Last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out by the owners of a Lexington, Virginia restaurant known as the Red Hen, following the weeks of negative media coverage surrounding the administration’s unethical detainment of migrant children. On Twitter, Trump’s communications bureaucrat played the role of right-wing social justice warrior, presenting citizens who are protesting their government officials as bigots who deserve full-on outrage. The incident soon sparked a debate about the lack of “respect” and “civility” in the public discourse they, based on political opinion, feel entitled to without second thought.
“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” Sanders wrote. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
Republicans, seizing on their newfound oppression narrative as something akin to the era of Jim Crow, continued to show solidarity outrage for the likes of Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Stephen Miller, the president’s senior advisor for policy at The White House, who were both asked to leave Washington D.C. based Mexican restaurants following left-wing protests labeling them “fascists.”
As pointed out by Jessica Valenti, controversial columnist for The Guardian, the left is often framed as either intolerant or, citing an actual contributor for Fox News, some rabid “leftist mob that is approaching near anarchy.” This social justice warrior problem on the left can’t be denied. We’ve seen the spawning of ANTIFA, known for their suppression of right-wing lectures and their indiscriminate assault against just about anyone on university campuses. This is a problem. However, before nosediving into how, all of a sudden, the world’s gone crazy, pro-Trump conservatives should consider this humble piece of advice from Valenti — self-reflection: “When you do and defend terrible things,” she writes, “people don’t really want to be around you.”
This kind of social ostracism, evidently, is just the result of free association at work, which seems counter-interpreted by the right-wing as outrageous oppression violating their on-again-off-again notions about free speech.
“Everyone is in favor of free speech,” once wrote Winston Churchill. “Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
Many on the opposite side of the political establishment also decided to chime in their condemnation of the situation.
David Axelrod, former Senior Advisor to the White House, took to Twitter to say he was both “amazed and appalled” by the progressive protests.
“This, in the end, is a triumph for @realDonaldTrump vision of America: Now we’re divided by red plates & blue plates! #sad”.
Arne Duncan, Obama’s former secretary of education, also agreed with comparisons between the public official, criticized for her record, and racial segregation — which thankfully didn’t come without criticism itself:
They were joined by the editorial board for The Washington Post, also condemning the progressive activists for their “incivility.”
“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 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?”
Once someone enters the public sphere, paid by the taxpayer, perhaps one can’t imagine that. Incivility in politics doesn’t mean rudeness or mean tweets. It means dissent.
What could be more American than political dissent? Turn on the likes of Alex Jones, and you’ll have this red-blooded patriot rhetoric blasted in your ear 24/7. Why is far more civilized political dissent, in the form of screaming and criticism, however, condemned as uncivil when it’s from progressives?
From their questionable kneeling during the national anthem, protesting for the lives of those unethically taken at the hands of police brutality, to the underage asylum seekers held in captivity under foil blankets, why can’t these representatives, responsible for actions outside of a 9–5 roster, be held to account for human rights violations? These protestors recognize that as their public officials eat — in, of all places, Mexican restaurants — their policies, funded on their dime and in their name, continue into the night while away from their cushy White House offices. And yet their officials crackdown on the private sector for this dissent, even when it’s the wrong Red Hen restaurants they’re pressuring to stay quiet. That isn’t free speech. That’s censorship.
Their reason for denial was not based on those immutable characteristics, protected under The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, race, gender, etc. They chose these policies. It was President Donald Trump who chose to sign an executive order ending this condemned “no tolerance” policy towards families at the border. They chose their words, whether it was Jeff Session’s bible defense of the policies or the press secretary’s daily briefings who, in tandem, spread lies upon lies about it. These protests are free speech and free association — free from unethical discrimination — exposing their proponents’ inability to reap what they sow.