The Lenticular Interaction That Broke The Internet

Photo by David Cliff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Have you ever walked up to a picture and noticed the image changing as you altered your viewing angle? That is the product of Lenticular Printing. This technology allows viewers to see multiple images all based on their perspective.  This is analogous to the interaction last week between Native American Nathan Phillips and teen-age students from Covington Catholic High School . Depending on your perspective, you can see two separate and distinct realities.

First, here are the foundations of my perspective. I’m a 62-year-old Conservative male, I entered the Military at the end of the Vietnam War, I have Cherokee ancestry on my Grandmother’s side of the family, and I was born and grew up in Oklahoma so I am very cognizant of the realities of Native Americans. In addition, I have a teenager that recently graduated from a Jesuit Catholic School that my wife and I scrimped and sacrificed for him to attend so he could receive the best education we could afford.

With that as a background, I was initially exposed to this story tangentially through a couple of random tweets that came across my Twitter feed. The initial reports of outrage were very passionate and based on some of the recent Antifa protests and violence I was expecting to see an elderly Native American set upon and beaten up by out of control youths.

As the story grew, I started seeing video that was heavily edited showing what appeared to be a stare down contest between a young man wearing a Make America Great Again hat, and an elderly man in tribal attire who was beating a ceremonial drum quite close to the teenager’s face. I watched, anticipating a physical confrontation that never materialized. I could understand the concern posed by some as the angle of the video did make it appear as though the teenager might have at times either smiled (or smirked) in response to Nathan Phillips’, the elderly individual, constant drumming.

It doesn’t take long for Twitter to smell blood, and within a couple of cycles of feed refresh, the tone had gone from one of disappointment with the youth, to calls for his (and his classmates) proverbial head. As a parent of a Catholic School graduate, I admit that I was very disappointed in the apparent disrespect and attitude displayed by this group of young Christian males, that is until I saw the unedited version of the incident.

In that view, the boys had finished the march and were waiting to be picked up by their bus. They were occupying their time with a practice that is common in the Jesuit School environment, that of expressing their camaraderie and brotherhood with school chants led most often by young men that participate as “cheerleaders” which in my son’s case were called The Galley Crew. This is a positive outlet for testosterone driven teenage males and designed to demonstrate School Spirit.

For some reason Nathan Phillip decided to inject himself into this group.  In his interview later, he claimed they were chanting “Build the Wall”, though listening to the uncut version of the video I was unable to hear any examples of that. I am left with the question of, even if that was true, what would compel him to wander into this group of strangers uninvited?

From that point (from my perspective) the boys, being good natured, felt that he was there to join their chant and began to try to match their rhythm to his. Jumping up and down and trying to make him a part of their group, their teenage brains searched for an appropriate response. Some of the boys tried to match his song, some tried to match the beat, and some awkwardly doing a tomahawk chop and then being chastened by more savvy classmates, stopped.

My heart went out to the young man who ended up being the focus of Nathan’s attention.  Imagine you are from an environment that teaches you to respect your elders and always be on your best behavior in public and you are suddenly face to face with an adult male acting in a manner you have never seen or have been prepared for.  I honestly believe this teenager was trying his best to make eye contact, be respectful, and try to determine the appropriate way to interact with this stranger. At no time did I see the teenager react with animus or attitude.

After seeing all of this, I then saw clips of Nathan’s interview with CNN. My perception of that news network is that they have staked out a position that is the antithesis of the entire environment these young men found themselves in. I also have an impression that they look for headline grabbing stories and they are not above creating a story where none existed. I don’t know if they salted the water with Nathan, or if he was looking for publicity, but the story that he told did not match the unfiltered video that I had seen.

He expressed his concern at being surrounded by the youth when in fact, he inserted himself into that group. He purported to be offended by their chants of “Build that Wall” which was not in evidence on any of the videos I viewed. In addition, as I researched Nathan, I discovered that this was not his first confrontation with school aged youth. I cannot judge another man’s motives, but I was left unconvinced by his version of the truth.

Meanwhile, the Internet Beast had risen to his defense. Whether from a lack of research, or because his narrative fit their perspective, a group of people now felt compelled to make sure these young men that had the audacity to stand up for the unborn, should have their lives ruined because of a perceived sneer. In looking through twitter history on several of these individuals they seemingly have no problem with young adults dressing in ski masks and black garb burning down businesses and physically attacking people with opposing views. No where did they express the outrage this incident caused nor the cries for punishment of the offenders.

Luckily, common sense is beginning to appear on the horizon. I’m seeing many who initially expressed outrage at the student’s behavior, after viewing the actual video, now retracting their cries for justice. Many have expressed regret at their demand for punishment as several of these students have been threatened with expulsion as the School reacted to the Public outcry.  Shame on the school for judging the students guilty until proven innocent (à la Kavanaugh).

Now that we are caught up on the scenario, we as a Country are left with an obvious dilemma. We are moving from Lenticular paradigm, where we can all see two images if we alter our viewing angle, to a Nation that is committed to seeing two entirely different pictures. Every day the chasm seems to widen and the potential for civil discourse becomes increasingly more remote. Not only is there no opportunity on this path, but the likelihood of innocent casualties increases logarithmically.

Next time you find yourself in a heated debate with someone that seems to be looking at an entirely different reality than you are, take a step back and ask them to describe the picture they are looking at. Avoid disparaging their description or them as an individual and try to see the shades of their picture in yours.  Ask them for the opportunity to describe your picture and try to help them see your outlines in their image. Maybe then, you can both discover the portrait that is created by laying the one image over the other and blending them for a richer landscape.

We are a great Nation built on the disparate views of millions of pictures and we are made stronger by sharing those impressions rather than stubbornly defending the one we are fixated on.

Written by Russ Hicks

I want the best Country possible for my children.

Russ Hicks

Russ Hicks is a 62 year old Vietnam era Veteran with strong opinions and a humorous take on life.

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