The Public Shame

The Washington Post published an article that argues that Trump officials should not be disturbed while eating at private establishments.

I vehemently disagree.

After White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that she had been denied service at a Virginia restaurant this past weekend, prominent figures from across the political spectrum expressed their indignation. David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s former chief strategist, tweeted that he was “amazed and appalled” at fellow liberals cheering the restaurant’s actions. Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s former press secretary, warned of “an America with Democrat-only [and] Republican-only restaurants.” The Washington Post’s editorial board lamented the lack of basic civility in the era of President Donald Trump, seeing dark times ahead.

“Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment,” the Post’s editors wrote. “How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?”

We have to re-educate ourselves on the paradox of tolerance. The paradox states that if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Karl Popper came to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.

Tolerance is like a peace treaty, not an unending agreement. If one side violates the peace treaty, by being intolerant, the other side is no longer bound by the treaty and can respond in kind without having “violated” the agreement, which the first group already abandoned. What conservatives are doing now, and have been doing for a while, is acting blatantly racist/bigoted and then trying to pull the victim card and painting the left as “intolerant” when really the left has no moral requirement to be tolerant at that point.

It’s rhetoric that only makes sense to people who failed history, or don’t understand basic logic.

The role of the media should undoubtedly not only to hold government to account, but also to make sure that people who form opinions are held accountable for their opinions. And one way to do it is to make sure that the facts on which opinions are based are checked.

There is a threshold beyond civil disobedience is called for. Trump, Sanders, Nielsen and the rest have exceeded that threshold. Silence in the presence of such hate-mongering is the poorer moral choice. Protesting in front of private homes or causing discomfort to family members is never acceptable. But expressing one’s own conscience through denial of private service is perfectly okay in post-Masterpiece Supreme Court ruling. Voters have a responsibility to confront incivility that threatens democracy rather than to prioritize treating officials super politely.

Trump and his administration want to refuse basic human rights to people. They believe they are above the law and above the Constitution. The least the public can do is ensure they do not have a peaceful time out without being reminded of their terrible crimes.

This goes beyond policy.

When humans are treated as chattel; when children are used as leverage; when facts are treated as lies and lies are treated as facts…

There comes a time when a small restaurant, or a group of patrons, or an informed citizenry have to say, Sorry.

You are not welcome here.