw my cue and stood so that he could pass yet again.
“Get the fuck up, asshole,” he said.
He was already past me when I realized what he’d said.
“Wait. What did you say,” I asked.
“Yeah, bye, asshole. Get the fuck up,” he repeated.
I grabbed him by the back of his sweaty blazer.
“I’ll punch you in the face, asshole,” I think I said. It may have been “Push you down the stairs”. It doesn’t matter. It was some emotional threat of violence.
He smirked. “You won’t do a fucking thing,” he said. Then he calmly turned and walked away. A sea of white people did the, “tsk, tsk” thing they do when it’s clear that another animal has behaved wrongly. The guy in front of me started the whisper and head shake that one does when forced to deal with those beneath them. But that smirk from the sweaty drunk sticks with me.
It was the smirk of disdain. It was the smirk that says, not only does this confrontation not matter, the person in front of me doesn’t matter.
I saw that smirk on the national news this week from an entitled little shit from Kentucky. I recognized it immediately.
We all saw the same initial video and, for the most part, reached the same conclusion. These entitled little shits, especially one smirking kid, were disrespectful toward an Indigenous man singing. That’s what we knew. There was broad condemnation. Even the school apologized for what was, clearly, poorly behaved and ill-supervised young people behaving badly.
We’ve now seen additional video. Apparently black people were yelling at the white students. They were responding in kind. The Indigenous man intervened to try to calm a potentially escalating situation. And they responded, as we saw initially, by being entitled little shits who were disrespectful.
But now, since there were animals behaving wrongly, we are supposed to rally around the smirking kid and his foolish cohorts.
Why am I being asked to support or defend these people who behaved badly toward one person because someone else behaved badly toward them? This whole thing makes no sense.
If the smirking asshole next to me had also been yelled at by an Asian beer vendor earlier do we defend his behavior toward me?
Why does their humanity extend in a way that mine doesn’t? That Nathan Phillips’s doesn’t?
There are a lot of lessons I try to impart in my children.
Compassion and caring about others matters more than anything.
If you hurt someone on purpose, explain why you hurt them.
If you hurt them on accident, apologize for the action you took that caused them pain.
If you do good things, good things should come to you.
If you do bad things, bad things should come to you.
And finally, you can do anything you want. But there’s a consequence to everything you do.
Are these children learning that final lesson? Is hiring a PR firm to cover-up bad behavior, supported by a vast enterprise working hard to ensure that there are no consequences for certain people and a complicit media that wants to be seen as fair and balanced providing consequences?
These children, none of whom I’ll name, are still young. There’s still every opportunity to show them that smirking in the face of an elder is unacceptable. That doing “tomahawk chops” in anyone’s face is unacceptable, and double that if it’s the face of a person who has seen his culture turned into a novelty for sports. That cheering and jeering over a person’s cultural identity and songs that reflect it are unacceptable. That being, again, entitled little shits, has consequences.
Here’s where we are.
A group of well-off young people went to Washington DC looking to provoke. They succeeded. When one person bravely intervened to attempt to avoid violence, he was met with the smirk of disdain. It was the smirk that says, not only does this confrontation not matter, the person in front of me doesn’t matter. And when people rightly claimed that was unfortunate, an entire infrastructure intervened to ask why we’d dare hold them accountable. Why we’d dare judge them for their actions. Why we’d dare hold them to any standard.
So now we’re left to wait. Wait another 20 years. At best those children grow up to be smirking assholes who speak indifferently to the people next to them at basketball games. At best. At worst they grow up to be Brett Kavanaugh. They grow up to be George Zimmerman. They grow up to be Donald Trump.
They grow up to be violent, aggressive, entitled people who don’t believe consequences should apply to them and who make the world worse because they don’t believe any of those basic ideas I teach to my children every day.
I’m working hard to make the world a better place and to ensure my children help make it so. I wish more of y’all would do the same.