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Auchter's Art: Defying authority to protest injustice

Feb 9, 2018

When I was a senior at Powers Central Catholic High School in Flint, I went on a weekend religious retreat with a few of my classmates. It was fairly standard — two days away from the world to reflect and pray and to share the experience with peers. It took place on the grounds of a monastery that was also a working farm, so there were some rules. Mostly we needed to stay in or around the building that was dedicated for retreats.

It was a great retreat, and I took it seriously. At least up until the end, when they had us fill out an evaluation form. For the amusement of my friends (and some girls from another school), I wrote down and then shared my less-than-serious answers. For example:

Q: What did you wish there were more of?

A: Definitely the cow rides. I really liked going out at night and riding the cows around the pastures.

Q: Are there some things you enjoyed more than others?

A: I preferred the bathrooms in the monastery to the ones in the retreat house.

The following Monday at school I was called into Mr. Reynolds' office, the counselor who had coordinated the retreat. It seemed some folks at the monastery were quite upset about my evaluation, taking it at face value. Luckily Mr. Reynolds had enough insight into teenage behavior (and knew me well enough) to understand the situation and work with me to fix it. It ended up being a pretty good life lesson — just because my friends (and even Mr. Reynolds) think something is funny, doesn't make it a good idea.

I tell you this story to contrast my goofing off with the earnest and thoughtful behavior of four Lansing Catholic High School football players who took a knee during the national anthem at football games. By all accounts these boys were serious in their protesting racial injustice (both locally and nationally) and about starting a conversation. The response, it seems, has been more about telling the boys and their peers what to do rather than about listening to what they have to say.

John Auchter is a freelance editorial cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.