Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A glimpse of the ugly scene on Friday.

A glimpse of the ugly scene on Friday. (Screengrab: YouTube)

The Stupidity of Evil: Teens Shouting ‘Build that Wall’ at Native American Vet

The teen’s smug look no doubt was worn by those thugs who ordered the Trail of Tears

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

ANN ARBOR – Some high school young men from a private Catholic school in Kentucky had been encouraged to attend an anti-abortion “March for Life” near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on Friday. Nearby, Native Americans were rallying for their rights.

Vietnam Vet Nathan Phillips some a mean crowd of white teens in Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” caps harassing four African American young men. He was beating his drum and chanting, and came forward, drawing the attention of the young thugs, realizing the danger, he said.

They then mocked and taunted him, doing a bad sing-along of his chant, and then one of the teens, an unbearably smug look on his face, planted himself in Phillips’s way and trapped him in the ugly crown of Mean Boys. They were chanting “Build the Wall.”

Covington High School and the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky have condemned the boys’ behavior.

Nathan Phillips gave a chilling interview about the incident to CNN, in which he expressed fear about where the United States is going. Remember, Phillips risked his life for a country that had treated his people like crap, stealing their land, putting them on reservations, forbidding them to practice their religion, and occasionally massacring them.

The teen’s smug look no doubt was worn by those thugs who ordered the Trail of Tears, when Native Americans were expelled from the Southeast.

Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil, of the way in which boring routine bureaucracy had been deployed by the Nazis to commit unspeakable crimes against humanity.

What struck me from looking at those young men was that she could have perhaps even more usefully spoken of the stupidity of evil.

How stupid do you have to be to chant “build the wall” at a Native American whose people were here at least 13,000 years ago before the European undocumented migrants showed up in their lands?

How stupid do you have to be to chant “build the wall” at African-Americans whom white slavers kidnapped from their homes in Senegal and Nigeria and Angola and transported here against their will?

How stupid do you have to be as a Catholic not to know that anti-immigrant slogans like “Build the Wall” and “Make America Great Again” are the descendants of the racist slogans (such as “Keep America American”) that white Protestants of the 19th century ‘Know Nothing’ secret society chanted at Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy and Germany just before they burned down Catholic churches?

How stupid do you have to be to insist on a fetus’s right to life but to endanger the life of an elderly Vet by putting him into a bottleneck in the midst of an angry mob?

How stupid do you have to be to think that “Make America Great Again” could possibly mean anything when chanted by chickenhawk young men at a Vet who risked his life for this country?

How stupid do you have to be not to realize that the people Trump wants to keep out of the United States by building his idiotic, cruel and ineffective wall are for the most part Catholics?

Nathan Phillips said he is afraid for where the country of going because of the wave of hatefulness sweeping the country.

He is too polite to blame Trump for our collective national two minutes hate, but I’m not. This incident was Trump’s fault.

Mean boys in high school acting out evil may be a bit banal as well. But if Nathan Phillips is apparently afraid that hatred is contagious, I am afraid that stupidity might be an infectious disease.


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Biden Denounced for Imposing New Sanctions as Iran Nuclear Talks Falter

One Middle East expert accused the U.S. administration of "continuing and embracing Trump's max pressure policy, while expecting a different result."

Brett Wilkins ·


Under 'Draconian Abortion Ban,' Woman in El Salvador Sentenced to 50 Years for Pregnancy Loss

Laws like El Salvador's are "now being replicated in states across the U.S.," noted one observer.

Julia Conley ·


Warren, Sanders, and Others Blast Biden's 'Failure' on Federal Cannabis Policy

While commending Biden's pardons and commutations, six senators wrote that "much more has to be done to address the racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies on Black and Brown communities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Court Applauded for Tossing Trump-Era Rule That Allowed Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination

"We are thrilled that the court has removed the continuing threat the presence of the discriminatory Trump-era rule posed to some of the most vulnerable members of society," said one attorney.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Broken' Capitalist Food System Drives Soaring Global Hunger: Oxfam

Criticism from the charity's food policy director came in response to a new United Nations report revealing that around 1 in 10 people worldwide went hungry last year.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo