The goofiness that infects our political life here in the Home of the Brave just won’t go away.
The most recent evidence of that goofiness began when the owner of a restaurant in Virginia, the Red Hen, asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. Her reasoning was that Sanders serves the Trump administration, which she said is “inhumane and unethical.” She said she feels a moral obligation to stand against the dishonesty, and that feeling of obligation led her to refuse service to Sanders.
Now, as anyone who reads this column probably realizes, I am not a Trump supporter. Like the owner of the Red Hen, I believe his administration is unethical, but more than that, I believe he is doing considerable damage to my country. Even so, I think that throwing Sanders out of her restaurant was wrong — unless, of course, the owner always refuses to serve anybody who acts unethically, tells lies, goes around kicking puppies, etc. Unless Sanders and her party were, in some way, disruptive — which they weren’t, because they politely complied with the owner’s request — her party should have been served and allowed to eat their meal undisturbed. That would have been the decent thing to do, and, in her defense, the owner took the action she did discreetly and in a non-confrontational way.
I’m not the only opponent of this president who thinks that way. The Washington Post — a newspaper Trump hates because it vociferously and consistently attacks him and the way he is doing his job — published an editorial arguing that Sanders and her party should have been allowed to “eat their dinner in peace.”
That said, though, I have to say that the president and the people who support him can’t complain very much, because they have brought a lot of the antagonism upon themselves. Predictably, conservative political commentators have condemned the Red Hen and its owner, but they should think back to 2012, when the owner of a bakery, who was angry about something President Obama had said, refused to serve Vice President Joe Biden. Conservatives praised the man for his actions; one of them even gave him an award.
The truth of the matter is that neither side in our political battles are playing the same game, and neither has any room to complain about the way their people have been treated by the other side.
That’s why I wish the Red Hen’s owner had done things differently. On the other hand, though, I can understand the dilemma she was in. Trump, both as a candidate and as president, seems to go out of his way to antagonize people. He rarely opens his mouth without producing hateful rhetoric and name-calling, deriding and belittling his political opponents and leaders of other nations, including our closest allies. He often invents his own facts to justify his rhetoric and his policies. At times he even attacks members of his own party. The owner of the Red Hen wasn’t wrong when she characterized his administration as unethical and dishonest and given that reality, it’s easy to see why she refused to serve an important member of the Trump administration.
Our natural impulse is to fight fire with fire. Unfortunately, doing so will only fuel the anger of Trump voters and widen the division in our political life further. If we want to save this country, we need to engage the other side, not push them away. We need to be willing to listen and engage in honest discussions about the state of our nation and its future.
That doesn’t mean we can’t criticize and even condemn policies and behavior we feel are unethical, inhumane, dishonest or just plain bad and I, for one, will do that. But I will base my criticisms on factual information and will present them with civility.
It’s not much, but it’s all I can do to help my country.