Kirstjen Nielsen tried to dine, inexplicably, at a D.C. Mexican restaurant where she was assaulted by persons who entered the restaurant to yell, jeer, and shout shame, shame. Rep. Maxine Waters of California endorsed that kind of behavior, and encouraged others to do the same whenever they spotted a Trump administration official out in public doing whatever ordinary people do when out in public. I can understand why. Moral outrage over so many lies, corruption, abuse of power, and rampant acts of injustice can bring it out. But that kind of brutally confrontational harassment is morally wrong and politically inept. Knock it off.
It’s the Trumpian sort of behavior we abhor, and is a near cousin of criminal assault and battery with intent. Trump’s name calling, insults, ridicule, and calls for supporters to “rough up” protesters are part and parcel of the trumpian way that should offend every decent person. They should not, cannot, be adopted as a tool for use by those of us who oppose him and what he stands for. We want a country more deeply committed to personal freedom, rule of law, restorative justice, and respect for the dignity of every person. We can’t advocate for that if we embrace the very worst of trumpian contemptuous behavior when confronting him, his supporters and their sympathizers.
As for the Red Hen incident in which Sarah Huckabee-Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant because people like her are not wanted; it’s not much different from the baker refusing to sell a cake to a gay couple, or, not so many years ago, the deli owner who kicked Vice President Biden out of his place because he didn’t like Joe’s politics. Not that a store can’t have standards for who can come in. They’re free to have all kinds of standards, as long as they apply to everyone equally, but there are limits. If you have something to sell in the public market place, you have to be willing to sell it to anyone regardless of race, creed, color, etc. You can’t make up a new standard, unknown to others, and apply it to one person. True, most states have commercial trespassing laws that allow, under rule of law, for a disruptive person to be barred from entering. Could Sarah be trespassed? Maybe. What’s the law in Virginia?
Playing tit-for-tat with Trump and his minions is to fall into the slimy gutter with them. Why do it? It’s grade school taunting and bullying. The best way to defeat Trump (and trumpians) at his game is to not play it.
As for those of us who claim to be Christian, it’s insubordination of Christ’s direct command to love even out enemies. Which is not the same thing as laying down to be stomped on like a door mat. We may be instructed to love our enemies, and yet know full well who they are and how dangerous they can be. We’re not fools. Jesus wasn’t shy about confronting the sins of society and the persons who commit them, from the most evil to the boorish banality of his disciples. Matthew says he called certain religious leaders a brood of vipers, not once but twice (Matthew tended to exaggerate), but Jesus always kept the door open for them to enter into God’s kingdom. He confronted evil without resorting to mud slinging. It left room for repentance, and pointed to a better way. Martin Luther King did the same thing in our time. He was bold in naming injustice and those who acted unjustly, he confronted evil with radical nonviolence, but he didn’t wallow in the mud with them.
Political reporting and commentary must continue to be hard hitting, as it should be. Country Parson’s certainly will. Trump must be held accountable. His senior advisors must be confronted boldly on the issues, and in the places where confrontation is appropriate, but without the kind of harassment that borders on criminal assault.
If we are to return the nation to its better self, political organizing and campaigning must continue to be vigorous and unafraid to spell out issues and name evils. Non violent demonstrations and protests are needed. But don’t let them become imitators of the very things we find so disgusting. And don’t expect any of it to change the minds of Trump supporters. Jesus never convinced a single one of his most rabid opponents. King never changed the mind of a single hard core segregationist. But each had a thunderous impact on the greater number of those whose hearts and minds tilted in the direction of goodness, freedom, justice, and hope for the future. Aim there. Leave the tar and feathers behind.