Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bus incident not what some imagined

| September 16, 2020 1:00 AM

Monday’s Press carried a nice story about a mural that was painted this summer on a gym wall at Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School in Clark Fork, Idaho. The mural is a snapshot of the river community’s history, including a logging truck and a teepee overlooked by a wampus cat, the school’s mascot. Big and bold, the mural proclaims Wampus Cat Pride.

That pride took a beating, and not just because of the football team’s 42-28 loss to Lakeside Junior/Senior High School of Plummer last Friday night.

As the Lakeside team bus was leaving, reports indicated, somebody fired a projectile of some kind through a window, narrowly missing a player. The projectile, as authorities were wisely calling it, was powerful enough to leave a large hole not just in the window right next to the player, but in a window on the other side of the bus as it apparently exited.

The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI dug in.

According to investigators, some people's worst fears were misplaced. Speculation at times like this runs rampant, from an accidental shot to a sore loser gone berserk to commission of a hate crime. Now that we've all been informed that juveniles are accused of throwing objects at the bus, including a baseball-sized rock through the bus window, let's reflect on previous suspicions as expressed across social media.

According to Idaho Education News, about 90 percent of Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School’s 130 students are white. A majority of Lakeside’s student population of 117 is Native American, with the school located on the Coeur d’Alene Tribal reservation in Plummer.

What did you think when you read or heard the news? Did you even subconsciously begin to paint broad brush strokes over an entire school or community?

It's a human trait, apparently. Some two decades ago, a handful of Nazi yahoos convinced many around the world that North Idaho was almost entirely populated by legions of evil doers. People were convinced because, perhaps, they wanted to be.

Our entire nation leans more heavily in that direction every day, it seems, particularly along political and racial lines. One person or a small group does something outrageous, and immediately, everyone else who shares some sort of kinship or membership is equally guilty. You see this with the two major political parties every single day, each salivating at the prospect of casting broad, bright lights on a single transgression.

Let the Clark Fork Incident serve as a reminder to those of us who tend to assume the worst — in this case, that a gun had been used in an apparent hate crime over not just sports, but race — that there's often a simpler, at least slightly less sinister explanation. The youths will be charged with felonies, which sounds right. And the broad brush of public skepticism can be withheld from impugning an entire school and community.