William Muller: Lessons About Seeing Each Other in the Public Square From Covington Catholic Situation

A video of Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, left, and Native American activist Nathan Phillips went viral after their encounter in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2019. Screenshot via YouTube

A Jesuit friend of mine is the president of St. George’s College, a Jesuit high school in Zimbabwe. He tells me that when African locals outside the urban areas meet each other along a path or roadway, one says “I see you” and the other replies “I am here.”

I see you, I am here. To be recognized, to be noticed. It means we are not alone. As far back as we can trace human history, women and men want to know they belong, that they have value, that they are seen. Don’t we all want to stand up sometimes and shout “I am here”? Notice me, recognize me for who I am. I am a man. I am a woman. I am here.

The problem is that not everyone in this crazy, wonderful human family of ours sees all who are there. Not everyone wants to hear some others say “I am here, recognize me for who I am.”

So we call attention to those who are not seen, who don’t know they belong, who do not have a voice to stand up and shout “I am here.”

That’s what the March for Life, the annual pro-life rally on the National Mall, is all about: that all be seen, recognized, noticed, and that all belong to our crazy and wonderful human family. All of us created in the image of God (“Male and female he created them and saw that it was very good”). All of us created in the image of God, from the baby in the womb to the dementia patient taking a last breath.

The March for Life calls attention to babies in the womb. On World Leprosy Day, Jan. 27, we might call attention to the diseased who do not have health care. We keep calling attention. We keep saying “I see you” so that the other can say “I am here.”

That includes politicians debating what’s best for the common good. It includes the homeless person on the sidewalk and the philanthropist setting up a foundation to help people. I see you, I am here. Black, white, brown, straight, gay, trans, Republican, Democrat, independent. Tall, short, big, small, educated, illiterate. Refugee. Migrant. Stranger. I see you, I am here.

It also includes teenagers looking to make a difference in our world, like the Covington Catholic High School students who have been so much in the news this week. Their teachers must have hoped that the March for Life would be an opportunity for these young men to get beyond their school environment to learn to balance social and political points of view, to see others and be seen, to participate in discourse that leads, if not to agreement, then to mutual respect and a desire for reconciliation.

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Source: Religion News Service