Mizeur: We all have lessons to learn from the Covington teens standoff

In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 image made from video provided by the Survival Media Agency, a teenager wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of an elderly Native American singing and playing a drum in Washington.
In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 image made from video provided by the Survival Media Agency, a teenager wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of an elderly Native American singing and playing a drum in Washington. (AP)

We all have a little something to learn from the standoff between the teens from Covington Catholic High School and the Native American drummer, Nathan Phillips, who collided into our national consciousness last weekend after an incident at the Lincoln Memorial at the conclusion of the Indigenous Peoples March.

Depending on which lens you use to see the world, your perspective of this situation probably falls into one of these camps.


Either: mouthy white boys in MAGA hats. Little Brett Kavanaughs. The #MeToo movement. A p****-grabbing president. Families separated at the border. Children in cages and dying in immigration custody. A government shutdown over funding for a xenophobic wall at our Southern border. It all clashes together in this moment of collective outrage at the additional sight of smug, mocking teens disrespecting a Native American elder with tomahawk chops and the smirks of privilege — and doing so wearing the regalia of a modern day racist.

The media and the Covington kids ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, TCN - OUTS **
The media and the Covington kids ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, TCN - OUTS **(Dana Summers / Orlando Sentinel)

Or: fake media and Hollywood liberals, always looking to instigate hate against President Donald Trump and any of his supporters. Death threats and shaming of children. Manipulating the image to serve their talking points. It’s easy to beat up on rural America — especially if these Kentucky kids had the audacity to come to D.C. to March For Life. The most endangered species right now is the white Christian male.

Can we stop for a minute? Can we step back from these interpretations and rigid constructions of what happened to admit that most of us will never actually know because we were not there?

Rather than engaging in an exercise of finger-pointing and assigning blame over whose version of what happened is “truth,” it might serve us better to focus on what this moment teaches us. There are some rich lessons here for all of us, should we choose to open ourselves to the opportunity.

Leonard Pitts Jr.: The viral image of a smirking teen and a Native American man captured our country's fracture.

Lesson No. 1: There is power in the pause.

Anger motivates action. It is our choice how we use these promptings. Our power resides in the pause between stimulus and response. By observing our feelings and being mindful of our power to choose our actions, we can invite anger to be a wise teacher rather than an uncontrolled and messy response to outrage.

Lesson No. 2: There is a bully inside each of us.

Does anyone else see the irony in using bullying tactics to shame the bullies? Do not let the darkness of a person or situation steal your light. You have an infinite amount of love inside your heart and it can help you find compassion for the person you are judging. Allow that radical love to soften your response.

Lesson No. 3: Everything is fake (not just the media!).

We live in a world of illusion. Nothing is ever as it seems. Our thoughts and perceptions are continually generating the mind’s narrative, which creates our shifting sense of reality (as confirmed by the science of quantum physics). Social media is a reflection of this collective consciousness. It especially can play tricks on our sense of what is real. What lens (or video angle) is capturing our story? Who are we allowing to write the narrative? What assumptions do our conclusions draw? We have a duty as the observer to be curious, ask questions and seek truth. And with this duty comes the responsibility of conducting our inquiry with honor, honest self-reflection and integrity.

Lesson No. 4: There is danger in fixed views.

Our suffering can often be linked to a stubborn attachment to fixed views. We are liberated when we can return to the state of a child-like “beginner’s mind” where we greet every situation with possibilities and curiosity and allow for fresh perspectives and a willingness to reevaluate a situation based on new information. In this practice, we hold less tightly to certainties, opinions and concepts that prevent us from sharing, growing and learning.


Lessons No. 5: We are called to be lions and lambs.

Lions represent the courage of spirit and noble action. Lambs are the guardians of inner wisdom. At any moment we have within us the ready energy of a lion and the calm presence of the lamb. When brought together, these two forces can help create a compassionate heart and a wise soul. Our nation needs more of us to summon our courage and compassion in equal measure.

Lesson No. 6: There is no “us” and “them.”

We are being invited into an awakening of new possibilities. With each new passing issue that creates national outrage and a firming of the lines of division, we can also see with a well-trained eye and an open heart that these are also moments that prompt us one step closer to the unity for which we yearn. When we learn together, we grow together. I believe we are experiencing so much chaos because we have chosen to unearth the things that separate us so that we may have a chance to heal. It is still a fundamental truth that we are all connected to each other as one.

Heather R. Mizeur is the CEO and founder of Soul Force Politics, a non-profit organization that asks the question “How would our world be different if politics were rooted in radical love?” She can be reached at heather@mizmaryland.org.