[March 13, 2018] Showing moral courage in the face of great adversity is a much more difficult act than showing physical courage in combat. Many combat leaders are known for their bravery in the face of a deadly enemy but wilt when their nerves fail under the spotlight that threatens what they believe. Today, I’m highlighting Nick Sandmann – a young student at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky – for his moral courage.
Nick Sandmann was a 16-year old when he and his school classmates visited the Lincoln Memorial earlier this year. The news media portrayed an “incident” that happened between Sandmann and an older man, Nathan Phillips. Sandmann is white, Catholic, and wore a “Make American Great Again” hat. Phillips is a native American, self-proclaimed leftist activist, and reported to be a Vietnam combat veteran (he is not a combat veteran).
A highly edited video surfaced that appeared to show Phillips beating his drum and being stared down by Sandmann. Some interpretations moved quickly through the news media and on social media as well. Within a few hours, some major news outlets, lawmakers, celebrities, and Covington’s Roman Catholic Diocese condemned Sandmann on what seemed to be a racist act.
The facts were slow to appear. What we now know is that the narrative generated by the news media was false. By the time the facts got out, the damage to Sandmann and his High School was done. However, the news media failed to distance themselves from the controversy by admitting their initial reporting was wrong, issuing an apology, and retraction. Legal action by Sandmann’s attorney L. Lin Wood is on-going.
What I like about Nick Sandmann is that he stuck to the truth (verified by several videos) and decided he would set the record straight. That takes courage, especially if your name and picture are splashed across the world and associated with racism and bigotry. His life will never be the same.
The news media fail spectacularly. And they continue to fail by not admitting their complacency and malfeasance. Leaders are sometimes cowards and in this case we have a basket full of them. A successful news media helps keep a democracy free but in this case their moral cowardice will have reverberations for generations.