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The recent incident in Washington DC where high-school students were mocking a Native American elder while he sang a prayer really ticked me off. As the wider explanation was offered, the reasons for the faceoff became clearer. Nevertheless, a lot of things were done wrong. At the root of it all was a lack of respect for others.

The incident started with a small group of Hebrew Israelites taunting a large group of teenaged boys on a school trip. Yelling ensued and the chaperones lost control (or I assume they did). The boys started doing school cheers in response to the taunting and mob mentality took over. A Native American elder started singing and beating his drum and somehow ended up in the middle of the boys. They surrounded him and, despite their denials, their conduct appeared as disrespectful and mocking in the video posted.

A plethora of issues arise out of this situation, but one basic thing was missing. Respect. Respect for other cultures. Respect for others’ points of view. And listening to other points of view. Obviously, the Native American point of view has never been taught to the boys. Otherwise they’d have known that when an elder is singing, he’s praying. The drum adds to the prayer. Being from a Catholic school, they know all about prayer. Their jeering and mockingly singing along was totally disrespectful. They wouldn’t do that to their priest. The boy smirking and staring at the elder didn’t know that looking an elder in the eyes is disrespectful in his culture. In a lot of other cultures, elders are respected and treated with all due dignity. That boy defended himself saying he wasn’t being disrespectful, but his action proved otherwise. It was done out of ignorance, but a sense of common respect should have informed him.

Confrontational situations may be thrust upon you no matter what you are doing or where you’re going. So what should you do if you’re confronted by people determined to push their ideology on you? Your top priority is your own safety. If you’re in danger, don’t worry about who’s right and who’s wrong. Get out of there. Secondly, keep your cool and avoid escalating the hostility. Yelling insults at each other seldom has resulted in understanding the other point of view or a peaceful resolution to conflict. Take a step back and listen to what’s being said. Respect their right to say it even though you don’t agree.

For more information, here’s an interesting article about confrontational situations: Mobs seem to be everywhere so it’s best to know what to do. See my blog on mob mentality

One Response

  1. Ooooh…I hate confrontation. Even good natured debate makes me edgy. My favorite thing to say in those situations is “I’m on everybody’s side.” I don’t mean that I never have an opinion or take a stand. I just figure that most people are doing the best they can in life. Obviously there are those times when that’s not true, but for the most part, I’m much happier if I have that attitude and try not to allow other people to get me riled up over things that are trivial from an eternal point of view. I recognize I’ve morphed away from your main point, Carol Sue! You got me thinking though. Loved your comments about safety and respect. Well said.

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