The photo of Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic School standing face to face with a leftist activist near the Lincoln Memorial was on every news and social media site last week. The pictures from the incident reminded me of another viral photo from not long ago - that of Allen Armentrout standing by the Charlottesville statue of General Lee with a hostile protester making an obscene gesture in his face. (Contributor Dissident Mama's three-part series based on her interview with Armentrout begins here).
The Sandmann and Armentrout situations aren't exactly the same. Armentrout chose to walk into what he knew could be a volatile situation because he felt compelled to take a stand for something in which he believed. Sandmann did not think of himself as an activist making a statement, and wound up in a volatile situation unexpectedly. Armentrout had gained experience dealing with hostile protesters during the course of his pro-South activism, whereas the young Sandmann was inexperienced in dealing with such situations.
Still, there are parallels to be drawn between the two situations. Both young men were behaving in a peaceful manner when accosted. In the case of Armentrout, his Confederate flag and uniform were perceived as threatening and offensive by observers who attributed their own meanings to those symbols - racism, hate, slavery, treason. The fact that the bearer of the symbols did not mean anything of the kind was irrelevant. Likewise, Sandmann was defined by his "MAGA" hat as privileged, racist, and a white supremacist. I don't know anything about Sandmann's political beliefs, but I think it is much likelier that he simply wore the hat to show support for his country and President rather than because of a belief in some nefarious ideology. Whatever the real reason, it was irrelevant to his many attackers. THEY interpreted the MAGA hat as a symbol of something evil, and reacted accordingly.
Another similarity is that both young men relied on their Christian faith in the midst of the tension. Armentrout stated that "restraint from the Holy Spirit" helped him remain composed when confronted by the vulgar, hostile crowd. Sandmann said that he silently prayed, when confronted by drum-banging Native American Nathan Phillips, that the situation would not escalate further.
Both young men also experienced tribulation at the hands of the national mainstream media. After his Charlottesville confrontation, Armentrout was subjected to a series of predictably nasty and biased hit pieces from "reporters" who had no interest in understanding or sharing his side of the story. Sandmann was similarly defamed by national media outlets and personalities, though his ordeal was even more cruel because of his youth, the fact that he did nothing that he expected would invite attention, and that many of the accusations against him were blatant lies.
Shortly after the now-famous confrontation, Sandmann agreed to a nationally televised interview with Savannah Guthrie, in which she implied that he had invited the hostility that was directed towards him. ("Do you think if you weren’t wearing that hat, this might not have happened?") She also said "...there’s something aggressive about standing there, standing your ground..."
Sandmann replied, "I would say Mr. Phillips had his right to come up to me. I had my right to stay there." This is an obviously true statement, but it is still remarkable that he said it. Sandmann is a high-schooler who one week before had been an unknown private citizen, when he was thrust into a spotlight as the MSM villian du jour, subjected to heinous threats, insulted by public figures, and thrown under the bus by cowardly adults who should have defended him, like those of his diocese. This young man displayed more bravery and strength of character than the many far more powerful and seasoned public figures who obediently self-flagellate at the slightest criticism from the left.
"I had my right to stay there."
Armentrout said that when he stood still amidst the jeering crowd, attempting to emulate Christ by refusing to retaliate against those attempting to provoke him, it "made those people yelling at me even madder."
The young men both became the objects of hate mobs even though there was nothing blameworthy in their behaviour. Because of the fact that they did nothing wrong, we know that they were the objects of acrimony only because of who they were, or maybe more precisely who they were perceived to be. This is instructive for observers who may not have fully appreciated the amount of hatred that is directed towards young, White, Christian, Southern men, even when they are guilty of nothing, simply because of WHO THEY ARE.
Armentrout and Sandmann were both "triggering" and dangerous to the psyche of the leftist media because they chose not to bow, run away, or apologize, but to STAND, in effect to say, "This is who I am, and I have a right to be here." That is all it took to cause alarm. This simple, silent statement, made by otherwise unimposing young men, was all it took to shake leftists across the nation.
How powerful would it be if we were all to stand?
The Carolina Contrarian, Anne Wilson Smith, is the author of Charlottesville Untold: Inside Unite the Right and Robert E. Lee: A History Book for Kids. She is the creator of Reckonin' and has contributed to the Abbeville Institute website and Vdare. She is a soft-spoken Southern belle by day, opinionated writer by night. She loves Jesus, her family, and her hometown. She enjoys floral dresses and acoustic guitar music. You may contact Carolina Contrarian at CarolinaContrarian@protonmail.com.