I have no idea why the secretary of Homeland Security would dine out at a Mexican restaurant on the very day she defended the use of internment camps at the Mexican border. I don’t know why the White House press secretary would show her face anywhere while acting as a mouthpiece for the most dishonest chief executive to ever sit in the Oval Office.
(If you missed it: Last Tuesday, protesters yelled “shame!” at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen inside MXDC Cocina Mexicana in Washington, D.C. Three days later, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the 26-seat Red Hen in Lexington, Va., by the restaurant’s owner after several employees were made uncomfortable by Sanders’s presence.)
I’m not the least bit surprised that both of those public officials would be confronted by angry constituents while attempting to enjoy a relaxing night on the town. Given the tenor of public discourse in 21st century America, the miracle is that this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often—or more violently.
I understand instinctively why those concerned citizens feel the need to vent their outrage at these crooks and liars face-to-face when given the opportunity.
In the future, however, I wish they would resist the urge to do so.
Before we go any further, I should probably mention that I am about the least confrontational person on the East Coast. I’m not sure I’ve ever started an argument with anyone in my adult life, and whenever someone attempts to start an argument with me, I make every effort to tactfully withdraw from the conversation and/or the room. For all the self-righteous vitriol I’ve unfurled on this site over the years, the notion of telling an odious prominent figure, in person, what I really think of them fills me with bottomless anxiety and dread.
Admittedly, as a privileged, native-born white male, it is very easy for me to hang back on the sidelines and allow human events (however alarming) to run their course. For someone like me, the actions of President Trump and his collaborators may be irritating—even horrifying—but they do not pose an existential threat to my way of life and probably never will.
I realize, in short, that spending one’s day avoiding conflict and social discomfort is a luxury that many of my fellow Americans cannot afford, and that sometimes verbally lashing out at those who oppress you can feel like a moral imperative—and possibly the only recourse that is available to you as an otherwise powerless individual. If members of the Trump administration are deliberately and pointlessly making millions of Americans’ (and non-Americans’) lives difficult, the argument goes, why shouldn’t they get a taste of their own toxic medicine whenever they enter space occupied by the victims of their noxious acts?
The reason they shouldn’t—the reason all public servants should be left unmolested when they’re not on the clock—is because Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high,” and every liberal in America cheered.
By its own rhetoric, if the Democratic Party stands for anything in the age of Trump, it’s moral superiority. Whether stated directly or implicitly, the message from Democratic leaders and supporters in recent years is that, all things being equal, Democrats are the party of sanity, empathy and love for one’s fellow human beings, while Republicans are (to coin a phrase) deplorable.
Without question, Donald Trump’s own rotten character was the primary basis of voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016—“Love Trumps Hate” was arguably Clinton’s most successful and resonant slogan—and most liberals still regard Trump’s penchant for childish name-calling and general thuggery as an intolerable moral stain that must be repudiated at the polls in 2018 and 2020—namely, by voting for as many Democratic candidates as possible.
The question is: If the left truly believes in the Judeo-Christian ethos of treating others as you would have others treat you—and that Trump and company constitute a monstrous perversion of this policy—do they not have a responsibility to exhibit such mature, noble behavior themselves? To lead by example? To understand that darkness cannot drive out darkness—only light can do that? To be the change they want to see in the world?
I say yes, and this includes allowing Nielsen and Sanders to eat their dinner in peace, whether or not they deserve it. Because in the end, this isn’t about them. It’s about us. And it’s not a good look for the so-called party of inclusion to start telling certain people they’re not welcome and they don’t belong.