Social media delivers tidbits of news and as people devour it, they typically jump to conclusions based on the portions they’ve ingested. Rarely do people appear to take time to investigate further, they just spit out their opinion and then move on to the next bit of information, without a thought of how their post might affect others.
An example of this happened this past January, when a picture of a smiling high school student wearing a MAGA hat facing an older Native American man kept showing up on my Twitter feed, accompanied by comments berating the teen.
Curious, I clicked on a video of the incident, which showed the older Native American man beating on a drum and a group of high school boys surrounding him, smiling, clapping and chanting and appearing to either be mocking the man or enjoying his music. What I saw in that short clip didn’t explain the negative comments that accompanied it. What was I missing?
I looked further and found a much longer video. The video showed a group of men, later identified as Black Hebrew Israelites, taunting the group of high school boys, students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who were visiting Washington, D.C. to attend the March of Life rally.
The boys started chanting and shouting and although it did seem like a strange reaction, they didn’t seem to be insulting anyone and later explained they were doing school chants to drown out the hateful things that the adults were shouting at them.
In the midst of all of that, one student – the one in the MAGA hat, stood in front of the drummer and blocked his path. He just stood there staring at him, smiling. He didn’t appear to be glaring or giving a threatening look, he just stood still, even when the drum moved closer to his face.
Later in the week, the teen was interviewed and said that he wasn’t intending to block the drummer, he was just trying to be motionless and calm to try to diffuse the situation. He also said that his family had received death threats on social media after the incident.
This wasn’t the first time I was saddened by how quickly people rush to judgment of others and was moved to write a song about this.
You’re making an awful harsh judgment
Though you don’t know any of the facts
You made your mind up
Now you’ll launch your attacks
You’re the jury and the judge
Fighting a battle, you won’t budge
You don’t want to wait to investigate
You bang your gavel down
You can probably guess the kind of people this song is directed at.
You’re spreading vicious rumors
After watching a 30-second clip
You determined your verdict
Now you’re going public with it
For the bridge, I wanted to evoke the image of old movies when the townspeople held torches and set out on a manhunt for whoever they felt was guilty. Watching viral Twitter attacks reminds me of this mob mentality.
Like a mob mentality, running through the town with the torches on fire
We’ve become so indiscreet, lives are crashing down as tweets go viral
Here’s the song, “Bang Your Gavel Down”:
When I brought this song to the songwriting workshop, it got a pretty good response. The meeting was the first one after the annual songwriting gathering and it had a larger attendance than usual, since many were there for the first time. Afterward, one man that I hadn’t seen before told me that he liked the song and that it was the only one that day that he felt actually said something. (Most of the other songs were standard love songs.)
One woman said she really liked the lyrics and referenced Joni Mitchell, which of course I took as a compliment.
A couple of weeks later, I received an email from Jon Iger, who runs the Arizona Songwriters Association (and the workshops with Randy Brown). He said that somebody at that meeting wanted to get in touch with me to see if I wanted to perform the song at an International Women’s Day gathering. I jumped at the chance, thrilled that someone liked my song enough to recommend me. My performance of the song at the workshop – my first one standing with the guitar strap – went OK so I thought maybe I was getting used to performing in front of others.
To make a long story short, I attended the gathering, totally bombed my song performance (I wasn’t even that nervous beforehand, but apparently my voice didn’t realize that), but I got a lot of inspiration from the event regardless. (More about that in this post: “Celebrating achievements of women.”) I don’t expect to be invited back next year, but am grateful for the opportunity.